Section 64: Discrimination in residential mortgage loans on basis of location of property
Section 64. No mortgagee shall discriminate, on a basis that is arbitrary or unsupported by a reasonable analysis of the lending risks associated with a residential mortgage transaction, in the granting, withholding, extending, modifying or renewing, or in the fixing of the rates, terms, conditions or provisions of any residential mortgage loan or in any written application therefor on residential real property located in the commonwealth of four or fewer separate households occupied or to be occupied in whole or in part by the applicant, that is within the reasonable service area of such mortgagee, on the basis such property is located in a specific neighborhood or geographical area; provided, however, that it shall not be a violation of this section if the residential mortgage loan is made pursuant to a specific public or private program, the purpose of which is to increase the availability of mortgage loans within a specific neighborhood or geographical area. Nor shall any mortgagee use lending or underwriting standards, policies, systems or practices, that discriminate in practice or that discriminate in effect, on a basis that is arbitrary or unsupported by a reasonable analysis of the lending risks associated with a residential mortgage transaction. The preceding sentence shall not preclude a mortgagee from:
(a) requiring reasonable and uniformly applied application fees,
(b) utilizing income standards which are reasonable in relation to the amount of the loan requested and which shall be disclosed to each prospective applicant, or
(c) uniformly refusing to accept applications because of a lack of lendable funds.
Nor shall any mortgagee make any oral or written statement, in advertising or otherwise, to applicants or prospective applicants that would discourage in an arbitrary manner or in a manner that is unsupported by a reasonable analysis of the lending risks associated with a residential mortgage transaction, a reasonable person from making or pursuing an application.
The mortgagee shall inform each applicant in writing of the specific reasons for any adverse action on the application for such mortgage loan or for an extension, modification, or renewal of such loan. If the reason for any adverse action taken by a mortgagee is based in whole or in part on the location or condition of the collateral property, the mortgagee shall inform the applicant in writing of the estimated market value of the subject property on which it relied and the lending standards which it used in taking such adverse action. A mortgagee shall not be liable to any seller or agent of the seller of such property on account of the disclosure of the market value of such property estimated according to a reasonable appraisal rendered to the lender as part of the application process.
For the purposes of this section, adverse action shall mean refusal either to grant financing at the terms and for the amount requested or to make a counter offer acceptable to the applicant.
Nothing contained in this section shall preclude a mortgagee from considering sound underwriting practices and the credit-worthiness of the applicant in the contemplation of any such loan. Such practices shall include the following:
(a) the willingness and the financial ability of the borrower to repay the loan;
(b) the market value of any real estate proposed as security for any loan;
(c) diversification of the mortgagee's investment portfolio; and
(d) the exercise of judgement and care under the circumstances then prevailing, which men of prudence, discretion and intelligence exercise in the management of their affairs.
Any person claiming to have been aggrieved as a result of a violation of this section may bring a civil action in the district court, or housing court where applicable, of the county in which the particular mortgagee involved is located; provided, however, that a person must first exhaust his administrative remedies through the appropriate mortgage review board established pursuant to section fourteen A of chapter one hundred and sixty-seven.
Upon a finding that a mortgagee has committed a violation of this section, the court may award actual damages or punitive damages in the amount of five thousand dollars, whichever is greater, but in no event less than two thousand five hundred dollars, and may, in its discretion, award court costs and attorney's fees.
If the court finds as a fact that any person claiming to have been aggrieved by this section has intentionally misrepresented a material fact in the mortgage application or if the court finds as a fact that the suit is frivolous, the court may award actual damages or punitive damages in the amount of five hundred dollars, whichever is greater, to the mortgagee, and may in its discretion award court costs and attorney's fees.