New Protections for Homeowners

Consumers Digest quoted me in Protections Coming for Homeowners. It opens,

New rules that cover mortgage servicing aren’t dramatic, but they should help certain consumers, experts say. In August 2016, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau finalized rules that focus on foreclosure protections and delinquencies.

“These changes are more at the margins,” says David Reiss, who is a law professor at Brooklyn Law School. “It’s looking at normal situations that occur and adding protections for consumers.”

The new rules, which are expected to take effect by 2018, would prevent dual tracking. Dual tracking is when foreclosure proceedings start while a homeowner who is current on his/her mortgage awaits a decision about a request to work with the loan servicer to avoid foreclosure. (This request is known as loss mitigation.)

In addition, borrowers who are current on their mortgage since a prior loss-mitigation application can avoid foreclosure by having their application reviewed again if they have unexpected financial difficulties. Loan servicers also have to notify borrowers when a loss-mitigation application is complete. Finally, if a borrower is in foreclosure and his/her loan is transferred to another servicer, he/she won’t have to restart the loss-mitigation application process with the new servicer.

The Sloppy State of the Mortgage Market

photo by Badagnani

I published a short article in the California Real Property Law Reporter, Sloppy, Sloppy, Sloppy: The State of the Mortgage Market, as part of a broader discussion of Foreclosures Following Problematic Securitizations.  The other contributors were Roger Bernhardt, who organized the discussion,  as well as Dale Whitman, Steven Bender, April Charney and Joseph Forte.  My article opens,

Much of the discussion about the recent California Supreme Court case Yvanova v New Century Mortgage Corp. (2016) 62 C4th 919  has focused on the scope of the Court’s narrow holding, “a borrower who has suffered a nonjudicial foreclosure [in California] does not lack standing to sue for wrongful foreclosure based on an allegedly void assignment merely because he or she was in default on the loan and was not a party to the challenged assignment.” 62 C4th at 924. This is an important question, no doubt, but I want to spend a little time contemplating the types of sloppy behavior at issue in the case and what consequences should result from that behavior.

Sloppy Practices All Over

The lender in Yvanova was the infamous New Century Mortgage Corporation, once the second-largest subprime lender in the nation.  New Century was so infamous that it even had a cameo role in the recently released movie, The Big Short, in which its 2007 bankruptcy filing marked the turning point in the market’s understanding of the fundamentally diseased condition of the subprime market.

New Century was infamous for its “brazen” behavior.  The Final Report of the National Commission on the Causes of the Financial and Economic Crisis in the United States (Jan. 2011) (Report) labeled it so because of its aggressive origination practices.  See Report at page 186. It noted that New Century “ignored early warnings that its own loan quality was deteriorating and stripped power from two risk-control departments that had noted the evidence.” Report at p 157. And it quotes a former New Century fraud specialist as saying, “[t]he definition of a good loan changed from ‘one that pays’ to ‘one that could be sold.”  Report at p 105.

This type of brazen behavior was endemic throughout the mortgage industry during the subprime boom in the early 2000s.  As Brad Borden and I have documented, Wall Street firms flagrantly disregarded the real estate mortgage investment conduit (REMIC) rules and regulations that must be complied with to receive favorable tax treatment for a mortgage-backed security, although the IRS has let them dodge this particular bullet.  Borden & Reiss, REMIC Tax Enforcement as Financial-Market Regulator, 16 U Penn J Bus L 663 (Spring 2014).

The sloppy practices were not limited to the origination of mortgages. They were prevalent in the servicing of them as well. The National Mortgage Settlement entered into in February 2012, by 49 states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government, on the one hand, and the country’s five largest mortgage servicers, on the other, provided for over $50 billion in relief for distressed borrowers and in payments to the government entities. While this settlement was a significant hit for the industry, industry sloppy practices were not ended by it. For information about the Settlement, see Joint State-Federal National Mortgage Servicing Settlements and the State of California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General, Mortgage Settlements: Homeowners.

As the subprime crisis devolved into the foreclosure crisis, we have seen those sloppy practices have persisted through the lifecycle of the subprime mortgage, with case after case revealing horrifically awful behavior on the part of lenders and servicers in foreclosure proceedings.  I have written about many of these Kafka-esque cases on  One typical case describes how borrowers have “been through hell” in dealing with their mortgage servicer. U.S. Bank v Sawyer (2014) 95 A3d 608, 612 n5.  Another typical case found that a servicer committed the tort of outrage because its “conduct, if proven, is beyond the bounds of decency and utterly intolerable in our community.” Lucero v Cenlar, FSB (WD Wash 2014) 2014 WL 4925489, *7.  And Yvanova alleges more of the same.

Georgia Court Dismisses RESPA, TILA, and HOEPA Claims

The court in deciding Mitchell v. Deutsche Bank Nat’l Trust Co., 2013 U.S. Dist. (N.D. Ga., 2013) granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

Plaintiffs Reginald and Jamela Mitchell claimed that the defendants Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. and MERS violated the Truth-in-Lending Act (“TILA”), the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”), the Home Ownership Equity Protection Act (“HOEPA”) and state law by commencing foreclosure proceedings against Plaintiffs’ home.

After consideration of the plaintiff’s assertions, the court concluded that the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

Alabama Court Reverses Lower Court’s Decision Granting Summary Judgment to Foreclosing Entity

The court in deciding Sturdivant v. BAC Home Loan Servicing, LP, 2013 Ala. Civ. App. (Ala. Civ. App., 2013) reversed the lower court’s ruling that granted summary judgment to a foreclosing entity with respect to its complaint in ejectment against a mortgagor under Ala. Code § 6-6-280(b).

The court’s decision was based on the fact that the foreclosing entity presented no evidence that it was either the assignee of the mortgage or the holder of the note at the time it foreclosed, it failed to present a prima facie case that it had the authority to foreclose and, thus, had valid title to or the right to possess the property–one of the elements of its claim in ejectment.

Georgia Court Dismisses TILA and RESPA Claims Brought by Plaintiff

The court in deciding Mitchell v. Deutsche Bank Nat’l Trust Co., 2013 U.S. Dist. (N.D. Ga. Sept. 25, 2013) granted the motion to dismiss proffered by the defendant.

The first enumerated cause of action in Plaintiffs’ complaint was a claim for fraud. Plaintiffs argued that their original mortgage lender, Accredited, engaged in a practice of filing false prospectus supplements with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Plaintiffs’ complaint also included a claim for wrongful foreclosure.

Next, the plaintiffs asserted that Deutsche Bank and MERS had “unclean hands” as they failed to make certain disclosures required by TILA. Plaintiffs also asserted that the defendants or their predecessors in interest violated RESPA in a number of ways. Plaintiffs’ complaint also included a claim for fraud in the inducement. Moreover, the plaintiffs’ complaint raised a claim for quiet title under O.C.G.A. § 23-3-40 and O.C.G.A. § 23-3-60 et seq. Lastly, the plaintiffs’ complaint raised a claim for fraudulent assignment.

Ultimately the court concluded that the plaintiffs’ complaint failed to state a viable claim for relief. Accordingly, this court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ complaint.

California Court Holds that the Securitization of Mortgage Loan did not Nullify Rights Granted Under Deed, Including the Right to Foreclose

The court in deciding Rivac v. Ndex West LLC, 2013 U.S. Dist. (N.D. Cal. Dec. 17, 2013) granted the motion to dismiss tendered by the defendant.

Plaintiffs filed a complaint that alleged eight causes of action including; (1) breach of contract, (2) breach of implied agreement, (3) slander of title, (4) wrongful foreclosure, (5) violation of § 17200, (6) violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1601, et seq. (TILA) (7) violation of 12 U.S.C. § 2605 (RESPA), and (8) violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1692, et seq. (FDCPA).

After considering the plaintiff’s contentions, the court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss. The court then held that the securitization of borrowers’ mortgage loan did not nullify any rights granted under a deed of trust, including the right to foreclose against the borrowers’ real property upon the borrowers’ default.

Further, the absence of the original promissory note in the nonjudicial foreclosure did not render the foreclosure invalid. Moreover, the court held that mere allegations that documents related to the deed of trust were robo-signed by persons who had no authority to execute the documents had no effect on the validity of the foreclosure process.

Lastly, the court held that there was no breach of the deed of trust since the beneficiary was expressly authorized to sell the underlying note, and the borrowers themselves did not perform under the deed of trust.