Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

April 18, 2013

Washington State Court Holds that Defendants Could Not Challenge Chase’s Authority to Foreclose During an Unlawful Detainer Action

By Justin Rothman

In JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Pace, 163 Wash.App 1017 (2011), the Court of Appeals of Washington affirmed a lower court’s ruling granting Plaintiff summary judgment.

In the case at hand, Defendants owned real property in Washington. In February 2005, they executed a note and deed of trust in favor of Long Beach Mortgage Company. Through a series of transactions, the plaintiff, JPMorgan Chase Bank N.A. (Chase), became the holder of the defendants’ note. The defendants stopped paying their mortgage in October 2008. Chase issued a notice of default in March 2009 and notices of foreclosure and trustee’s sale in April 2009. The notices warned that the property would be sold at auction on July 24, 2009 unless the defendants sought to restrain the sale under Washington law. As required by law, Chase also advised that “failure to bring such a lawsuit may result in a waiver of any proper grounds for invalidating the Trustee’s sale.” The defendants did not contest the default or attempt to restrain the trustee’s sale. Chase acquired the deed at the sale, and on August 24, 2009, Chase recorded the deed and issued a notice to vacate. When the defendants refused, Chase commenced and unlawful detainer action.

The defendants argued that Chase lacked standing to bring the unlawful detainer action because Chase had no authority to foreclose on the note. The court, however, rejected this argument and stated that the defendants could not litigate Chase’s authority to foreclose during an unlawful detainer action. Rather, an unlawful detainer action under Washington law “is a summary proceeding for obtaining possession of real property. The court’s jurisdiction is limited to determining which party is entitled to possession and ancillary issues such as damages and rent due.” The court went on to say that if the defendants believed Chase lacked authority to foreclose, Washington law required them to raise the issue before the trustee’s sale. The court concluded that, by their silence, the defendants waived any objection to the foreclosure proceedings, and unlawful detainer actions “do not provide a forum for litigating claims to title.” Thus, the court affirmed the grant of Chase’s summary judgment.

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