If you’re applying for a government-backed loan, your lender will run a CAIVRS check. The results might prevent you from getting the loan.

By , Attorney University of Denver Sturm College of Law
Updated 10/12/2023

When you apply for a government-backed loan, like an FHA-insured mortgage, the lender will run a CAIVRS (pronounced "kay-vers") check before approving your application. CAIVRS, short for "Credit Alert Verification Reporting System," is a database that keeps track of defaults, delinquencies, and foreclosures related to federal debts.

If the CAIVRS search shows you're delinquent on a government debt, you won't be able to get a new loan until you're no longer delinquent on the federal debt or, in some cases, until a certain amount of time passes.

CAIVRS' Role in the Mortgage Application Process

After applying for an FHA-insured, VA-guaranteed, or another government-backed mortgage, the lender will search in the CAIVRS database. This database shows whether you're currently in default or foreclosure on any federal debt or have had a claim paid by the reporting agency.

If you appear in CAIVRS as delinquent on a government debt, the lender probably won't approve you for the new loan. However, the lender might not run a CAIVRS search if you apply for an FHA streamline refinance. Also, in some circumstances, if a sufficient waiting period has passed, you can get a loan approval even if your name still shows up on a CAIVRS report.

Example of How CAIVRS Works

Each agency has rules for how long it will report a person to CAIVRS. But other agencies don't have to disqualify you for a loan simply because of a "hit" on a CAIVRS report.

So, say you default on an FHA-insured mortgage loan. You lose the home to foreclosure, but the property doesn't bring in enough money at the foreclosure sale to fully repay the lender. The lender files a claim with the FHA, and the FHA compensates the lender for the loss. The FHA will report you to CAIVRS, and your name will appear in a CAIVRS search.

If you want a new government-backed mortgage loan, you can probably get approved after three years (FHA-insured and USDA loans) or two years (VA-guaranteed loans). A CAIVRS search will still show a hit for you, but as long as the waiting period has elapsed and you're otherwise eligible, you can qualify for a new government-backed mortgage loan.

Who Reports Delinquencies, Defaults, and Foreclosures to CAIVRS

A few of the government agencies that report to CAIVRS are the:

  • Department of Education
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Justice (DOJ)
  • Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and
  • Small Business Administration (SBA).

So, if you're in default on your federal student loans, owe money to the SBA for a loan you took out to start a business, or have an unpaid settlement to the DOJ, a CAIVRS search will reveal this information.

What Doesn't Show Up on CAIVRS?

CAIVRS doesn't track all delinquent government debts. For example, delinquent tax payments to the IRS are usually reported to the credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Equifax, or Experian), not CAIVRS.

How Can I Find Out If I'm on CAIVRS?

Unfortunately, unlike with credit reports, you can't just request a copy of your CAIVRS report on your own; a lender will have to pull it for you.

If you're applying for a government-backed loan, the lender can—and will—run a search in the database on you. If the CAIVRS report shows you have delinquencies, you might be able to fix them and proceed with the new loan.

How to Fix CAIVRS Mistakes

If CAIVRS shows you're delinquent on a federal debt, HUD (which manages the database) will provide:

  • the name of the agency that reported the delinquency
  • the type of delinquency (such as a student loan, a federal lien, judgment, or a government-backed loan that went into default and was foreclosed upon), and
  • a telephone number you can call for more information or assistance.

Review this information and make sure the CAIVRS entry isn't an error. Just like with regular credit reports, mistakes can happen. Incorrect reporting sometimes occurs after someone is the victim of identity theft when the thief takes out a new federal loan and then stops making payments.

If you find an agency improperly reporting you on CAIVRS, send any relevant documentation showing the error to the reporting agency. Theoretically, the agency should then update your file in CAIVRS.

How Do You Get CAIVRS Cleared?

You might be able to clear up the matter even if the CAIVRS entry isn't a mistake. But you probably won't be able to get a new government loan in the meantime. For instance, if you're in default on a federal student loan, you can usually clean up your CAIVRS records by paying off the debt in full or establishing a repayment plan with the federal Department of Education and making timely payments.

Again, if you previously had an FHA-insured mortgage and lost your home to foreclosure, you'll typically have to wait three years before you can get another FHA-insured loan. In some cases, though, being on CAIVRS might not prevent you from getting a new FHA-insured loan, like if you divorced and your spouse was supposed to make the mortgage payments but didn't. However, the lender won't make an exception if FHA paid an insurance claim on a mortgage that was in default before the divorce.

Also, you might not have an issue with CAIVRS preventing you from getting a new mortgage loan if you went through a foreclosure after defaulting because you lived in a presidentially declared disaster area. But you must have been current on your mortgage before the disaster.

How to Avoid CAIVRS

If you're applying for a government-backed loan, you can't avoid CAIVRS. But if you apply for another kind of mortgage, the lender won't run a CAIVRS search.

Remember, though, that late mortgage payments, foreclosures, and student loan defaults are typically shown on your credit reports, which a conventional lender will use when deciding whether to loan you money.

Getting Help

If you need help clearing up a CAIVRS mistake because an identity thief used your personal information to get a new loan and defaulted, consider talking to a consumer protection or identity theft attorney.

If you have questions about foreclosure, consider talking to a foreclosure attorney.

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