The Consumer Financial Protection Agency reminded lenders today of the requirement, starting January 10, to provide consumers with a list of homeownership counseling organizations.  Consumers should be given such a list at the time they apply for a mortgage so they know where to get help or guidance to decide which loan is the best for them.

CFPB said it recognizes that developing a method to generate these lists appropriately may take lenders some time so they might not be able to provide the lists by the rules implementation date, so today it both launched a tool to help consumers find local housing counseling agencies and published guidance for lenders on how to prepare lists of these organizations for their customers.   The Bureau suggests that lenders can also use the on-line consumer tool to build their own lists of agencies if they desire

Housing counselors can provide advice on buying a home, renting, defaults, foreclosures, and credit issues, often at little or no cost to consumers. The tool:

  • Shows consumers their closest options: The tool uses a search box and mapping function to show the consumer the ten closest counseling agencies to their zip code.
  • Provides contact information for HUD-approved counselors: The tool only draws on information from the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) official list of housing counselors.
  • Displays services offered by counseling agencies: When counselors are listed, the tool shows the consumer which services are available there, such as rental housing counseling, pre-purchase counseling, or default resolution counseling.
  • Lists the languages offered: For those consumers who would prefer to receive housing counseling in a language other than English, the tool lists the languages that each housing counseling agency offers.

If a lender prefers to build its own list it can look to today's interpretive rule for instructions and can also consider directing borrowers to the CFPB's new tool in the interim.  If lenders take these steps in good faith while building their systems or are working with vendors to build systems, the CFPB would not raise supervisory or enforcement concerns.

"Consumers need and deserve the best guidance when making the decision to purchase a home," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. "Buying a home may easily be the largest investment a consumer makes, and we want to make it easier for them to find a housing counselor that is a good fit for them."

Consumers and lenders can access the new tool at