On September 29, the CFPB published an Approval Action in the Federal Register that provides a safe harbor under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) and Regulation B for lenders who use the revised Uniform Residential Loan Application (URLA) form issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in August 2016. The Bureau’s Approval Action states that it has “determined that the relevant language in the 2016 URLA is in compliance with” Regulation B’s requirements for whether, and how, a creditor may seek information about an applicant’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, and income sources, and information about an applicant’s spouse or former spouse.

The Bureau’s Approval Action also offers flexibility for lenders who must collect and report information about mortgage applicants’ ethnicity and race under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA), implemented by Regulation C. On October 28, 2015, the Bureau amended Regulation C to require covered lenders to offer applicants the opportunity to self-identify using disaggregated categories of ethnicity and race, effective January 1, 2018. The CFPB notes in the Federal Register notice that before January 1, 2108, asking applicants to self-identify using the disaggregated categories would not have been allowed under Regulation B’s restrictions on seeking information about an applicant’s ethnicity, race and other characteristics. The Approval Action gives lenders the option of using the disaggregated categories of ethnicity and race for applications taken in 2017 without violating Regulation B. It states that if a lender opts to collect information using the disaggregated categories in 2017, for applications that see final action before January 1, 2018, the lender must report the data to the Bureau using only the current aggregate categories for ethnicity and race. If a lender takes final action in 2018 or later on an application received in 2017, it may choose to report the data using either the current aggregate or the new disaggregated categories.