There is an important distinction to make between Non-FHA and FHA financing in regards to PMI removal.
Non-FHA loans allow for the removal of PMI once the market-based equity in the home reaches 20%. These lenders can require that an appraiser of their choice confirm market value before doing so. You specific loan paperwork will describe the process for PMI removal, or a call to customer support may be in order.
FHA loans are quite different in this respect. With FHA you will have to pay Mortgage Insurance for a MINIMUM of 5 years, and until you have paid your original LOAN AMOUNT down to 78% (not that the loan amount is 80% of current market value, which is typical for non-FHA MI removal). For all but 15-year term mortgages, you will pay MI premiums for the GREATER of five years or until the amortized loan-to-value reaches 78 percent. This "78% or 5-year Rule" before Mortgage insurance can be terminated is covered here: http://www.hud.gov/offices/adm/hudclips/letters/mortgagee/fi
Private Mortgage Insurance And The Homeowner's Protection Act of 1998
By Jacob I. Rosenbaum of Arter & Hadden LLP
The Homeowner's Protection Act of 1998 (the "Act") became effective July 29, 1999. The Act was adopted in response to numerous complaints about lenders not releasing requirements for private mortgage insurance ("PMI") when borrowers built up equity in their property. Currently, industry practices and regulatory requirements require borrowers to purchase PMI in connection with loans having a loan to value ratio ("LTV") in excess of 80% (e.g., there is less than 20% equity in the property). The premium for PMI is paid monthly with borrower's regular payment of principal, interest and escrow amounts. Lenders have not been uniform in their policies about releasing borrowers from the PMI requirement. The release of this requirement has the effect of reducing the borrower's monthly payment.
The Act only applies to single-family residences (but not vacation homes), investment properties and multi-family dwellings. Essentially, the Act requires that a lender must release the borrower from the obligation to purchase PMI when the balance of a loan is reduced to an 80% LTV, if the borrower so requests. When the LTV reaches 78% of the property's "original value", automatic termination is required. Release of the obligation to furnish PMI is not required if the borrower does not have a good payment history. Even where PMI is retained because of the borrower's unfavorable payment history, however, when the loan has been reduced to 50% of the original amount of the loan, and provided the borrower is then current on the loan, the Act requires a final termination of the PMI requirement. Notwithstanding these general rules, there are certain "high risk" loans which are not subject to the Act.
The Act also requires certain disclosures at loan closing. These disclosures differ depending on whether the mortgage is a fixed rate mortgage, an adjustable rate mortgage or a high risk loan. Certain annual notices are required in certain cases. Additionally, notices are required upon cancellation or termination of the PMI requirement and upon denial of termination, whether requested by borrower or automatic.
The Act prohibits any charge or other cost to be assessed against the borrower for compliance with the Act. Regulation Z (Truth in Lending) now requires that the payment schedule required (Section 226.18(g) of Regulation Z) reflect the consumer's PMI payments until the date on which the creditor must automatically terminate coverage under applicable law, even though the borrower may have a right to request that the insurance be canceled earlier.