The non-borrowing spouses of reverse mortgage borrowers have finally found a reprieve when a court of appeals rule in favor of the two plaintiffs in a lawsuit against HUD.
According to an article in Reverse Mortgage Daily, a court of appeals is holding HUD accountable for providing a remedy for the plaintiffs.
The lawsuit, which was filed more than two years ago, was originally dismissed for lack of standing as the plaintiffs were unable to demonstrate an adequate connection between HUD’s repayment guidelines and the emotional distress caused by HUD’s action.
AARP, however, was able to bring the case back in early 2013 via a court of appeals.
In the past, many non-borrowing spouses have found themselves in hot water with HUD when their borrowing spouse passed away or no longer lived in the primary residence used for the reverse mortgage.
There are many reasons non-borrowing spouses are left off the house title and reverse mortgage loan:
Mainly, because they are not yet 62 or older but their spouse is.
In addition, the amount of money a couple may receive is determined by the youngest spouse. In order to get the maximum amount of funds, the borrowing spouse may remove their younger spouse from the house title.
Later on, the couple may refinance to include a previously non-borrowing spouse on the loan, especially if home values have risen significantly since originally taking out the reverse mortgage.
Plaintiffs, Robert Bennet and Leila Joseph, however, did not give up on their homes and sued HUD for violating federal law by foreclosing on their homes. The ruling, which declares that HUD DID, in fact, violate Federal law, demands that HUD make the necessary adjustments in order to offer the plaintiffs protection.
Jean Constantine-Davis, senior attorney with AARP Foundation Litigation stated:
“The decision marks a turning point for surviving spouses, such as our clients, and ensures that they will receive the protections guaranteed by the law: that they will be able to remain in their homes, despite the loss of their husband or wife.”
The catch is, though HUD must remedy the situation for the plaintiffs, it is up to HUD to determine what would be the best possible way to grant relief to non-borrowing spouses.
The implications of this ruling have yet to be seen, but it’s an important step in the right direction. Reverse mortgage counseling clearly outlines the responsibilities of the non-borrowing if the borrower should pass away, however, it’s also important to expect the unexpected.
There should provide a way out for non-borrowing spouses who suddenly find themselves without a home when their spouses passes or is deemed unfit to continue living in their primary residence. How this may affect non-borrowing spouses in the future, or HUD in general, has yet to be determined.
All we can do, for now, is wait and see.