On September 21, the CFPB issued a final rule, amending certain mortgage rules and comments relating to lending activities by small creditors in rural and underserved areas. Initially proposed in January 2015, the final rule, among other things (i) increases the loan origination limit for determining eligibility for small-creditor status from 500 loans to 2,000 non-portfolio loans; (ii) includes the assets of the creditor’s affiliates, which regularly make covered transactions, in calculation of the creditor’s assets to determine whether the creditor is within the $2 billion threshold for small-creditor status; (iii) restores the one-year look back period in place of the three-year look back period for the time period that determines whether a creditor is operating predominantly in rural or underserved areas; (iv) revises escrow exemptions to prevent creditors from losing eligibility for the escrow exemptions as a result of escrow accounts before the effective date of the rule; (v) broadens the definition of “rural” to include (a) counties that meet the current definition of rural county, and (b) census blocks that are not in an urban area (as defined by the Census Bureau); (vi) adds safe harbor provisions to facilitate the determination of “rural” by permitting automated address search tools provided by the CFPB and the Census Bureau; and (vii) extends the temporary two-year transition period, which permits certain small creditors to make balloon-payment qualified mortgages and balloon-payment high-cost mortgages (whether or not they operate predominantly in rural or underserved areas), to include applications received by April 1, 2016.

The final rule will take effect on January 1, 2016.