We audited the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) temporary policy for endorsement of loans with COVID-19 forbearance activity because an analysis of data in HUD’s systems showed that there may have been loans that did not comply with the policy’s requirements. The policy was one aspect of HUD’s broader emergency response to COVID-19, which also included an eviction moratorium and loan forbearance for borrowers experiencing financial hardship. The objectives of the audit were to determine (1) whether HUD’s temporary endorsement policy related to COVID-19 forbearance activity was properly followed by lenders, (2) whether HUD monitored and enforced indemnification agreements for loans that were subject to the temporary policy, and (3) HUD’s reasons for ending the policy during the pandemic and its plans to evaluate and use such policies in the future.
HUD could improve oversight of the temporary endorsement policy. Specifically, HUD did not ensure that (1) lenders consistently followed policy requirements and (2) indemnification agreement data and records related to the policy were complete and accurate. These deficiencies occurred or went undetected due to unclear guidance and because HUD did not update its oversight strategy to specifically cover the policy and reconcile relevant data and records. As a result, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insurance fund was exposed to greater risk from at least $83 million in loans for which lenders did not follow requirements, and HUD’s ability to monitor and enforce indemnification agreements could be compromised until it corrects its data and records. Additionally, HUD terminated the policy due to limited use and did not have plans to further evaluate or use the policy in the future. As a result, HUD did not know whether using a similar policy during future disasters and emergencies or permanently could manage risk to the insurance fund while increasing lender participation.
We recommend that HUD (1) require lenders to execute 5-year indemnification agreements for loans that were missing required agreements or were otherwise ineligible to put up to $1.8 million to better use by avoiding potential losses; (2) request and analyze data from lenders for loans at risk of noncompliance to identify loans that should have been subject to the policy or were otherwise ineligible for insurance and require lenders to protect HUD against losses on these loans to put up to $26.8 million to better use; (3) record indemnification agreement data in its system for agreements that were executed but not recorded to put up to $3.5 million to better use; (4) review and correct indemnification agreement data as needed in its system; (5) update indemnification agreements with incorrect or missing information; and (6) consider evaluating whether and how a similar policy could be used in the future. This should include studying lenders’ use of the policy, the long-term performance of loans endorsed under it, and the compliance, guidance, and process issues discussed above to refine future policies.