Bank Executives, Are You Worried
About Lending To Those With
Limited English Proficiency?

Legal Translation Services
Will Come To The Rescue

Legal Translation Services for Banks, Lenders, Non-English- Speaking Homebuyers

There’s a growing need for professional legal translation services for banks and lenders in Denver, Colorado, and throughout the country.  Banks and lenders have the chance to provide much needed loans and financing to a traditionally underserved but growing part of our population – individuals with limited English proficiency (“LEP”). There is no question that the number of LEP people in the United States has increased over the last few decades and shows no signs of slowing down. Today, approximately 13% of the United States population is foreign born, and U.S. Census Bureau projections estimate that that number will grow to 19% by 2060.

According to a 2017 report from the Federal Housing Finance Agency, over 25 million individuals in the United States – approximately 9% of the population – are considered to have LEP. Of those 25 million people, 64% speak Spanish, 7% speak Chinese, 3% speak Vietnamese, 2% speak Korean, 2% speak Russian, and the remainder speak dozens of other languages. Moreover, the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals estimate that 50% of all new homebuyers will be Hispanic by 2020.

In this blog article, we cover how companies have ill-served LEP individuals in the past, how the government has responded to help those individuals, and how financial document translation services can help your lending organization assist LEP individuals to provide a win-win for lender and borrower alike.

• Unfair Practices Against LEP Individuals

The increase in LEP individuals in the U.S. has resulted in banks, mortgage lenders, real estate agencies, financial service providers, title insurance companies and other types of companies treating LEP individuals in a disparate manner. For example, LEP mortgage loan borrowers may not comprehend the mortgage terms, may have difficulty understanding communications from the loan servicer, or may not know their options if they have trouble making a mortgage payment.

Some companies, without having a defined policy, seem to avoid LEP customers in order to dodge those issues with regard to a customer’s inability to understand important documents. Other, more unscrupulous, companies take overt advantage of LEP individuals, such as lenders who engage in “reverse redlining.” That practice occurs when the service provider targets an area where a group of residents share one national origin, and then extends credit or other services on unfair, or even illegal, terms. Such conduct – either passive or active discrimination – has resulted in swift, and appropriate, government responses.

• Government Has Stepped Up Its Oversight To Help LEP Individuals

Indeed, as the LEP population grows, so too has the U.S. government’s focus to assist those individuals. The importance of such government initiatives cannot be overstated because all people in the U.S. deserve to have the same opportunity for goods and services, including more complicated transactions like auto and home purchases. Here are some examples.

The Federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has suggested to mortgage servicers that they should have policies and procedures in place for LEP borrowers. Specifically, the Bureau looks to see whether servicers (i) identify files that require non-English help; (ii) provide customer service call options in languages other than English; (iii) have dedicated customer service personnel who speak languages other than English; and (iv) provide legal translations of English-language documents.

President Clinton in 2000 signed an executive order specifically geared towards improving access to federal government services for LEP individuals. The order required federal agencies, and any recipients of federal financial assistance, to take steps to make sure that LEP individuals have “meaningful” access to government programs and services.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) determined that “meaningful” access included any or all of the following: (i) oral and written translation services; (ii) a bilingual staff; (iii) phone service lines with interpreters; and (iv) referrals to community organizations who can translate for LEP individuals. HUD recently put out a guidance report in connection with the Fair Housing Act, noting that there is a close nexus between discrimination of LEP individuals and discrimination based on national origin. Thus, discrimination based on English proficiency could be actionable as a violation of the Act.

• With The Help Of Legal Translation Services, LEP Individuals Present A Market Opportunity To Banks And Financial Service Providers

The fact that LEP individuals will continue to make up a greater part of our population is a clear signal that lenders in Colorado and elsewhere should be prepared to assist this growing population of non-English-speaking consumers. As with any industry, those players who provide the best, most accessible, services to their customers will win the day. As such, banks, financial service companies, and lenders in Colorado and throughout the country should create a corporate infrastructure that caters to LEP individuals, rather than turn their backs on them.

The best, most effective, and cost-efficient way to address the needs of LEP customers is to retain the services of a top-notch legal translation service. Rather than attempt to hire customer service employees who are bilingual, or spend resources developing language services in-house, it makes the most sense to hire a legal translation service that can assist your bank or company whenever you need it. Outsourcing the legal translation function has the dual benefit of giving you access to accurate translations for many different languages, while also having the flexibility to utilize the service only when necessary.

In sum, the LEP population in the U.S. is growing. The federal government and state governments have created a framework to ensure that LEP individuals have meaningful access to government services. Private companies, including Colorado banks and lenders, should take advantage of this opportunity to serve a growing population. Legal translations services are essential to capitalizing on the opportunity. Contact All Language Alliance, Inc. for more information. Learn the ways in which our legal translation services can help your company enjoy the profits of serving LEP customers.

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