The proper placement and naming convention for a survey related charge is one of the most complex in the new TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosures (TRID) rule. Lenders and settlement agents should work closely together to understand the reason a survey is being ordered to ensure its proper placement on the new disclosures. Here are some examples of different circumstances and how they could impact the placement of the survey charge.
- Lender instructions require removal of survey exception on title policy: In this scenario, the most likely course of action is that the survey charge will appear in the “Services you did/did not shop for” bucket and the fee should use the title related naming convention. Under the rule, any fee “required for the issuance of title insurance policies to the creditor in connection with the consummation of the transaction or for conducting the closing” must be proceeded by “Title – ”. The comment to 1026.37(f)(2) lists a number of examples of costs that must be listed per this requirement including any costs for the “resolution of underwriting issues and taking the steps needed to satisfy any conditions for the issuance of the policies.” In this example, the reason the survey is being obtained is to serve as a basis for an underwriting decision on whether to provide survey related coverage under the title policy and it would most likely be a title related fee.
- Buyer requests for personal reasons or required under real estate sales contract: In this scenario, the most likely course of action is that the survey charge will appear in the “other” bucket since it is not a loan related cost. On the disclosures, loans are broke down into loan and other costs depending on whether the fee is required as a condition of receiving the loan. When fees are “part of the real estate closing but not required by the creditor,” they are disclosed as “other” costs. In this example, the buyer (or the buyer and seller through their negotiations) is requesting the survey and thus it is not a cost the lender is requiring as a condition of the loan.
- Buyer requests to obtain coverage under the owner’s policy: A tricky scenario occurs when the lender does not require a survey, but the buyer requests one. Since the buyer is the instigator of purchasing the survey, it is reasonable to include the survey charge in the “other” bucket with the “Title – ” designation since the buyer is obtaining survey for a title related purpose.
- Lender requires survey for non title insurance related reason: While it is extremely rare, a lender may require a survey for purposes not related to title insurance such as appraisal, homestead or loan program reasons. In these instances, the survey would likely appear in the “Services you did/did not shop for” bucket and not include the “Title – ” label since it is a lender-related charge and is not required for purposes of making a title-related determination. The CFPB suggests this possibility in its comment to 1026.37(f)(3), where it lists “survey fee” as an example of a fee separate from title related fees.
Since the facts of the situation will influence the appropriate placement and naming protocol of the survey fee, it is important for lenders and settlement agents to get on the same page about the reason the survey is being purchased and the proper placement on the disclosure. It is better to have the conversation before closing then to resolve a mistake post closing during the quality review process.