The Massachusetts state legislature this week extended a series of relief provisions stemming from the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, including allowances and permissions for everything from mail-in voting to meetings. remote public services, including take-out cocktails and telephone and video communications. reverse mortgage advice. That’s according to original reports from local Boston media, as well as reverse mortgage lenders and advisors operating in the state.
The Legislature fast-tracked the initial bill, S.2467, before passing a final amended version as S.2472 on June 15, the original deadline for the described pandemic relief. That deadline has now been extended by six months to December 15, according to the legislation and those with knowledge of its wording.
However, since Massachusetts remains the only state in the country that still has a requirement for face-to-face reverse mortgage counseling, another more permanent issue arises that could be resolved by the end of the year, according to Massachusetts. reverse mortgage professionals who spoke with RMD.
The current relief
The new relief expanding the ability for reverse mortgage counseling to take place by telephone or other means of electronic conferencing is a welcome development for the reverse mortgage industry within the state, as the requirement for face-to-face – originally enacted in the interest of elderly consumer safety – can increase the burden on a potential client who may have difficulty moving around or who may have an aversion to an in-person meeting according to professionals in the region.
Last week, the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA) and the Massachusetts Mortgage Bankers Association (MMBA) submitted comment letters to the state legislature explaining the importance of expanding telephone advice relief, as an interruption of the concession could have a negative impact. the ability to conduct reverse mortgage business in the state.
With the state of emergency declared by Mass. Govt. Charlie Baker expiring on June 15, the impact on businesses could have been pronounced due to the lack of available counselors who are approved by both the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD ). This shortage of available advisors was the most immediate concern for the reverse mortgage industry when it comes to expiring state relief.
“The driving issues have been the limited number and location of consulting agencies and certified reverse mortgage advisors,” says George Downey, founder of Harbor Mortgage Solutions in Braintree, Mass. “More recently, documented in the NRMLA and MMBA letters sent earlier, the number one factor is now virtually no in-person Individual Advisor capacity (last count was 5 full-time Individual Advisors and one part-time are available for serve the entire state).
Still, at least one adviser who operates out of state was optimistic that needed relief would come from the legislature. That’s according to Jennifer Cosentini, director of housing at Cambridge Credit Counseling Corp. in Agawam, Mass.
“I was very optimistic that we were going to hear that they were going to extend it because obviously because of COVID it’s just too early to tell older people that they have to go see someone face to face. face,” she said in a call with RMD. “And not to mention the shortage of counseling agencies right now in Massachusetts, we can’t really keep up with the demand. We’re not even in the office yet.
What the future may hold
One thing that some Massachusetts state policymakers may not fully understand is that while a face-to-face counseling requirement is imposed in the interest of consumer protection, this potential protection may result in a another cost in time and effort for a senior to travel to see a counsellor. The combination of this with the limited resources of Massachusetts Reverse Mortgage Advisors already has the potential to make business very difficult to accomplish for lenders, clients and advisors.
This shortage of advisers makes the relief inherent in phone and video calls an “essential” measure beyond the confines of the pandemic, Downey said. As to whether or not telephone or video counseling will be a permanent solution for the state, Cosentini is optimistic that lawmakers and other stakeholders will come to the right conclusion when they see the data compiled by his company and submitted to the NRMLA.
“I think there’s a good chance it will be permanent after December,” she says. “Our customers in Massachusetts were absolutely thrilled not to have to come into the office. When we compiled this data looking at the distance these seniors would have to travel to see us, it was hundreds of kilometers in many cases. So they were so happy they didn’t have to. Many of them were clients we had advised in the past, and now they were refinancing and thought they should come see us in person. They were so happy that they didn’t have to do that this time.
Added to that possibility is the fact that some laws for more permanent counseling assistance are awaiting further deliberation by the legislature, Downey says.
“H1146 has been filed, assigned to the Joint Senate-House Financial Services Committee, and is pending action,” Downey says. “If passed, it would make video and telephone counseling a permanent option in addition to in-person counselling.”
Prior blocking of business
At the start of the pandemic, reverse mortgage business in the state of Massachusetts was effectively halted due to the in-person counseling requirement conflicting with the governor’s state of emergency, requiring social distancing and forcing people to stay at home. The devastating health impact that illness resulting from COVID-19 is having on the elderly, especially those with weakened immune systems, has added to the applicability for the reverse mortgage industry.
Shortly after RMD and other outlets reported this pause in business within the state, the Governor and State Legislature quickly passed emergency legislation to restore the ability of professionals reverse mortgage to continue to operate with relaxed counseling requirements, in addition to concessions allowing other forms of previously restricted trading to continue.