We bought a house in 2005, and since we did not put 20% down, we have been paying PMI. Since then, the value of our home (and neighborhood) has declined. Our principal balance is currently 77% of the value of the original loan amount, but the estimated value of our house is less than the principal balance.
We have never refinanced or anything - this is still the exact same mortgage we signed when we purchased the house.
I looked at the Homeowners Protection Act on the FDIC.gov site, and from what I can tell, if your principal balance falls below 78% of the original loan amount, the lender must terminate PMI.
Here is the section from the HPA that leads me to believe that:
Section V, Automatic Termination
The Act requires a servicer to automatically terminate PMI for residential mortgage transactions on the date that:
• the principal balance of the mortgage is first scheduled to reach 78 percent of the original value of the secured property (based solely on the initial amortization schedule in the case of a fixed rate loan or on the amortization schedule then in effect in the case of an adjustable rate loan, irrespective of the outstanding balance), if the borrower is current;
• if the borrower is not current on that date, on the first day of the first month following the date that the borrower becomes current (12 USC §4902(b)).
If PMI is terminated, the servicer may not require further payments or premiums of PMI more than 30 days after the termination date or the date following the termination date on which the borrower becomes current on the payments, whichever is sooner (12 USC §4902(e)(2)).
There is no provision in the automatic termination section of the Act, as there is with the borrower-requested PMI cancellation section, that protects the lender against declines in property value or subordinate liens. The automatic termination provisions make no reference to good payment history (as prescribed in the borrower-requested provisions), but state only that the borrower must be current on mortgage payments (12 USC §4902(b)).
The last paragraph says that there is no provision that protects the lender against declines in property value.
I wrote a letter to my mortgage company requesting a removal of my PMI, and I included a link to the Homeowners Protection Act. They stated that I need to authorize an appraisal in order for them to proceed. I know that an appraisal is a waste of money since the value of our house is less than our mortgage amount.
I called in to inquire about why an appraisal was needed, and they said they would not cancel PMI until our principal balance was less than 80% of the appraised value of our house. They said that if I feel that my PMI should be cancelled for other reasons, I need to send in written letter disputing their policy.
Before I proceed further, I am wondering if I am barking up the wrong tree... Am I interpreting the Homeowners Protection Act incorrectly? Does it matter that my principal balance is less than 78% of my original mortgage amount? Does PMI cancellation always need to look at the value of the house?
Edit: I should probably add that we have never been late on payments - we have always paid on time, so we are current.
I just want to verify this before I make a fool of myself.
Thanks in advance!
Here are some example numbers to illustrate where we are with our mortgage in case I did not explain it well:
- Original Mortgage Amount: $100,000
- Current Principal Balance: $77,000
- Current Estimated Value of the Home: $70,000