Reverse Mortgage Borrowers Have Responsibilities Or They’ll Pay the Consequences

Signing Reverse Mortgage ApplicationWhen loan documents are signed at closing, borrowers agree to the terms of the loan, whether a conventional loan for refinance or purchase; a home equity line of credit (HELOC); or a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), the reverse mortgage insured by HUD; or a proprietary (private) reverse mortgage.  As with any home loan, with the reverse mortgage borrowers are using the equity in their home and the title of the home remains in the borrower’s name; the lender is using the home for collateral.  With any mortgage, conventional or reverse, the bank does not own the home, nor do they want t.

The reverse mortgage has helped seniors 62 and older remain in their home with their security, independence, dignity and control but not without responsibilities to adhere to the terms of the loan.  The main responsibilities are to not violate terms of the loan, generally these include:

  • Paying property taxes
  • Keeping hazard insurance on the property
  • Maintaining the property
  • Paying association dues if applicable
  • Not changing/transferring the title

Paying property taxes means keeping up with the county property taxes, paying them on time.  If one doesn’t pay property taxes, with or without a loan, the county could start tax forfeiture or foreclosure.

Keeping hazard insurance on the property helps protect the homeowner, with or without a mortgage.  If one doesn’t have insurance on their property and a storm comes along and damages the home they wouldn’t have funds to repair or rebuild the home.  With a mortgage (reverse or traditional) on the home, lenders require hazard insurance be kept on the property to protect the homeowner and lender if there is any damage to the property.  Being the lenders are invested in the property by lending money based on the home equity, they require the insurance so their investment is protected if there is damage.  For example if a tree falls on the home and damages the roof, the hazard insurance will cover the replacement of the roof and bring the home back to the condition required for lender’s investment.

Maintaining the property is required to protect the lender’s investment in the property and includes keeping the home in good condition including not letting the property become run down.  Keeping the roof in good repair, insuring the siding and trim do not have chipped or bare wood but are protected against the elements.  Ensuring against safety issues such as automatic garage doors will rise if something is under them, railings are in place and stable on stairs and decks rotten boards are replaced.  Interior maintenance is also important, for example having heating, electricity, plumbing, water in working order as well as safety issues such as railings on stairs.

If one is in a condo or town home and association dues are required, loans require that the association dues are kept current.  If they are not kept current then the association has the right to force the homeowner from the property.

What are the consequences if the requirements of the reverse mortgage loan terms are not abided by? If terms of the loan agreement are not followed, the lenders have the right to call the loan due and payable or foreclose.

Changing or transferring titles may mean the loan becomes due and payable.  For example if one decides to add a person to the title of the property (depending on who the person is), implement a Life Estate, or sell the property this may change who the lender’s have invested their interests.  If the property is going to be put in a trust it will not mean the loan will be come due and payable however the lender will need to review the trust to ensure that it meets the requirements of their investors and in the case of the HUD insured HECM, the trust must meet HUD’s guidelines.  Check with your lender before making any changes to the title to make sure it won’t impact your loan.

The area that has caused the biggest problem is when borrowers don’t pay their the property taxes and hazard insurance.  Therefore, FHA, the arm of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) who insures the majority of reverse mortgages, will soon require a Financial Assessment to stabilize the HECM and determine borrowers’ ability and willingness (based on payment & debt history) to pay property taxes and insurance.

With conventional mortgages, if taxes and insurance are not paid, the lenders will start an escrow account, requiring more money from borrowers in their monthly payments for the escrow account.  The lenders then make the tax and insurance payments on behalf of the borrower from their escrow accounts.

With the implementation of the Financial Assessment depending on borrower’s income, assets and debt history, for some a partial or full set aside will be created to pay the homeowners property taxes and insurance into the future.  Others won’t have to have a set aside created if there is a positive history of payments of taxes, debts, hazard insurance and income and disposable assets document their ability to pay taxes and insurance in the future.  Credit scores will still not be utilized to determine qualifying nor impact the interest rate.  (The Financial Assessment is a requirement as of April 2015.)

After the HECM is in place if borrowers do not have the capacity to pay the taxes and insurances they owe, the servicer will be forced to foreclose on the property per HUD’s requirements.  (Note that reverse mortgage lenders and servicing companies are required to abide by HUD’s requirements.)

Having reverse mortgage terms and responsibilities explained

Having reverse mortgage terms and responsibilities explained

While the originators, counselors and loan documents spell out these requirements, borrowers must take their responsibilities seriously.  It is also their responsibility to be sure to look at their budget and have a plan to be able to pay their property taxes, hazard insurance as well as maintaining the property.  Then they can remain in their home and enjoy the many benefits of the reverse mortgage.

Originally posted in 2010, updated 2015.

© 2010-2015 Beth Paterson, Beth’s Reverse Mortgage Blog, 651-762-9648

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