U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General, Region VI 819 Taylor Street, Suite 13A09 Fort Worth, Texas 76102 (817) 978-9309 FAX (817) 978-9316 http://www.hud.gov/offices/oig/ OIG Fraud Hotline 1-800-347-3735 September 17, 2010 MEMORANDUM NO: 2010-FW-1805 MEMORANDUM FOR: Vicki B. Bott Deputy Assistant Secretary for Single Family Housing, HU //signed// FROM: Gerald R. Kirkland Regional Inspector General for Audit, Fort Worth Region, 6AGA SUBJECT: Financial Freedom Senior Funding Corporation, Irvine, CA, Improperly Funded One Ineligible HECM Loan INTRODUCTION While performing an internal audit 1 of the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program, we noted one HECM loan underwritten by Financial Freedom Senior Funding Corporation, (Financial Freedom) of Irvine, CA, that was improperly insured as the property had several years of deferred property taxes, which is a violation of the HECM regulations. METHODOLOGY AND SCOPE As part of our internal audit, we selected a random sample of deferred HECM loans in the general Dallas/Fort Worth, TX, area for review. We interviewed 9 borrowers regarding their experience with their HECM loan and reviewed 11 lender files to determine servicer efforts to resolve unpaid taxes and insurance with borrowers. We used Lexis Nexis and property records to assist in determining eligibility, status of property taxes, and approximate value of the properties of the selected loans. We conducted our audit from December 2009 through June 2010 at our office in Fort Worth, TX, and at various homes in the general Dallas/Fort Worth, TX, area. Our audit period was January 1, 2008, through December 31, 2009. We expanded the scope as necessary to accomplish our objective. 1 Audit Report No. 2010-FW-0003, “HUD Was Not Tracking Almost 13,000 Defaulted HECM Loans With Maximum Claim Amounts of Potentially More Than $2.5 Billion,” issued on August 25, 2010. BACKGROUND The HECM program enables homeowners to obtain income by accessing the equity in their homes. To be eligible for a HECM loan, homeowners must be 62 years of age or older, have significant equity in their home, and have received HUD-approved reverse mortgage counseling to learn about the program. There are no minimum income or credit requirements. A HECM loan provides homeowners with cash payments or credit lines. The maximum amount they can receive is determined by the borrowers’ age, interest rate, and value of their home or HUD’s loan limits, whichever is less. The loan is secured by the home’s equity. Borrowers are not required to repay the loans as long as the borrower continues to live in the home, maintains the property, and pays the property taxes and homeowners insurance premiums. However, the servicer may file a claim with HUD for the property when the loan principal reaches 98 percent of the maximum claim amount. HUD regulations also require that properties be free and clear of all liens other than the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) HECM mortgage. 2 In addition, HECM regulations prohibit the borrower from participating in a real estate tax deferral program and do not permit any liens to be recorded against the property unless such liens are subordinate to the insured mortgage and any second mortgage held by the HUD Secretary. 3 RESULTS OF REVIEW Financial Freedom improperly originated 1 4 of the 11 HECM loans reviewed because the property did not meet program requirements. Neither Financial Freedom’s loan correspondent, 1ST AA Reverse Mortgage, Inc., nor the title company found that the property had property tax deferments totaling $14,285 covering approximately 20 years. As neither the originating lender nor the borrower had paid the taxes before the loan closed, HECM regulations were not followed, and the loan should not have been FHA insured. As of February 28, 2010, the loan’s unpaid principal balance was $74,906, and the maximum claim amount was $77,900. RECOMMENDATION We recommend that HUD’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Single Family Housing 1A. Require Financial Freedom to indemnify HUD for HECM loan number 491-8453315, with a principal balance of $74,906. 2 24 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) 203.32 3 24 CFR 206.27 4 HECM loan number 491-8453315 2 Appendix A AUDITEE COMMENTS AND OIG’S EVALUATION Ref to OIG Evaluation Auditee Comments Comment 1 3 Comment 1 4 OIG Evaluation of Auditee Comments Comment 1 Financial Freedom Acquisition, LLC 5 disagreed that Financial Freedom improperly originated the HECM loan. It contended that it is a standard industry practice that before a loan is originated a lender identifies whether or not there are any delinquent or deferred taxes only if a lien is filed on the property. In this case, the title company identified one tax lien for $9,539.80 and paid it off at closing. Additional taxes for $14,285 owed to the Dallas School District were not recorded as a lien on the property and could not be identified prior to the mortgage origination. Attachments provided with the response are not included as they included nondisclosable personal information. OIG disagrees with the auditee response. Both HUD’s Single Family Mortgage Insurance and HUD’s Home Equity Conversion Mortgage requirements 6 state that for a mortgage to be eligible for insurance there cannot be restrictions on conveyance. Additionally, HECM requirements state that the property must be “freely marketable.” The State of Texas has a tax deferral program that allows a homeowner who is 65 or older or a disabled person to defer payment of property taxes on the person's residence homestead until he or she no longer owns or occupies the home as a residence. However, a deferral merely postpones when the taxes must be paid. Generally, once the homeowner dies or no longer occupies the residence, all accrued taxes, penalties, and interest must be paid. Further, on the 181st day, the entire amount becomes delinquent and the taxing unit can pursue foreclosure. In addition, a lien may not be filed, as property taxes do not have to be delinquent when a deferral affidavit is submitted. For this loan, the outstanding deferred school district taxes were a restriction on the conveyance and prohibited the home from being freely marketable; thus, the loan was not eligible for insurance. 5 According to Financial Freedom Acquisition, on March 19, 2009, it acquired certain assets of Financial Freedom Senior Funding, including the servicing rights with respect to loan number 491-8453315. 6 24 CFR 203.41(b) and 206.45 5
Financial Freedom Senior Funding Corporation, Irvine, CA, Improperly Funded One Ineligible HECM Loan
Published by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General on 2010-09-17.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)