WASHINGTON — Mortgage lenders are hoping the new Republican-controlled Congress is going to be more receptive to making changes to the "qualified mortgage" rule.
The House last year passed a number of mortgage- and housing-related bills, some of which enjoyed bipartisan support, only for them to die in the Senate.
But mortgage lobbyists are hopeful the House will have an easier time gaining a receptive audience under a GOP-controlled Senate this year.
"They could move some of those measures fairly quickly," said Bill Killmer, chief lobbyist for the Mortgage Bankers Association.
One particular bill with a good shot at passage would exclude fees a lender pays to an affiliated title company from a 3% cap on points and fees under the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's "qualified mortgage" rule. The bill, sponsored by Reps. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., and Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., passed the House by voice vote last June.
It had "overwhelming support in the House," said Edward Mills, a policy analyst at FBR Capital Markets. "I think it would have plenty of support in the Senate."
The QM rule, which went into effect a year ago, penalizes lenders with affiliated title companies particularly when it comes to small loans under $100,000.
Any fees paid to an affiliated service provider must be included in points and fees. Affiliated title fees make it difficult for small loans to stay under the 3% cap. To avoid exceeding the cap and taking on litigation risk, lenders have to route their borrowers to non-affiliated title companies.
Killmer said passage of the bill would "level the playing field between affiliated and non-affiliated title companies."
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau watchers were hoping the bureau would use its regulatory authority to address the affiliated fee issue, but that hasn't happened yet.
Meanwhile, MBA and other mortgage and real estate trade groups are working on a package of Dodd-Frank "tweaks" that they hope Congress will consider is this year.
The lawmakers are unlikely to be too bold, however, because they still have to be wary of the President's veto pen.
"President Obama will draw the line in the sand" when it comes to major changes regarding the "CFPB and Obamacare," Mills said. "But 3% QM definitions don't rise to the level of a veto pen."