February 24, 2016
Challenging Wrongful Foreclosures
The California Supreme Court issued an opinion a few days ago that has been getting a lot of attention, Yvanova v. New Century Mortgage Corp., S218973 (Feb. 18, 2016). The opinion opens by noting that
The collapse in 2008 of the housing bubble and its accompanying system of home loan securitization led, among other consequences, to a great national wave of loan defaults and foreclosures. One key legal issue arising out of the collapse was whether and how defaulting homeowners could challenge the validity of the chain of assignments involved in securitization of their loans. (1)
The Court concludes that
a home loan borrower has standing to claim a nonjudicial foreclosure was wrongful because an assignment by which the foreclosing party purportedly took a beneficial interest in the deed of trust was not merely voidable but void, depriving the foreclosing party of any legitimate authority to order a trustee’s sale. (30)
First, let us be clear what it is NOT saying: “We do not hold or suggest that a borrower may attempt to preempt a threatened nonjudicial foreclosure by a suit questioning the foreclosing party’s right to proceed.” (2) This is an important distinction between challenging a nonjudicial foreclosure and having standing to bring a wrongful foreclosure tort action.
And let us be clear as to what it is saying: if a homeowner argues that that an assignment of a deed of trust is void, that can provide the basis for a wrongful foreclosure action because it “is no mere ‘procedural nicety,’ from a contractual point of view, to insist that only those with authority to foreclose on a borrower be permitted to do so.” (22) Quoting Adam Levitin, the Court finds that
“Such a view fundamentally misunderstands the mortgage contract. The mortgage contract is not simply an agreement that the home may be sold upon a default on the loan. Instead, it is an agreement that if the homeowner defaults on the loan, the mortgagee may sell the property pursuant to the requisite legal procedure.” (23, italics changed)
Sounds like common sense to me.