RESPA also outlines certain prohibited practices by those involved in the real estate settlement. Those sections of main interest include:
Section 6 of RESPA provides borrowers with consumer protections relating to the servicing of their loans. If a borrower sends a “qualified written request” to his loan servicer concerning the servicing of the loan, the servicer must provide a written acknowledgment within 20 business days of receipt of the request. Not later than 60 business days after receiving the request, the servicer must make any appropriate corrections to the borrower’s account, and must provide a written clarification regarding any dispute. During this 60-day period, the servicer may not provide information to a consumer reporting agency concerning any overdue payment related to such period or qualified written request.
Section 6 of RESPA also provides for damages and costs for individuals or classes of individuals in circumstances where servicers are shown to have violated the requirement of that Section.
Section 8 of RESPA prohibits a person from giving or accepting any thing of value for referrals of settlement service business related to a federally related mortgage loan. It also prohibits a person from giving or accepting any part of a charge for services that are not performed. These are also known as kickbacks, fee-splitting and unearned fees.
Violations of Section 8 are subject to criminal and civil penalties. According to HUD, a person who violates Section 8 may be fined up to $10,000 and imprisoned up to one year. In a private law suit a person who violates Section 8 may be liable to the person charged for the settlement service an amount equal to three times the amount of the charge paid for the service.
Section 9 of RESPA prohibits home sellers from requiring home buyers to purchase their settlement services from a particular company either directly or indirectly, as a condition of sale. Buyers may sue a seller who violates this provision for an amount equal to three times all charges made for the title insurance.
Section 10 of RESPA limits the amount of money a lender may require the borrower to hold in an escrow account for payment of taxes, hazard insurance and other charges related to the property. RESPA does not require lenders to impose an escrow account on borrowers; however, certain government loan programs or lenders may require escrow accounts as a condition of the loan.
RESPA also prohibits a lender from charging excessive amounts for the escrow account. The lender may require a borrower to pay into the escrow account no more than 1/12 of the total of all disbursements payable during the year, plus an amount necessary to pay for any shortage in the account. In addition, the lender may require a cushion, not to exceed an amount equal to 1/6 of the total disbursements for the year. The lender must perform an escrow account analysis once during the year and notify borrowers of any shortage. Any excess of $50 or more must be returned to the borrower.
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