The Massachusetts Appeals Court, in a Rule 1:28 decision, has once again reaffirmed its holdings in Sullivan v. Kondaur Capital Corp., 85 Mass.App.Ct. 202 (2014) and Shea v. Federal Natl' Mort. Assn., et al., 87 Mass.App.Ct. 901 (2015), that the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. ("MERS") system of mortgage assignments comports with Massachusetts law. The Appeals Court further reaffirmed that MERS' status as mortgagee, even "solely as nominee for [lender] and [lender]'s successors and assigns," grants to MERS all the rights and powers of a mortgagee, including the right to foreclose and exercise the power of sale in the mortgage. Epps v. Bank of America, N.A., et al., 15-P-1095, 2016 Mass. App. Unpub. LEXIS 974 (Oct. 11, 2016).
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has refused to reinstate a putative class-action suit accusing numerous banks and other mortgage servicers of fraudulently enticing mortgagors into applying for mortgage loan modifications to continue collecting servicing fees prior to foreclosure. The Ninth Circuit panel agreed with the United States District Court for the Central District of California and the defendants that the servicers were not at fault for the foreclosures where the borrowers failed to pay their mortgages. Casault v. OneWest Bank, et al., 2016 WL 4137656 (9th Cir. Aug. 4, 2016).
Two recent decisions have clarified the scope and effect Section 131(g)(1) of the Truth-in-Lending Act's ("TILA"), which requires that a borrower be notified within 30-days of the sale, transfer, or assignment of a mortgage loan to a new owner. 15 U.S.C. § 1641(g)(1). Section 131(g) states that "not later than 30 days after the date on which a mortgage loan is sold or otherwise transferred or assigned to a third party, the creditor that is the new owner or assignee of the debt shall notify the borrower in writing of such transfer," and include information regarding the new creditor. The section was added to the law to provide notice of a change in ownership of the mortgage debt or note, in addition to the previously required notice of a change in the servicer of the loan.
The United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit has held that recording Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. ("MERS") as the holder or beneficiary of a mortgage comports with Texas law. Harris County Texas, et al. v. MERSCORP Inc., et al., No. 14-10392, 2015 WL 3937927 (5th Cir. June 26, 2015). This adds to the Court's prior holding in Welborn v. Bank of N.Y. Mellon Corp., 557 Fed.Appx. 383 (5th Cir. 2014), treated in this blog on April 11, 2014, that certain government entities could not recover from MERS on the basis of federal RICO statutes.
While the American economy has shown tentative signs of stabilization and recovery, the nation's courts continue to grapple with legal questions that emanate from the Great Recession and the bursting of the so-called "housing bubble." In one notable development, the United States Supreme Court has decided an important question regarding the treatment of home mortgages in Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases (i.e., cases in which the bankruptcy trustee gathers and sells the debtor's non-exempt assets and uses the proceeds of such assets to pay creditors in accordance with the Bankruptcy Code.)
Where a mortgage states the term of its underlying debt but includes no separate statement of its own term, the two are one-and-the-same, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (the "SJC") has decided in an opinion interpreting and upholding the so-called "obsolete mortgage" statute.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ("SJC") has held that the provisions of the "Obsolete Mortgage" statute, Mass. Gen. L. c. 260, § 33, as amended in 2006, comport with the Massachusetts and United States Constitutions. Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. v. Fitchburg Capital, LLC, et al., No. SJC-11756, 2015 WL 1649160 (Mass. Apr. 15, 2015). Further, the SJC held that for purposes of the statute, a reference to the maturity date of the underlying debt secured by the mortgage is sufficient to state the "term of maturity date of the mortgage," and thereby trigger a loss of enforceability of the mortgage. Id.
The Massachusetts Appeals Court has reaffirmed its holding in Sullivan v. Kondaur Capital Corp., 85 Mass.App.Ct. 202 (2014), that mortgagors have standing only to challenge assignments of their mortgages that are void, not merely voidable, and that the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. ("MERS") system of mortgage assignments comports with Massachusetts law. The Court in Shea v. Federal National Mortgage Association, et al., No. 13-P-1630, slip op. (Mass. App. Ct. Feb. 18, 2015), further reaffirmed that a mortgagee need not ever hold the note secured by the mortgage, and that Massachusetts law does not require authorization from the noteholder for a mortgagee to assign the mortgage to another party.
While the American economy has shown tentative signs of stabilization and recovery, the nation's courts continue to grapple with legal questions that emanate from the Great Recession and the bursting of the so-called "housing bubble." In one notable development, the United States Supreme Court has recently agreed to decide an important question regarding the treatment of home mortgages in Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases (i.e., cases in which the bankruptcy trustee gathers and sells the debtor's non-exempt assets and uses the proceeds of such assets to pay creditors in accordance with the Bankruptcy Code.) Having granted certiorari in two substantially similar cases, Bank of America, N.A. v. Caulkett and Bank of America, N.A. v. Toledo-Cardona, the Supreme Court will decide whether section 506(d) of the Bankruptcy Code permits a Chapter 7 debtor to void a junior mortgage lien in its entirety when the outstanding debt owed to a senior lien holder exceeds the current value of the home in question. In more colloquial terms, the Supreme Court will determine whether a debtor may "strip off" a junior mortgage lien that is "under water."
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has held that borrowers are not assured of conditions that would allow them to rescind a home mortgage loan pursuant to the federal Truth in Lending Act ("TILA"), 15 U.S.C. 1601 et seq., and that a court can condition rescission of the loan on the borrowers' tender of the full principal balance of the loan. The Court in Iroanyah v. Bank of America, et al., 2014 WL 2198562 (7th Cir. May 28, 2014) affirmed the determination of the district court that conditioned the borrowers' rescission, and the attendant release of the banks' security interests in the home, on the borrowers' tender of the remaining principal balances within 90-days.
The Massachusetts Appeals Court has joined the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in upholding the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. ("MERS") business model under Massachusetts law. Explicitly referencing the First Circuit's decision in Culhane v. Aurora Loan Services of Nebraska, 708 F.3d 282 (1st Cir. 2013), the Appeals Court in Sullivan v. Kondaur Capital Corp., 85 Mass.App.Ct. 202 (2014), held that mortgagors have standing to challenge an assignment of their mortgages, but only to the extent that such assignment is void, not merely voidable. Further, the Appeals Court found that the MERS system of mortgage assignments fully comports with Massachusetts law.
The United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit has held that government land recording offices cannot state a claim under the federal RICO statutes for loss of revenue due to fewer filing fee revenues or for allegedly inaccurate records. Welborn v. Bank of N.Y. Mellon Corp., No. 13-30103, 2014 WL 843262 (5th Cir. March 5, 2014).
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently dismissed a borrower's putative class action lawsuit under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, alleging that a lender and insurer fraudulently insured the borrower's property after the borrower's homeowner's policy expired. In Cohen v. American Security Insurance Co., 735 F.3d 601 (7th Cir. 2013), the homeowner held a secured loan with Wachovia Mortgage, FSB, which required her to maintain homeowner's insurance on the residence as a condition of her loan agreement. When the homeowner's policy lapsed, Wachovia purchased replacement coverage at a rate more than twice as expensive as she had previously paid. Id. at 603. Wachovia charged the homeowner for the cost of the replacement coverage. Id. The coverage procured by Wachovia also included a commission to Wachovia's insurance agent affiliate, a feature allowed under the loan agreement. Id.
The First Circuit has affirmed a holding finding that no private right of action exists for homeowner-borrowers under the Home Affordable Modification Program ("HAMP"), bringing clarity on this issue to courts within the Circuit. In the underlying mater, Mackenzie v. Flagstar Bank, FSB, 2013 WL 139738 (D. Mass. Jan. 9, 2013) aff'd, 2013 WL 6840611 (1st Cir. Dec. 30, 2013), Magistrate Judge Bowler of the United States District Court had held a borrower is not an intended third-party beneficiary of the Servicer Participation Agreement ("SPA") among the banks and the federal government relating to HAMP. The District Court further held that absent an independent duty to modify the mortgage, neither the existence of a mortgagor-mortgagee relationship nor HAMP itself created any duty enforceable by the borrower.
The federal Circuit Courts of Appeal are split on the important question of what is required of a consumer who claims not to have received the proper disclosures from a lender and who wishes to rescind the loan within the three-year period following the closing.
The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts has held that failure to respond to a purported Qualified Written Request, sent to a loan servicer pursuant to the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, 12 U.S.C. 2605 et seq. ("RESPA"), cannot serve as a defense to collection of a promissory note where a defendant suffered no actual damages as a result of any purported RESPA violation. Santander Bank v. Sturgis, et al., (C.A. No. 11-10601-DPW) (D. Mass. Nov. 13, 2013).
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit recently confirmed that the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA) provides a firm jurisdictional bar to consumer protection claims based on loans made by failed institutions but now held by successor banks following a transfer facilitated by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) unless the claimants have complied with a strict administrative regime. In Demelo v. U.S. Bank National Association, 727 F.3d 117 (1st Cir. 2013), in which Stephen Reilly and Jennifer Greaney of Fitch Law Partners LLP represented the defendant U.S. Bank National Association (U.S. Bank), the First Circuit held that claimants against a failed institution must comply with the claims-processing regime prescribed by FIRREA.
A decision from the Land Court has muddied the waters regarding whether a mortgagor can raise a claim under the Massachusetts try title statute against a mortgagee. A 2012 Land Court decision by Judge Robert B. Foster found that the try title statute was unavailable to a mortgagor prior to foreclosure. In Abate v. Fremont Investment & Loan, et al., Judge Foster found that until foreclosure, during which the mortgagor's equitable title is extinguished, the mortgagor and mortgagee hold complementary equitable and legal title to the property, and have no adverse claims. The First Circuit reached a similar decision in July in Lemelson, et al. v. U.S. National Bank Association.
The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts has denied class certification to a group of individual borrowers alleging that Bank of America mishandled their loan modification requests pursuant to the Home Affordable Modification Program.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has held that a title insurer has no duty to defend a bank against a third-party suit challenging the validity of the underlying debt, absent a specific provision in the title insurance policy envisioning such a claim. Deutsche Bank National Association v. First American Title Insurance Company, 465 Mass. 741 (2013).