Tag Archives: 2923.6

Foreclosure in California

16 Mar

925-957-9797

ISSUE:

Many Californians in default on their mortgage and facing foreclosure have filed quiet title and wrongful foreclosure actions. What is a quiet title action against a lender, and are plaintiffs successful in California?

BRIEF ANSWER:                                                                                                         

            A quiet title action in California to determine the owner of property does not generally allow a mortgage borrower in default on their payments to claim title to the land free of liens. However, the action when combined with a wrongful foreclosure claim is often successful in extending the amount of time a defaulted borrower can remain in the house. While in essence, this is simply prolonging the inevitable, it can give a borrower a temporary feeling of control over their own destiny.

DISCUSSION:

Quiet Title Actions as a Defense to Foreclosure

A cause of action to quiet title seeks to determine adverse claims to real or personal property. (Cal. Code Civ. § 760.020.) The action is commonly commenced by homeowners when a lender wrongfully forecloses on their property. My research has not found a favorable California decision quieting title in a mortgage borrower challenging foreclosure. The filing of quiet title actions only prolongs the amount of time a borrower can remain in a house after defaulting.

Theory behind the current suits

The UCC governs negotiable instruments such as mortgages, and it defines a loan as a transferable, signed document that promises to pay the bearer a sum of money at a future date or on demand. Most mortgages are made by investment banks, who then package many similar loans into a mortgage backed security and sell the securities. To convert the mortgages into stocks, each mortgage note must be destroyed. A mortgage and a stock certificate cannot exist at the same time. This creates a gap in the chain of title, and theoretically making the loan invalid. As a result, homeowners can fight foreclosure through a quiet title action and receive clear title. The current trend to argue a break in chain of title is weak, because a “plaintiff may recover only upon the strength of his or her own title, however, and not upon the weakness of the defendant’s title.” (Ernie v. Trinity Lutheran Church (1959) 51 Cal.2d 702, 706.)

A promissory note is usually secured by a deed of trust in the real property. The trust names the security owner as the beneficiary and a loan servicer as the trustee. A trust is a form of ownership in which the legal title of a property is vested in a trustee, who has equitable duties to hold and manage it for the benefit of the beneficiaries. (Restatement of Trusts, Second, §2 (1959).) The trustee under a valid trust deed has exclusive control over the trust property. Usually, the lender records a deed of trust with the county to secure the loan to the debtor. The deeds identify the trustee, and most often identify Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS) as the nominal beneficiary.

Challenges to MERS

MERS is a company created by the banking industry to bypass recording statutes and filing fees. MERS records who currently owns the notes on a mortgage. A foreclosure may be brought in the name of MERS, and the trustee may act on behalf of MERS to effectuate a non-judicial foreclosure. MERS may also directly initiate a foreclosure proceeding, and California’s “statutory scheme (§§ 2924–2924k) does not provide for a preemptive suit challenging standing.” (Robinson v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., (2011) 199 Cal. App. 4th 42, 46.)

The MERS system of foreclosure has been upheld in California based upon two rationales. First, courts have held that MERS, acting as the agent of the beneficial owner, does not need to prove authorization by the beneficiary to foreclose. (Gomes v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. (2011) 192 Cal.App.4th 1149, 55-56.) Second, contract law legitimizes the system, because recent deeds of trust require that the borrower agree that MERS can proceed with foreclosure in the event of default. (Id. at 1157.)

Procedural Requirements for Plaintiffs

California mortgagors must file in the Superior Court, which has the authority to grant the equitable relief of quieting title in an individual. (Cal. Code Civ. §760.040.) Once a party has filed the action, they must file a notice of pendency with the office of the county recorder. (Id. §762.010(b).) This notice puts all other parties who are claiming the party on notice that the plaintiff is claiming the land as his, and stops any transfers of the property during the lawsuit.

To survive a demurer, A plaintiff must file a verified complaint that includes: (1) A legal description and street address of the subject real property; (2) The title of plaintiff as to which determination is sought and the basis of the title; (3) The adverse claims to the title of the plaintiff against which a determination is sought; (4) The date as of which the determination is sought; and (5) A prayer for the determination of the title of the plaintiff against the adverse claims. It is highly likely that a claim merely alleging that the plaintiff has an interest in the land will not make it past a demurer. (See Mangindin v. Washington Mut. Bank, 637 F. Supp. 2d 700, 712 (N.D. Cal. 2009) (Dismissing claim merely alleging plaintiff had an interest in land foreclosed upon by bank).)

Tender Rule

A plaintiff seeking to quiet title in the face of a foreclosure must allege tender, which is “an unconditional offeror an offer of performance of their obligations under the Note, made in good faith, with the ability and willingness to perform.” The “Tender Rule” is derived from several cases involving disputes between junior and senior lienholders. (See Arnolds Mgmt. Corp. v. Eishen (1984) 158 Cal. App. 3d 575, 580; FPCI RE-HAB 01 v. E & G Investments, Ltd. (1989) 207 Cal.App.3d 1018, 1022.)

The policy behind the rule is that it would be a useless act to set aside a foreclosure sale based upon a procedural defect when a mortgage borrower cannot redeem the property in absence of that defect. (Karlsen v. American Sav. & Loan Assn. (1971) 15 Cal.App.3d 112, 118.) Some courts interpret the Tender Rule to only require that the mortgage borrower tender delinquent pre-foreclosure payments prior to any claim of quiet title. (Id. at 117; Ghervescu v. Wells Fargo Home Mortg., Inc., 2005 WL 6559918.)

Recently, defendants have successfully demurred to plaintiff’s complaints for quiet title for failure to allege valid tender. (Vasquez v. OneWest Bank, FSB (Cal. Ct. App., Nov. 4, 2011, B225624) 2011 WL 5248294; Dupree v. Merrill Lynch Mortg. Lending, Inc. (Cal. Ct. App., Oct. 24, 2011, B225150) 2011 WL 5142051 (Affirming demurrer and denial of leave to amend complaint).)

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90% Forclosures Wrongful

1 Jan

A wrongful foreclosure action typically occurs when the lender starts a non judicial foreclosure action when it simply has no legal cause. This is even more evident now since California passed the Foreclosure prevention act of 2008 SB 1194 codified in Civil code 2923.5 and 2923.6. In 2009 it is this attorneys opinion that 90% of all foreclosures are wrongful in that the lender does not comply (just look at the declaration page on the notice of default). The lenders most notably Indymac, Countrywide, and Wells Fargo have taken a calculated risk. To comply would cost hundreds of millions in staff, paperwork, and workouts that they don’t deem to be in their best interest. The workout is not in there best interest because our tax dollars are guaranteeing the Banks that are To Big to Fail’s debt. If they don’t foreclose and if they work it out the loss is on them. There is no incentive to modify loan for the benefit of the consumer.

Sooooo they proceed to foreclosure without the mandated contacts with the borrower. Oh and yes contact is made by a computer or some outsourcing contact agent based in India. But compliance with 2923.5 is not done. The Borrower is never told that he or she have the right to a meeting within 14 days of the contact. They do not get offers to avoid foreclosure there are typically two offers short sale or a probationary mod that will be declined upon the 90th day.

Wrongful foreclosure actions are also brought when the service providers accept partial payments after initiation of the wrongful foreclosure process, and then continue on with the foreclosure process. These predatory lending strategies, as well as other forms of misleading homeowners, are illegal.

The borrower is the one that files a wrongful disclosure action with the court against the service provider, the holder of the note and if it is a non-judicial foreclosure, against the trustee complaining that there was an illegal, fraudulent or willfully oppressive sale of property under a power of sale contained in a mortgage or deed or court judicial proceeding. The borrower can also allege emotional distress and ask for punitive damages in a wrongful foreclosure action.

Causes of Action

Wrongful foreclosure actions may allege that the amount stated in the notice of default as due and owing is incorrect because of the following reasons:

* Incorrect interest rate adjustment
* Incorrect tax impound accounts
* Misapplied payments
* Forbearance agreement which was not adhered to by the servicer
* Unnecessary forced place insurance,
* Improper accounting for a confirmed chapter 11 or chapter 13 bankruptcy plan.
* Breach of contract
* Intentional infliction of emotional distress
* Negligent infliction of emotional distress
* Unfair Business Practices
* Quiet title
* Wrongful foreclosure
* Tortuous violation of 2924 2923.5 and 2923.5 and 2932.5
Injunction

Any time prior to the foreclosure sale, a borrower can apply for an injunction with the intent of stopping the foreclosure sale until issues in the lawsuit are resolved. The wrongful foreclosure lawsuit can take anywhere from ten to twenty-four months. Generally, an injunction will only be issued by the court if the court determines that: (1) the borrower is entitled to the injunction; and (2) that if the injunction is not granted, the borrower will be subject to irreparable harm.

Damages Available to Borrower

Damages available to a borrower in a wrongful foreclosure action include: compensation for the detriment caused, which are measured by the value of the property, emotional distress and punitive damages if there is evidence that the servicer or trustee committed fraud, oppression or malice in its wrongful conduct. If the borrower’s allegations are true and correct and the borrower wins the lawsuit, the servicer will have to undue or cancel the foreclosure sale, and pay the borrower’s legal bills.

Why Do Wrongful Foreclosures Occur?

Wrongful foreclosure cases occur usually because of a miscommunication between the lender and the borrower. Most borrower don’t know who the real lender is. Servicing has changed on average three times. And with the advent of MERS Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems the “investor lender” hundreds of times since the origination. And now they then have to contact the borrower. The don’t even know who the lender truly is. The laws that are now in place never contemplated the virtualization of the lending market. The present laws are inadequate to the challenge.

This is even more evident now since California passed the Foreclosure prevention act of 2008 SB 1194 codified in Civil code 2923.5 and 2923.6. In 2009 it is this attorneys opinion that 90% of all foreclosures are wrongful in that the lender does not comply (just look at the declaration page on the notice of default). The lenders most notably Indymac, Countrywide, and Wells Fargo have taken a calculated risk. To comply would cost hundreds of millions in staff, paperwork, and workouts that they don’t deem to be in their best interest. The workout is not in there best interest because our tax dollars are guaranteeing the Banks that are To Big to Fail’s debt. If they don’t foreclose and if they work it out the loss is on them. There is no incentive to modify loan for the benefit of the consumer.This could be as a result of an incorrectly applied payment, an error in interest charges and completely inaccurate information communicated between the lender and borrower. Some borrowers make the situation worse by ignoring their monthly statements and not promptly responding in writing to the lender’s communications. Many borrowers just assume that the lender will correct any inaccuracies or errors. Any one of these actions can quickly turn into a foreclosure action. Once an action is instituted, then the borrower will have to prove that it is wrongful or unwarranted. This is done by the borrower filing a wrongful foreclosure action. Costs are expensive and the action can take time to litigate.
Impact

The wrongful foreclosure will appear on the borrower’s credit report as a foreclosure, thereby ruining the borrower’s credit rating. Inaccurate delinquencies may also accompany the foreclosure on the credit report. After the foreclosure is found to be wrongful, the borrower must then petition to get the delinquencies and foreclosure off the credit report. This can take a long time and is emotionally distressing.

Wrongful foreclosure may also lead to the borrower losing their home and other assets if the borrower does not act quickly. This can have a devastating affect on a family that has been displaced out of their home. However, once the borrower’s wrongful foreclosure action is successful in court, the borrower may be entitled to compensation for their attorney fees, court costs, pain, suffering and emotional distress caused by the action.

How to Use MERS on Deed of Trust or Mortgage

19 Dec

It is time to use the presence of MERS on the originating loan paperwork as an OFFENSIVE TACTIC. Most states have some version of the statute below. It is simply common sense. A creditor is not a creditor unless they are owed something. A beneficiary is not a beneficiary unless they are a creditor. In the case of a mortgage note, a beneficiary is not a creditor unless it is the obligee on the note (i.e., the one to whom the note directs payment). There is no escaping this logic.

The point is that designating MERS as beneficiary or mortgagee is the same as designating nobody at all. The range of options for the Judge include several possibilities. But the one I think we should concentrate on is that an ambiguity has been raised on the face of every Deed of Trust or Mortgage Deed naming MERS as the beneficiary or mortgagee. That being the case, it MUST BE JUDICIALLY DETERMINED by a trier of fact (Judge or Jury)in judicial foreclosure states.

In California there is legislation being proposed that would require mandatory mediation before a foreclosure can be initiated. The provisions the California Foreclosure prevention act of 2008 are just not working. Judges don’t uphold what the law says civil code 2023.6 and 2923.6 when the attorneys for the publicly funded Banks (our tax dollars 17.1 Trillion before it all over) oppose individual debtors and claim federal preemption. Our legal system is a rigged game favoring the capital of a capitalist system. In California a nonjudicial state a foreclosure can occur on the mere word of a lender without the original note or assignment of the original deed of trust. A then former homeowner can then be evicted by giving notice to vacate constructively (without notice) have a summons “Posted and Mailed” (again no actual notice) a default judgment taken (no trial) and a writ issued and the Sheriff’s instruction to evict issued and enforced.

In Non Judicial an action should be filed for declaratory relief that the foreclosure is invalid and void this is the problem in the non Judicial states. See state bar president article No Lawyer No Law Without having a beneficiary or mortgagee identified, there obviously can be no enforcement. The power off sale is contained in Civil 2932 and in California there must be a valid assignment civil code 2932.5 to have the power to foreclose.

So the strategy here would be to force the would-be forecloser (pretender lender) to file a lawsuit establishing the note and mortgage (or deed of trust) by identifying the beneficiary or mortgagee. It would also enable you, in the face of a reluctant judge, to press for expedited discovery for information that the would-be foreclosing trustee or attorney should have had before they started. And this leads to a request for an evidentiary hearing — the kiss of death for pretender lenders unless you don’t know your rules of evidence

California Mortgage and Deed of Trust Practice § 1.39 (3d ed Cal CEB 2008)

§ 1.39 (1) Must Be Obligee

The beneficiary must be an obligee of the secured obligation (usually the payee of a note), because otherwise the deed of trust in its favor is meaningless. Watkins v Bryant (1891) 91 C 492, 27 P 775; Nagle v Macy (1858) 9 C 426. See §§ 1.8-1.19 on the need for an obligation. The deed of trust is merely an incident of the obligation and has no existence apart from it. Goodfellow v Goodfellow (1933) 219 C 548, 27 P2d 898; Adler v Sargent (1895) 109 C 42, 41
P 799; Turner v Gosden (1932) 121 CA 20, 8 P2d 505. The holder of the note, however, can enforce the deed of trust
whether or not named as beneficiary or mortgagee. CC § 2936;

No lawyer, no law

8 Dec

Pro bono publico
Redeeming the touch of justice that brought each of us to the Bar

By Howard B. Miller
President, State Bar of California

Miller
Unfortunately the colloquial meaning of pro bono has become legal services for free, at no cost. But the proper meaning and importance of the words is in the full Latin quote: for the public good.

Several almost simultaneous developments have brought us to a tipping point in the commitment of the legal profession to pro bono work, and in our understanding that it is for the public good.

No lawyer, no law

We were all caught unawares in the past year not only by the scope of the loan foreclosure crisis, but by the cracks and failures that it showed in our legal system. We know of too many cases where homeowners would have had legal defenses to foreclosure, but without lawyers in our California system of non-judicial foreclosure the result was a loss of homes. For over a century our legislature and courts have constructed an elaborate series of technicalities and protections for homeowners faced with foreclosure. But the existence of those protections made no difference to those who had no legal representation. It is as though all those laws did not exist, as though because there was no representation all the work and thought that went into those laws and protections had never been done.

And so we learned again, with a vengeance: No lawyer, no law.

How to Stop Foreclosure

5 Dec

This is general information and assumes that you have access to the rest of the material on the blog. Foreclosures come in various flavors.

First of all you have non-judicial and judicial foreclosure states. Non-judicial basically means that instead of signing a conventional mortgage and note, you signed a document that says you give up your right to a judicial proceeding. So the pretender lender or lender simply instructs the Trustee to sell the property, giving you some notice. Of course the question of who is the lender, what is a beneficiary under a deed of trust, what is a creditor and who owns the loan NOW (if anyone) are all issues that come into play in litigation.

In a non-judicial state you generally are required to bring the matter to court by filing a lawsuit. In states like California, the foreclosers usually do an end run around you by filing an unlawful detainer as soon as they can in a court of lower jurisdiction which by law cannot hear your claims regarding the illegality of the mortgage or foreclosure.

In a judicial state the forecloser must be the one who files suit and you have considerably more power to resist the attempt to foreclose.

Then you have stages:

STAGE 1: No notice of default has been sent.

In this case you want to get a forensic analysis that is as complete as humanly possible — TILA, RESPA, securitization, title, chain of custody, predatory loan practices, fraud, fabricated documents, forged documents etc. I call this the FOUR WALL ANALYSIS, meaning they have no way to get out of the mess they created. Then you want a QWR (Qualified Written Request) and DVL (Debt Validation Letter along with complaints to various Federal and State agencies. If they fail to respond or fail to answer your questions you file a suit against the party who received the QWR, the party who originated the loan (even if they are out of business), and John Does 1-1000 being the owners of mortgage backed bonds that are evidence of the investors ownership in the pool of mortgages, of which yours is one. The suit is simple — it seeks to stop the servicer from receiving any payments, install a receiver over the servicer’s accounts, order them to answer the simple question “Who is my creditor and how do I get a full accounting FROM THE CREDITOR? Alternative counts would be quiet title and damages under TILA, RESPA, SEC, etc.

Tactically you want to present the forensic declaration and simply say that you have retained an expert witness who states in his declaration that the creditor does not include any of the parties disclosed to you thus far. This [prevents you from satisfying the Federal mandate to attempt modification or settlement of the loan. You’ve asked (QWR and DVL) and they won’t tell. DON’T GET INTO INTRICATE ARGUMENTS CONCERNING SECURITIZATION UNTIL IT IS NECESSARY TO DO SO WHICH SHOULD BE AFTER A FEW HEARINGS ON MOTIONS TO COMPEL THEM TO ANSWER.

IN OTHER WORDS YOU ARE SIMPLY TELLING THE JUDGE THAT YOUR EXPERT HAS PRESENTED FACTS AND OPINION THAT CONTRADICT AND VARY FROM THE REPRESENTATIONS OF COUNSEL AND THE PARTIES WHO HAVE BEEN DISCLOSED TO YOU THUS FAR.

YOU WANT TO KNOW WHO THE OTHER PARTIES ARE, IF ANY, AND WHAT MONEY EXCHANGED HANDS WITH RESPECT TO YOUR LOAN. YOU WANT EVIDENCE, NOT REPRESENTATIONS OF COUNSEL. YOU WANT DISCOVERY OR AN ORDER TO ANSWER THE QWR OR DVL. YOU WANT AN EVIDENTIARY HEARING IF IT IS NECESSARY.

Avoid legal argument and go straight for discovery saying that you want to be able to approach the creditor, whoever it is, and in order to do that you have a Federal Statutory right (RESPA) to the name of a person, a telephone number and an address of the creditor — i.e., the one who is now minus money as a result of the funding of the loan. You’ve asked, they won’t answer.

Contemporaneously you want to get a temporary restraining order preventing them from taking any further action with respect to transferring, executing documents, transferring money, or collecting money until they have satisfied your demand for information and you have certified compliance with the court. Depending upon your circumstances you can offer to tender the monthly payment into the court registry or simply leave that out.

You can also file a bankruptcy petition especially if you are delinquent in payments or are about to become delinquent.

STAGE 2: Notice of Default Received

Believe it or not this is where the errors begin by the pretender lenders. You want to challenge authority, authenticity, the amount claimed due, the signatory, the notary, the loan number and anything else that is appropriate. Then go back to stage 1 and follow that track. In order to effectively do this you need to have that forensic analysis and I don’t mean the TILA Audit that is offered by so many companies using off the shelf software. You could probably buy the software yourself for less money than you pay those companies. I emphasize again that you need a FOUR WALL ANALYSIS.

Stage 3 Non-Judicial State, Notice of Sale received:

State statutes usually give you a tiny window of opportunity to contest the sale and the statute usually contains exact provisions on how you can do that or else your objection doesn’t count. At this point you need to secure the services of competent, knowledgeable, experienced legal counsel — professionals who have been fighting with these pretender lenders for a while. Anything less and you are likely to be sorely disappointed unless you landed, by luck of the draw, one of the increasing number of judges you are demonstrating their understanding and anger at this fraud.

Stage 4: Judicial State: Served with Process:

You must answer usually within 20 days. Failure to do so, along with your affirmative defenses and counterclaims, could result in a default followed by a default judgment followed by a Final Judgment of Foreclosure. See above steps.

Stage 5: Sale already occurred

You obviously need to reverse that situation. Usually the allegation is that the sale should be vacated because of fraud on the court (judicial) or fraudulent abuse of non-judicial process. This is a motion or Petitioner but it must be accompanied by a lawsuit, properly served and noticed to the other side. You probably need to name the purchaser at sale, and ask for a TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) that stops them from moving the property or the money around any further until your questions are answered (see above). At the risk of sounding like a broken record, you need a good forensic analyst and a good lawyer.

Stage 6: Eviction (Unlawful Detainer Filed or Judgment entered:

Same as Stage 5.

Foreclosure Victory For Nor Cal Area Homeowner!

7 Sep

A Sacramento area court ruling against the plaintiff came in an unlawful detainer hearing last Friday. Lenders and servicers are taking notice of the “sale” by trustee that was set aside in favor of a loan modification. Submitted by Steve Shafer

February 5, 2009 / Sacramento California – The Bay Area Superior Court decision and judgment against the plaintiff allows the “sale” by the trustee to be set aside in favor of a loan modification.
Lenders nationwide who originate and service loans know California offers them a “safe haven” from homeowner’s who dispute a recent foreclosure. That means overwhelming odds for anyone in foreclosure who loses their home to a lender in a foreclosure. The borrower becomes a holdover and must respond to an unlawful detainer after their home is lost.

That was not the case for an El Dorado area resident at a recent hearing for an unlawful detainer matter heard in a Placerville County superior court room. The recent victory in court was in an unlawful detainer matter for the defendant Ms. Stella Onyeu and mortgage lender and securities sponsor – AURORA LOAN SERVICES v. STELLA D. ONYEU (case number PCU2008032).

AURORA LOAN SERVICES like so many other lender servicing agents has come under greater scrutiny as of late for questionable business practices. According to its web site Aurora Loan Services is operating as usual. The company is a subsidiary of Lehman Brothers Bank, and not part of the Lehman Brothers Holding Inc. bankruptcy filing.

The case was originally filed in October of last year and shortly thereafter was dismissed when the Plaintiff failed to show at a scheduled hearing. Subsequent motions were filed to vacate the dismissal in favor of a motion to dismiss by the plaintiffs. The matter was heard recently heard again by the same court and earlier mentioned presiding judge. Mark Terbeek is the attorney for the Defendant and Maher Soliman a Juris Pro witness provided case development and court expert testimony.

This judgment for the defendant is monumental given the courts limited jurisdiction related to the lenders sole focus to have the borrower removed from the home. The issues at hand are the legal procedural limitations and high attrition rate for defendants and their attorney’s. The problem is the defendant’s lack of standing for pleading a wrongful foreclosure due to jurisdiction of the court.

So what does this all mean? Many homeowners can find some hope, for the moment, in knowing the otherwise unfriendly California UD courts will now hold some promise for hearing arguments as to the foreclosure and the plaintiffs standing. According to foreclosure and REO sales analyst Brenda Michelson of Nationwide Loan Services “It’s hit or miss at this level of the law and the courts willingness to step outside of its jurisdiction.” The smaller outlying courts seem to me to be more willing to entertain defense arguments that the plaintiff may not be the holder in due course and lacks capacity throughout the foreclosure” Terbeek’s response is that if the plaintiff cannot demonstrate a logical and properly conveyed transfer of the beneficial interest – it is not entitled to possession.

After the foreclosure and conveyance back to the trustee, the homeowner is considered unlawfully occupying the dwelling as a holdover. However, the court ruled that AURORA had in fact violated its duty to show good faith and comply accordingly under the recent California statutes and amendments Power of Sale provision. The presiding judge who heard the matter ordered a judgment against the company allowed for Terbeek to enter a request for all legal fees due.

According to legal expert Soliman, “there are more attorneys willing to now jump into the wrongful foreclosure business and fight the court on the jurisdiction issue. However, it is nearly impossible to rely on the judge and courts at this level”. Soliman is an examiner with Nationwide Loan Services and has engagements in multiple cases throughout California through attorneys such as Terbeek who represented the defendant.

Jurisdiction: An Overview

The term jurisdiction is really synonymous with the word “power” and the sovereignty on behalf of which it functions. Any court possesses jurisdiction over matters only to the extent granted to it by the Constitution, or legislation of a paramount fundamental question for lawyers is whether a given court has jurisdiction to preside over a given case. A jurisdictional question may be broken down into various components including whether there is jurisdiction over the person (in personam), the subject matter, or res (in rem), and to render the particular judgment sought.

An unlawful detainer lawsuit is a “summary” court procedure. This means that the court action moves forward very quickly, and that the time given the tenant to respond during the lawsuit is very short. For example, in most cases, the tenant has only five days to file a written response to the lawsuit after being served with a copy of the landlord’s complaint. Normally, a judge will hear and decide the case within 20 days after the borrower now tenant files an answer.

The question of whether a given court has the power to determine a jurisdictional question is itself a jurisdictional question. Such a legal question is referred to as “jurisdiction to determine jurisdiction.” In order to evict the tenant, the landlord must file an unlawful detainer lawsuit in superior court. In an eviction lawsuit, the lender is the “plaintiff” and the prior borrower and homeowners become an occupant holdover and the “defendant.” Immediately after the trustee sale of the home the conveyance by the trustee is entered in favor of the lender. Until recently in most cases the lender is with in its right foreclose if a borrower has missed a number of payments, failed to make the insurance premiums or not paid the property taxes. “But sometimes a lender is wrong and you can fight foreclosure by challenging the foreclosure process and related documents” said Soliman.

As the new owner of record AURORA HOME LOAN SERVICES must follow procedures no different than that of a landlord in a tenant occupancy dispute. The next step is to remove the homeowner from the subject dwelling. If the tenant doesn’t voluntarily move out after the landlord has properly given the required notice to the tenant, the landlord can evict the tenant. If the lender makes a mistake in its filing of the foreclosure documents a court my throw out the whole foreclosure case. In the case of a wrongful foreclosure the borrower’s claims are limited to affirmative defenses.

Affirmative Defenses

Unlike a judicial proceeding, California lenders need to merely wait out the mandatory term for issuing default notices and ensure it has properly served those notices to the borrower. In other words the hearing and trial taken place in the above referenced matter is not subject to arguments brought by the homeowner for wrongful foreclosure versus the question as to lawful possession of the property by the lender.

California lenders are typically limited to only the defenses a landlord will face when opposed and made subject to claims of wrongfully trying to evict a tenant. Claims such as the Plaintiff has breached the warranty to provide habitable premises, plaintiff did not give proper credit before the notice to pay or quit expired or plaintiff waived, changed, or canceled the notice to quit, or filed the complaint to retaliate against defendant are often completely unrelated to the matter at hand. The courts decision to enforce the provisions of an earlier modification in lieu of a foreclosure sends a major wake up call to the lenders who are under siege to avoid foreclose and be done with mortgage mess affecting United States homeowners. Soliman says the decision is unfortunately not likely to be read into as case precedent for future lawyers and wrongful defendants seeking to introduce our case as an example of a lenders wrongful action.

Soliman goes on to say “it’s both interesting and entertaining to see experienced attorneys who jump in and immediately question the issue of the courts authority. Its reality time when they get to their first hearing and see first hand the problematic issues with jurisdiction.”

Servicing agents are never the less on notice they must be ready to defend themselves when the opportunity to argue the plaintiffs standing are allowed in an unlawful detainer motivate by a foreclosure. Therefore, the debate about what the courts hear will remain open and subject to further scrutiny by the lawyers for both sides and judges who preside over the courts at this level.

Nationwide Loan Servicing is an approved Expert Witness who provides court testimoney in matters concerning wrongful foreclosures, Federal Savings Banks regultory violations and SEC filings for private registrations.

SB 94 and its interferance with the practice

5 Sep

CA SB 94 on Lawyers & Loan Modifications Passes Assembly… 62-10

The California Assembly has passed Senate Bill 94, a bill that seeks to protect homeowners from loan modification scammers, but could end up having the unintended consequence of eliminating a homeowner’s ability to retain an attorney to help them save their home from foreclosure.

The bill, which has an “urgency clause” attached to it, now must pass the State Senate, and if passed, could be signed by the Governor on October 11th, and go into effect immediately thereafter.

SB 94’s author is California State Senator Ron Calderon, the Chair of the Senate Banking Committee, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone familiar with the bigger picture. Sen. Calderon, while acknowledging that fee-for-service providers can provide valuable services to homeowners at risk of foreclosure, authored SB 94 to ensure that providers of these services are not compensated until the contracted services have been performed.

SB 94 prevents companies, individuals… and even attorneys… from receiving fees or any other form of compensation until after the contracted services have been rendered. The bill will now go to the Democratic controlled Senate where it is expected to pass.

Supporters of the bill say that the state is literally teeming with con artists who take advantage of homeowners desperate to save their homes from foreclosure by charging hefty fees up front and then failing to deliver anything of value in return. They say that by making it illegal to charge up front fees, they will be protecting consumers from being scammed.

While there’s no question that there have been some unscrupulous people that have taken advantage of homeowners in distress, the number of these scammers is unclear. Now that we’ve learned that lenders and servicers have only modified an average of 9% of qualified mortgages under the Obama plan, it’s hard to tell which companies were scamming and which were made to look like scams by the servicers and lenders who failed to live up to their agreement with the federal government.

In fact, ever since it’s come to light that mortgage servicers have been sued hundreds of times, that they continue to violate the HAMP provisions, that they foreclose when they’re not supposed to, charge up front fees for modifications, require homeowners to sign waivers, and so much more, who can be sure who the scammers really are. Bank of America, for example, got the worst grade of any bank on the President’s report card listing, modifying only 4% of the eligible mortgages since the plan began. We’ve given B of A something like $200 billion and they still claim that they’re having a hard time answering the phones over there, so who’s scamming who?

To make matters worse, and in the spirit of Y2K, the media has fanned the flames of irrationality with stories of people losing their homes as a result of someone failing to get their loan modified. The stories go something like this:

We gave them 1,000. They told us to stop making our mortgage payment. They promised us a principal reduction. We didn’t hear from them for months. And then we lost our house.

I am so sure. Can that even happen? I own a house or two. Walk me through how that happened again, because I absolutely guarantee you… no way could those things happen to me and I end up losing my house over it. Not a chance in the world. I’m not saying I couldn’t lose a house, but it sure as heck would take a damn sight more than that to make it happen.

Depending on how you read the language in the bill, it may prevent licensed California attorneys from requiring a retainer in advance of services being rendered, and this could essentially eliminate a homeowner’s ability to hire a lawyer to help save their home.

Supporters, on the other hand, respond that homeowners will still be able to hire attorneys, but that the attorneys will now have to wait until after services have been rendered before being paid for their services. They say that attorneys, just like real estate agents and mortgage brokers, will now only be able to receive compensation after services have been rendered.

But, assuming they’re talking about at the end of the transaction, there are key differences. Real estate agents and mortgage brokers are paid OUT OF ESCROW at the end of a transaction. They don’t send clients a bill for their services after the property is sold.

Homeowners at risk of foreclosure are having trouble paying their bills and for the most part, their credit ratings have suffered as a result. If an attorney were to represent a homeowner seeking a loan modification, and then bill for his or her services after the loan was modified, the attorney would be nothing more than an unsecured creditor of a homeowner who’s only marginally credit worthy at best. If the homeowner didn’t pay the bill, the attorney would have no recourse other than to sue the homeowner in Small Claims Court where they would likely receive small payments over time if lucky.

Extending unsecured credit to homeowners that are already struggling to pay their bills, and then having to sue them in order to collect simply isn’t a business model that attorneys, or anyone else for that matter, are likely to embrace. In fact, the more than 50 California attorneys involved in loan modifications that I contacted to ask about this issue all confirmed that they would not represent homeowners on that basis.

One attorney, who asked not to be identified, said: “Getting a lender or servicer to agree to a loan modification takes months, sometimes six or nine months. If I worked on behalf of homeowners for six or nine months and then didn’t get paid by a number of them, it wouldn’t be very long before I’d have to close my doors. No lawyer is going to do that kind of work without any security and anyone who thinks they will, simply isn’t familiar with what’s involved.”

“I don’t think there’s any question that SB 94 will make it almost impossible for a homeowner to obtain legal representation related to loan modifications,” explained another attorney who also asked not to be identified. ”The banks have fought lawyers helping clients through the loan modification process every step of the way, so I’m not surprised they’ve pushed for this legislation to pass.”

Proponents of the legislation recite the all too familiar mantra about there being so many scammers out there that the state has no choice but to move to shut down any one offering to help homeowners secure loan modifications that charges a fee for the services. They point out that consumers can just call their banks directly, or that there are nonprofit organizations throughout the state that can help homeowners with loan modifications.

While the latter is certainly true, it’s only further evidence that there exists a group of people in positions of influence that are unfamiliar , or at the very least not adequately familiar with obtaining a loan modification through a nonprofit organization, and they’ve certainly never tried calling a bank directly.

The fact that there are nonprofit housing counselors available, and the degree to which they may or may not be able to assist a given homeowner, is irrelevant. Homeowners are well aware of the nonprofit options available. They are also aware that they can call their banks directly. From the President of the United States and and U.S. Attorney General to the community newspapers found in every small town in America, homeowners have heard the fairy tales about about these options, and they’ve tried them… over and over again, often times for many months. When they didn’t get the desired results, they hired a firm to help them.

Yet, even the State Bar of California is supporting SB 94, and even AB 764, a California Assembly variation on the theme, and one even more draconian because of its requirement that attorneys only be allowed to bill a client after a successful loan modification has been obtained. That means that an attorney would have to guarantee a homeowner that he or she would obtain a modification agreement from a lender or servicer or not get paid for trying. Absurd on so many levels. Frankly, if AB 764 passes, would the last one out of California please turn off the lights and bring the flag.

As of late July, the California State Bar said it was investigating 391 complaints against 141 attorneys, as opposed to nine investigations related to loan modifications in 2008. The Bar hasn’t read anywhere all of the complaints its received, but you don’t have to be a statistician to figure out that there’s more to the complaints that meets the eye. So far the State Bar has taken action against three attorneys and the Attorney General another four… so, let’s see… carry the 3… that’s 7 lawyers. Two or three more and they could have a softball team.

At the federal level they’re still reporting the same numbers they were last spring. Closed 11… sent 71 letters… blah, blah, blah… we’ve got a country of 300 million and at least 5 million are in trouble on their mortgage. The simple fact is, they’re going to have to come up with some serious numbers before I’m going to be scared of bumping into a scammer on every corner.

Looking Ahead…

California’s ALT-A and Option ARM mortgages are just beginning to re-set, causing payments to rise, and with almost half of the mortgages in California already underwater, these homeowners will be unable to refinance and foreclosures will increase as a result. Prime jumbo foreclosure rates are already up a mind blowing 634% as compared with January 2008 levels, according to LPS Applied Analytics.

Clearly, if SB 94 ends up reducing the number of legitimate firms available for homeowners to turn to, everyone involved in its passage is going to be retiring. While many sub-prime borrowers have suffered silently through this horror show of a housing crisis, the ALT-A and Option ARM borrowers are highly unlikely to slip quietly into the night.

There are a couple of things about the latest version of SB 94 that I found interesting:

1. It says that a lawyer can’t collect a fee or any other compensation before serivces have been delivered, but it doesn’t make clear whether attorneys can ask the client to deposit funds in the law firm’s trust account and then bill against thsoe funds as amounts are earned. Funds deposited in a law firm trust account remain the client’s funds, so they’re not a lawyer’s “fees or other compensation”. Those funds are there so that when the fees have been earned, the lawyer doesn’t have to hope his or her bill gets paid. Of course, it also says that an attorney can’t hold any security interest, but money in a trust account a client’s money, the attorney has no lien against it. All of this is a matter of interpretation, of course, so who knows.

2. While there used to be language in both the real estate and lawyer sections that prohibited breaking up services related to a loan modification, in the latest version all of the language related to breaking up services as applied to attorneys has been eliminated. It still applies to real estate licensed firms, but not to attorneys. This may be a good thing, as at least a lawyer could complete sections of the work involved as opposed to having to wait until the very end, which the way the banks have been handling things, could be nine months away.

3. The bill says nothing about the amounts that may be charged for services in connection with a loan modification. So, in the case of an attorney, that would seem to mean that… well, you can put one, two and three together from there.

4. Lawyers are not included in definition of foreclosure consultant. And there is a requirement that new language be inserted in contracts, along the lines of “You don’t have to pay anyone to get a loan modification… blah, blah, blah.” Like that will be news to any homeowner in America. I’ve spoken with hundreds and never ran across one who didn’t try it themselves before calling a lawyer. I realize the Attorney General doesn’t seem to know that, but look… he’s been busy.

Conclusion…

Will SB 94 actually stop con artists from taking advantage of homeowners in distress? Or will it end up only stopping reputable lawyers from helping homeowners, while foreclosures increase and our economy continues its deflationary free fall? Will the California State Bar ever finishing reading the complaints being received, and if they ever do, will they understand what they’ve read. Or is our destiny that the masses won’t understand what’s happening around them until it sucks them under as well.

I surely hope not. But for now, I’m just hoping people can still a hire an attorney next week to help save their homes, because if they can’t… the Bar is going to get a lot more letters from unhappy homeowners.