Senator Dodd and Congressman Frank, the people who were key players in allowing the financial collapse, have brought us legislation to “fix the problem”.

 The Dodd-Frank Act is 2,314 pages of disjointed and wide spread enabling legislation that will impact all areas of the financial structure.  To see the briefest summary I have been able to locate, 16 pages, go to http://banking.senate.gov/public/_files/070110_Dodd_Frank_Wall_Street_Reform_comprehensive_summary_Final.pdf.

Among other things the Act creates a new federal agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CPF), funded by the Federal Reserve system.  The CPF, which comes into existence on July 21, 2011 unless delayed for up to one year, will have broad sweeping enforcement powers in all areas of consumer finance including home loans, car loans, student loans, payday loans, credit cards, all mortgage related businesses and credit reports. It will also oversee banks and credit unions with assets in excess of $10 billion.  And the CFP has the authority to write its own regulations and then enforce them.

It is the most far reaching intrusion of government into the financial lives of its citizens in the history of the world. Many of the regulations they will be charged with enforcing have not even been written or finalized yet so the true scope of the CPF is not known, and it comes into existence in a few days.

In the area of real estate CPF will take over the power of enforcing RESPA from HUD. To bring about this transfer HUD has withdrawn all previously issued informal opinion letters. If your business is pursuing a business model in reliance on an informal opinion letter from HUD that it does not violate their rules you will need to be looking at the rules from the new Bureau to see if you are still ok.

CPF will take over enforcement of MARS from the FTC.  The FTC had been working with NAR to fine tune the regulation to remove real estate brokers from most of the regulatory requirements.  In early May the FTC advised NAR that they will not be revising the rule as promised, presumably because the CPF will now be responsible for the rule.

Part of the Act creates the Qualified Residential Mortgage (QRM) standards which generally will require that all buyers put 20% or more down for a conventional loan and meet fairly conservative qualifying ratios. And the lender will need to insure that the borrower has the ability to repay the loan.  Will non-QRM loans be available?  Potentially.  But if the borrower gets a non-QRM loan and then runs into trouble making the payments the borrower will have the ability to prevent foreclosure at any time during the life of the loan by claiming that the lender had no reasonable belief that the borrower could repay the loan at the time it was made.  Do you think you will see many of those loans?

What risk does Dodd-Frank bring to a real estate professional?  Any violation of CFP regulations can result in a fine of $5,000 per day.  A reckless violation can result in a fine of $25,000 per day.  A knowing or willful violation can result in a flat fee fine of $1 million.

So why have you not heard more about this in the industry or in the media? As I mentioned earlier, the regulations to implement much of this are still under development. No one is sure yet what the rules will be in order to advise you accordingly. In the future you will need to be diligent in watching for any news about Dodd-Frank and determining how it may impact you personally or professionally.



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