Legal Q & A: Does RESPA Prohibit Kickbacks for Referrals Related to Settlement Services?

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By Scott Birrenkott

Q: Does RESPA Prohibit Kickbacks for Referrals Related to Settlement Services?

A: Yes. WBA has received a few inquiries recently regarding Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act’s prohibition against kickbacks and unearned fees, and has created this summary as a quick refresher.

RESPA Section 8 prohibits certain actions related to federally related mortgage loans, including a prohibition against giving or accepting a fee, kickback, or thing of value pursuant to an agreement or understanding (oral or otherwise), for referrals of business incident to or part of a settlement service involving a federally related mortgage loan. There are definitions within that prohibition which help determine what might be covered.

“Thing of value” is defined broadly and can include a number of arrangements. “Settlement service” is also defined broadly and includes any service provided in connection with a real estate settlement. Referrals include oral or written action directed to a person that has the effect of affirmatively influencing a person’s selection of a provider of a settlement service or business incident to or part of a settlement service. For example, if a settlement service provider gives referral sources tickets to attend professional sporting events in exchange for referrals as part of an agreement or understanding, such conduct violates RESPA Section 8.

Certain arrangements, such as affiliated business arrangements and marketing services agreements are not violations of RESPA Section 8. Such determinations are fact-specific, however, and may require discussion with a bank’s legal counsel.

Further resources are available in CFPB’s helpful Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act FAQs.

If you have any questions on this topic or other matters of compliance, contact WBA’s legal call program at 608-441-1200 or wbalegal@wisbank.com.

Note: The above information is not intended to provide legal advice; rather, it is intended to provide general information about banking issues. Consult your institution’s attorney for special legal advice or assistance.