It was a mixed bag for home affordability in early 2024. See the income you need to buy a median-priced home in the top 50 metro areas for details.

It was a mixed bag for home affordability in early 2024. See the income you need to buy a median-priced home in the top 50 metro areas for details.

On the Fed's deadbeat database (CAIVRS)? Here's how to get off it

The federal government's Credit Alert Verification Reporting System (CAIVRS) is a database created by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to track people who have defaulted on federal obligations, including direct or guaranteed federal loans, incurred a federal lien or judgment or have had a claim paid by one of many government agencies. It may also be referred to as the "Credit Alert System". If you're wondering why the acronym doesn't match the system's name, that's because it was originally the Credit Alert Interactive Voice Response System, a telephone dial-up service. Today's modern version is of course accessed via the internet.

Regardless of the name, if you're sporting this badge of dishonor, you already may have missed out on a home loan. Authorized employees of participating federal agencies access this list of delinquent federal borrowers for the purpose of prescreening loan applicants for credit worthiness.

FHA, VA, USDA loan applicants beware

Approved private lenders acting on the government's behalf can also access CAIVRS to screen applicants for federally-guaranteed loans. If you're applying for an FHA loan, VA loan or USDA loan, this means you.

You won't have access to CAIVRS yourself, but your mortgage lender should check CAIVRS first thing when you apply for a mortgage. The last thing you want is to get loan approval or preapproval from the lender, only to get bad news within days of closing that your name was found on the CAIVRS list.

How did I get on CAIVRS, and what can I do about it?

Here are four ways you may have made this alleged deadbeat list, and what to do if you're on it when you apply for a home loan:

1. You defaulted on a student loan

Once you miss payments on your student loan, the maturity dates of your promissory notes are accelerated, which makes payment in full due immediately. You are no longer eligible for any type of deferment or forbearance. Additional consequences can include garnishment of your wages, offset of your federal and/or state income tax refunds (and any other payments you have coming), and lost eligibility for other federal loans such as FHA or VA mortgages.

Government-backed student loans are practically impossible to discharge. You can't unload them even through bankruptcy filing. Additionally, there is no statute of limitations for enforceability of defaulted student loans.

What to do: To restore your eligibility for government-guaranteed mortgages, try the following:

  • The obvious solution -- if you can afford to -- is to simply repay or satisfy the loan in full.
  • Attempt to consolidate your student loan through the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) consolidation program or the William D. Ford Direct Loan Program.
  • Apply to rehabilitate your student loan, which involves making at least nine full payments of an agreed amount within 20 days of their monthly due dates over a 10-month period to the U.S. Department of Education. Once your loan is rehabilitated, you are no longer reported as in default and your name comes off CAIVRS.
  • Consider enrolling in the government-backed Fresh Start program to get your loan back up to current and restore your eligibility for a mortgage.

2. You lost an FHA-backed home to foreclosure

If your lender was unable to recover your entire loan balance in a foreclosure sale, HUD would have been obligated to pay a claim for the amount of the deficiency, and you would have lost your eligibility in the process.

Your eligibility is not restored until three years after HUD paid the claim, which could be much later than the foreclosure date.

What to do: Wait it out. According to HUD's website, you will remain listed on CAIVRS for 38 months after the claim is paid, but you will be eligible for a mortgage after 36 months.

3. You owe the federal government

CAIVRS contains data reported by the following agencies:

  • Department of Housing and Urban Development (FHA Loans)
  • Department of Veterans Affairs (VA Loans)
  • Department of Education (Student Loans)
  • Department of Agriculture (USDA loans)
  • Small Business Administration (SBA Loans)
  • Department of Justice (Judgements)
  • Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

Notice that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is not on this list; it doesn't report to CAIVRS. However, IRS liens are reported to credit bureaus, and IRS installment agreement payments must be disclosed to your lender and included in your debt-to-income ratios.

What to do: Most FHA lenders will want to see a satisfactory payment history (usually 12 months) before approving you for a mortgage, so get current well before you shop for a home. If there is a tax lien, the IRS must agree to subordinate it to the new mortgage.

4. You're on CAIVRS by mistake

Of course, a final possibility is that you're not supposed to be on CAIVRS at all. Perhaps you've satisfied a creditor, or perhaps more than 36 months have gone by since a claim was paid. (You may even have had a claim paid but fall under one of HUD's exceptions that allow you to get an FHA loan despite being on CAIVRS.)

What to do: If you turn up on CAIVRS, your lender is given the name of the agency reporting the default, the case number of the defaulted debt, the type of delinquency (default, claim, foreclosure, lien or judgment), and a telephone number to call for further information or assistance.

Your loan officer can pass this information on to you, and you should contact the reporting agency and clear the error before your scheduled mortgage closing. It's your responsibility to contact the agency yourself and resolve the issue. Your lender cannot delete CAIVRS information, even if you have proof that you are listed in error.

If you're applying for an FHA loan, the FHA also can't help you get off CAIVRS directly. It can neither remove correct CAIVRS information nor alter or delete CAIVRS information reported from other federal agencies.

This article was revised by Keith Gumbinger.

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