Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

October 9, 2013

Enforcing The Mortgage Note

By David Reiss

Elizabeth Renuart has posted Uneasy Intersections: The Right to Foreclose and the UCC to SSRN. This is a subject that Brad and I have touched on a bit in the context of the Show Me The Note! defense, but Renuart has done a magisterial fifty state review of how state foreclosure laws interact with the Uniform Commercial Code which has been adopted in all 50 states (NY has an older version it on the books for now). The case law in this area is incredibly confused and confusing.  The article helps to chart a path to navigate the intersection between these two areas of law.

Renuart provides a taxonomy of the caselaw, dividing it into three categories:

1.  The UCC States: “courts in these states explicitly join the right to foreclose on a mortgage that secures the negotiable note with the” UCC. (44)

2.  The Foreclosure-Statute-Definition States: “the courts focus on relevant words in the state’s foreclosure statute, such as ‘mortgagee’ where mortgages are used, ‘beneficiary’ where deeds of trust are used, ‘holder’, or ‘owner.’ Next, they determine if that state’s legislature intended that these designations refer to the note holder or the one with the right to act on behalf of the note holder. These courts may or may not reference the UCC in their decisions but the result generally is consistent with” the UCC. (45)

3.  The UCC- Does-Not-Apply States: “courts in these states reason that the state’s foreclosure scheme is comprehensive, inclusive of the prerequisites to foreclose, or does not define the secured party as the one entitled to repayment on the secured monetary obligation. As a result, the UCC does not apply in any way to identify the party who possesses the right to foreclose. To date, these decisions have arisen exclusively in nonjudicial foreclosure states.” (47)

She concludes that the “methodology utilized in Category 1 and 2 states properly harmonizes the relevant UCC rules with state foreclosure law. Category 3 states dismiss the UCC’s role outright. It is these decisions that muddy the law and create inconsistent outcomes from state to state.” (47-48)

It is no exaggeration to say that the discussions about this topic in the blogosphere are virtually incoherent, so this article may provide guidance for those who are looking for it.

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