CFPB takes a closer look at consumer mortgage complaints

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) this week released its 2023 Consumer Response Annual Report, offering an overview of consumer complaints in a variety of industries overseen by the bureau.

While much of the report suggests “a continued increase in credit or consumer reporting complaints, with more than one million of these complaints being sent to the three nationwide consumer reporting companies,” the mortgage industry demonstrates general reactivity to the feedback, according to the report.

The CFPB received about 27,900 mortgage-related complaints in 2023 and sent 23,300 (84%) of them to companies for review and response. It referred another 10% to other regulatory agencies and found 6% to not require action. As of March 1, 2024, less than 0.1% of these complaints were pending with the consumer and less than 0.1% were pending with the bureau.

The response rate by mortgage companies to consumer complaints stands at 99%, according to the bureau, and relevant companies “closed 92% of complaints with an explanation, 2% with monetary relief, and 3% with non-monetary relief,” the report stated. Mortgage companies provided an administrative response for 2% of complaints.

The majority of consumer complaints in the mortgage arena (13,100, or 58%) were focused on conventional home loans, followed by Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans (19%), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) loans (9%) and home equity lines of credit, or HELOCs (6%).

Further down on the list were “other types of mortgages” (5%), reverse mortgages (2%), and negligible numbers of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) loans and manufactured home loans (less than 1%).

More than 11,400 complaints dealt with “trouble during the payment process,” while more than 6,000 had to with consumers struggling to make mortgage payments.

Other common complaints included applying for a new mortgage or refinancing an existing one, closing on a mortgage, or a problem with a credit report or credit score. The company response rates in these instances was at or above 90%.

Mortgage complaints that were resolved with an explanation, however, decreased from the level observed in last year’s report, the bureau reported. HELOC-related complaints also increased by 21% compared to the monthly average observed over the prior two years.

Other product types also recorded increases in consumer complaints.

“The monthly average for [VA] mortgage complaints increased 11% compared to the monthly average for the prior two years,” the report explained. “The visible spikes in complaint volume in early 2023 appear to be related to an enforcement action announced by the CFPB against Wells Fargo.”

That enforcement action was announced in December 2022, compelling Wells Fargo to pay $3.7 billion in total to settle multiple consent orders related to auto lending, consumer deposit accounts and mortgage lending. The penalties totaled $1.7 billion and an additional $2 billion was ordered for redress to consumers.

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