On March 22, the CFPB issued an interim final rule to implement the Helping Expand Lending Practices in Rural Communities (HELP) Act by providing broader eligibility under TILA for small creditors originating balloon-payment qualified and balloon-payment high-cost mortgages. Specifically, under the interim rule, a small creditor with no more than 2,000 first-lien covered transactions and total assets less than $2 billion will be eligible for Qualified Mortgage provisions if it originates at least one covered mortgage loan in an area designated rural or underserved per calendar year. Previously, the CFPB “adopted a single test to determine whether a small creditor operated predominantly in rural or underserved areas for the purposes of eligibility for the special previsions exemption,” requiring that a small creditor made more than half of its covered mortgage loans in the previous calendar year on properties that were designated rural or underserved.

The interim final rule also amends the definition of “rural” for the purposes of a procedural rule announced in early March to establish an application process for petitioning the CFPB to identify an area as rural or underserved for the purposes of Federal consumer financial law. “Rural” will now include any area so designated pursuant to the application process.