The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) ensures that all consumers are given an equal chance to obtain credit. Factors such as income, expenses, debt, and credit history are always valid considerations for creditworthiness; however, there are certain areas about which it unlawful for a potential creditor to inquire. These include sex, race, national origin, or religion. A creditor may ask for to voluntarily disclosure of this information if the loan is a real estate loan. This information helps federal agencies enforce anti-discrimination laws. When permitted to ask marital status, a creditor may only use the terms: married, unmarried, or separated. A creditor may ask for such information in community property states. A creditor in any state may ask for this information if the account is joint and spouses apply together. A potential creditor many not inquire about plans a consumer may have for having or raising children, except that a creditor many inquire about court-ordered alimony, child support, or separate maintenance payments a potential debtor may to obligated to make.
As creditors decide whether to grant credit, they may not base their decision on sex, marital status, race, national origin, religion, or age (unless the applicant is a minor and without capacity to contract) or if age is used to determine the meaning of other factors important to creditworthiness. A potential creditor must consider public assistance income, part-time employment or pension, annuity, or retirement income as well as any reported alimony, child support, or separate maintenance payments.
Creditors are required to notify applicants within 30 days whether the application has been approved or denied. Creditors who reject potential consumers must provide a notice explaining either the specific reasons for rejection or the procedure for discovering the reason within 60 days.