Improved Language Access Needed in Mortgage Marketplace

In July 2017 we signed onto comments to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) in response to its Request for Input on Improving Language Access in Mortgage Lending and Servicing. Submitted by Americans for Financial Reform (AFR)’s Language Access Task Force, the comments focus on the need to improve language access in the mortgage marketplace for borrowers with limited English proficiency (LEP borrowers).

Although a sizable portion of the U.S. population is considered LEP, the language needs of the LEP population continue to be left unmet in the mortgage market place. Denying language assistance to the LEP population prevents these communities from experiencing the economic and social growth homeownership offers.

LEP borrowers face various barriers when applying for a mortgage because the market place primarily caters towards English speakers. Many people are vulnerable to fraud and abuse because of their inability to speak English. Others must deal with employees who are unable to translate important information into a borrower’s native language. Due to the lack of quality language assistance available for LEP borrowers, they are too often forced to rely on their children or other family members to translate technical, legal and financial information, making it difficult to make well-informed decisions during the mortgage process.

Although some lenders and servicers are establishing helpful strategies that provide quality assistance to LEP borrowers, others are doing little to nothing to meet language needs. In order to ensure that the LEP population benefits from and completely understands the homeownership experience and the mortgage process, better quality language assistance needs to be provided. Together with our co-signers on these comments, we provided six recommendations for the FHFA to improve language access:

  • Require lenders and servicers to ask about language preference and track language preference throughout the life of a loan
  • Provide and mandate use of translated disclosures
  • Require and support oral interpretation
  • Facilitate acceptance of non-English or translated documents, in addition to English versions
  • Create and promote resources in other languages
  • Work with stakeholders to develop improved language policies

View the letter listing our co-signatories.

Read the comments in full.