Thursday, April 25, 2024

Identifying a Qualified Written Request


We are a medium-sized servicer with a servicing portfolio in almost all jurisdictions in the United States. I am an attorney who heads the team evaluating Qualified Written Requests (QWR). We recognize there are specific elements to a QWR. However, sometimes, it feels like a judgment call to determine what is or is not a QWR. 

I often find myself taking deep dives into RESPA’s Regulation X and case law to interpret whether a letter from a borrower constitutes a QWR or a complaint, each with obviously different – though sometimes overlapping – resolution criteria and statutory obligations. There are many instances where the letter is both a QWR and a complaint. 

My focus is on determining whether we have received a bona fide QWR. I was wondering if you could provide some guidance in navigating this legal jungle and provide a case that shows how a court has offered a way to identify a QWR. 

What constitutes the requirements for a Qualified Written Request? 

Is there a case with some guidelines for identifying a Qualified Written Request? 


Policies and Procedures 


You have asked a question that involves one of the more litigious areas of servicing compliance. The Qualified Written Request (QWR) provisions of RESPA continue to produce an abundance of litigation. 

Generally, the court decisions typically use the more general statutory term QWR as they consider borrower claims regarding Notices of Error (NOEs) and Requests for Information (RFIs), the specific types of QWRs described in Regulation X[i].

Before proceeding with a possible case for you to consider, allow me to put down some foundation. 

RESPA[ii] specifies that 

“[d]uring the 60-day period beginning on the date of the servicer’s receipt from any borrower of a qualified written request relating to a dispute regarding the borrower’s payments, a servicer may not provide information regarding any overdue payment, owed by such borrower and relating to such period or qualified written request, to any credit reporting agency.” 

Similarly, Regulation X[iii] provides that, after receiving an NOE, a servicer may not, for 60 days, furnish adverse information to any consumer reporting agency regarding any payment that is the subject of the notice of error. 

This does not limit or restrict a servicer or lender from pursuing any remedy under applicable law, including initiating foreclosure or proceeding with a foreclosure sale, except for the Regulation X restrictions regarding assertions of errors relating to: 

(a) a first notice or filing required by applicable law for any judicial or nonjudicial foreclosure process in violation of Regulation X[iv]; or 

(b) a motion for foreclosure judgment or order of sale or conducting a foreclosure in violation of Regulation X[v]. 

Now, let's move on to a case that may be responsive to your inquiry. 

On remand from a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, a federal district court in Maryland recently considered whether a borrower inquiry was a QWR and, if it were, then whether the servicer had violated the restriction on furnishing adverse information to a consumer credit reporting agency. The case is Morgan v. Caliber Home Loans, Inc.[vi] 

Here’s my outline. 

·       In 1998, Morgan borrowed from Nations Bank to refinance his home mortgage loan. Morgan modified the mortgage loan once to change the date of his monthly payment. 

·       In November 2014, after the loan matured, servicing was transferred from Bank of America to Caliber. At the time of the transfer, the loan documents showed an outstanding balance due on the loan. Morgan repeatedly contacted Caliber about the purported outstanding loan balance. 

·       Morgan learned through an employer-generated credit check that his credit report reflected a $16,806 arrearage on the loan. The employer told Morgan he needed to correct the adverse credit reports or he would lose opportunities for job promotions. 

·       Over the next year, Morgan continued receiving notices regarding the outstanding balance. 

·       On September 20, 2016, Morgan called Caliber to inquire about the notices because he believed the loan had been paid off. He learned during that call that the balance had increased to $30,656.89. 

·       On September 25, 2016, he sent Caliber a letter stating: 

o   “I called Caliber and talked to [an employee]…he stated I owe $36,656.89…Can you please correct your records. Your office’s reporting this wrong amount to this credit agency is effecting [sic] my employment. Please correct your records.” 

·       Caliber received the letter and responded in writing the next day. 

·       In its October 4, 2016 letter, Caliber acknowledged receipt and stated it would “perform the necessary research and respond within the time period required by law.” 

·       Two days later, Caliber determined that the previously reported loan balance was incorrect. It recalculated the balance as $8,823. 

o   That same day, Caliber reported the new balance information to the credit reporting agencies using an Automated Universal Data form (AUD). 

·       Caliber also suspended its monthly report to the credit reporting agencies regarding the loan from October 6, 2016 through March 2017.

·       On October 11, 2016, Caliber informed Morgan that the credit report was “inaccurately reporting the amount past due.” 

o   The letter vaguely referred to Caliber having corrected the inaccuracy. Still, it did not explain what was inaccurate and how that error was corrected, and it did not share with Morgan that, in Caliber’s view, he still owed $8,823 on the loan.

o   The letter added that it might take up to four weeks before the “correct information” would appear in his credit report. 

·       Morgan continued to dispute that he owed anything and sent letters to the credit reporting agencies. According to Morgan, the notice from his employer regarding his poor credit and the dispute regarding the outstanding balance caused him emotional distress. 

·       On September 23, 2019, he sued Caliber for violating RESPA and Regulation X. 

The district court dismissed Morgan’s claim, holding that his September 25, 2016 letter did not meet RESPA’s requirements for a QWR. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit reversed, finding that the letter was a QWR. 

On remand, Morgan moved for partial summary judgment as to liability only, and Caliber filed a cross motion for summary judgment as to liability and damages. 

The district court granted Morgan’s motion as to two of the three elements of the RESPA claim (QWR, and failure to refrain from credit reporting, but not as to damages). It granted Caliber’s motion as to the unavailability of statutory damages. 

Now, I want to break the foregoing decision into its three elements: QWR, Failure to Refrain, and Actual Damages. Thereafter, I will provide a few words about statutory damages. 


First, the court concluded, as required by the 4th Circuit, that the letter was a QWR because it was “a written correspondence” that articulated a “statement of reasons” in “sufficient detail” to indicate to Caliber why Morgan believed the credit reporting was in error. The court granted summary judgment to Morgan on this element. 

Failure to Refrain 

Second, the parties did not dispute that within 3 days of receiving the QWR, Caliber submitted an AUD informing the credit reporting agencies that Morgan had $8,823 outstanding, and that this qualified as reporting an “overdue payment.” Accordingly, Caliber indisputably failed to refrain from reporting “any overdue payment” for 60 days after having received the QWR. The court also granted summary judgment to Morgan on this element. 

Actual Damages 

Third, the court determined that Morgan had produced sufficient evidence from which a reasonable juror could conclude that he suffered emotional distress as a result of the AUD Caliber sent to the credit reporting agencies. 

The mother of Morgan’s children had observed that Morgan was “worried and anxious,” which was “unlike Morgan.” When she asked what was troubling him, he would “almost always turn to Caliber.” His daughter recalled that while living with Morgan during this time, he was “anxious about Caliber hurting his financial status,” Morgan “regularly paced around,” he was “short tempered,” and could not eat. Morgan also sought medical assistance for his anxiety and depression. 

From this testimony, a juror could reasonably conclude that he suffered emotional distress due to Caliber’s failure to refrain from reporting adverse information in the AUD. This left a facial issue as to whether Caliber’s RESPA violation proximately caused Morgan’s emotional distress. Accordingly, the court denied summary judgment for Caliber as to actual damages. 

Statutory Damages 

Morgan also sought statutory damages, which RESPA allows when a servicer engages in a “pattern or practice of noncompliance” with RESPA. 

Morgan argued that Caliber’s single AUD constituted a pattern or practice because Caliber had forwarded it to three credit reporting agencies and violated multiple RESPA provisions. 

Not so, said the court, because Caliber submitted only one AUD on one occasion. If this alone were sufficient to establish a pattern or practice, then the pattern or practice requirement sufficient to trigger statutory damages would apply in almost every case. The court granted summary judgment to Caliber regarding statutory damages. 

I will conclude with an observation. 

The court noted that Morgan might wish to pursue an alternative argument that Caliber violated Regulation X[vii], which requires a servicer to respond to an NOE by either correcting the error and providing written notification of the correction, or conducting a reasonable investigation and providing a written notice that no error occurred. Thus, a legitimate argument could be made that Caliber did not satisfy the notification requirement, that is, it did not describe the error, how it was corrected, or the effective date of the correction. 

Jonathan Foxx, Ph.D., MBA
Chairman & Managing Director 
Lenders Compliance Group

[i] Regulation X §§ 1024.35 (NOEs) and 1024.36 (RFIs), as amended by the 2013 Mortgage Lending Rules.

[ii] See RESPA § 6

[iii] § 1024.35

[iv] § 1024.41(f) or (g)

[v] §1024.41(g) or (j)

[vi] Morgan v. Caliber Home Loans, Inc., 2024 U.S. Dist. (D. Md. Feb. 22, 2024)

[vii] § 1024.35(e)(1)(i)(B)