May 1, 2016 — Report

As the demographics of the U.S. population change, so do the faces of homeownership. Since the housing crisis, federal regulators have taken significant strides to provide enhanced protections to mortgage borrowers to prevent harms that led to the crisis and to ensure that borrowers are offered home retention options when they face hardship. Despite this progress, policymakers have largely failed to directly address language access issues for mortgage borrowers with limited English proficiency. Limited English proficient (“LEP”) refers to individuals who do not speak English as their primary language and have a limited ability to read, speak, write, or understand English. This definition also includes individuals with sensory impairments, who are deaf or hard of hearing, or are blind or have visual impairments. The mortgage market is complex and daunting enough for the average consumer and the challenge is compounded for LEP borrowers. Often LEP borrowers enter into mortgage loans without understanding the terms of the contract, due to the lender’s failure to provide communications in a language they can understand. Many are also left abandoned when seeking loss mitigation in attempts to save their homes due to the lack of language assistance services. The Americans for Financial Reform coalition has compiled examples from consumer advocates nationwide detailing their LEP clients’ experiences in the mortgage market.