August 29, 2013
Judge Kennelly has ruled that a homeowner can challenge a mortgage assignment under Illinois law in Elesh v. MERS et al., No. 12 C 10355 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 16, 2013). The Court stated that
Defendants argue that Elesh is not a party to the assignment and thus lacks standing to challenge it. Only one of the cases upon which defendants rely, however, is an Illinois case, and that case makes it clear that this supposed “rule” has exceptions. See Bank of America Nat’l Ass’n v. Bassman FBT, LLC, No. 2-11-0729, 2012 IL App (2d) 110729, 981 N.E.2d 1, 6-11 (2012). The basic requirements of standing are that the plaintiff suffered an injury to a legally cognizable interest and is asserting his own legal rights rather than those of a third party. See id. at 6. Elesh unquestionably meets the first requirement; the recorded assignment constitutes a cloud on his title, and Deutsche Bank recently relied on the assignment to prosecute a foreclosure action against him. Elesh also has a viable argument that in challenging the validity of the assignment, he is asserting his own rights and not someone else’s rights. For example, given Deutsche Bank’s apparent lack of possession of the original note, Elesh is put at risk of multiple liability as long as Deutsche Bank claims to hold the mortgage. See id. at 7-8 (citing cases indicating that an obligor has an interest in ensuring that he will not have to pay the same claim twice). In any event, Illinois law, to the extent there is much of it on this point, appears to recognize an obligor’s right to attack an assignment as void or invalid under certain circumstances. (3)
This is a pretty significant case, at least in Illinois, as it provides homeowners with a way to defend against a foreclosure action that does not rely upon whether the loan is in default or not. The Court takes seriously the possibility that the homeowner could otherwise be liable for the same debt twice. Commentators and courts have downplayed that risk, so it is notable that this Court has taken this position. Time will tell if other courts do so as well.
[HT April Charney]| Permalink