Alimony/Child Support/Separate Maintenance Payments
When the borrower is required to pay alimony, child support, or maintenance payments under a divorce decree, separation agreement, or any other written legal agreement—and those payments must continue to be made for more than ten months—the payments must be considered as part of the borrower’s recurring monthly debt obligations. However, voluntary payments do not need to be taken into consideration and an exception is allowed for alimony.
For alimony obligations, the lender has the option to reduce the qualifying income by the amount of the alimony obligation in lieu of including it as a monthly payment in the calculation of the DTI ratio. If the lender exercises this option, a copy of the divorce decree, separation agreement, court order or equivalent documentation confirming the amount of the obligation must be obtained and retained in the loan file.
Note: For loan casefiles underwritten through DU, when using the option of reducing the borrower’s monthly qualifying income by the monthly alimony payment, enter the adjusted income figure as the income amount in DU.
Business Debt in Borrower’s Name
When a self-employed borrower claims that a monthly obligation that appears on his or her personal credit report is being paid by the borrower’s business, the lender must confirm that it verified that the obligation was actually paid out of company funds and that this was considered in its cash flow analysis of the borrower’s business.
The account payment does not need to be considered as part of the borrower’s individual recurring monthly debt obligations if:
- the account in question does not have a history of delinquency,
- the business provides acceptable evidence that the obligation was paid out of company funds (such as 12 months of canceled company checks), and
- the lender’s cash flow analysis of the business took payment of the obligation into consideration.
The account payment does need to be considered as part of the borrower’s individual recurring monthly debt obligations in any of the following situations:
- If the business does not provide sufficient evidence that the obligation was paid out of company funds.
- If the business provides acceptable evidence of its payment of the obligation, but the lender’s cash flow analysis of the business does not reflect any business expense related to the obligation (such as an interest expense—and taxes and insurance, if applicable—equal to or greater than the amount of interest that one would reasonably expect to see given the amount of financing shown on the credit report and the age of the loan). It is reasonable to assume that the obligation has not been accounted for in the cash flow analysis.
- If the account in question has a history of delinquency. To ensure that the obligation is counted only once, the lender should adjust the net income of the business by the amount of interest, taxes, or insurance expense, if any, that relates to the account in question.
Court-Ordered Assignment of Debt
When a borrower has outstanding debt that was assigned to another party by court order (such as under a divorce decree or separation agreement) and the creditor does not release the borrower from liability, the borrower has a contingent liability. The lender is not required to count this contingent liability as part of the borrower’s recurring monthly debt obligations.
The lender is not required to evaluate the payment history for the assigned debt after the effective date of the assignment. The lender cannot disregard the borrower’s payment history for the debt before its assignment.
Debts Paid by Others
Certain debts can be excluded from the borrower’s recurring monthly obligations and the DTI ratio:
- When a borrower is obligated on a non-mortgage debt — but is not the party who is actually repaying the debt — the lender may exclude the monthly payment from the borrower’s recurring monthly obligations. This policy applies whether or not the other party is obligated on the debt, but is not applicable if the other party is an interested party to the subject transaction (such as the seller or realtor). Non-mortgage debts include installment loans, student loans, revolving accounts, lease payments, alimony, child support, and separate maintenance.
- When a borrower is obligated on a mortgage debt – but is not the party who is actually repaying the debt – the lender may exclude the monthly mortgage payment from the borrower’s recurring monthly obligations if the party making the payments is obligated on the mortgage debt.
In order to exclude non-mortgage or mortgage debts from the borrower’s DTI ratio, the lender must obtain the most recent 12 months’ canceled checks (or bank statements) from the other party making the payments that document a 12-month payment history with no delinquent payments.
Deferred Installment Debt
Deferred installment debts must be included as part of the borrower’s recurring monthly debt obligations. For deferred installment debts other than student loans, if the borrower’s credit report does not indicate the monthly amount that will be payable at the end of the deferment period, the lender must obtain copies of the borrower’s payment letters or forbearance agreements so that a monthly payment amount can be determined and used in calculating the borrower’s total monthly obligations.
For information about deferred student loans, see Student Loans below.
Home Equity Lines of Credit
When the mortgage that will be delivered to Fannie Mae also has a home equity line of credit (HELOC) that provides for a monthly payment of principal and interest or interest only, the payment on the HELOC must be considered as part of the borrower’s recurring monthly debt obligations. If the HELOC does not require a payment, there is no recurring monthly debt obligation so the lender does not need to develop an equivalent payment amount.
All garnishments with more than ten months remaining must be included in the borrower’s recurring monthly debt obligations for qualifying purposes.
All installment debt that is not secured by a financial asset—including student loans, automobile loans, personal loans, and timeshares—must be considered part of the borrower’s recurring monthly debt obligations if there are more than ten monthly payments remaining. However, an installment debt with fewer monthly payments remaining also should be considered as a recurring monthly debt obligation if it significantly affects the borrower’s ability to meet his or her credit obligations.
Note: A timeshare account should be treated as an installment debt regardless of how it is reported on the credit report or other documentation (that is, even if reported as a mortgage loan).
Lease payments must be considered as recurring monthly debt obligations regardless of the number of months remaining on the lease. This is because the expiration of a lease agreement for rental housing or an automobile typically leads to either a new lease agreement, the buyout of the existing lease, or the purchase of a new vehicle or house.
Loans Secured by Financial Assets
When a borrower uses his or her financial assets—life insurance policies, 401(k) accounts, individual retirement accounts, certificates of deposit, stocks, bonds, etc.—as security for a loan, the borrower has a contingent liability.
The lender is not required to include this contingent liability as part of the borrower’s recurring monthly debt obligations provided the lender obtains a copy of the applicable loan instrument that shows the borrower’s financial asset as collateral for the loan. If the borrower intends to use the same asset to satisfy financial reserve requirements, the lender must reduce the value of the asset (the account balance, in most cases) by the proceeds from the secured loan and any related fees to determine whether the borrower has sufficient reserves.
Open 30–Day Charge Accounts
Open 30–day charge accounts require the balance to be paid in full every month. Fannie Mae does not require open 30–day charge accounts to be included in the debt-to-income ratio.
Other Real Estate Owned—Qualifying Impact
For details regarding the qualifying impact of other real estate owned,
Revolving Charge/Lines of Credit
Revolving charge accounts and unsecured lines of credit are open-ended and should be treated as long-term debts and must be considered part of the borrower’s recurring monthly debt obligations. These tradelines include credit cards, department store charge cards, and personal lines of credit. Equity lines of credit secured by real estate should be included in the housing expense.
If the credit report does not show a required minimum payment amount and there is no supplemental documentation to support a payment of less than 5%, the lender must use 5% of the outstanding balance as the borrower’s recurring monthly debt obligation.
For DU loan casefiles, if a revolving debt is provided on the loan application without a monthly payment amount, DU will use the greater of $10 or 5% of the outstanding balance as the monthly payment when calculating the total debt-to-income ratio.
If a monthly student loan payment is provided on the credit report, the lender may use that amount for qualifying purposes. If the credit report does not reflect the correct monthly payment, the lender may use the monthly payment that is on the student loan documentation (the most recent student loan statement) to qualify the borrower.
If the credit report does not provide a monthly payment for the student loan, or if the credit report shows $0 as the monthly payment, the lender must determine the qualifying monthly payment using one of the options below.
- If the borrower is on an income-driven payment plan, the lender may obtain student loan documentation to verify the actual monthly payment is $0. The lender may then qualify the borrower with a $0 payment.
- For deferred loans or loans in forbearance, the lender may calculate
- a payment equal to 1% of the outstanding student loan balance (even if this amount is lower than the actual fully amortizing payment), or
- a fully amortizing payment using the documented loan repayment terms.
Unreimbursed Employee Business Expenses
The lender must determine whether the borrower has unreimbursed employee business expenses for the following scenarios:
- when a borrower has commission income that represents 25% or more of the borrower’s total annual employment income, or
- when an automobile allowance is included in the borrower’s monthly qualifying income.
The lender must determine the borrower’s recurring monthly debt obligation for such expenses by developing a 24–month average of the expenses, using information from the borrower’s IRS Form 1040 including all schedules (Schedule A and IRS Form 2106). Automobile depreciation claimed on IRS Form 2106 should be netted out of this calculation.
For both of the above scenarios when calculating the total debt-to-income ratio, the monthly average for unreimbursed expenses should be subtracted from the borrower’s stable monthly income. Automobile lease or loan payments are not subtracted from the borrower’s income; they are always considered part of the borrower’s recurring monthly debt obligations.
This topic describes obligations that should be considered in underwriting the loan, including: