What Your Mortgage Lender Can and Can’t Ask

When you’re seeking a lending solution, you face a number of questions, comments, paperwork, and effort. You have to hunt down a home that you like, compete with other home-seekers to put a bid in, arrange your finances-and then there’s your mortgage lender asking you the questions. Here are a few tips on what they can ask, why they ask, and what they definitely cannot ask.

Are you single, married, or divorced? Wait a minute, is this a date? Your lending specialist needs to know the answer to this question for a number of reasons. If you’re married, your spouse’s income can contribute to your household earnings and credit, securing you a better loan. Or maybe your spouse is a veteran or active military member, qualifying you for a VA loan. If you’re divorced your loan specialist wants to make sure that child support, alimony, or any other debts by either party are accounted for.

How old are you? This question can go two ways: while it is prohibited to discriminate against the borrowers based on age, one must be at least eighteen years old to secure a loan and take responsibility for that debt. Your mortgage lender needs to make sure you’re legally old enough for this responsibility.

Are you in good health? Nope! If your mortgage specialist asks you this question, find another one. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits making mortgage decisions based on the health status.

How many children do you have? This is another important question that your loan consultant may ask, and it is well within his or her right to do so. Children affect the residual income your home has, changing your loan availability.

Are you planning to have children? Unlike existing children, loan consultants are not allowed to ask about family planning. Similarly, they cannot ask whether either or both parents plan to continue working after a new baby is born.

What ethnicity are you? While your loan specialist can ask this question, then you don’t have to answer. This information is gathered and reported to the US government to help protect against discrimination. Statistical analysis helps researchers determine whether certain demographic groups are getting denied loans more often across the country or in specific locations. By providing this information, you can help to fight patterns of discrimination-but if you want to keep it to yourself, it is well within your rights.