Editor’s note: The Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program was authorized by Congress under Section 255 of the National Housing Act. This page displays the HECM statute in its entirety.
Section 255, National Housing Act
Insurance of home equity conversion mortgages for elderly homeowners
The purpose of this section is to authorize the Secretary to carry out a program of mortgage insurance designed –
(1) to meet the special needs of elderly homeowners by reducing the effect of the economic hardship caused by the increasing costs of meeting health, housing, and subsistence needs at a time of reduced income, through the insurance of home equity conversion mortgages to permit the conversion of a portion of accumulated home equity into liquid assets; and
(2) to encourage and increase the involvement of mortgagees and participants in the mortgage markets in the making and servicing of home equity conversion mortgages for elderly homeowners.
For purposes of this section:
(1) The terms ”elderly homeowner” and ”homeowner” mean any homeowner who is, or whose spouse is, at least 62 years of age or such higher age as the Secretary may prescribe.
(2) The terms ”mortgagee”, ”mortgagor”, “real estate” and ”State” have the meanings given such terms in section 1707 of this title.
(3) The term ”home equity conversion mortgage” means a first mortgage which provides for future payments to the homeowner based on accumulated equity and which a housing creditor (as defined in section 3802(2) of this title) is authorized to make
(A) under any law of the United States (other than section 3803
of this title) or applicable agency regulations thereunder; (B) in accordance with section 3803 of this title, notwithstanding any State constitution, law, or regulation; or (C) under any State constitution, law, or regulation.
(4) Mortgage. – The term ”mortgage” means a first mortgage or first lien on real estate, in fee simple, a first or subordinate mortgage or lien on all stock allocated to a dwelling unit in a residential cooperative housing corporation, or a first mortgage or first lien on a leasehold –
(A) under a lease for not less than 99 years that is renewable; or
(B) under a lease having a period of not less than 10 years to run beyond the maturity date of the mortgage.
(5) First mortgage. – The term ”first mortgage” means such classes of first liens as are commonly given to secure advances on, or the unpaid purchase price of, real estate or a first or subordinate lien on all stock allocated to a dwelling unit in a residential cooperative housing corporation, under the laws of the State in which the real estate or dwelling unit is located, together with the credit instruments, if any, secured thereby.
(c) Insurance authority
The Secretary may, upon application by a mortgagee, insure any home equity conversion mortgage eligible for insurance under this section and, upon such terms and conditions as the Secretary may prescribe, make commitments for the insurance of such mortgages prior to the date of their execution or disbursement to the extent that the Secretary determines such mortgages –
(1) have promise for improving the financial situation or otherwise meeting the special needs of elderly homeowners;
(2) will include appropriate safeguards for mortgagors to offset the special risks of such mortgages; and
(3) have a potential for acceptance in the mortgage market.
(d) Eligibility requirements
To be eligible for insurance under this section, a mortgage shall-
(1) have been originated by a mortgagee approved by the Secretary;
(2) have been executed by a mortgagor who –
(A) qualifies as an elderly homeowner;
(B) has received adequate counseling, as provided in subsection (f), by an independent third party that is not, either directly or indirectly, associated with or compensated by a party involved in—
(i) originating or servicing the mortgage;
(ii) funding the loan underlying the mortgage;
(iii) the sale of annuities, investments, long-term care insurance, or any other type of financial or insurance product;
(C) has received full disclosure, as prescribed by the Secretary, of all costs charged to the mortgagor, including costs of estate planning, financial advice, and other services that are related to the mortgage but are not required to obtain the mortgage, which disclosure shall clearly state which charges are required to obtain the mortgage and which are not required to obtain the mortgage; and
(D) meets any additional requirements prescribed by the Secretary;
(3) be secured by a dwelling that is designed principally for a 1- to 4-family residence in which the mortgagor occupies 1 of the units;
(4) provide that prepayment, in whole or in part, may be made without penalty at any time during the period of the mortgage;
(5) provide for a fixed or variable interest rate or future sharing between the mortgagor and the mortgagee of the appreciation in the value of the property, as agreed upon by the
mortgagor and the mortgagee;
(6) contain provisions for satisfaction of the obligation satisfactory to the Secretary;
(7) provide that the homeowner shall not be liable for any difference between the net amount of the remaining indebtedness of the homeowner under the mortgage and the amount recovered by the mortgagee from –
(A) the net sales proceeds from the dwelling that are subject to the mortgage (based upon the amount of the accumulated equity selected by the mortgagor to be subject to the mortgage, as agreed upon by the mortgagor and mortgagee); or
(B) the insurance benefits paid pursuant to subsection (i)(1)(C) of this section;
(8) contain such terms and provisions with respect to insurance, repairs, alterations, payment of taxes, default reserve, delinquency charges, foreclosure proceedings, anticipation of maturity, additional and secondary liens, and other matters as the Secretary may prescribe;
(9) provide for future payments to the mortgagor based on accumulated equity (minus any applicable fees and charges), according to the method that the mortgagor shall select from among the methods under this paragraph, by payment of the amount –
(A) based upon a line of credit;
(B) on a monthly basis over a term specified by the mortgagor;
(C) on a monthly basis over a term specified by the mortgagor and based upon a line of credit;
(D) on a monthly basis over the tenure of the mortgagor;
(E) on a monthly basis over the tenure of the mortgagor and based upon a line of credit; or
(F) on any other basis that the Secretary considers appropriate;
(10) provide that the mortgagor may convert the method of payment under paragraph (9) to any other method during the term of the mortgage, except that in the case of a fixed rate
mortgage, the Secretary may, by regulation, limit such convertibility; and
(11) have been made with such restrictions as the Secretary determines to be appropriate to ensure that the mortgagor does not fund any unnecessary or excessive costs for obtaining the
mortgage, including any costs of estate planning, financial advice, or other related services.
(e) Disclosures by mortgagee
The Secretary shall require each mortgagee of a mortgage insured under this section to make available to the homeowner –
(1) at the time of the loan application, a written list of the names and addresses of third-party information sources who are approved by the Secretary as responsible and able to provide the information required by subsection (f) of this section;
(2) at least 10 days prior to loan closing, a statement informing the homeowner that the liability of the homeowner under the mortgage is limited and explaining the homeowner’s rights, obligations, and remedies with respect to temporary absences from the home, late payments, and payment default by the lender, all conditions requiring satisfaction of the loan obligation, and any other information that the Secretary may require;
(3) on an annual basis (but not later than January 31 of each year), a statement summarizing the total principal amount paid to the homeowner under the loan secured by the mortgage, the total amount of deferred interest added to the principal, and the outstanding loan balance at the end of the preceding year; and
(4) prior to loan closing, a statement of the projected total cost of the mortgage to the homeowner based on the projected total future loan balance (such cost expressed as a single average annual interest rate for at least 2 different appreciation rates for the term of the mortgage) for not less than 2 projected loan terms, as the Secretary shall determine, which shall include –
(A) the cost for a short-term mortgage; and
(B) the cost for a loan term equaling the actuarial life expectancy of the mortgagor.
(f) Counseling Services and Information For Mortgagors.
The Secretary shall provide or cause to be provided adequate counseling for the mortgagor, as described in subsection (d)(2)(B). Such counseling shall be provided by counselors that meet qualification standards and follow uniform counseling protocols. The qualification standards and counseling protocols shall be established by the Secretary within 12 months of the date of enactment of the Building American Homeownership Act of 2008. The protocols shall require a qualified counselor to discuss with each mortgagor information which shall include— –
(1) options other than a home equity conversion mortgage that are available to the homeowner, including other housing, social service, health, and financial options;
(2) other home equity conversion options that are or may become available to the homeowner, such as sale-leaseback financing, deferred payment loans, and property tax deferral;
(3) the financial implications of entering into a home equity conversion mortgage;
(4) a disclosure that a home equity conversion mortgage may have tax consequences, affect eligibility for assistance under Federal and State programs, and have an impact on the estate and heirs of the homeowner; and
(5) any other information that the Secretary may require.
The Secretary shall consult with consumer groups, industry representatives, representatives of counseling organizations, and other interested parties to identify alternative approaches to providing consumer information required by this subsection that may be feasible and desirable for home equity conversion mortgages insured under this section and other types of reverse mortgages.
The Secretary may, in lieu of providing the consumer education required by this subsection, adopt alternative approaches to consumer education that may be developed as a result of such consultations, but only if the alternative approaches provide all of the information specified in this subsection.
(g) Limitation on insurance authority
The aggregate number of mortgages insured under this section may not exceed 275,000. In no case may the benefits of insurance under this section exceed the maximum dollar amount limitation established under section 305(a)(2) of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation Act for a 1-family residence.
(h) Administrative authority
The Secretary may –
(1) enter into such contracts and agreements with Federal, State, and local agencies, public and private entities, and such other persons as the Secretary determines to be necessary or desirable to carry out the purposes of this section; and
(2) make such investigations and studies of data, and publish and distribute such reports, as the Secretary determines to be appropriate.
(i) Protection of homeowner and lender
(1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, and in order to further the purposes of the program authorized in this section, the Secretary shall take any action necessary –
(A) to provide any mortgagor under this section with funds to which the mortgagor is entitled under the insured mortgage or ancillary contracts but that the mortgagor has not received because of the default of the party responsible for payment;
(B) to obtain repayment of disbursements provided under subparagraph (A) from any source; and
(C) to provide any mortgagee under this section with funds not to exceed the limitations in subsection (g) of this section to which the mortgagee is entitled under the terms of the insured mortgage or ancillary contracts authorized in this section.
(2) Actions under paragraph (1) may include –
(A) disbursing funds to the mortgagor or mortgagee from the Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund;
(B) accepting an assignment of the insured mortgage notwithstanding that the mortgagor is not in default under its terms, and calculating the amount and making the payment of the
insurance claim on such assigned mortgage;
(C) requiring a subordinate mortgage from the mortgagor at any time in order to secure repayments of any funds advanced or to be advanced to the mortgagor;
(D) requiring a subrogation to the Secretary of the rights of any parties to the transaction against any defaulting parties; and
(E) imposing premium charges.
(j) Safeguard to prevent displacement of homeowner
The Secretary may not insure a home equity conversion mortgage under this section unless such mortgage provides that the homeowner’s obligation to satisfy the loan obligation is deferred until the homeowner’s death, the sale of the home, or the occurrence of other events specified in regulations of the Secretary. For purposes of this subsection, the term ”homeowner” includes the spouse of a homeowner. Section 1647(b) of title 15 and any implementing regulations issued by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System shall not apply to a mortgage insured under this section.
(k) Insurance authority for refinancings
(1) In general
The Secretary may, upon application by a mortgagee, insure under this subsection any mortgage given to refinance an existing home equity conversion mortgage insured under this section.
(2) Anti-churning disclosure
The Secretary shall, by regulation, require that the mortgagee of a mortgage insured under this subsection, provide to the mortgagor, within an appropriate time period and in a manner established in such regulations, a good faith estimate of: (A) the total cost of the refinancing; and (B) the increase in the mortgagor’s principal limit as measured by the estimated initial principal limit on the mortgage to be insured under this subsection less the current principal limit on the home equity conversion mortgage that is being refinanced and insured under this subsection.
(3) Waiver of counseling requirement
The mortgagor under a mortgage insured under this subsection may waive the applicability, with respect to such mortgage, of the requirements under subsection (d)(2)(B) of this section
(relating to third party counseling), but only if –
(A) the mortgagor has received the disclosure required under paragraph (2);
(B) the increase in the principal limit described in paragraph (2) exceeds the amount of the total cost of refinancing (as described in such paragraph) by an amount to be determined by the Secretary; and
(C) the time between the closing of the original home equity conversion mortgage that is refinanced through the mortgage insured under this subsection and the application for a refinancing mortgage insured under this subsection does not exceed 5 years.
(4) Credit for premiums paid
Notwithstanding section 1709(c)(2)(A) of this title, the Secretary may reduce the amount of the single premium payment otherwise collected under such section at the time of the insurance of a mortgage refinanced and insured under this subsection. The amount of the single premium for mortgages refinanced under this subsection shall be determined by the
Secretary based on the actuarial study required under paragraph (5).
(5) Actuarial study
Not later than 180 days after December 27, 2000, the Secretary shall conduct an actuarial analysis to determine the adequacy of the insurance premiums collected under the program under this subsection with respect to –
(A) a reduction in the single premium payment collected at the time of the insurance of a mortgage refinanced and insured under this subsection;
(B) the establishment of a single national limit on the benefits of insurance under subsection (g) of this section (relating to limitation on insurance authority); and
(C) the combined effect of reduced insurance premiums and a single national limitation on insurance authority.
The Secretary may establish a limit on the origination fee that may be charged to a mortgagor under a mortgage insured under this subsection, except that such limitation shall provide that the origination fee may be fully financed with the mortgage and shall include any fees paid to correspondent mortgagees approved by the Secretary.
(l) Funding for counseling
The Secretary may use a portion of the mortgage insurance premiums collected under the program under this section to adequately fund the counseling and disclosure activities required under subsection (f), including counseling for those homeowners who elect not to take out a home equity conversion mortgage, provided that the use of such funds is based upon accepted actuarial principles.
(m) Authority To Insure Home Purchase Mortgage.—
(1) In General.—Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, the Secretary may insure, upon application by a mortgagee, a home equity conversion mortgage upon such terms and conditions as the Secretary may prescribe, when the home equity conversion mortgage will be used to purchase a 1- to 4-family dwelling unit, one unit of which the mortgagor will occupy as a primary residence, and to provide for any future payments to the mortgagor, based on available equity, as authorized under subsection (d)(9).
(2) Limitation On Principal Obligation.—A home equity conversion mortgage insured pursuant to paragraph (1) shall involve a principal obligation that does not exceed the dollar amount limitation determined under section 305(a)(2) of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation Act for a 1-family residence.
(n) Requirements On Mortgage Originators.—
(1) In General.—The mortgagee and any other party that participates in the origination of a mortgage to be insured under this section shall—
(A) not participate in, be associated with, or employ any party that participates in or is associated with any other financial or insurance activity; or
(B) demonstrate to the Secretary that the mortgagee or other party maintains, or will maintain, firewalls and other safeguards designed to ensure that—
(i) individuals participating in the origination of the mortgage shall have no involvement with, or incentive to provide the mortgagor with, any other financial or insurance product; and
(ii) the mortgagor shall not be required, directly or indirectly, as a condition of obtaining a mortgage under this section, to purchase any other financial or insurance product.
(2) Approval Of Other Parties.—All parties that participate in the origination of a mortgage to be insured under this section shall be approved by the Secretary.
(o) Prohibition Against Requirements To Purchase Additional
Products.—The mortgagor or any other party shall not be required by the mortgagee or any other party to purchase an insurance, annuity, or other similar product as a requirement or condition of eligibility for insurance under subsection (c), except for title insurance, hazard, flood, or other peril insurance, or other such products that are customary and normal under subsection (c), as determined by the Secretary.
(p) Study To Determine Consumer Protections And Underwriting
Standards.—The Secretary shall conduct a study to examine and determine appropriate consumer protections and underwriting standards to ensure that the purchase of products referred to in subsection (o) is appropriate for the consumer. In conducting such study, the Secretary shall consult with consumer advocates (including recognized experts in consumer protection), industry representatives, representatives of counseling organizations, and other interested parties.
(r) Limitation On Origination Fees.—The Secretary shall establish limits on the origination fee that may be charged to a mortgagor under a mortgage insured under this section, which limitations shall—
(1) be equal to 2.0 percent of the maximum claim amount of the mortgage, up to a maximum claim amount of $200,000 plus 1 percent of any portion of the maximum claim amount that is greater than $200,000, unless adjusted thereafter on the basis of an analysis of—
(A) the costs to mortgagors; and
(B) the impact on the reverse mortgage market;
(2) be subject to a minimum allowable amount;
(3) provide that the origination fee may be fully financed with the mortgage;
(4) include any fees paid to correspondent mortgagees approved by the Secretary;
(5) have the same effective date as subsection (m)(2) regarding the limitation on principal obligation; and
(6) be subject to a maximum origination fee of $6,000, except that such maximum limit shall be adjusted in accordance with the annual percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index of the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the Department of Labor in increments of $500 only when the percentage increase in such index, when applied to the maximum origination fee, produces dollar increases that exceed $500.
* * *
In addition to the study to determine consumer protections and underwriting standards, referred to in subsection (p), above, Section 2122 of the HERA also provides for a study regarding the costs and availability of credit under the HECM program.
 Reviewer’s note: Section 1204 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (or ARRA) temporarily increased the HECM loan limits to $625,500 for calendar year 2009. Section 1204 of the ARRA provides as follows: “For mortgages for which the mortgagee issues credit approval for the borrower during calendar year 2009, the second sentence of section 255(g) of the National Housing Act (12 U.S.C. 1715z–20(g)) shall be considered to require that in no case may the benefits of insurance under such section 255 exceed 150 percent of the maximum dollar amount in effect under the sixth sentence of section 305(a)(2) of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation Act (12 U.S.C. 1454(a)(2)).” The FHA issued Mortgagee Letter 2009-07 (ML 09-07), dated February 24, 2009, implementing the increased HECM loan limits. ML 09-07 provides that the increased HECM loan limits apply to HECM loans under Section 255 of the National Housing Act, and personnel with HUD recently informally confirmed that the increased HECM loan limits under the ARRA apply both to HECM refinance transactions and HECM for Purchase transactions.
 Reviewer’s note: See supra text accompanying Footnote 1.
 Reviewer’s note: See supra text accompanying Footnote 1.