Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Return receipt meets RESPA information request acknowledgment requirement

By Richard Roth

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has set a very low bar for what mortgage loan servicers must do to satisfy Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act regulations requiring mortgage loan servicers to acknowledge having received a homeower’s request for information. While a servicer must provide a written acknowledgment of receipt within five business days, the requirement can be met simply by signing the homeowner’s certified mail return receipt, the court said in a not-for-publication opinion (Meeks v. Ocwen Loan Servicing LLC).

According to the court, the homeowner had his attorney send Ocwen Loan Servicing a written request for information about his loan, and the attorney chose to send the letter using certified mail. Ocwen received the letter, and an employee signed the receipt, which was returned to the attorney in due course. Seven months later, the homeowner sued Ocwen, claiming in part that it had not provided a timely acknowledgment of having received his letter.

Reg. X requirements. Reg. X—Real Estate Settlement Procedures requires a mortgage loan servicer to acknowledge receiving a qualified written request for information, in writing, within five business days (12 CFR 1024.36(c)). However, neither the regulation nor the staff comments offer any details about the form or contents of that acknowledgment.

The court said there is no precedent as to whether a certified mail receipt can constitute a written acknowledgment. However, the court said—without any analysis—that under the facts presented, the return receipt was sufficient.

Applicability. Reg. X is not the only consumer protection regulation that imposes acknowledgment duties. Reg. Z—Truth in Lending requires a creditor to provide a written acknowledgment of a consumer’s billing error claim within 30 days (12 CFR 1026.13(c)). Like Reg. X, Reg. Z gives no details about what providing a written acknowledgment entails.

The Eleventh Circuit opinion gives no hint about whether a certified mail return receipt alone would be adequate in circumstances other than Reg. X.

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