The statute providing borrowers with a right to cure mortgage payment defaults before acceleration and foreclosure can occur imposes no deadline on completion of foreclosure proceedings once commenced, according to two very recent Massachusetts decisions.
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.)
The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida has issued an opinion collecting 11th Circuit precedent and reiterating that foreclosure or other enforcement of a security interest, without more, is not "collection of any debt" under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692-1692p ("FDCPA"). While an enforcement of a security interest comingled with an attempt to collect payment on the underlying debt may fall under the FDCPA, mere foreclosure or other security enforcement does not. Gillis v. Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, 2015 WL 1345309 (M.D. Fla., Mar. 23, 2015).
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 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 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).
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).
The United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts has held that the holder of a mortgage is not a "debt collector" within the meaning of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. §1692 et seq. In Re: Gill, Stephen D., et al., Chapter 7 Case No. 09-15976-JNF; Adv. P. No. 13-1111.
The First Circuit has held that, under Massachusetts law, a mortgagee's interest in a mortgage in default is inadequate to state a claim under the Massachusetts try title statute. The Plaintiffs in Lemelson, et al. v. U.S. Bank, N.A. filed suit under the Massachusetts try title statute, asserting that U.S. Bank's interest in the property as mortgagee constituted a adverse claim on their record title to the property.
Massachusetts' implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing does not apply to negotiations and contract preparations for a mortgage and accompanying promissory note, the First Circuit has held. In Latson v. Plaza Home Mortgage, Inc., the plaintiffs filed suit against their lender alleging, among other claims, violation of the implied covenant based on the lender's alleged failure to provide a proper commitment letter, good faith estimate, or other documents required by law, and gave them insufficient opportunity to review the terms in the loan documents. The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts dismissed the case for failure to state a claim, and the borrowers appealed.