HUD has posted guidance on 216 FAQs, responded to more than 200 individual phone and e-mail inquires, and held 40 speaking engagements with industry groups, he said, and is developing about two dozen follow-up FAQs for posting.
"To the the extent that your letter raises questions that have not yet been answered, we will respond to them expeditiously and add these responses to the FAQs," Stevens said.
Industry groups say that’s part of the problem — that HUD is still providing new information on how to interpret the rule changes as the deadline for implementing them approaches.
But Stevens called it "imperative" that the rule be "fully operational on schedule," in order to restore consumer confidence at "a critical time for the United States housing and housing finance markets."
The National Association of Realtors and American Land Title Association — which had been critical of the RESPA rule changes when they were proposed — now support implementation on Jan. 1, Stevens said.
Wells Fargo Home Mortgage executives also wrote HUD this week to say they are opposed to a delay in implementation because the company is already committed to becoming compliant on Jan. 1 and would be at a competitive disadvantage if other lenders are allowed to opt out.
"We have already programmed the mandated RESPA changes into over 40 computer systems and have no choice but to proceed with implementation of the new forms" on Jan. 1, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage executives said. "Due to the complexity of the changes and the enormous expenditure of time and resources associated with programming, it is impossible for us to postpone this implementation."
Other lenders would likely face the same technological and competitive obstacles if the deadline is extended, Wells Fargo executives said.
"To avoid marketplace disarray and consumer confusion, all lenders should be operating under the same set of rules and HUD regulatory interpretations," the letter concluded.
While HUD and the Obama administration are standing behind RESPA rule changes initiated by the Bush administration, there’s still a chance Congress will intervene.
Rep. Judy Biggert — an Illinois Republican who played a leading role in derailing a previous attempt at overhauling RESPA five years ago — has drafted an amendment to a pending bill, HR 3126, that would delay implementation of the new RESPA rule "for a reasonable amount of time," industry groups said in another letter to leaders of the House Financial Services Committee.
Last year, before HUD issued its final RESPA rule, more than 240 of members of the House of Representatives signed a letter urging HUD to withdraw its proposed RESPA changes and work with the Federal Reserve on simplified disclosure forms that meet both RESPA and Truth in Lending Act (TILA) requirements.
This year, Biggert and Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas, successfully introduced an amendment to HR 1728 — a bill targeted at predatory lending practices — which would delay implementation of HUD’s RESPA rule changes for one year. Although the bill was approved by the house on May 7 in a 300-114 vote, it was was referred to the Senate Banking Committee a few days later and has yet to receive a hearing. …CONTINUED