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  • Fannie and Freddie extend temporary suspension of foreclosure sales

    Federal Issues

    On March 7, Fannie Mae, in Lender Letter LL-2018-01, and Freddie Mac, in Guide Bulletin 2018-04, extended the suspension of foreclosure sales through May 31 of mortgaged properties in FEMA-declared disaster areas in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands due to Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

    Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on Disaster Relief here.

    Federal Issues Disaster Relief Fannie Mae Freddie Mac Foreclosure Mortgages

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  • FHA and VA extend foreclosure moratoriums on certain disaster areas

    Federal Issues

    On March 1, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) released Mortgagee Letter ML 2018-02 (ML 2018-02), which extends the 180-day foreclosure moratorium on FHA-insured properties in Puerto Rico & the U.S. Virgin Islands affected by Hurricane Maria for an additional 60-days. The foreclosure moratorium is now in effect until May 18.

    The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) also released updates to VA circulars 26-17-23, 26-17-27, and 26-17-28, extending the foreclosure moratorium on VA-insured properties affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria from 180 days to 270 days.

    Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on disaster relief here.

    Federal Issues Disaster Relief Foreclosure Mortgages Department of Veterans Affairs FHA

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  • 5th Circuit affirms dismissal of claims against bank but not Fannie Mae in foreclosure suit


    On February 26, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit issued an opinion in a foreclosure dispute ruling that a lower court wrongly dismissed a breach of contract claim against Fannie Mae but was correct in dismissing the claim against a national bank that serviced the loan (bank). According to the opinion, a group of companies and investors (plaintiffs/appellants) constructed a low-income housing program (earning low income housing tax credits) through the financing of a loan by one of the companies secured by a deed of trust later assigned to Fannie Mae and serviced by the bank. When the plaintiffs/appellants defaulted on the loan, Fannie Mae accelerated the note and instituted non-judicial foreclosure proceedings pursuant to the deed; however, the plaintiffs/appellants alleged that some of the notices of acceleration and foreclosure were not received, and when the foreclosure sale proceeded and the IRS “recaptured” the tax credits earned on the project, the plaintiffs/appellants brought suit against Fannie Mae and the bank for, among other things, breach of contract based on the deed of trust and wrongful foreclosure. After granting a motion for rehearing, the lower court granted the bank’s motion for summary judgment, stating it did not breach a contract because it was not a party to the deed of trust. The lower court also dismissed the breach of contract claims against Fannie Mae and the bank, holding that because the plaintiffs/appellants defaulted on the deed of trust, they had no standing to sue based on a breach of that agreement.

    In affirming in part and reversing in part, the three-judge panel determined that although the bank was the loan servicer at the time of default, “once Fannie Mae was notified of default, Fannie Mae became the loan servicer” and therefore the “primary point of contact.” Therefore, “[b]ecause the only claim on appeal is for breach of contract based on the [d]eed of [t]rust, and [the bank] was never a party to the [d]eed of [t]rust, [the bank] has no liability.” However, concerning the breach of contract against Fannie Mae for failing to serve notice of foreclosure to appellants, the panel reversed the lower court’s decision, stating that this particular breach “exists as a stand-alone cause of action,” separate from a claim of wrongful foreclosure. Further, the “obligation to give notice of foreclosure would not even arise unless and until the [plaintiffs/appellants] were in default under the note.” The 5th Circuit remanded the case back to the lower court for review.

    Courts Appellate Fifth Circuit Foreclosure Fannie Mae Mortgages Mortgage Servicing

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  • Florida judge rules borrower failed to establish RESPA private right of action


    On February 20, a federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida issued an opinion and order against a borrower after a two-day bench trial, finding that the borrower failed to establish a private right of action for any of her alleged RESPA violations. According to the opinion, one of the defendants, a mortgage company, initiated foreclosure proceedings against the borrower for failing to pay required insurance and tax associated with her reverse mortgage. During this period, the mortgage company purchased force-placed insurance through an insurance intermediary company to protect its collateral for the reverse mortgage. When the borrower later brought the account current, the mortgage company dismissed the foreclosure complaint. However, the borrower filed a suit against the mortgage company for failing to “advance insurance premiums on her behalf through an escrow account” and against the second defendant, an insurance company, for procuring a policy that “tortiously interfered” with her business relationship with the mortgage company. Specifically, the borrower alleged the procedure used to obtain the force-placed rates violated Florida Insurance Code Section 626.916, and were, therefore, “not bona fide and reasonable under RESPA.”

    However, the judge ruled that none of the borrower’s claims created a private right of action under RESPA, and furthermore, the borrower could not “bootstrap Section 626.916 through another cause of action.” Additionally, the judge noted that counsel for the borrower was unable to provide case law authority to support the “proposition that [the borrower’s] RESPA claim could be premised on a Florida statue which lacked a private right of action.” Concerning the borrower’s allegations of tortious interference against the insurance company, the judge concluded that the claim failed to show that the insurance company “intentionally or unjustifiably” interfered with her relationship with the mortgage company.

    Courts State Issues RESPA Mortgages Reverse Mortgages Foreclosure Force-placed Insurance

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  • Alabama extends right of redemption period

    State Issues

    On February 22, Alabama enacted HB 90, which amends the Code of Alabama section relating to the right of redemption on residential property. The amendment provides for a one-year right of redemption period after the foreclosure sale date. Alabama requires a mortgagee to mail a notice of a mortgagor’s right of redemption at least 30 days prior to the foreclosure sale, and the amendment allows the mortgagee to use the proof of mailing of the notice as an affirmative defense to any notice requirement action. Finally, the amendment reduces the time all actions related to the notice requirement must be brought from two years to one year after the date of foreclosure.

    State Issues Mortgages Foreclosure Redemption State Legislation

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  • NJ appeals court says consumer should have litigated issues in original foreclosure action


    On January 31, the Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed the lower court’s decision that a widower (plaintiff) should have raised improper foreclosure allegations during the final foreclosure action and cannot subsequently litigate the issues in a different forum. According to the opinion, in 2009, the bank initiated a foreclosure complaint against the plaintiff’s husband (borrower) and the borrower raised no defenses to the complaint. The borrower then initiated a modification request, which the bank ultimately denied due to title liens, and a final foreclosure judgment was entered at the end of 2010. The borrower filed an appeal to the foreclosure action but the plaintiff ultimately withdrew it after the borrower died. The current litigation was filed after the final foreclosure judgment was entered and asserted, among other things, that the foreclosure was improper due to the modification curing the default. The lower court dismissed two of the plaintiff’s claims because she was not a party to the original mortgage or modification attempt and granted summary judgment for the bank on the remaining claims because the “issue of the enforceability of the 2010 loan modification agreement is at the heart of plaintiff's claims and was directly related to the foreclosure action and should have been raised as part of that litigation.” The appeals court agreed with the lower court’s reasoning noting that the plaintiff “attempted to litigate the same issue in two forums.”

    Courts Mortgages Foreclosure Appellate

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  • Massachusetts AG fines nonbank for alleged mortgage servicing concerns


    On January 30, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced a settlement with a nonbank mortgage servicer to resolve allegations concerning unfair and deceptive mortgage modifications made by the servicer that put borrowers at a heightened risk of foreclosure. According to the state’s press release, in making modifications, the servicer allegedly violated Massachusetts’ Act Preventing Unlawful and Unnecessary Foreclosures (the “Act”), which offers foreclosure protections to borrowers, including requiring “creditors to make a good faith effort to avoid foreclosure for borrowers whose mortgage loans have unfair subprime terms.”  Specifically, the AG’s office found that the servicer had violated the Act by offering “unfair and deceptive short-term, interest-only loan modifications” to borrowers without considering the borrowers’ ability to repay. In support of claim against the servicer, the Massachusetts AG pointed to the fact that “[a]fter one or two years, the monthly payments on those modifications ballooned to an amount higher” than what the borrower was paying when the default originally occurred. This practice, Healy stated, increased the risk of foreclosure and thus violated the Act. According to the AG’s press release, in addition to providing $500,000 in restitution to certain borrowers affected by foreclosures, the servicer is also required to provide “millions of dollars” in principal reductions to affected borrowers.

    Lending State Attorney General State Issues Mortgage Servicing Foreclosure Mortgages

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  • 10th Circuit reverses lower court decision in mortgage action

    State Issues

    On January 23, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit reversed a District Court’s decision dismissing a borrower’s claims against a lender and mortgage loan servicer (collectively, “defendants”) under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which prohibits lower federal courts from reviewing state court civil judgments. Colorado maintains a unique procedure for non-judicial foreclosure. Specifically, under Rule 120 of the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure (“Rule 120”) a trustee is required to obtain a trial court ruling that a “reasonable probability” of default exists before moving forward with a non-judicial foreclosure. According to the opinion, in 2014, the defendants initiated a non-judicial foreclosure proceeding against the borrower through the Rule 120 process. Prior to completing the sale, however, the borrower filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado seeking, among other things, an injunction against the sale, damages, and cancellation of the promissory note. Relying on the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the District Court dismissed the borrower’s suit as an attempt to unwind the results of the Rule 120 proceedings. The 10th Circuit reversed this decision based on its finding that the borrower’s suit did not challenge the Rule 120 state court decision, but rather took issue with the defendant’s actions prior to the state court proceedings. In reaching this conclusion, the 10th Circuit noted that even if the borrower had filed suit after the Rule 120 judgment had been entered, unless the borrower was alleging the state court wrongfully entered the judgment, the suit would not be barred by Rooker-Feldman.

    State Issues Mortgages Foreclosure Tenth Circuit Appellate

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  • 10th Circuit says FDCPA does not cover non-judicial foreclosures


    On January 19, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit affirmed a lower court decision that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) does not cover non-judicial foreclosures in Colorado. In affirming the District Court’s dismissal of the case, the 10th Circuit reasoned that non-judicial foreclosures in Colorado do not constitute an attempt to collect money from a debtor because the state only allows the trustee to obtain payment from the sale of the foreclosed property and a deficiency judgment must be sought through a separate action. According to the opinion, in 2014, a mortgage servicer hired a law firm to initiate a non-judicial foreclosure and the law firm sent the homeowner a letter indicating that it “may be considered to be a debt collector attempting to collect a debt.” The homeowner then filed a complaint in District Court against the firm and the mortgage servicer for FDCPA violations, which was subsequently dismissed. The 10th Circuit reasoned that the mortgage servicer was not considered a debt collector under the law because servicing initiated prior to the loan’s default and the law firm’s communications with the homeowner never attempted to induce payment. The opinion acknowledges that many courts are split on this topic and emphasizes that the holding does not apply to judicial foreclosures.

    Courts State Issues Mortgages Foreclosure FDCPA Debt Collection Appellate Tenth Circuit Litigation

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  • Servicemember and bank settle SCRA issue, dismiss Supreme Court request


    On January 5, the Supreme Court dismissed a servicemember’s petition for a writ of certiorari after receiving a Stipulation of Dismissal from both parties who agreed to settle the dispute. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the servicemember filed the petition after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision that the servicemember was not entitled to the protections against non-judicial foreclosures under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The lower court concluded that because the servicemember “incurred his mortgage obligation during his service in the Navy, the obligation was not subject to SCRA protection” even through the servicemember, after a discharge period, later re-enlisted with the Army.

    Courts U.S. Supreme Court SCRA Foreclosure Settlement Fourth Circuit Appellate

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