Washington State Department of Financial Institutions

About Predatory Lending

What Is Predatory Lending?

Lending and mortgage origination practices become "predatory" when the borrower is led into a transaction that is not what they expected. Predatory lending practices may involve lenders, mortgage brokers, real estate brokers, attorneys, and home improvement contractors. Their schemes often target people who have small incomes but substantial equities in their homes.

Products themselves are not predatory. For example, a loan with a variable interest rate can be a very good financial tool for many borrowers. However, if the borrower is sold a loan with a variable interest rate disguised as a mortgage loan with a fixed interest rate, the borrower is the victim of a bait and switch or predatory lending practice. In short, this type of conduct is nothing more than mortgage fraud practiced against consumers.

Consumers can be lured into dealing with predatory lenders by aggressive mail, phone, TV, and even door-to-door sales tactics. Their advertisements promise lower monthly payments as a way out of debt, but don't tell potential borrowers that they will be paying more and longer. They may target minority communities by advertising in a specific language, or target neighborhoods with high numbers of elderly homeowners, or homeowners with little access to credit.

The Importance of Disclosures

Within three days of filling out a loan application, your mortgage broker or lender must provide you with a written document giving you most of the information you will need to know about the loan.

These disclosures are required to be provided at two major points in the mortgage transaction. Disclosures made at the very start, or point of origination, are designed to give the borrower advance notice of the loan program and the costs associated with the program. Disclosures made at the end, or loan closing, are designed to confirm for the borrower that they are receiving what they expected. If disclosures are not provided, do not do business with this lender or broker.

Common Predatory Lending Practices