The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to hear a case on mortgage fees that will have sweeping implications on how “unearned” mortgage fees are prosecuted in the courts.
The case pits Louisiana homebuyers against Detroit-based Quicken Loans Inc. The homebuyers allege that Quicken Loans, after charging the buyers additional fees for a discounted loan, failed to provide the lower interest rates. At issue is how such fees are interpreted under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, a 1974 law that sought to abolish the various kickbacks and fraud cases that popped up throughout the industry.
The new case, though, officially labeled Freeman v. Quicken Loans, addresses a gray area in the act on whether all unearned fees are unlawful. The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 ruling for Quicken Loans, stated that the act only prohibited lenders from receiving kickbacks, not from charging unearned fees.
The plaintiffs do have a powerful ally in Washington – the Obama Administration has come out for the Freeman’s cause, stating that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has “consistently” interpreted the act as prohibiting unearned fees.
The case could very well have bold effects on the fee process in mortgages, but we’ll have to be patient to find out how every pans out. Oral arguments for the case will not begin until early next year, and the court will not render a decision until June 2012.