U.S. banking regulators told mortgage lenders to toughen standards for subprime home loans in a belated effort to end abuses that led to a surge in defaults and the highest foreclosure rate in five years.
Lenders, in most cases, should verify income levels instead of relying on borrowers' statements, the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and other regulators said in guidelines issued today in Washington. They also said banks should consider potential interest-rate increases when judging whether homebuyers can pay off loans.
``We clearly have a profound problem,'' FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said in an interview today. ``It is going to get worse before it gets better, and decisive action was required,'' she added. ``Everybody was asleep at the switch.''