May 9, 2014
Three legal services providers issued Stalled Settlement Conferences: A Report on Residential Foreclosure Settlement Conferences in New York City. The report opens,
New York has coped with the foreclosure crisis by implementing a pioneering settlement conference process administered by the court system, designed to promote negotiation of affordable home-saving solutions. These conferences present a remarkable opportunity for lenders and borrowers to meet face-to-face in a court supervised settlement conference at which creative solutions can be forged, and have allowed thousands of New Yorkers to avert foreclosure. But banks routinely flout the law by appearing without required information or settlement authority, causing delays that cost borrowers money and can make home-saving settlements impossible. The process can be far more effective, and less prone to delay, if the courts rigorously enforce the requirements of the settlement conference law, as this report recommends.
Notwithstanding media reports about rebounding real estate markets, New York remains mired in a foreclosure crisis. In fact, in 2013 foreclosure cases represented approximately one third of the judiciary’s civil case load. New York State’s courts experienced a significant increase in foreclosure fi lings during 2013, with the pending inventory increasing more than 16% in 2013, with over 84,000 foreclosure cases pending as of the last report issued by the judiciary, and with 44,035 projected new filings for calendar year 2013 (representing an increase of nearly 20,000 new filings over 2012). (2)
This is clearly an advocacy document, but it is also clear that it is documenting a real problem, one that has cropped up time after time in judicial decisions. It may, however, go too far when it states that “banks and their lawyers themselves are largely responsible for prolonging the process.” (3) In fact, NY’s foreclosure process was longer than most before the mandatory conferences were implemented and remain long even as other jurisdictions adopt similar requirements.
Nonetheless, lenders should comply with the letter and spirit of the law. The report advocates for courts to “vigorously enforce the settlement conference law and deter banks from violating it by penalizing parties who appear in court without the authority and information needed to negotiate in good faith.” (2) Seems like a pretty reasonable recommendation to me.| Permalink