Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

July 6, 2015

Possession of Note Confers Standing to Foreclose

By David Reiss


Dale Whitman posted this discussion of Aurora Loan Services, LLC v. Taylor, 2015 WL 3616293 (N.Y. Ct. App., June 11, 2015) on the DIRT listserv:

There is nothing even slightly surprising about this decision, except that it sweeps away a lot of confused and irrelevant language found in decisions of the Appellate Division over the years. The court held simply holds (like nearly all courts that have considered the issue in recent years) that standing to foreclose a mortgage is conferred by having possession of the promissory note. Neither possession of the mortgage itself nor any assignment of the mortgage is necessary. “[T]he note was transferred to [the servicer] before the commencement of the foreclosure action — that is what matters.” And once a note is transferred, … “the mortgage passes as an incident to the note.” Here, there was a mortgage assignment, the validity of which the borrower attacked, but the attack made no difference; “The validity of the August 2009 assignment of the mortgage is irrelevant to [the servicer’s] standing.”

The opinion in Aurora makes it clear that prior Appellate Division statements are simply incorrect and confused when they suggest that standing would be conferred by an assignment of the mortgage without delivery of the note. See, e.g., GRP Loan LLC v. Taylor 95 A.D.3d at 1174, 945 N.Y.S.2d 336; Deutsche Bank Trust Co. v. Codio, 94 A.D.3d 1040, 1041, 943 N.Y.S.2d 545 [2d Dept 2012].) For an excellent analysis of why these decisions are wrong, see Bank of New York Mellon v. Deane, 970 N.Y.S.2d 427  (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2013).

The Aurora decision implicitly rejects such cases as Erobobo, which suppose that the failure to comply with a Pooling and Servicing Agreement would somehow prevent the servicer from foreclosing. In the present case, the loan was securitized in 2006, but the note was delivered to the servicer on May 20, 2010, only four days before filing the foreclosure action. This presented no problem at all the court. If the servicer had possession at the time of the filing of the case (as it did), it had standing. (I must concede, however, that the rejection is only implicit, since the Erobobo theory was not argued in Aurora.)

If there is a weakness in the Aurora decision, it is its failure to determine whether the note was negotiable, and (assuming it was) to analyze the application UCC Article 3’s “person entitled to enforce” language. But this is not much of a criticism, since it is very likely that under New York law, the right to enforce would be transferred by delivery of the note to the servicer even if the note were nonnegotiable.

It has taken the Court of Appeals a long time to get around to cleaning up this area of the law, but its work is exactly on target.

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