Tag Archives: FHA

Streamlined FHA Rules and Condo Ownership Requirements

M.W. from Tolland County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

With regards to the condominium approval process for FHA, I have heard that since HB 3700 was passed. My understanding is that the changes would streamline the application process (possibly extend approval periods), increase investor owned units from 50% to 65% and ease restrictions related to transfer fees. Are you aware of the status?

Mister Condo replies:

M.W., I am neither an FHA expert or a great source for the latest news on FHA. However, I can tell you the full text of this bill is available online at https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/3700/text. Section 301 deals with insurance requirements for FHA. Here are some highlights:

Requirements for Mortgages for Condominiums

(1) Project recertification requirements.—Notwithstanding any other law, regulation, or guideline of the Secretary, including chapter 2.4 of the Condominium Project Approval and Processing Guide of the FHA, the Secretary shall streamline the project certification requirements that are applicable to the insurance under this section for mortgages for condominium projects so that recertifications are substantially less burdensome than certifications. The Secretary shall consider lengthening the time between certifications for approved properties, and allowing updating of information rather than resubmission…

(i) 35 percent requirement.–In order for a condominium project to be acceptable to the Secretary for insurance under this section, at least 35 percent of all family units (including units not covered by FHA-insured mortgages) must be occupied by the owners as a principal residence or a secondary residence (as such terms are defined by the Secretary), or must have been sold to owners who intend to meet such occupancy requirement…

To my eye, M.W., it looks like you are correct on both counts. Of course, with legal matters such as FHA, I always refer condo folks to the experts. In Connecticut, check out https://www.caict.org/page/Directory#FHAfor a list of FHA condo financing experts. All the best!

Condo’s FHA Approval Expiration Date Critical to Sale of Condo

J.D. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have a buyer interested in my condo and ready to put in an offer and is FHA approved. The HOA’s FHA approval runs out in 37 days. If this buyer gets an offer in before that date can he still get an FHA mortgage?

Mister Condo replies:

J.D., congrats on finding a buyer for your condo. FHA approval is typically required by banks offering mortgages because they effectively resell the loan to the FHA once the transaction is complete. The offer is only going to be as good as the mortgage to back it up and if the bank gets wind of the FHA approval lapsing, they will very likely kick it back as it would no longer be in their compliance. The closing date is the important date. The offer date is likely to not be that relevant in the process. My advice is to alert the buyer so that he can alert his banking officer and get a ruling from the bank before he makes his offer. After all, an offer that cannot be funded really isn’t an offer at all. Good luck!

FHA Not Satisfied with Condo Reserve Fund

T.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am having trouble getting this Condo approved for mortgage financing. I was told that if the current budget does not have a line item for the Reserve Fund, that would make the HOA ineligible. Can you give an example of a budget that shows a Reserve Account? Why is a savings account on a balance sheet not sufficient? The HOA is saying this is the Reserve Account. Please help.

Mister Condo replies:

T.S., when reviewing the condo’s eligibility to qualify for mortgages that are backed by the FHA, the lenders look to see that there is a Reserve Fund and that the association is making at least the minimum amount of annual contribution (Currently 10% of the budget). Local mortgage lenders typically require this stipulation because they want their mortgages insured or underwritten by the FHA. Typically, condominiums maintain FHA approval status as it makes it easier for units to be bought and financed by owners seeking FHA-backed finance options. However, there is no legal requirement that forces the condominium to comply or even maintain FHA approval status, leaving mortgage seekers like you in the lurch. There are mortgage companies that specialize in dealing with FHA approvals and this association might be well served by working with one to achieve FHA approval, making it possible for mortgage seekers such as yourself with better access and option when it comes time to take a mortgage on one of the condo units within their association. It isn’t as simple as having the association claim an association-owned saving account is the Reserve Fund. Good luck!

Condo Association Approaching 50% Rental Mark

H.W. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our 306-unit condo is now at 48% rentals. The Board relies on a manager to do this type of work. What will happen when we get to 50%?

Mister Condo replies:

H.W., thank you for writing. There are many challenges to managing and living in a community with a high rental rate. For starters, fewer owner occupied units usually means that fewer of the residents have a long-term concern for the well-being and stability of the community. After all, they have no investment in the property and are likely to leave when it suits them by simply not renewing their lease. Many associations with high rental rates also report difficulty in enforcing parking and other rules. Again, some renters (certainly not all) tend not to pay close attention to the rules of the association. The biggest challenge the community may face is qualification for FHA-backed mortgages, which dominate the mortgage world. Many condominiums will lose their eligibility for FHA-backed mortgages if the community becomes more than 50% rental units. FHA changes its rules from time to time so you should really check with a mortgage company that specializes in FHA-backed mortgages for an idea of the impact your association may face if/when the 50% rental threshold is surpassed. I found an excellent article on the subject at Housingwire.com. You can read it here: https://www.housingwire.com/articles/38374-fha-lowers-owner-occupancy-requirements-for-condos. All the best!

Condo Let Lapse FHA and VA Certification

C.W. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our complex has always maintained FHA/VA certification. This certification certainly can be viewed as either a positive or negative by some. As I understand it, last fall the government separated the two, requiring two separate certifications. My complex let the certification lapse and then chose only to renew the FHA certification. Now, the FHA cert costs about $1800 with attorney’s fees and is only good for a limited time (I believe 2 years), the VA certification is a lifetime certification and a one-time expense of approximately the same amount. There was nothing in our complex financials reflecting payment or budget for either. There was no notification from the board regarding maintaining or dropping either. I only found this out because I had put my unit for sale and was notified of the lack of certification. After going to the Board, they said they were unaware of the separation of certifications. I lost my first buyer because it was during the lapse of either, and then lost my second buyer because of the non-VA renewal. The board originally asked if I would front the cost and they would reimburse me at the closing, which I agreed. They then reneged and asked me to pay half, then they said they would not reimburse me at all but would supply the attorney with the paperwork. I have lost both buyers because of this. I am now 4 months later with no buyers and multiple price drops. Do I have some sort or recourse because of the lapse and non-renewal and no notification or owner vote regarding this? Certainly, I would think that this certification has a reflection on our unit value. Thanks.

Mister Condo replies:

C.W., I am certainly sorry that you have lost a few buyers for your unit while this debacle unfolds. I should point out that I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice in this column. You should speak with qualified counsel to see if you have any type of legal remedy worth pursuing. You are correct to point out that there are differences between FHA and VA certification. Generally speaking, FHA certification is required for the condominium association for any mortgages that are FHA insured (most are these days). VA certification is specific to the VA-backed loan program and has a different set of requirements. If your complex had VA certification at one time, I am not sure how they lost it. FHA certification is a renewable program so it does have to be sought and reapplied for from time to time as required by the FHA. To optimize mortgage opportunities, many condominium associations opt for FHA certification. Not all bother with VA certification as it is a much narrower pool of buyers who require such certification. Neither are required to be carried by the association, which is why I question your ability to claim an association-caused loss because of the lack of the certification. Your pool of potential buyers is certainly smaller without the FHA certification but you are still unencumbered by the association when you do sell. The Board should take the best interests of all unit owners into consideration when deciding to renew or let lapse FHA certification. Ultimately, if the unit owners want it and the Board refuses to get it, it is time for a new Board. All the best!

Condo Reverse Mortgage Woes

R.H. from Wisconsin writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am president of a condo association. Currently we have 11 existing buildings that are occupied (2 units per building). There still are 7 more buildings that will be built in the coming years. We basically have 58% of the project built and completed. I understand that you need a certain per cent of buildings completed before you can qualify for Reverse Mortgage as an association. What is that percentage?

Mister Condo replies:

R.H., there are a number of factors that go into determining if a Reverse Mortgage can be granted to a condominium unit owner. Since many reverse mortgages are also FHA backed, the entire association must be FHA approved before any one FHA backed reverse mortgage can be granted. That can be tricky enough when the project is completely built but it is even trickier when the association is still under construction as yours is. Have you sought FHA approval for your condominium association yet? There are pros and cons in doing so but my guess is that you will need to do so if you are getting requests for reverse mortgage eligibility. Rather than go it on your own, may I suggest you work with an industry professional to walk you through the process? Otherwise, I think you will spend an inordinate amount of time on the project and still may not get the approval you need. In your state, there is a local chapter of the Community Associations Institute (CAI). I found an interesting press release on FHA at their website you might want to read – https://www.cai-wi.org/news/cai-government-affairs/ The article deals with the shifting requirements for condominium associations. In other words, today’s answer may be different tomorrow.

If you are seeking a local resource to help, may I suggest you get in touch with them the Wisconsin Chapter of CAI and ask about companies that specialize in FHA approvals for associations like yours? That way you can get a local expert opinion on the feasibility for your association. Good luck!

Hardship Case Causing Condo Rental Cap Chaos

H.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our association passed an amendment to the CC&R’s capping the rental of units at 17. We have 66 units. This was done in 2006 to help us keep FHA funding. Our last management company let it slide, so our new management company has gone through the hoops and we are now FHA approved again. We have a clause that allows a temporary hardship case which allows renting of a unit out for 1 year and 2nd extension of 6 months. Someone has married and his wife has 3 kids and lives in a house. He bought the condo just before the big collapse in prices. Now he cannot sell it for what it is worth. His wife was laid off. He wants to claim hardship to rent for a year. He said we had until a certain date to give him an answer for a court filing. Well we finally decided to let him do it after conferring with our lawyer. But we waited past his deadline. We have a rental list that he could get on. He has not signed up. If the current person who is number 17 on rental list and cannot get his unit rented within 60 days, he falls to bottom of the rental list. The next person on the rental list moves up to rental position. This person with the hardship case, if he signed up, would now be able to rent the 1 bedroom unit as a regular rental now, if the other 4 folks on the list allowed him to skip over them to be 1st on the rental list. Then we would be back to 17 units rented and no hardship case. This way we won’t lose FHA funding. Some folks are saying FHA is now allowing up to 50%. We are considered the old school rule of condos. I don’t want to take a chance of going over 17 units if I can help it. Will we be in trouble being over the 17 units with this hardship case?

 

Mister Condo replies:

H.S., your adherence to FHA rules while trying to accommodate a unit owner who has fallen on hard times is admirable. However, since you have already involved the association attorney in these proceedings, my best advice is to continue to seek legal advice to guide you through these murky waters. While hardship cases tug at my heartstrings, condo associations are businesses and do not have the luxury of caring about individual unit owner’s unique situations. It sounds to me like you have some very reasonable rules in place about rental restrictions. They have been in place since 2006 and, I am assuming, are in compliance with your state laws on rental caps within community associations. The unit owner’s lack of ability to sell the unit for what it was purchased for is not the business of the association. The collection of common fees from that unit owner and the enforcement of the rental restrictions and other rules of the association are the concern of the Board. If your true concern is FHA funding eligibility, you would be wise to speak with an expert in that area. I am not an expert but I would agree that the current standard of 50% is accurate as of the time of this writing. As your question so easily points out, the FHA changes the rules so today’s answer may not be true tomorrow. There are other reasons for maintaining rental caps, including quality of life for unit owners. Additionally, if you do wish to change the rental cap restrictions, you will need to hold another vote on the matter.

FHA Certification for Condo Lapsed and Sought Again

J.S. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We are an over 55 condo complex with 39 individual homes. We were FHA certified several years ago. We missed the recertification period. Nobody knows who completed the original certification application. Where do I find the application/forms in order to submit for certification? We meet all of the requirements. Thank You!

Mister Condo replies:

J.S., I am glad your association is seeking to recertify itself with FHA approval. This will make it possible for unit owners to finance or refinance their mortgages with FHA-backed loans that would otherwise not be available. The FHA and HUD have published a guide that you can find online at https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=11-22mlguide.pdf but be forewarned that it isn’t as simple as reading the guide, downloading a few forms, and getting certified. From my experience, it is almost always in the association’s best interest to hire an expert in this area as the guidelines have shifted over the years and that it can be money well spent in avoiding headaches and hassles for the association. I realize that with 39 homes, it may seem simpler and more cost effective to tackle the certification on your own, and you are certainly able to try, but I would be prepared to hire an expert to take you through the process and make sure the association maintains its certification once it is granted. All the best!

Lack of Condo FHA Certification Prevents Mortgage Approval

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T.S. from Virginia writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am trying to sell my condo townhouse that I have owned for many years. I found a buyer and accepted his offer. Right before closing the lender said that they could not complete the mortgage for the buyer because the condo HOA is not FHA compliant. I have never heard of anything like this. Can you explain it to me?

Mister Condo replies:

T.S., I am sorry you find yourself in this predicament. It may be of no consolation to you but you are not alone in your struggle. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is the single largest underwriter of homeowner mortgages. Banks and other lenders that provide mortgages count on the FHA to back the mortgages they write as long as they follow the guidelines laid out by the FHA. Since maintaining FHA compliance is considered a best practice for mortgage-originating banks, you will find that almost all require FHA compliance when providing mortgage funds. Condominiums are different that single family homes when it comes to qualifying for FHA compliance. In order for any individual units within a condo association to be eligible for FHA-backed mortgages, the entire association must be FHA certified. This is a fairly simple process but it does require the association to seek this certification. The FHA does not simply grant it. The association must apply and it must also meet certain guidelines to be approved. The most common reason association either don’t qualify or choose not to try to qualify is an underfunded Reserve Fund. Current FHA guidelines require no less that 10% of the common fees collected each year be deposited into a Reserve Fund. While a great deal of associations exceed that amount, many do not and cannot qualify for FHA certification because of it. There is a myriad of other reasons associations choose not to get FHA certification but the bottom line is that without this certification, traditional mortgage lenders cannot offer individual unit mortgages to borrowers within the association. In this case, it might even cost you your sale unless your buyer can find another method of mortgaging the property or pay cash. You can and should petition your Board to get the association FHA certified as I am sure you are not the only unit owner facing this challenge when trying to sell or refinance their condo. Good luck!

Is That Furry Condo Companion a Service Animal or a Pet?

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P.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Is a service animal considered a pet?

Mister Condo replies:

P.M., for the most part service animals or Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) are not considered pets as they are deemed medically necessary and condo associations have been forced to allow these animals residency within units as “reasonable accommodation” in the eyes of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Many associations have made the mistake of classifying service animals and ESAs as pets and have tried to enforce their “no pet” or “one pet” rule only to be taken to court by the unit owner with the service animal or ESA prevailing. So even though two dogs may look the same, if one is a service animal or ESA, that dog can pretty much live in any condo his owner desires, even one that doesn’t allow pets, because that dog isn’t a pet. All the best!