Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

September 18, 2013

Show Me The Note, NY Style

By David Reiss

Steiner, Goldstein & Sohn published a short article in the New York Law Journal, Clearing The Confusion:  Misplaced Notes and Allonges (Sept. 18, 2012) (behind a paywall). While intended to address commercial real estate finance, it relies on an interesting residential real estate finance case, Bank of N.Y. Mellon v. Deane, 2013 Slip Op. 23244 (Sup. Ct. Kings Country July 11, 2013). The authors write that

Mortgage assignments, when properly drafted, assign both the mortgage and the note. Assuming the chain of mortgage assignments is intact, lenders can gain comfort knowing that under New York case law they have standing to enforce the full amount of the debt evidenced by these assignments. Nevertheless, defendants in foreclosure proceedings often challenge the lenders’ standing to enforce the note, demanding that lenders demonstrate physical possession of the note to initiate a foreclosure despite the fact that physical possession is not required by the law.

They conclude:

New York courts in the cases described herein consistently follow well-established precedent permitting standing in a foreclosure action without the plaintiff having physical possession of the original notes. New York case law makes clear that physical possession of all notes in a chain of loan assignments and refinancings is unnecessary for standing in a foreclosure action and that proper execution of a [Consolidated Extension and Modification Agreement] is sufficient to confer standing when missing notes have been consolidated. Likewise, inclusion of an allonge or other endorsement for every note transfer is not required under New York law for standing in a foreclosure action when the note has been assigned by other means, such as through a properly drafted assignment of mortgage.

The article’s discussion of Deane is most interesting:

the court found physical possession of the note to be determinative regardless of whether a written assignment was executed. The court criticized the approach followed by case law in New York, stating that allowing an assignee to have standing without possession of the note “would be inconsistent with Revised Article 3, and put New York out-of-step with the 49 states that have adopted the revision[.]” Notably, however, New York has opted not to adopt those proposed revisions to Article 3. The court continued, “that misstep, however, if such it is, has apparently already been taken. The case law quoted and cited above clearly speaks, in the disjunctive, of standing obtained by ‘assignment’ or ‘physical delivery’ of the note[.]”

I will return to Deane in a later post.

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