Reverse mortgage lenders cannot evaluate potential borrowers on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) stressed in a recent Mortgagee Letter.
The Feb. 6 letter explains a final rule published in 2012, which was meant to ensure equal access to housing through HUD. The rule applies to all approved lenders in a Federal Housing Administration mortgage insurance program.
Under the equal access rule, these lenders are to consider only HUD-approved eligibility requirements for borrowers. Lenders are not allowed to ask the sexual orientation or gender identity of an applicant as part of determining eligibility.
The letter explains that gender identity relates to “actual or perceived gender-related characteristics.” Sexual orientation refers to homosexuality, heterosexuality and bisexuality. The term “family,” as it is used in HUD housing programs, also is addressed in the letter. It states that the definition of family is not dependent on the sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status of its members.
The rule is based in the Fair Housing Act’s prohibition on sex-based discrimination, the letter states. States and localities might have even more stringent prohibitions than the federal government does on housing discrimination related to sexual orientation, gender and marital status. If HUD receives complaints about this type of discrimination, it could report the claims to the relevant state and local enforcement agencies, the letter warns.
Click here to access the complete Mortgagee Letter.
Written by Tim Mullaney