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Released: May 26, 2016
Fair treatment for homeowners with limited English proficiency
Consumer Action, Americans for Financial Reform and coalition partners urge regulators, in a newly released paper, to make it easier for limited English proficiency (LEP) consumers to understand and navigate the financial system, especially the mortgage market.
In 2014, nine percent of the population, or 25.3 million U.S. residents, had limited proficiency in English. LEP borrowers are unusually vulnerable to fraud and predatory practices.
Many industry players tailor their sales pitches to members of the LEP community, including advertising financial products to LEP consumers in their own languages. But once a product has been sold, consumers typically receive all follow-up communications–including complicated mortgage options and terms–exclusively in English.
A companion paper tells the stories of several LEP homeowners who belatedly discovered unfavorable mortgage terms and had great difficulty securing loan modifications.
One Spanish-speaking couple, after ten years of steady payments on what they understood was a fixed-rate fully-amortizing mortgage, found that they had not put a dent in the principal because it had actually been an interest-only loan. To make matters worse, their monthly payments were about to increase from $1,983 to $3,350. A friend of the couple had served as their interpreter after referring them to the lender. In hindsight, they realized that this person may have had financial ties to the loan officer, the title company, and the closing attorney.
Federal regulators have the power to relieve these problems. Groups urge the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other federal regulators to require that:
- key documents be made available upon request in at least eight languages (Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Tagalog, Russian, Arabic, and Haitian Creole)
- improving language access to federal complaint and counseling services
- providing guidance to financial institutions on language-access standards and
- improving tracking of the language preferences of mortgage applicants
A summary of the two papers is available in English.
The organizations that collaborated on the papers include:
National Consumer Law Center, National CAPACD, National Council of La Raza, Empire Justice Center, National Housing Resource Center, Consumer Action, National Fair Housing Alliance, and MFY Legal Services, Inc.
Americans for Financial Reform is a nonpartisan and nonprofit coalition of more than 200 civil rights, consumer, labor, business, investor, faith-based, civic and community groups.
Thanks to Consumer Action, National CAPACD, National Fair Housing Alliance, and Americans for Financial Reform this press release is available in eight other languages:
Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Tagalog, Russian, Arabic ,and Haitian Creole.
Consumer Action(www.consumer-action.org) is a national nonprofit education and advocacy organization serving nearly 8,000 community based organizations with training, educational modules, and multi-lingual consumer publications since 1971.
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