Reverse Mortgage Borrowers’ Responsibilities… or Consequences

Signing Reverse Mortgage ApplicationWhen loan documents are signed at closing, borrowers agree to the terms of the loan, whether a conventional loan for purchase; a conventional home equity mortgage; 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, no the bank doesn’t own the home, nor do they want the home.

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 appropriate
  • 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 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 bear 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 will mean the loan becomes due and payable.  For example if one decides to add a person to the title of the property, implement a Life Estate, or sell the property this changes 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.

The area that has caused the biggest problem is when borrowers don’t pay their the property taxes and hazard insurance. Even though there are a large number of borrowers who have fall into this area, to date there have been very few reverse mortgages foreclosed because of the default of payment for taxes and insurance.  HUD has been very forgiving and not pressuring the servicing companies to foreclose, however this is about to change.

Due to FHA’s budget, the arm of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) who insures the majority of reverse mortgages, is looking to find a solution to their budget shortfalls and make the program profitable.  Fannie Mae who has a large portfolio of the HUD reverse mortgages is also encouraging the HECM servicers to address the issue of delinquent taxes and insurance to protect their company from losses.

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.

Being reverse mortgage borrowers are not making payments collecting funds for the escrow account is not an option.  What the servicing companies have done if there is a line of credit is use these funds to pay the taxes.  If a reveres mortgage borrower is receiving monthly payments, they will be restructured so that the taxes and insurance can be paid.  Unfortunately if all the funds have been used and taxes and insurance have not been paid the loan is in default.

HUD is working toward establishing guidance for the reverse mortgage servicing companies to address the tax and insurance delinquencies.  But if the 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 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.

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

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