Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act RESPA Law and Legal Definition

The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) is a consumer protection statute dealing with home buying transactions which is administered by HUD. RESPA requires that consumers receive disclosures at various times in the transaction and outlaws kickbacks that increase the cost of settlement services.

RESPA covers loans secured with a mortgage placed on a one-to-four family residential property. These include most purchase loans, assumptions, refinances, property improvement loans, and equity lines of credit. HUD's Office of RESPA and Interstate Land Sales is responsible for enforcing RESPA.

For example, Section 8 of RESPA prohibits a person from giving or accepting any thing of value for referrals of settlement service business related to a federally related mortgage loan. It also prohibits a person from giving or accepting any part of a charge for services that are not performed. Section 9 of RESPA prohibits home sellers from requiring home buyers to purchase title insurance from a particular company.

Section 6 provides borrowers with important consumer protections relating to the servicing of their loans. Under Section 6 of RESPA, borrowers who have a problem with the servicing of their loan (including escrow account questions), should contact their loan servicer in writing, outlining the nature of their complaint. The servicer must acknowledge the complaint in writing within 20 business days of receipt of the complaint. Within 60 business days the servicer must resolve the complaint by correcting the account or giving a statement of the reasons for its position. Until the complaint is resolved, borrowers should continue to make the servicer's required payment.

A borrower may bring a private law suit, or a group of borrowers may bring a class action suit, within three years, against a servicer who fails to comply with Section 6's provisions. Borrowers may obtain actual damages, as well as additional damages if there is a pattern of noncompliance.

Under Section 10, HUD has authority to impose a civil penalty on loan servicers who do not submit initial or annual escrow account statements to borrowers. Borrowers should contact HUD's Office of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to report servicers who fail to provide the required escrow account statements.

Persons who believe a settlement service provider has violated RESPA in an area in which HUD has enforcement authority (primarily sections 6, 8 and 9), may wish to file a complaint. The complaint should outline the violation and identify the violators by name, address and phone number. Complainants should also provide their own name and phone number for follow up questions from HUD.

Individuals have one (1) year to bring a private law suit to enforce violations of Section 8 or 9. A person may bring an action for violations of Section 6 within three years. Lawsuits for violations of Section 6, 8, or 9 may be brought in any federal district court in the district in which the property is located or where the violation is alleged to have occurred.

HUD, a State Attorney General or State insurance commissioner may bring an injunctive action to enforce violations of Section 6, 8 or 9 of RESPA within three (3) years.