HUD Widely Praised For Amending HECM Program, Helping Seniors Avoid Foreclosure

DSNews    By:  Brian Honea

Those affected by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s decision on Friday, June 12, to allow servicers to allow surviving non-borrowing spouses in HUD’s reverse mortgage program to stay in their home if the mortgage was originated prior to August 4, 2014, widely applauded the Department’s decision on Monday.

Following several lawsuits in which surviving spouses not listed on the mortgage note were facing foreclosure following the death of the borrowing spouse, HUD was instructed by a federal judge to amend its Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program. The Department changed its policy in January, but the changes were criticized by advocates as too exclusive (for example, they applied only to reverse mortgages originated on or after August 4, 2014). On Friday, HUD amended its HECM policy again, this time to include reverse mortgages originated prior to August 4, 2014, giving borrowers expanded options to allow the non-borrowing spouse to remain in the home if the reverse mortgage was originated before that date.

Friday’s changes to HUD’s HECM program will benefit thousands of senior homeowners, allowing them to stay in their homes following the death of the borrowing spouse and avoid facing foreclosure.

According to a joint statement by many advocates that included National Consumer Law Center; California Reinvestment Coalition; Elder Abuse Program, Institute on Aging; National Housing Law Project; Sandy Jolley; and Housing and Economic Rights Advocates, “HUD’s new policy is welcome news for surviving non-borrower spouses, many of whom would otherwise be facing foreclosure. This news will be a huge relief for homeowners who are facing sale dates. We look forward to hearing from each of the reverse mortgage servicing companies as to whether or not they will use this new option to keep surviving spouses in their homes. It’s a common sense solution and we urge the reverse mortgage servicers to immediately adopt this policy for any at-risk homeowners.”

Craig Briskin, a partner with Mehri & Skalet, PLLC, in Washington, DC, who has represented plaintiffs in several cases where non-borrowing, surviving spouses in HUD’s HECM program were faced with foreclosure, said on Monday, “We are thrilled that the lawsuits we filed beginning in 2011 on behalf of surviving spouses have helped to produce this excellent result. We have already heard from our clients, and other reverse mortgage borrowers and surviving spouses, about what a profound difference HUD’s new policy will make in their lives. Because of this new policy, seniors will no longer face foreclosure soon after they lose their spouses, adding misery to heartbreak. We stand ready to work with HUD and reverse mortgage lenders to ensure that all surviving spouses can stay in their homes, just as federal law requires.”

Karen Hunziker, a surviving, non-borrowing spouse who is a plaintiff in a lawsuit against HUD to try and stop foreclosure in an HECM case, said, “This is good news, and I’m cautiously optimistic that my servicer will use this policy to allow me to remain in my home.”

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