Which Questions Are Off-Limits During the Mortgage Pre-Approval Process?
If you’re heading into the pre-approval process, you should be prepared to bare it all 𑁋 all of your financial history, that is! When looking to pre-approve you for a mortgage, lenders will ask you a variety of questions to understand your financial health, typically focusing on the last two years. Most of what they ask you pertains to your financial stability because they want to ensure you’re a safe investment.
It might sound daunting, but The CE Shop is here to help. We’ll take you through the questions lenders can and can’t ask you when preparing for mortgage pre-approval so you can feel confident as you start the homebuying process.
What Can Lenders Ask You?
Although lenders often focus strictly on credit scores, income, and rental history during the pre-approval process, there are a variety of questions that pertain to your finances that they can ask. Keep in mind that lenders are trying to put together an accurate picture of your finances, so anything that may impact your financial health could be on their radar. So, outside of the typical topics, what are lenders allowed to ask you about?
Lenders are allowed to ask if you have any pending litigation since you may face a large fine if you lose a lawsuit. Your lender wants to validate that you will be able to pay your mortgage on time, so it’s important that they know if you are either being sued or are in the middle of any court proceedings that could impact your finances.
When lenders ask you about your divorce history, they are strictly looking for the financial facts. Mainly, they want to know if you’re responsible for any debt from your ex-spouse and if you’re allocating money to alimony or child support. If you’re on the receiving end of alimony or child support payments, lenders will want proof that these payments will continue to be a part of your income.
Lenders are required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to ask for your ethnicity when you are going through pre-approval. Though this may make you raise an eyebrow and worry about discrimination, this question is intended to fight discrimination while giving HUD a chance to review lender records to make sure they aren’t turning down minorities or charging extra fees based on your ethnicity.
What Can’t Lenders Ask You?
There are rules and regulations that dictate what lenders can’t ask you in the pre-approval process. The two topics that lenders are prohibited from asking borrowers about are family planning and health issues. Let’s dive deeper into why lenders aren’t allowed to ask you about these subjects.
Because of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), lenders are prohibited from discriminating against you because of your age, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, and if you receieve income from public assistance programs. Additionally, lenders are not allowed to ask if you are in the midst of family planning. Before this rule was set in place, lenders could discriminate against women looking to borrow money because they assumed if she got pregnant, she would quit working and therefore have no income. Thankfully that’s an outdated mindset, and it’s no longer a legal question for lenders to ask during the pre-approval process.
Although lenders can’t ask if you’re planning a family, they can ask about marital status and your number of dependents — though that may be to your benefit. The answers to these questions help lenders qualify you for special loan programs based on your combined household income.
Another topic that lenders are prohibited from asking you about is your physical condition and health. The Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 have clauses prohibiting lenders from discriminating against any potential homebuyer or borrower who is ill or disabled.
Interested in learning more about mortgage discrimination? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has compiled resources for both lenders and borrowers to reference when heading into the mortgage pre-approval process. If you’re unsure about the legality of certain questions while getting pre-approved, reach out to your state Attorney General’s office for assistance.
Best of luck in securing your mortgage!
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