|HUD No. 06-086
July 18, 2006
HUD REACHES RESPA SETTLEMENTS WITH MAJOR LENDER AND BUILDERS FOR $1.6 MILLION
Agreements are HUD's first settlements involving captive title reinsurance
WASHINGTON - The Department of Housing and Urban Development today announced $1.6 million in settlements under The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) with a national mortgage lender and two major homebuilders that engaged in business practices involving captive title reinsurance.
The agreements included a $650,000 settlement with CitiMortgage, Inc., and its captive title reinsurance company Chesapeake Reinsurance; a $675,000 settlement with M.D.C. Holdings, Inc., certain of its Richmond American Homes homebuilding subsidiaries and AHT Reinsurance; and, a $305,000 settlement with WL Homes, which does business as John Laing Homes, a California and Colorado builder.
Captive title reinsurance is a practice whereby a title insurance company transfers a portion of the risk and title premium to a company owned by the builder, lender or real estate broker referring the title business. In HUD's view, any captive title reinsurance arrangements in which payments are not bona fide and exceed the value of the reinsurance are a violation of RESPA. There is particular concern when these arrangements involve an entity that is in a position to refer business to the primary title insurer. There is also strong evidence these arrangements are designed to generate referral fees when there is a history of few or no claims paid.
"There is almost never any legitimate need or business purpose for title reinsurance on a single-family residence," said HUD Assistant Secretary for Housing Brian D. Montgomery. "HUD will continue to work with the states to investigate captive arrangements to make certain that they aren't created for the purpose of obscuring referral fees."
The companies came forward and cooperated with HUD in reaching these settlements. In addition to the settlement payments, the companies agreed not to enter into any new captive title arrangements and to cease writing new captive title reinsurance business.
These are the first settlements in the nation involving the recipients of payments made by title companies to captive companies for reinsurance. The settlements come in the wake of recent settlements states have obtained from title insurance companies who paid significant portions of the premiums they received to such captive companies.
The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act was enacted in 1974 to provide consumers advance disclosures of settlement charges and to prohibit illegal kickbacks and excessive fees in the home buying process. Section 8 of RESPA prohibits a person from giving or accepting anything of value in exchange for the referral of settlement service business.
HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and, supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development, and enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet and espanol.hud.gov. For more information about FHA products, please visit www.fha.gov.