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Fair Housing and Lending

Discrimination in mortgage lending is prohibited by the federal Fair Housing Act. Legally, only an applicant's financial profile (such as credit rating) may factor into the decision to extend a mortgage. The Act makes it unlawful to engage in the following practices based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap (disability):

  • Refuse to make a mortgage loan
  • Refuse to provide information regarding loans
  • Impose different terms or conditions on a loan, such as different interest rates, points, or fees
  • Discriminate in appraising property
  • Refuse to purchase a loan or set different terms or conditions for purchasing a loan

The following information provides a general overview of the main provisions of the Fair Housing Act. See Understanding Your Rights to Fair Lending and Mortgages and Your Rights to Fair Lending for more details.

Subprime Lending

Subprime loans play a significant role in today's mortgage lending market, making home ownership possible for many families who have blemished credit histories or who otherwise fail to qualify for prime, conventional loans. But, while the subprime mortgage market serves a legitimate role, these loans tend to cost more and sometimes have less advantageous terms than prime market loans. Additionally, subprime lenders are largely unregulated by the federal government. Data shows blacks are much more likely than whites to get a subprime loan, and many of the borrowers who take out these loans could qualify for loans with better rates and terms. As such, many have expressed fair lending concerns about the subprime market.

Predatory Lending

Some lenders, often referred to as predatory lenders, saddle borrowers with loans that come with outrageous terms and conditions, often through deception. Elderly women and minorities frequently report that they have been targeted, or preyed upon, by these lenders. The typical predatory loan is:

  1. In excess of those available to similarly situated borrowers from other lenders elsewhere in the lending market
  2. Not justified by the creditworthiness of the borrower or the risk of loss 
  3. Secured by the borrower's home

Consider speaking with a real estate attorney if you have additional questions or would like to file a claim under the Fair Lending Act.

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