Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Reference Guide
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT (FOIA) REFERENCE GUIDE
The FOIA was enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966.Since that time, Congress has regularly updated the original statute through legislative amendments. Most recently, Congress passed the OPEN Government Act of 2007, which addressed several procedural issues that concern FOIA administration, and the OPEN FOIA Act of 2009, which revised the requirements of FOIA Exemption 3. You can read the text of the FOIA and learn about both of these FOIA amendments through the links below.
This FOIA Reference Guide is designed to familiarize you with the procedures for making a FOIA request to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) for FHFA records. This Reference Guide will also assist you in making a FOIA request to the FHFA Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG) for FHFA-OIG records. The process is neither complicated nor time consuming. Following the guidance will make it more likely that you will receive the information you are seeking in the shortest amount of time. In most cases this Reference Guide will provide you with the basic information that you will need to make a FOIA request to the FHFA. If you need additional information, the FOIA statute may be accessed here. In addition, FHFA has a formal rule for making FOIA requests, which you can find at part 1202 of Title 12 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The Code of Federal Regulations is available in all law libraries and federal depository libraries. Access the FHFA's FOIA rule by clicking on the following links (Interim Final FOIA rule and Final Rule) or electronically using the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. You can also request a copy of the FOIA rule from the FOIA Office by sending a request to FOIA@fhfa.gov, by telephone at 202-649-3803, by facsimile at 202-649-1073, or by regular mail to the FOIA Office, Federal Housing Finance Agency, 400 7th Street SW, Washington DC 20024. Please note that all mail sent to FHFA via the United States Postal Service is routed through a national irradiation facility, a process that can delay delivery by approximately two weeks. For any time-sensitive correspondence, please plan accordingly.
How can I get records from the FHFA or FHFA-OIG?
The FOIA, which you can find at section 552 of Title 5 of the United States Code, is a federal law that provides any person a right of access to many federal agency records. The FHFA or FHFA-OIG must disclose records upon receiving a written request for them, except for certain records that may be withheld from disclosure under a FOIA exemption. This right of access is enforceable in a court of law. Your FOIA request is releasable to the public under subsequent FOIA requests. In responding to these requests, FHFA or FHFA-OIG does not release personal information, such as home address, telephone numbers, or email addresses, all of which are protected from disclosure under FOIA Exemption 6 (5 U.S.C. §552(b)(6)).
Do I need to file a written FOIA request to receive general information about the FHFA of FHFA-OIG?
No. You can find a great deal of information about FHFA through the FHFA website. FHFA's website has information about popular topics including: supervisory guidance; corporate applications and decisions; regulatory interpretations; supervisory actions; regulatory waivers; FHFA rules and regulations; the monthly mortgage interest rate survey known as MIRS; the House Price Index (HPI); FHFA policies, initiatives, and programs; press releases; speeches; testimony; and publications.
You also can obtain records that are publicly available such as press releases, speeches, testimony, reports to Congress, and other publications by contacting the Office of Congressional Affairs and Communications by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone at 202-649-3800. You may also view and copy these records at FHFA’s public reading room located at 400 7th Street SW, Washington, DC 20024. Visitors to the public reading room must call 202-649-3803 to make an appointment. The public reading room is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each business day.
You can also find a great deal of information about the FHFA-OIG through the FHFA-OIG website.
What kind of records may I request from the FHFA or FHFA-OIG under the FOIA?
You may obtain any non-exempt agency record. You should be aware that the FOIA does not require agencies to do research for you, analyze data, answer written questions, or create records in order to respond to a request.
How long will it take the FHFA or FHFA-OIG to respond to my request?
Usually, you will receive a response within 20 working days of the date the FHFA or FHFA-OIG receives a complete request. Often you will receive a response more quickly. If your request involves a large volume of records or records dispersed among several offices, additional time to respond may be required. Under the FOIA, the response time can be extended for an additional 10 working days. When an extension is needed, you will be notified in writing and offer you the opportunity to modify or limit your request. Alternatively, you may agree to a different timetable for the processing of your request. You can request an expedited response if you show a compelling need. You must certify that the reasons for expedited processing are true and correct.
What kinds of records may the FHFA or FHFA-OIG withhold from me?
The FOIA provides exemptions that authorize the withholding of information of a sensitive nature. The exemptions authorize withholding: (1) classified national defense and foreign relations information; (2) internal agency rules and practices; (3) information that is prohibited from disclosure by another federal law; (4) trade secrets and other privileged or confidential business information; (5) inter-agency or intra-agency communications that are protected by legal privileges; (6) information involving matters of personal privacy; (7) certain types of information compiled for law enforcement purposes; (8) information relating to the supervision of financial institutions; and (9) geological information on wells.
Generally, exempt information at the FHFA or FHFA-OIG includes examination records; records that if released, would cause an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy; confidential proprietary business information; internal communications regarding proposed policies and initiatives; and law enforcement investigative records. As a matter of policy, we will consider making a discretionary disclosure of exempt information whenever possible. FHFA and FHFA-OIG strives to achieve maximum responsible information disclosure through this discretionary disclosure policy.
How will I know what records the FHFA or FHFA-OIG has withheld from me?
When information is withheld from disclosure, FHFA’s or FHFA-OIG's written response ordinarily identifies what records have been withheld and specifies the FOIA exemption that permits the withholding.
What happens if the FHFA or FHFA-OIG does not have the records I want?
You will be notified in writing that FHFA or FHFA-OIG does not have any responsive records.
How do I reach the FOIA Officer or the person who is handling my request?
You may contact the FHFA or FHFA-OIG person handling your request by emailing email@example.com, by regular mail at 400 7th Street, SW Washington DC 20024, by telephone at 202-649-3803, or by facsimile at 202-649-1073. Please note that all mail sent to FHFA via the United States Postal Service is routed through a national irradiation facility, a process that may delay delivery by approximately two weeks. For any time-sensitive correspondence, please plan accordingly.
How do I get a copy of the FHFA FOIA Annual Report?
You can download a copy from the FHFA’s website by clicking here.
Must I use a special form to file a FOIA request and what information must my request include?
No special form is required. You can submit a request by clicking here. Your request must include a clear and specific description of the records you are requesting to enable FHFA or FHFA-OIG to locate any records with a reasonable amount of effort. Your request must include as much specific information as possible about each record you request, such as the date, title or name, author, recipient, subject matter and file designations. Your request must include your full name, your address and, if different, the address at which FHFA or FHFA-OIG is to notify you about your request; a telephone number at which you can be reached during normal business hours; and a facsimile number and electronic mail address, if any. Your request is considered to be public information, except for any personal information provided.
Please include the notation "Freedom of Information Act Request" on the front of your envelope, at the beginning of your request, or in the subject line of the email to ensure that your request is received without delay. If you are requesting FHFA-OIG records please include a notation to that effect. You must identify whether you are a commercial use requester, an educational institution, non-commercial scientific institution or representative of the news media. You must state that you are aware of and in agreement with the fees for duplication, search and/or review as may be levied in accordance with the FOIA and FHFA's FOIA regulations, along with the maximum amount of fees you are willing to pay. Requests that fees be reduced or waived must include the justification for such request. Your inability to pay a fee does not justify granting a fee waiver.
Where do I send my written request for FHFA records?
For FHFA records, you must send your FOIA request to the FHFA FOIA Office by clicking here, by regular mail at FOIA Office, Federal Housing Finance Agency, 400 7th Street, SW, Washington DC 20024, by telephone at 202-649-3803, or by facsimile at 202-649-1073. Please note that all mail sent to FHFA via the United States Postal Service is routed through a national irradiation facility, a process that may delay delivery by approximately two weeks. For any time-sensitive correspondence, please plan accordingly.
Where do I send my written request for FHFA-OIG records?
For FHFA records, you must send your FOIA request to the FHFA FOIA Office by clicking here, by regular mail at FOIA Office, Federal Housing Finance Agency, 400 7th Street, SW, Washington DC 20024, by telephone at 202-649-3803, or by facsimile at 202-649-1073. Requests for FHFA-OIG records will be forwarded to FHFA-OIG for direct response.
Please note that all mail sent to FHFA via the United States Postal Service is routed through a national irradiation facility, a process that may delay delivery by approximately two weeks. For any time-sensitive correspondence, please plan accordingly.Is there a fee for filing a FOIA request?
There is no initial fee to file a FOIA request. The FOIA, however, permits an agency to recover some of the costs of processing a FOIA request by charging for employee time spent searching for and reviewing records for release. Please note, that FHFA may charge fees even if no records are located. Agencies also may charge for duplication. FHFA’s current fee schedule is:
Search & Review
Executive Level Staff....................................$90.25 per hour
Supervisory/Professional Staff........................$72.00 per hour
Clerical Staff...............................................$31.00 per hour
Computer Operator.......................................$59.00 per hour
Photocopies................................................$0.15 per page
Diskettes....................................................$0.50 per diskette
CD-ROMS....................................................$1.00 per CD
Transcription of audio tapes...........................$4.50 per page
Certification, seal and attestation...................$5.00 per document
Facsimile transmission..................................long distance charges plus $0.25 per page
Facsimile transmission (local)........................$0.25 per call plus $0.25 per page
Express delivery service...............................actual cost
Can I limit the amount of the fees?
You can limit the amount that you are willing to pay in your request letter. If you do not do so, the FHFA or FHFA-OIG will assume that you are willing to pay fees of up to $100.00. If the estimated total fees for processing your request will exceed $100.00, you will be notified in writing of the estimate and offer you an opportunity to narrow your request in order to reduce the fees. If you continue to want all of the records involved, you will be asked to agree, in writing, to pay the estimated fees. Processing your request will be suspended and the time to respond tolled until you agree to pay the estimated fees. You ordinarily will not have to pay the fees until after we have processed your request. If, however, you have failed to pay fees within 30 days of billing in the past, or if the estimated fees exceed $1000.00, we may require you to pay the estimated fees before we process the request. If you agree to pay fees and then fail to do so within 30 days of billing, we may charge interest on the overdue balance and we will not process any further requests from you until payment has been made in full.
EFFECT OF THE DEBT COLLECTION ACT OF 1982 (PUB. L.97-365): FHFA or FHFA-OIG may use the authorities in the Debt Collection Act, including disclosure to consumer reporting agencies and use of collection agencies, where appropriate, to encourage repayment.
You also can ask the FHFA or FHFA-OIG to waive the FOIA fees. A fee waiver will not be granted unless you can demonstrate that disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations and activities of the government and is not primarily in your commercial interest. Requests for fee waivers from individuals who are seeking records pertaining to themselves are generally denied because disclosure usually will not result in any increase of the public's understanding of government operations and activities. In addition, a requester's inability to pay fees is not a basis for granting a fee waiver.
What can I do if I am not satisfied with the FHFA’s of FHFA-OIG's response to my request?
You will be advised of the right to file an administrative appeal within 30 calendar days of the date of the final response to your request. You may disagree with the withholding of information, a fee determination (including a fee waiver denial), or you may believe that there are additional records responsive to your request. You also may file an administrative appeal if your request for expedited processing is denied. All appeals must be made in writing and addressed to the FOIA Appeals Officer by clicking here, by regular mail to the FOIA Appeals Officer, Federal Housing Finance Agency, 400 7th Street SW, Washington DC 20024, or by facsimile at 202-649-1073. Please note that all mail sent to FHFA via the United States Postal Service is routed through a national irradiation facility, a process that can delay delivery by approximately two weeks. For any time-sensitive correspondence, please plan accordingly.
No specific form or particular language is required. However, your appeal must include a copy of the initial request, a copy of the letter denying your request in whole or part, and an explanation of the reasons why you disagree with our action, along with your name, address, telephone number, facsimile number, and electronic mail address, if any. If you are appealing because you believe there are additional records, you must specify why you believe that records exist and, if possible, where you believe they might be located. Please include the notation "Freedom of Information Act Appeal" on the front of your envelope and at the beginning of your appeal to ensure that your appeal is received without delay. For appeals from decisions by the FHFA-OIG, please add "FHFA-OIG" after "Freedom of Information Act Appeal." Within 20 working days of receipt of a valid FOIA appeal, you will be informed in writing of the outcome of your appeal. If you still believe that the FHFA has not handled your FOIA request in accordance with the law, you have the right to challenge the agency's action in federal court, or you may seek the assistance from the Office of Government Information Services of the National Archives and Records Administration. You may find information about OGIS https://www.ogis.archives.gov/site3.aspx.
FOIA POLICY AND GUIDANCE
Laws, Regulations, and Guidance
FHFA Electronic Reading Room
FHFB Electronic Reading Room
OFHEO Electronic Reading Room
FHFA Electronic Reading Room Certification
FHFB Electronic Reading Room Certification
OFHEO Electronic Reading Room Certification
FHFB FOIA Reports
OFHEO FOIA Reports
Department of Justice FOIA