A New York judge ruled in Federal National Mortgage Assoc. v. Singer, 2015 NY Slip Op. 51038(U) (July 15, 2015 Sup. Ct., New York County) (Moulton, J.) (unpublished opinion), that two lenders will forfeit more $100,000 in interest payments on two mortgages because they did not act in good faith in negotiating a mortgage modification, as required by New York law. There is a lot of choice language in the opinion, but it is useful to read the judge’s summary of what the borrowers went through in trying to get the modification.
The judge disagreed with the lenders’ “positive assessment of the negotiations” as it was “belied” by the facts:
Fannie Mae delayed filing of Action No. 1 (filed on June 14, 2011) 17 and 1/2 months after the date of default. Counsel then delayed filing the RJI [Request for Judicial Intervention] for another three months after the answer was filed. The first settlement conference, scheduled on March 14, 2012, had to be rescheduled to May 2, 2012 due to Fannie Mae’s non-appearance, a one and one-half month delay. It took Fannie Mae and its counsel another five and 1/2 months to provide an explanation for why the two mortgages could not be merged or consolidated, and only after wasting time at two conferences in June and July attended by attorneys without knowledge of the case or settlement authority and only after my court attorney probed for answers. Thereafter, the Singers submitted the requested documentation for a loan modification of the 400-Mtge., despite confusing and conflicting requests by the Rosicki firm, by August 3, 2012. When that application became “stale,” the court directed the Singers to update the information and, finally, after another two-month delay, Seterus offered the Singers a trial modification plan on or about October 11, 2012. When the Singers received the permanent loan modification papers from Seterus in January 2013, they objected to the payment of $63,632.21 in accrued interest and the $5,605.23 accrued interest. It took many months for Seterus to admit its mistake on the escrow deficiency, and only after much prodding by the court for status updates. Seterus did not offer the Singers a new loan modification agreement until the very end of October 2013 — a whopping nine-month delay. Finally, it took Fannie Mae’s counsel another five months to reject the Singers’ January 1, 2014 counteroffer to pay $18,000 of the accrued interest.
Accordingly, the court holds that Fannie Mae and/or its counsel have acted in bad faith and have unreasonably delayed a resolution of this foreclosure action. As a result, interest should be tolled on the note and mortgage in the amount over and above 2% annually, for the period from September 30, 2011 (one month after Singers’ filing of their answer in Action No. 1) through the date of this Decision and Order. (10-11, footnotes omitted)
It is hard to really get how crazy the modification process can be in the abstract, so sitting with facts like these is a useful exercise. And this seems like the right result on these facts.
I have blogged before about the Kafkaesque struggles that borrowers face. Some deny that lenders behave this badly in general but the cases and the large scale settlements “belie” this too. What will it take to give borrowers a consistent and reasonable experience with mortgage modifications?