OCC to Escheat Funds from Foreclosure Review; Agency Terminates Three Consent Orders and Issues Six Amended Orders

On June 17, the OCC announced that, at year-end 2015, it will escheat any remaining uncashed payments made pursuant to the Independent Foreclosure Review Payment Agreement. Despite the IFR Payment Agreement having already resulted in the distribution of over $2.7 billion to more than 3.2 million eligible borrowers, the OCC anticipates that roughly $280 million from OCC-supervised institutions will remain unclaimed by the end of 2015. By escheating the remaining available funds, eligible borrowers and their heirs will have the opportunity to claim the funds. The agency also announced that it terminated foreclosure-related consent orders against three financial institutions because they have complied with the April 2011 orders and the February 2013 amendments to the orders. In addition, the OCC issued amended consent orders to six banks that did not meet all of the requirements of the consent orders by placing restrictions on the following business activities: (i) acquisition of residential mortgage servicing or residential mortgage servicing rights; (ii) new contracts to perform residential mortgage servicing for other parties; (iii) outsourcing or sub-servicing of new residential mortgage servicing activities to other parties; (iv) off-shoring new residential mortgage servicing activities; and (v) new appointments of senior officers in charge of residential mortgage servicing or residential mortgage servicing risk management and compliance. The limitations placed on the financial institutions were based on each bank’s particular circumstances.

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

Illinois AG Madigan Announces $1 Million Settlement Regarding Company’s Management of Foreclosed Properties

On June 3, Illinois AG Madigan announced a $1 million settlement with an Ohio-based company that mortgage lenders hire to manage properties throughout the foreclosure process and ensure that the properties retain their value. The settlement resolves a 2013 lawsuit by Madigan that alleged that the company wrongly deemed homes vacant, and instructed its contractors to shut off utilities, change the properties’ locks and illegally remove residents’ personal belongings even though they actively remained in their homes. Under the settlement, the company agreed to overhaul its business practices by using objective standards to ensure that homes are vacant, such as: (i) requiring its inspectors to support their inspections with photographs and an affidavit; (ii) posting notice to the occupant that the property has been deemed vacant; (iii) not misrepresenting the occupants’ rights to stay in their home, even if they are behind on their mortgage payments and in foreclosure; (iv) increasing its oversight and quality control of its subcontractors; (v) providing consumers with access to a 24-hour hotline for submitting complaints; and (vi) unless the company obtains a court order, not removing any personal property prior to foreclosure.

In addition to the $1 million agreement, which will be paid in restitution to consumers who filed complaints with respect to the company’s business practices, the company agreed to adhere to ongoing monitoring by Madigan’s office to ensure compliance with the settlement.

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

New York Court of Appeals Rules Possession of Note, Rather than Mortgage, Conveys Standing to Commence Foreclosure Action

On June 11, the New York Court of Appeals held that a loan servicer who holds the note has standing to commence a mortgage foreclosure action against a borrower even if the servicer cannot show that it also holds the mortgage.  See Aurora Loan Servs., LLC v. Taylor, 2015 NY Slip Op 04872 (Jun. 11, 2015).  The court reasoned that the servicer did not need to show possession of the mortgage because “the note, and not the mortgage, is the dispositive instrument that conveys standing to foreclose under New York law.”  In Aurora, the defendant borrowers had executed an adjustable rate note and a mortgage in 2006.  The mortgage designated Mortgage Electronic Recording Systems, Inc. (“MERS”) as nominee, but the note was not transferred to MERS with the mortgage.  After the borrowers defaulted, the servicer took possession of the note and filed for foreclosure against the borrowers.  In reaching its decision, the court disregarded borrowers’ argument that the involvement of MERS somehow impacted the servicer’s standing to foreclose.

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

NYDFS Superintendent Lawsky Delivers Remarks on Reforming New York Foreclosure Process

On May 19, NYDFS Superintendent Lawsky delivered remarks at the Mortgage Bankers Association’s National Secondary Market Conference & Expo regarding New York’s “broken judicial foreclosure process.” Noting that the state’s average of over 900 days from the date of filing to sale is more than a year longer than the national average, Lawsky stated that the “current system hurts virtually everyone involved in the foreclosure process,” including municipalities, lenders and mortgage investors, the courts and, most importantly, homeowners and their families. In a report issued the same day, NYDFS details the causes of the problems. In response, Lawsky proposed a number of legislative reforms intended to facilitate the “twin goals of protecting homeowners from foreclosure abuses and encouraging the efficient return of foreclosed properties to the market.” Lawsky emphasized that, “contrary to popular belief, these goals are not mutually exclusive. The key to achieving both is having a sound and timely judicial foreclosure process that is fair to both homeowners and the mortgage industry.” The specific reforms include proposals to modify the mandatory settlement conferences that cause much delay early in the litigation process, to improve disclosures to homeowners regarding their rights and obligations, and to expedite the foreclosure process for vacant and abandoned “zombie homes.”

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share
COMMENTS: Comments Off
TAGS: ,
POSTED IN: Mortgages, State Issues

DOJ Announces Real Estate Investor’s Guilty Plea to Foreclosure Bid Rigging and Fraud Conspiracies

On April 2, the DOJ announced a guilty plea by a Northern California real estate investor to charges of bid rigging and fraud conspiracy at foreclosure auctions in violation of the Sherman Act. The charges are the outcome of the DOJ’s antitrust investigations into bid rigging and fraud at foreclosure auctions in Northern California, during the course of which 52 individuals have pled guilty to criminal charges. According to the DOJ, the Defendant allegedly worked with others to designate one bidder to win the selected properties at public foreclosure auctions and then held second, private auctions with the conspirators. The DOJ also charged the Defendant with conspiracy to commit mail fraud in connection with the bid rigging activities.

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

Massachusetts AG Launches Webpage for Homeowners Trying to Clear Property Titles

On March 31, the office of Massachusetts AG Maura Healey launched a new webpage designed to help eligible homeowners clear property titles in order to refinance or sell their properties. The webpage follows a $2.7 million settlement with four national banks that allegedly foreclosed on Massachusetts property without having the legal authority to do so. Because the alleged unlawful foreclosures affected thousands of Massachusetts titles, the new webpage is intended to “[enable] consumers to file online complaints and have their title issues reviewed by the banks in a single process.”

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

Large National Bank Faces Class Action Suit Over Alleged SCRA Violations

On January 15, an Army Reserve sergeant filed a class action suit against a large national bank for allegedly violating the SCRA limitation on a lender’s ability to foreclose on an active duty service member’s property. According to the complaint, the bank violated the law by foreclosing on the plaintiff’s home and seizing personal property while the sergeant was on active duty. Wensel et al v. The Bank of New York, No 2:15-cv-00068, (W.D. Penn. Jan. 15, 2015)

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share
COMMENTS: Comments Off
TAGS: , ,
POSTED IN: Courts, Mortgages

President Obama Signs Extension of SCRA’s One-Year Foreclosure Protection

On December 18, after passing unanimously in both houses of Congress, President Obama signed into law S.3008, the Foreclosure Relief and Extension for Servicemembers Act of 2014. Previously, the SCRA’s protection for servicemembers against foreclosure for one year after the end of active duty was set to expire at the end of 2014. The Act extends this protection until the end of 2015, at which point the foreclosure protection is scheduled to revert to the period of active duty plus 90 days that was in effect in 2008.

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

Federal District Court Looks to State Statute of Limitations for SCRA Action

On November 25, 2014, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan applied the state’s three-year statute of limitations for conversion in granting a motion to dismiss a servicemember’s claims of wrongful foreclosure and eviction under the SCRA. Johnson v. MERS, Inc., No. 14-CV-10921, 2014 WL 6678951 (E.D. Mich. Nov. 25, 2014). The plaintiffs argued that, because the SCRA does not explicitly provide its own limitations period within which a suit must be brought, there was no limit for SCRA-based claims; however, the court rejected this argument. Following Supreme Court precedent, the court looked to the most analogous state law and applied its limitations period to the plaintiffs’ SCRA claim. The court considered, and ultimately rejected, plaintiffs’ argument to apply Michigan’s unlimited limitations period for egregious acts under the state’s criminal law. Similarly, the court held that both the ten-year limitations period for breach of contract and the six-year catch-all limitations period did not apply. Ultimately the court concluded that Michigan’s three-year statute of limitations for civil conversion claims was the most analogous to plaintiffs’ SCRA claims. As a result, plaintiffs’ claims were dismissed as time-barred.

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share
COMMENTS: Comments Off
TAGS: ,
POSTED IN: Courts, Mortgages

Ohio Appeals Court Rules Documents Flawed, Reverses Previous Foreclosure Judgment

On October 22, the Ninth District Court of Appeals reversed a summary judgment decision allowing a trust unit of a bank to foreclose on a home. In this case, the loan servicers were unable to prove who held the promissory note when the trust unit requested a foreclosure order from the trial court. Employees at both servicers failed to attach records relied upon in their respective affidavits, but rather provided copies of the promissory note, mortgage, and the assignment of the mortgage. The Court held that the copies “do not establish when or if the Bank came into possession of the Note or that the Bank was in possession of the Note at the time of the filing of the complaint.” Deutsche Bank Natl. Trust Co. v. Dvorak, 2014-Ohio-4652 29, Ohio. Ct. App., 27120 (Oct.22, 2014)

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

New York Appeals Court Clarifies Law on Out-of-State Affidavits

Recently, the New York Appellate Division held an affidavit supporting an Oklahoma bank’s motion to foreclose a New York mortgage conformed to New York statutory requirements. An affidavit acknowledged out of state must be accompanied by a certificate of conformity under N.Y. Civil Practice Law and Rules §2309(c), providing that an oath taken outside New York is treated as if taken in New York if accompanied by a certificate required to entitle a deed to be recorded in New York. Oaths acknowledged outside New York by non-New York notaries require a certificate of conformity in substantially the form set out in Real Property Law §309-b. Here, an affidavit of the holder’s senior foreclosure litigation specialist established the mortgage, the default and assignment of the mortgage. It was accompanied by a “Uniform, All Purpose Certificate of Acknowledgment” which substantially conformed to Real Property Law §309-b. The borrowers did not oppose the motion to foreclose; the holder was therefore entitled to judgment. Midfirst Bank v. Agho, 991 N.Y.S.2d 623 (Aug. 13, 2014).

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share
COMMENTS: Comments Off
TAGS:
POSTED IN: Mortgages, State Issues

Massachusetts Suit Against Fannie and Freddie Dismissed

On October 21, a federal judge dismissed the claims brought by the State AG that the GSEs violated state law by putting limits on the sale of pre- and post-foreclosure homes. Commonwealth v. Fed. Hous. Fin. Agency, No. 14-12878-RGS, 2014 BL 295733 (D. Mass. Oct. 21, 2014). In this case, the State argued that the GSEs violated a state law by refusing to sell homes in foreclosure to nonprofit organizations who intended to restructure the loan and sell or rent the property back to the original homeowner at a lower price. The 2012 state law forbids banks and lenders from refusing to consider offers from legitimate buyback programs solely because the property will be resold to the former homeowner. The judge dismissed the lawsuit agreeing with the FHFA, conservator of the GSEs, that the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA) allows the FHFA to enforce restrictions under its conservatorship mandate authorized by Congress. Further, the judge noted that “Congress, by enacting HERA’s Anti-Injunction Clause, expressly removed such conservatorship decisions from the courts’ oversight.” The State is expected to appeal the decision.

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

Nevada Supreme Court Holds Foreclosure Of A Homeowners Association’s Assessment Lien Extinguishes A First Mortgage

On September 18, the Nevada Supreme Court decided that a homeowners association may foreclose its assessment lien non-judicially and that the foreclosure extinguishes a first mortgage. SFR Investments Pool v. US Bank (130 Nev. Adv. Opinion 75, September 18, 2014). The lender argued that, because the “superlien” law gives an HOA lien priority over a first mortgage to the extent of nine months of unpaid dues, only nine months of unpaid dues should have priority over a first mortgage, not the entire assessment lien. The Nevada Supreme Court acknowledged competing views of “payment priority” and “lien priority” proponents, but ultimately sided with the lien priority camp because of the language of the superlien statute and general principles of lien priority. The Court suggested that lenders may prevent losses associated with HOA superliens by paying off the liens or by establishing escrow accounts for HOA assessments to avoid using its own funds. The Nevada decision is consistent with an August 28 decision on the same issue by the D.C. Court of Appeals in Chase Plaza Condominium Association v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, No. 13-CV-623 & 13-CV-674 (D.C. Cir. 2014).

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share
COMMENTS: Comments Off
TAGS:
POSTED IN: Courts, Mortgages

NYDFS to Investigate Potential Predatory Practices by Hard Money Lenders

On September 16, the NYDFS announced that they have issued subpoenas to nine “hard money” lenders, groups that originate short-term, high interest loans secured by a borrower’s home or other real estate, as part of a probe into whether such lenders are intentionally structuring loans with the expectation of foreclosing on the property. NYDFS noted that “[w]hile many hard money lenders may be engaged in legitimate financial activities, certain unscrupulous companies appear to be taking advantage of borrowers in tough financial straits by making loans that are designed to fail.” The NYDFS’s investigation is focused on whether the nine lenders are intentionally structuring hard money loans with onerous terms, such as high interest rates, numerous upfront fees, and enormous balloon payments, so that borrowers are driven into to default.

 

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

Foreclosure of DC Condominium Association’s Lien for Unpaid Assessments Extinguishes First Mortgage

(Chase Plaza Condominium Association, Inv. V. JP Morgan Chase Bank, No 13-CV-623 & 13-CV-674, decided August 28, 2014). In a case of first impression, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals held that a condominium association’s foreclosure of a lien for unpaid assessments extinguished the first mortgage on the unit. The District of Columbia’s condominium “super-priority lien” law (created in 1991) grants super-priority to condominium association liens for up to six months of unpaid assessments. The super-priority lien law does not specify what happens when the condominium association forecloses and the proceeds of the sale are insufficient to pay the first deed of trust. The Court of Appeals looked to general foreclosure law for guidance, finding that foreclosure of a lien with superior priority extinguishes liens with lower priority. Here, the $280,000 purchase money first mortgage was made in 2005, the owner’s assessments became delinquent in 2008, the association foreclosed its $9415 assessment lien in 2010, and the bidder at the foreclosure sale paid $10,000 for the property. The mortgagee sued to have the foreclosure set aside. The Court reasoned that the drafters of the super-priority lien law “understood that foreclosure of a super-priority lien could extinguish a first mortgage … but expected that mortgage lenders would take the necessary steps to prevent that result, either by requiring payment of assessments into an escrow account or by paying assessments themselves to prevent foreclosure,” and rejected the lender’s argument that permitting foreclosure of condominium assessment liens to extinguish first mortgages would be unreasonable as a matter of policy.

LinkedInFacebookTwitterGoogle+Share
COMMENTS: Comments Off
TAGS:
POSTED IN: Mortgages, State Issues