Report calls for fair treatment of homeowners with limited English proficiency


Immigrants in the United States, who speak English with limited proficiency, are often victims of fraud and scams for not having access to interpretation or translated documents in their own language.

Especially in the mortgage loan market industry, individuals with limited English proficient (LEP) may have greater difficulties when choosing products and services offered to them. Not being able to understand can make people vulnerable to abusive practices and misinformation may lead to wrong decisions. A typical example of this is when an LEP individual receives an initial foreclosure notice and that person moves, not realizing that he/she may be eligible for a loan modification.

In a report released last week, the Americans for Financial Reform (AFR)urges federal regulators to improve the mortgage marketplace for LEP consumers so that they can understand and navigate the financial system. AFR asks the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and other federal agencies to enhance and provide mortgage-servicing protections for homeowners and applicants with LEP. They are also requesting language access within the CFPB, and the expansion of existing examination procedures to include a review of language accessibility.

“Banks and servicers must provide better language services in the mortgage industry to ensure that LEP homeowners are making informed decisions about their loans, and getting assistance for the servicing of their loans in the homeowner’s preferred language,” said Maria DeGennaro, Staff Attorney at Empire Justice Center. “Otherwise, New York will see a continued spiral of destruction in the most vulnerable communities, by the threat of foreclosure and homelessness.”

Language access remains a significant hurdle for many communities seeking access to the financial marketplace, according to the AFR. In 2014, approximately 25.3 million individuals, some 9 percent of the U.S. population, were considered LEP. Limited English proficient refers to anyone above the age of 5 who reported speaking English less than “very well,” as classified by the U.S. Census Bureau.

In New York State, 5.6 million people speak a language other than English at home; of the 2.6 million who speak Spanish, 1.2 million are considered LEP, the report says. On Long Island 281,000 residents are LEP.

See all recommendations and the report HERE.

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