Archive: 22 September 2015

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You Had Me at “Hello” Letter: Second Circuit Concludes That a RESPA Transfer-of-Servicing Letter Can Be a Communication in Connection with Collection of Debt

You Had Me at “Hello” Letter: Second Circuit Concludes That a RESPA Transfer-of-Servicing Letter Can Be a Communication in Connection with Collection of Debt

By: Brian M. Forbes, Gregory N. Blase, Roger L. Smerage, Edward J. Mikolinski

Sometimes it is just not that easy to say “hello.”  A recent decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit highlights the uncertainty mortgage servicers face with respect to Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) compliance when notifying borrowers of changes in loan servicing rights, as required by the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”).  Often the first communication from a new servicer to a borrower is a RESPA transfer-of-servicing letter—sometimes referred to as a “hello” letter.  Under the FDCPA, however, a debt collector—which can include a mortgage servicer when the loan serviced was in default at the time servicing rights were acquired—must provide a debt-validation notice within five days of the “initial communication with a consumer in connection with the collection of [a] debt.”  See 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(a).  Given the multiple regulatory obligations applicable to communications with borrowers, it is no surprise that litigation often ensues (often in the form of class action litigation for statutory damages), and courts struggle to make sense of the various (and sometimes competing) obligations imposed by the FDCPA and RESPA.

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