This article lists federal and state consumer law changes that are scheduled to go into effect in 2021. This includes new rights and also rights and programs that were scheduled to terminate in 2020, but are now extended into 2021. For rights and programs that have been extended, this article generally lists the extension under their new expiration date. The article also lists a number of changes that became effective in December 2020, or will be effective as of January 1, 2022. Of course, while other consumer law changes will be enacted later this year and will go into effect this year, this article lists changes whose effective dates have already been scheduled as of January 1, 2021.
Significantly, with the change of administrations, the federal agency rules and interpretations listed below as taking effect in 2021 may be revoked, delayed, or amended by the new administration prior to their taking effect. Litigation concerning pending rules may also delay or eliminate some of the listed rule changes. New legislation or congressional review of agency rules is also possible affecting the listing of consumer rights taking effect or expiring in 2021.
While this article lists a large number of changes, these are the highlights from the items listed infra:
- • Extension of COVID-related moratoria and forbearances: Evictions (extended to Mar. 31, 2021); Fannie, Freddie, FHA, VA, FHS, HECM foreclosures(extended to Mar. 31, 2021) and forbearance extensions; and federal student loan forbearances (extended to Sept. 30, 2021).
- • CFPB rules interpreting the FDCPA (effective Nov. 30, 2021).
- • Bankruptcy: New rules, forms, and fees (Dec. 1, 2020 and Dec. 1, 2021) and temporary rights concerning chapter 13 plans (Dec. 27, 2020).
- • Qualified principal residence indebtedness exclusion extended from January 1, 2021 to January 1, 2026.
- • TILA qualified mortgage changes (effective March 1, 2021).
- • California’s new consumer financial protection law and other new California and Virginia legislation, effective January 1, 2021.
- • Nebraska’s voter initiative limiting payday lending, effective December 8, 2020.
- • Surprise medical bill legislation (effective for insurance plan years beginning in 2022).
December 1, 2020: Bankruptcy; Federal Rule of Civil Procedure; Lifeline
Bankruptcy Rules, Forms, and Fees: Effective December 1, filing fees increase to $3, other fees have small increases, Rules 2002(f), 2002n(h), 2004, 8012, 8013, 8015, and 8021 are amended, and Directors Forms 1320, 2000, 2010, and the instructions to Director’s Form 1310 are changed to reflect dollar amount changes. These changes are examined in some detail here. The new rules, fee changes, and forms are available at NCLC’s Consumer Bankruptcy Law and Practice Appendix B (the rules), Appendix C (fee changes), Appendix D (official forms), and Appendix E (director’s forms).
Federal Rules of Procedure on Discovery: Although extensive changes to Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(b)(6) governing the deposition of corporate representatives were originally proposed, the only change going into effect on December 1, 2020, is that the parties confer in advance regarding the number and identity of topics and identify the corporate designees implicated by a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition notice.
Federal Lifeline Program: The program phases out monthly support for voice only in favor of broadband support, lowering the voice-only support to $5.25 on December 1, 2020. See NCLC’s Access to Utility Service § 11.3.3.
Federal Lifeline Program: A provider offering devices in the lifeline program must ensure that, as of December 1, 2020, at least 35% of such devices are capable of being used as a hotspot. 47 C.F.R. § 54.408(f)(3).
December 8, 2020: Nebraska Payday Loans
Nebraska Payday Loan Rates: Nebraska Initiative 428, having been voted on November 3, 2020, went into effect on December 8, 2020, amending state law by replacing the existing limit on payday loans (no fees in excess of $15 per $100 loaned, which can translate into an APR well over 100%) with a 36% annual limit, applicable to payday lenders marketing or offering loans in the state regardless of the lender having a physical office in the state.
December 27, 2020: Bankruptcy; Evictions; Broadband; Water; Garnishment
Consumer Bankruptcy: As of December 27, 2020, a bill provides a number of protections for consumers in bankruptcy, that all sunset one year after enactment. Consumers in chapter 13 bankruptcy cases who have otherwise completed their plan payments will not be denied a discharge if they missed three or fewer mortgage payments because of a COVID-19 related financial hardship due or if they are in a CARES Act forbearance when the plan completes. This provision helps in bankruptcy districts that have prevented debtors from obtaining a discharge in this situation and also helps debtors who have managed to keep up with plan payments and the plan is ending while they are still months into a forbearance. Another provision allows a mortgage servicer to submit a supplemental claim for the amount forborne under a forbearance, and to move to modify the debtor’s plan to deal with a supplemental claim if the debtor does not do this. Another provision permits consumers to have utility service maintained or restored after filing bankruptcy without paying a deposit, as long as they pay for post-petition service. This provision helps in those bankruptcy districts that have required consumers to pay a deposit to the utility company upon filing. An anti-discrimination provision clarifies that consumers cannot be denied a mortgage forbearance under the CARES Act if they have filed bankruptcy or received a bankruptcy discharge. See Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, div. FF, tit. X § 320 (p. 2106 of the bill version linked here).
Broadband Access: Legislation signed on December 27, 2020, provides for an emergency broadband benefit of $50 a month ($75 on tribal lands) to help connect low-income students, families and unemployed workers, and up to $100 for a laptop, tablet or desktop (with a $10–$50 co-pay). The funding will be available to Lifeline recipients (in addition to Lifeline benefits), Pell grant recipients, households with students in the free and reduced school lunch program, and households experiencing a severe drop in income. See Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, div. N § 904 (p. 2417 of the bill version linked here).
Emergency Rental Assistance: Legislation enacted on December 27, 2020, provides for $25 billion in federal rental assistance, distributed through state and local governments. See Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, div. N § 501 (p. 2255 of the bill version linked here).
Low-Income Water Bill Assistance: Legislation enacted on December 27, 2020, provides for a new $638 million low-income water and sewer bill assistance program that can be used to cover arrearages as well as current bills. See Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, div. H § 533 (p. 1096 of the bill version linked here).
Garnishment of Stimulus Funds: Legislation enacted on December 27, 2020, provides that the new stimulus payments to individuals (such as for $600) will not be reduced to offset federal debts or to pay state child support enforcement orders and cannot be garnished by debt collectors. They will be coded in a way that banks can recognize them and automatically protect them if they receive a garnishment order. See Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, div. N § 272 (pp. 1986, 1987 of the version linked here).
December 29, 2020: OCC Rent-a-Bank
Rent-a-Bank and National Banks: An Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) rule seeks to determine when a national bank or federal savings association is the ‘‘true lender’’ for a loan when the credit extension closely involves a third party, often called rent-a-bank credit. It is effective as of December 29, 2020. Rent-a-bank credit allows a non-bank to take advantage of a bank’s rate exportation rights to avoid the consumer’s home state usury laws. Under this OCC rule, a national bank or federal savings association is considered the true lender if, as of the date of origination, it is named as the lender in the loan agreement or funds the loan, even where all other loan aspects indicate the bank is not the true lender. See 85 Fed. Reg. 68,742 (Oct. 30, 2020). The rule is designed to work together with the OCC’s earlier rule that allows assignees of loans originated by OCC-regulated banks to charge any rate the bank could charge. (That rule has been challenged by state attorneys general, and the true lender rule may be challenged as well.) The true lender rule does not apply to rent-a-bank schemes involving state-chartered banks and savings associations. See a discussion of rent-a-bank and whether the OCC has authority to legitimize fictitious relationships designed to evade state law at NCLC’s Consumer Credit Regulation § 22.214.171.124.1.
January 1, 2021: QPRI Exclusion; TILA; CLA; FCRA; HMDA; FHFA; HECM; California; Virginia
Qualified Principal Residence Indebtedness Exclusion: the exclusion from taxable income of forgiven debt from the principal amount of a mortgage on a homeowner’s principal residence was to expire on January 1, 2021, but is now extended to January 1, 2026. See Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020, div. EE, § 114 (p. 4902 of the version linked here).
Truth in Lending Act Dollar Threshold for Coverage: Although the amount financed threshold for coverage is adjusted each year for inflation, there is no dollar change for 2021 and the threshold remains at $58,300. 85 Fed. Reg. 79,394 (Dec. 10, 2020). See also NCLC’s Truth in Lending § 126.96.36.199. TILA continues to cover home-secured and certain other credit even where the amount financed is greater than $58,300.
Truth in Lending Act Threshold Adjustment for Qualified Mortgages: For qualified mortgages, in 2021, the maximum thresholds for total points and fees will be 3% of the total loan amount for a loan greater than or equal to $110,260; $3,308 for a loan amount greater than or equal to $66,156 but less than $110,260; 5% of the total loan amount for a loan greater than or equal to $22,052 but less than $66,156; $1,103 for a loan amount greater than or equal to $13,783 but less than $22,052; and 8% of the total loan amount for a loan amount less than $13,783. See 85 Fed. Reg. 50,944 (Aug. 19, 2020).
Truth in Lending Act Threshold Adjustment for Credit Cards: For open-end consumer credit plans, in 2021, the threshold that triggers requirements to disclose minimum interest charges will remain unchanged at $1, the adjusted dollar amount for the safe harbor for a first violation penalty fee will remain unchanged at $29, and the adjusted dollar amount for the safe harbor for a subsequent violation penalty fee will remain unchanged at $40. See 85 Fed. Reg. 50,944 (Aug. 19, 2020).
Truth in Lending Act Threshold Adjustment for HOEPA: For HOEPA loans, in 2021, the adjusted total loan amount threshold for high-cost mortgages will be $22,052 and the adjusted points-and-fees dollar trigger for high-cost mortgages will be $1,103. See 85 Fed. Reg. 50,944 (Aug. 19, 2020).
Truth in Lending Act Escrow Requirements: If other Regulation Z requirements are met, effective January 1, 2021, institutions with assets under $2.23 billion (formerly $2.202 billion) need not establish escrow accounts for higher-priced mortgage loans. See 85 Fed. Reg. 83,411 (Dec. 22, 2020).
Truth in Lending Act Appraisal Requirements: Although the exclusion amount from special appraisal requirements for “higher-risk mortgages” is adjusted annually for inflation, for 2021 there is no change in the exemption threshold of $27,200. 85 Fed. Reg. 79,385 (Dec. 10, 2020).
Consumer Leasing Act Coverage: Although the maximum total contractual obligation for Act coverage is adjusted each year for inflation, there is no dollar change for 2021 and the maximum remains at $58,300. 85 Fed. Reg. 79,390 (Dec. 10, 2020). See also NCLC’s Truth in Lending § 188.8.131.52.
Fair Credit Reporting Act: Consumers are entitled once a year and in certain other circumstances to obtain a free copy of their consumer report, and they can also purchase copies at other times. Effective January 1, 2021, the maximum charge for such an additional report is increased to $13. See 85 Fed. Reg. 83,749 (Dec. 23, 2020).
HMDA Data Collection: Effective January 1, 2021, banks, savings associations and credit unions are exempted from data collection requirements of Regulation C, Home Mortgage Disclosures Act, if they have assets under $48 million (up from $47 million in 2020). See 85 Fed. Reg. 83,409 (Dec. 22, 2020).
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Loan Limits: The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) maximum conforming loan limits for mortgages to be acquired by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2021 for one-unit properties in most of the United States will be $548,250, an increase from $510,400 in 2020. In high-cost areas it will be $822,375, up from $765,600. See HUD Mortgagee Letter 2020-41 (Dec. 2, 2020).
HECM Reverse Mortgage Limits: The maximum claim amount for FHA-insured Home Equity Conversion Mortgages in 2021 increases to $822,375. See HUD Mortgagee Letter 2020-42 (Dec. 2, 2020).
California Consumer Financial Protection Law: Assembly Bill 1864, effective January 1, 2021, converts the Department of Business Oversight into the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI), codifies existing authority from federal law, and enacts the California Consumer Financial Protection Law (CCFPL). The new law also allows the DFPI to create a Division of Consumer Financial Protection to supervise financial services. The CCFPL gives the DFPI authority over a wide range of providers of financial products and services, regardless whether they fit within the definitions of existing law requiring licensing, and makes it unlawful for a covered person or service provider to engage in a variety of prohibited acts including, but not limited to, engaging in activity that would be unlawful, unfair, deceptive, or abusive or that violates any consumer financial law. The law requires the DFPI to regulate various consumer financial products and services, including creditors, debt collectors, credit repair agencies, and debt relief agencies. The law also gives the DFPI various enforcement powers regarding unfair, deceptive and abusive practices, and provides it with certain registration and rulemaking authority.
California Student Loan Servicing: Assembly Bill 376 requires California student loan servicers, effective January 1, 2021, to adhere to new requirements and student loan borrower protections.
California Homestead Exemption: Assembly Bill 1885 increases the size of the homestead exemption effective January 1, 2021, from $100,000 to $300,000 or the median sale price of homes in the county, with a cap of $600,000.
California Homestead Exemption: Assembly Bill 2463 prohibits, effective January 1, 2021, foreclosure on a debtor’s principal residence for any consumer debt under $75,000 unless the home was collateral for the debt at the time the debt was incurred. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 699.730 (West). See NCLC’s Collection Actions Appendix H.
California Homestead Exemption: In bankruptcy, effective January 1, 2021, the debtor has the option of selecting the exemption set forth at Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 703.140 (West). See NCLC’s Collection Actions Appendix H.
California Foreclosures and Tenant Rights: Senate Bill 1079, from January 1, 2021 until January 1, 2026, among other disclosures, requires a notice of foreclosure sale to contain a specified notice to a tenant regarding the tenant’s potential right to purchase a property composed of one to four single-family residences. The bill also prescribes an alternative process in connection with a trustee’s sale of property under a power of sale contained in a deed of trust or mortgage on real property containing one to four residential units.
California Senior Citizen Rescission of Contracts: Assembly Bill 2471 extends the time period to cancel certain home solicitation contracts (such as Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program contracts) from three days to five days if the buyer or property owner is age 65 or older, for contracts entered into, or offers to purchase conveyed, on or after January 1, 2021.
Virginia Auto Title, Payday, Other Small Loans: Effective January 1, 2021, Virginia regulation of auto title, payday, and other small loans is completely overhauled with new caps on interest, fees, and other loan terms. See in particular Va. Code Ann. §§ 6.2-1520, 1800 to 1829, 2216, 2224, and 2225.
January 5, 2021: Department of Veterans Affairs School Supervision
VA Regulation of Schools: H.R. 7105, as of January 5, 2021, the bill requires the VA to track for three years any “covert for-profit” school, a school converting from for-profit status to nonprofit status.
January 15, 2021: Equal Credit Opportunity Act
ECOA Regulation B Special Purpose Credit Programs: A CFPB advisory opinion, effective on January 15, 2021, clarifies the content that a for-profit organization must include in a written plan that establishes and administers a special purpose credit program under Regulation B. In addition, this opinion clarifies the type of research and data that may be appropriate to inform a for-profit organization’s determination that a special purpose credit program is needed to benefit a certain class of persons. See 86 Fed. Reg. 3762 (Jan. 15, 2021).
February 29, 2021: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Forbearances
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Forbearances: On February 9, 2021, it was announced that borrowers with a mortgage backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac may be eligible for an additional forbearance extension of up to three months. Eligibility for the extension is limited to borrowers who are on a COVID-19 forbearance plan as of February 28, 2021, and other limits may apply. Further, COVID-19 Payment Deferral for borrowers with an Enterprise-backed mortgage can now cover up to 15 months of missed payments. COVID-19 Payment Deferral allows those borrowers to repay their missed payments at the time the home is sold, refinanced, or at mortgage maturity.
March 1, 2021: Truth in Lending Act
Truth in Lending Act Qualified Mortgages: Existing law treats loans purchased or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac automatically as “qualified mortgages” (QMs) for purposes of the Truth in Lending Act’s ability-to-pay requirements. Reg. Z, 12 C.F.R. § 1026.43(e)(4)(iii). See also NCLC’s Truth in Lending § 184.108.40.206.1.4. That treatment was to expire on January 10, 2021. By CFPB rule, this January 10, 2021 expiration date is extended until March 1, 2021, when new CFPB rules go into effect covering QMs, as described infra. See 85 Fed. Reg. 67,938 (Oct. 26, 2020).
Truth in Lending Act Qualified Mortgage Definition: A CFPB final rule effective on March 1, 2021, creates a new category of qualified mortgages (QMs), called Seasoned QM Loans. A Seasoned QM loan is a first lien, fixed-rate covered transaction that has met certain performance requirements, is held in a portfolio by the originating creditor or the first purchaser for a 36-month period, complies with general restrictions on product features and points and fees, and meets certain underwriting requirements. See 85 Fed. Reg. 86,402 (Dec. 29, 2020).
Truth in Lending Act Qualified Mortgage Definition: A CFPB final rule effective March 1, 2021, and with a mandatory compliance date of July 1, 2021, amends the Regulation Z definition of a qualified mortgage (QM). It removes the general QM loan definition’s 43% DTI limit and replaces it with price-based thresholds. See 85 Fed. Reg. 86,308 (Dec. 29, 2020).
March 31, 2021: CDC Eviction Moratorium
The CDC Eviction Moratorium: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order under the Public Health Service Act § 361 (42 U.S.C. 264), entitled Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions to Prevent the Further Spread of COVID-19, 85 Fed. Reg. 55,292 (September 4, 2020) that was to expire December 31, 2020, is extended through March 31, 2021. See Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, div. N § 502 (p. 2280 of the version linked here) and this extension.
April 1, 2021: Prepaid Accounts; Massachusetts Utilities
Prepaid Account History Disclosures: As of April 1, 2021, all financial institutions must fully comply with the written account transaction history requirement for prepaid accounts set forth in Reg. E, 12 C.F.R. § 1005.18(c)(1)(iii), by offering 24 months of written account history. See Reg. E, Official Interpretations § 1005.18(h).
Massachusetts Utility Shut-Offs: Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, DPU 20-58, Chairman’s Seventh Set of Orders (Nov. 18, 2020) extends the prohibition on investor-owned gas, electricity, and water companies from shutting off service to residential customers for failure to pay a bill, with a new expiration date of April 1, 2021.
April 21, 2021: Alabama Exemptions
Alabama Exemptions: As of April 21, 2021, the Alabama homestead exemption increases to $16,450; the Alabama family allowance increases to $15,450, and the Alabama personal property exemption increases to $8,250. See NCLC’s Collection Actions Appendix H.
June 15, 2021: Department of Veterans Affairs Regulation of Schools
VA Regulation of Schools: H.R. 7105 (see August 1, infra), requires as of June 15, 2021, that schools explain to students using the VA bill the estimated costs for tuition, books and supplies, living expenses, and any other additional costs; what is covered by VA educational assistance; outcome measures at the institution; and more. The bill also ensures students approve of enrollment in a course and are not automatically enrolled, requires policies to accommodate short absences due to service requirements, and stops same-day recruitment.
June 30, 2021: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, VA, and RHS Foreclosures, Evictions, and Forbearance; HECM Reverse Mortgages; New York Small Loans
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Foreclosures: Changes were announced on February 25, 2021 regarding forbearances. Borrowers with a mortgage backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac may be eligible for an additional three-month extension of COVID-19 forbearance, allowing borrowers to be in forbearance for up to 18 months. Eligibility for the extension is limited to borrowers who are in a COVID-19 forbearance plan as of February 28, 2021, and other limits may apply. Borrowers can now cover up to 18 months of missed payments, repaid the time the home is sold, refinanced, or at mortgage maturity..
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Foreclosures and Evictions: The moratorium on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac single-family foreclosures and real-estate-owned evictions (properties that Fannie or Freddie acquired through foreclosure or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure) will now expire on June 30, 2021.
FHA Mortgage Forbearances: HUD is extending the deadline to June 30, 2021, allowing mortgagees to approve FHA-insured forward mortgage borrowers, impacted directly or indirectly by the COVID-19 pandemic, for an initial COVID-19 forbearance.
FHA Mortgage Foreclosures and Evictions: The foreclosures and eviction moratorium for FHA mortgages on single family homes is extended and will now expire on June 30, 2021. Deadlines for the first legal action and reasonable diligence timelines are extended by 120 days from March 31, 2021.
HECM Reverse Mortgages: HUD is extending the deadline to June 30, 2021, allowing mortgagees to approve HECM reverse mortgage borrowers, impacted directly or indirectly by the COVID-19 pandemic, for an initial COVID-19 forbearance.
VA Mortgage Foreclosure and Eviction Moratorium: The VA is extending until June 30, 2021 the foreclosure and eviction moratorium on properties secured by VA-guaranteed loans, including those previously secured by VA-guaranteed loans but currently in VA’s REO portfolio.
RHS Mortgage Foreclosure and Eviction Moratorium, Forbearances: The foreclosure and eviction moratorium announced by USDA, Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program (SFHGLP) is extended until June 30, 2021. A lender must continue to offer forbearance for up to 180 days with an additional 180 days at the borrower’s request. Lenders may approve the initial 180-day COVID-19 forbearance no later than the earlier of the termination date of the national emergency declared by the President on March 13, 2020 or March 31, 2021.
New York Small Loans: For open-end loans under $25,000, permission is repealed as of June 30, 2021, to charge an annual loan fee of $50 or 1% of the loan amount, whichever is less. Since the fee is no longer permitted, the reporting requirements as to this annual fee are also eliminated. See N.Y. Banking Law §§ 351(6)(a) (McKinney); NCLC’s Consumer Credit Regulation Appendix E.
July 1, 2021: Distance Education; California Credit Reporting; Mississippi Telemarketing
Regulation of Distance Education: Department of Education’s distance education rules change as of July 1, 2021, as to how postsecondary programs provided via the internet can be offered. See 85 Fed. Reg. 54,742 (Sept. 2, 2020). Notable changes are to the definitions of “clock hour,” “credit hour,” and “substantive interaction” between teachers and students, clarification of the process for refunding Title IV aid when a student withdraws from a nonstandard term program, and relaxing requirements around the amount of required synchronous learning—when a teacher and student are participating simultaneously “live” in learning and teaching. New rules govern how schools can contract with third parties that are ineligible for Title IV aid that provide between 25% and 50% of an educational program. The new rules relax oversight over competency-based education programs. Prior to full implementation, institutions can voluntarily implement the rules. See Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of Educ., Secretary DeVos Issues New Distance Learning Regulations to Spur High-Quality Distance and Competency-Based Programs, Better Serve Diverse Populations of Higher Education Students (Aug. 24, 2020).
California Credit Reporting: Pursuant to Senate Bill 1157, from July 1, 2021 until July 1, 2025, a landlord of a housing development that receives certain forms of government assistance, with certain exceptions, must offer tenants the option of having the tenant’s rental payment information reported to at least one consumer reporting agency (i.e., Equifax, TransUnion, Experian). The bill allows tenants to opt into or opt out of rent reporting at any time, subject to certain requirements. The bill also allows landlords to charge for the rent reporting services a monthly fee of $10 or their actual cost, whichever is less.
Mississippi Telemarketing Statute: The Mississippi Telephone Solicitation Act, Miss. Code Ann. §§ 77-3-701 to 77-3-737 that limits telemarketing calls is scheduled to sunset on July 1, 2021.
August 1, 2021: Department of Veterans Affairs Regulation of Schools
VA Regulation of Schools: H.R. 7105 contains provisions, effective August 1, 2021, protecting the approximately one million students enrolled using the GI Bill: eliminating VA clawing back tuition overpayments from students; restricting recruiting practices; requiring VA review and enforcement against school deceptive practices; and placing limits on schools eligible to participate in the GI Bill program, including requiring schools to be eligible under HEA Title IV, and to be not at risk of losing accreditation. Participating laws schools must be accredited.
August 21, 2021: Student Loans Under GI Bill
Student Loans Under GI Bill: H.R. 7105 restores as of August 31, 2021, full GI Bill eligibility to students whose school closed or was disapproved before September 30, 2023.
September 30, 2021: Student Loans
Student Loan Deferrals: The automatic suspension of principal and interest payments on federally held student loans is extended and will expire no sooner than September 30, 2021. Interest rates are set at 0% during the suspension period. The student loan payment and interest suspension applies only to federal student loans held by the Department of Education. Consumers can determine if their loan is a federal student loan and obtain more information from their servicer. Contact information for federal student loan servicers is found here. Also extended to and expiring no sooner than September 30, 2021, is the Department’s halt to wage garnishments for borrowers with defaulted federal student loans. The Department did not always honor this halt on wage garnishment, but now states that any defaulted borrowers who continue to have their wages garnished will receive refunds.
November 30, 2021: Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
CFPB Debt Collection Rules: CFPB rules amending Regulation F, 12 C.F.R. pt. 1006, implementing the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and issued in the Federal Register on November 30, 2020, are scheduled to become effective on November 30, 2021. The most significant provisions: set out a presumption that a certain number of calls per week is or is not an Act violation (with factors that can rebut those presumptions); permit certain use of emails and text messages to provide information required under the FDCPA or to collect a debt; give consumers the right to ask a collector orally to stop calling; require notice of the right to opt out of electronic communications in every message; provide a safe harbor from civil liability for certain third-party disclosures when communicating with a consumer by email or text message; and define certain limited debt collector voice mail messages left for consumers as outside the FDCPA’s scope. See 85 Fed. Reg. 76,735 (Nov. 30, 2020). Both a recorded video presentation and a slide deck summarizing this first set of rules is available here.
CFPB Debt Collection Rules: A second set of CFPB rules amending Regulation F, 12 C.F.R. pt. 1006, implementing the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and announced by the agency on December 18, 2020, are scheduled to become effective on November 30, 2021, the same date as the first set of amendments to Regulation F. This rule among other things, sets out information that a debt collector must provide to a consumer at the outset of debt collection communications and provides a model notice containing such information, prohibits debt collectors from bringing or threatening to bring a legal action against a consumer to collect a time-barred debt, and requires debt collectors to take certain actions before furnishing information about a consumer’s debt to a consumer reporting agency. Both a recorded video presentation and a slide deck summarizing this second set of rules will soon be available on www.nclc.org.
December 1, 2021: Bankruptcy; Lifeline
Bankruptcy Rules: Amendments to Bankruptcy Rules 2005, 3007, 7007.1, and 9036 are scheduled to be effective on December 1, 2021. The Rule 9036 change encourages use of electronic noticing and service, including the ability to serve or provide notice to registered users of the court’s electronic filing system by filing documents with that system. Also permitted is notice and service by electronic means to any entity that has consented in writing to such electronic means.
Federal Lifeline Program: Standalone voice service, or voice service not bundled with broadband in most localities will no longer be eligible for Lifeline support as of December 1, 2021. See NCLC’s Access to Utility Service §§ 11.3.3, 220.127.116.11.
Federal Lifeline Program: As of December 1, 2021, a provider offering devices in the Lifeline program must ensure that at least 45% of such devices are capable of being used as a hotspot. 47 C.F.R. § 54.408(f)(3).
December 27, 2021: Bankruptcy
Consumer Bankruptcy: Sunset of provisions that went into effect December 27, 2020.. The provisions are described supra.
January 1, 2022: Surprise Medical Bills; HMDA; California Debt Collection Licensing, Privacy Rights
Surprise Medical Bills: A bill providing protections for patients from surprise medical bills is effective for insurance plan years beginning on January 1, 2022. See Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, No Surprises Act, div. BB, tit. I (p. 4095 of the version linked here). The No Surprises Act will create a negotiation requirement and an arbitration system between health care providers and insurance companies to settle many surprise billing disputes. The law applies to many health care providers including air ambulance companies, but not to ground ambulance services. The law applies to group or individual health insurance plans, including the self-funded plans offered by large employers, but certain types of coverage or products that are not legally considered to be group or individual health insurance plans (such as short-term plans or religious health care programs) are not included.
HMDA Reporting Requirements: HMDA Regulation C excludes from its data provision requirements institutions that extend credit only in a limited number of transactions. For open-end lines of credit, the limit is presently temporarily set at less than 500, but as of January 1, 2022 will be permanently set at less than 200. See 85 Fed. Reg. 28,364 (May 12, 2020).
California Licensing of Debt Collectors, Debt Buyers: Senate Bill 908, signed into law on September 25, 2020 and effective January 1, 2022, creates a new licensing law applicable to debt collectors and debt buyers, administered by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation. The new licensing requirement also applies to law firms and management companies involved in the collection of debt, including the collection of delinquent homeowner association assessments.
California Privacy Rights: California Proposition 24 created the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA). While the Act does not go into effect until January 1, 2023, it applies to collection of data starting on January 1, 2022. Provisions include limits on the sharing of a consumer’s information on the consumer’s request, with an opt-out used for marketing, further limits on collecting data on those under 16 years old and the consumer’s ability to correct information.
Updated: Feb. 26, 2021