Servicer Advances, Modification of Loans and Sundry Matters

I appear to have sparked some controversy over my comments that were directed at modifications and servicer advances — subjects that are not necessarily related. But they could be related — as where the homeowner seeks a modification on which there have been servicer advances.

So to answer some questions about Modifications, I will first state that no article on any subject on this blog is intended to be a complete exposition of an issue — if it was, each post would equivalent to a treatise several hundred pages long. That is why we say don’t use any one article as the authority for your situation and to get advice from competent licensed professionals who can service your needs based upon your information.

That said, there have been numerous comments about modifications, some of which have correct information in them. Like anything else found here, you should check with knowledgeable licensed professionals before you act on anything — especially the comments posted by people who have their own axe to grind. One thing is true — modification has a lot of moving parts and it isn’t as simple as anyone would like it to be. There are also tax issues that effect the calculations which I have not yet explored on these pages.

Modification is a sub-specialty of law in which I do not claim any rights. But that is the point. Most of the people who are giving opinions on modification are not lawyers, nor accountants, nor trained, licensed individuals in any area of any discipline. They have some experience, and that experience has molded their perceptions but they don’t know enough to conceive of solutions outside the box in which they operate. And some of them are on the payroll of banks who are waging a PR campaign in which they are spending billions, in one form or another, to make it look like the loans are real and the modification of them is the right way to go.

Modification IS a real option as long as you get something real. Qualifying for a modification takes time, expertise and the ability to present a credible threat in litigation, which is why I favor lawyers over anyone else doing modifications. The cost-benefit analysis should be done by someone who does this all day long and who is constantly researching options.

I write about bits and pieces. Attorneys who have well defined departments that handle modifications, short-sales, hardest hit programs, and other programs that offer assistance are miles ahead of me and any of the comments I have seen on my writing about modification.

As to servicer advances there is a small debate going on but I stick with my analysis. If the creditor has indeed received payment on the account of the loan that is being collected or foreclosed then there is either no default or the notice of default, notice of acceleration and/or the lawsuit itself and the evidence submitted are wrong as to amount.

The fact that there COULD be a claim against the borrower for unjust enrichment is irrelevant. First, even if the claim exists, it is not secured by the mortgage nor described by the note. Second, it is not likely that those claims will ever be brought.

And lastly — and I do mean lastly — thank you for your various invitations for a debate. My answer is no, I will save that for court or a seminar in which we cover the four corners of the issues. I will not “debate” issues of law with non-lawyers, or anyone else that lacks credentials to challenge anything I have said. And if you have reading this blog for years you can see how I have evolved in my own thinking and analysis causing me to reverse some prior strategies that I had suggested.

But the basic information about securitization presented here is, to the best of my knowledge and belief (see about Neil Garfield), still completely correct and facts and decisions on the ground have proven me right in each case. At first everyone scoffs, then  they end up arguing for it. They scoff because some of these things are counter-intuitive — i.e., they seem impossible. That doesn’t make them any less true. I was right about everything, factually in 2007, legally in 2008 and I believe I remain so. It is taking the judicial system a long time to catch up because of the intense complexity and opacity of the “securitization” game.

Modifications: Interest reduction, Principal reduction, Payment reduction, and Term increase

In the financial world we don’t measure just the amount of principal. For example if I increased your mortgage principal by $100,000 and gave you 100 years to pay without interest it would be nearly equivalent to zero principal too (especially factoring in inflation). A reduction in the interest rate has an effect on the overall amount of money due from the borrower if (and this is an important if) the borrower is given 40 years to pay AND they intend to live in the house for that period of time. To the borrower the reduction in interest rate and the extension of the period in which it is due lowers the monthly payment which is all that he or she normally cares about.

Nonetheless you are generally correct. And THAT is because the average time anyone lives in a house is 5-7 years, during which an interest reduction would not equate to much of a principal reduction even with inflation factored in. Unsophisticated borrowers get caught in exactly that trap when they do a modification where the monthly payments decline. But when they want to refinance or sell the home they find themselves in a new bind — having to come to the table with cash to sell their home because the mortgage is upside down.

So the question that must be answered is what are the intentions of the homeowner. The only heuristic guide (rule of thumb) that seems to hold true is that if the house has been in the family for generations, it is indeed likely that they will continue to own the property. In that event calculations of interest and inflation, present value etc. make a big difference. But for most people, the only thing that cures their position of being upside down (ignoring the fact that they probably don’t owe the full amount demanded anyway) is by a direct principal reduction.

THAT is the reason why I push so hard on getting credit for receipt of insurance and other loss sharing arrangements, including FDIC, servicer advances etc. Get credit for those and you have a principal CORRECTION (i.e., you get to the truth) instead of a principal REDUCTION, which presumes the old balance was actually due. It isn’t due and it is probable that there is nothing due on the debt, in addition to the fact that it is not secured by the property because the mortgage and note do NOT describe any actual transaction that took place between the parties to the note and the mortgage.

Foreclosures on Nonexistent Mortgages

I have frequently commented that one of the first things I learned on Wall Street was the maxim that the more complicated the “product” the more the buyer is forced to rely on the seller for information. Michael Lewis, in his new book, focuses on high frequency trading — a term that is not understood by most people, even if they work on Wall Street. The way it works is that the computers are able to sort out buy or sell orders, aggregate them and very accurately predict an uptick or down-tick in a stock or bond.

Then the same investment bank that is taking your order to buy or sell submits its own order ahead of yours. They are virtually guaranteed a profit, at your expense, although the impact on individual investors is small. Aggregating those profits amounts to a private tax on large and small investors amounting to billions of dollars, according to Lewis and I agree.

As Lewis points out, the trader knows nothing about what happens after they place an order. And it is the complexity of technology and practices that makes Wall Street behavior so opaque — clouded in a veil of secrecy that is virtually impenetrable to even the regulators. That opacity first showed up decades ago as Wall Street started promoting increasing complex investments. Eventually they evolved to collateralized debt obligations (CDO’s) and those evolved into what became known as the mortgage crisis.

in the case of mortgage CDO’s, once again the investors knew nothing about what happened after they placed their order and paid for it. Once again, the Wall Street firms were one step ahead of them, claiming ownership of (1) the money that investors paid, (2) the mortgage bonds the investors thought they were buying and (3) the loans the investors thought were being financed through REMIC trusts that issued the mortgage bonds.

Like high frequency trading, the investor receives a report that is devoid of any of the details of what the investment bank actually did with their money, when they bought or originated a mortgage, through what entity,  for how much and what terms. The blending of millions of mortgages enabled the investment banks to create reports that looked good but completely hid the vulnerability of the investors, who were continuing to buy mortgage bonds based upon those reports.

The truth is that in most cases the investment banks took the investors money and didn’t follow any of the rules set forth in the CDO documents — but used those documents when it suited them to make even more money, creating the illusion that loans had been securitized when in fact the securitization vehicle (REMIC Trust) had been completely ignored.

There were several scenarios under which property and homeowners were made vulnerable to foreclosure even if they had no mortgage on their property. A recent story about an elderly couple coming “home” to find their door padlocked, possessions removed and then the devastating news that their home had been sold at foreclosure auction is an example of the extreme risk of this system to ALL homeowners, whether they have or had a mortgage or not. This particular couple had paid off their mortgage 15 years ago. The bank who foreclosed on the nonexistent mortgage and the recovery company that invaded their home said it was a mistake. Their will be a confidential settlement where once again the veil of secrecy will be raised.

That type of “mistake” was a once in a million possibility before Wall Street directly entered the mortgage loan business. So why have we read so many stories about foreclosures where there was no mortgage, or was no default, or where the mortgage loan was with someone other than the party who foreclosed?

The answer lies in how these properties enter the system. When a bank sells its portfolio of loans into the system of aggregation of loans, they might accidentally or intentionally include loans for which they had already received full payment. Maybe they issued a satisfaction maybe they didn’t. It might also include loans where life insurance or PMI paid off the loan.

Or, as is frequently the case, the “loan” was sold after the homeowner was merely investigating the possibility of a mortgage or reverse mortgage. As soon as they made application, since approval was certain, the “originator” entered the data into a platform maintained by the aggregator, like Countrywide, where it was included in some “securitization package.

If the loan closed then it was frequently sold again with the new dates and data, so it would like like a different loan. Then the investment banks, posing as the lenders, obtained insurance, TARP, guarantee proceeds and other payments from “co-obligors” on each version of the loan that was sold, thus essentially creating the equivalent of new sales on loans that were guaranteed to be foreclosed either because there was no mortgage or because the terms were impossible for the borrower to satisfy.

The LPS roulette wheel in Jacksonville is the hub where it is decided WHO will be the foreclosing party and for HOW MUCH they will claim is owed, without any allowance for the multiple sales, proceeds of insurance, FDIC loss sharing, actual ownership of the loans or anything else. Despite numerous studies by those in charge of property records and academic studies, the beat goes on, foreclosing by entities who are “strangers to the transaction” (San Francisco study), on documents that were intentionally destroyed (Catherine Ann Porter study at University of Iowa), against homeowners who had no idea what was going on, using the money of investors who had no idea what was going on, and all based upon a triple tiered documentary system where the contractual meeting of the minds could never occur.

The first tier was the Prospectus and Pooling and Servicing Agreement that was used to obtain money from investors under false pretenses.

The second tier consisted of a whole subset of agreements, contracts, insurance, guarantees all payable to the investment banks instead of the investors.

And the third tier was the “closing documents” in which the borrower, contrary to Federal (TILA), state and common law was as clueless as the investors as to what was really happening, the compensation to intermediaries and the claims of ownership that would later be revealed despite the borrower’s receipt of “disclosure” of the identity of his lender and the terms of compensation by all people associated with the origination of the loan.

The beauty of this plan for Wall Street is that nobody from any of the tiers could make direct claims to the benefits of any of the contracts. It has also enabled then to foreclose more than once on the same home in the name of different creditors, making double claims for guarantee from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FDIC loss sharing, insurance and credit default swaps.

The ugly side of the plan is still veiled, for the most part in secrecy. even when the homeowner gets close in court, there is a confidential settlement, sometimes for millions of dollars to keep the lawyer and the homeowner from disclosing the terms or the reasons why millions of dollars was paid to a homeowner to keep his mouth shut on a loan that was only $200,000 at origination.

This is exactly why I tell people that most of the time their case will be settled either in discovery where a Judge agrees you are entitled to peak behind the curtain, or at trial where it becomes apparent that the witness who is “familiar” with the corporate records really knows nothing and ahs nothing about the the real history of the loan transaction.

Servicer Advances: More Smoke and Mirrors

Several people are issuing statements about servicer advances, now that they are known. They fall into the category of payments made to the creditor-investors, which means that the creditor on the original loan, or its successor is getting paid regardless of whether the borrower has paid or not. The Steinberger decision in Arizona and other decisions around the country clearly state that if the creditor has been paid, the amount of the payment must be deducted from the amount allegedly owed by the “borrower” (even if the the borrower doesn’t know the identity of the creditor).

The significance of servicer advances has not escaped Judges and lawyers. If the payment has been made and continues to be made, how can anyone declare a default on the part of the creditor? They can’t. And if the payment has been made, then the notice of default, the end of month statements, the notice of acceleration and the amount demanded in foreclosure are all wrong by definition. The tricky part is that the banks are once again lying to everyone about this.

One writer opined either innocently or at the behest of the banks that the servicers were incentivized to modify the loans to get out of the requirement of making servicer advances. He ignores the fact that the provision in the pooling and servicing agreement is voluntary. And he ignores the fact that even if there is a claim for having made the payment instead of the borrower, it is the servicer’s claim not the lender’s claim. That means the servicer must bring a claim for contribution or unjust enrichment or some other legal theory in its own name. But they can’t because they didn’t really advance the money. Anyone who has experience with modification knows that the servicers make it very difficult even to apply for a modification.

Once again the propaganda is presumed to be true. What the author is missing is that there is no incentive for the Servicer to agree to make the payments in the first place. And they don’t. You can call them Servicer advances but that does not mean the money came from the Servicer. The prospectus clearly states that a reserve pool will be established. Usually they ignore the existence of the REMIC trust on this provision like they do with everything else. The broker dealer (investment banker) is always the one party who directly or indirectly is in complete control over the funds of investors.
Like the loan closing the source of funds is concealed. The Servicer issues a distribution report with disclaimers as to authenticity, accuracy etc. That report gets to the investor probably through an investment bank. The actual payment of money comes from the reserve pool made out of investor’s funds. The prospectus says that the investor can be paid out of his own funds. And that is exactly what they do. If the Servicer was actually taking its own money to make payments under the category of Servicer advances, the author would be correct.
The Servicer is incentivized by two factors — its allegiance to the broker dealer and the receipt of fees. They get paid for everything they do, including their role of deception as to Servicer advances.
When you are dealing with smoke and mirrors, look away from the mirror and walk through the smoke. There, in all its glory, is the truth. The only reason Servicer advances are phrased as voluntary is because the broker dealer wants to make the payments every month in order to convince the fund manager that they should buy more mortgage bonds. They want to be able to stop when the house of cards falls down.

Carol Molloy Guest Tonite – Lawyer From Tennessee and Massachusetts!

Carol Molloy is our guest tonite. She is a foreclosure defense litigator who is a member of the Bar in Tennessee and she used to practice in Massachusetts. We are going to be talking about non-judicial foreclosures, due process and the facts on the ground.

Tune in The Neil Garfield Show,  which airs on Thursday nights at 6 PM for 30 minutes or call in at (347) 850-1260, 6pm Thursdays

Florida Standard Jury Instructions as a Guide for Bench Trials

Danielle Kelley, esq., my law partner frequently says she likes to start with the jury instructions because that is where everything is boiled down to their simplest components. I think it is wise to make references to the standard jury instructions (plus the fact that they were introduced as an amendment to the Florida rules of Civil Procedure — thus overriding anything the Judge thought he knew).

For example, on evidence for use in motions and at trial —

SC12-1931 Opinion

301.5 EVIDENCE ADMITTED FOR A LIMITED PURPOSE

The (describe item of evidence) has now been received into evidence. It has been admitted only [for the purpose of (describe purpose)] [as to (name party)]. You may consider it only [for that purpose] [as it might affect (name party)]. You may not consider that evidence [for any other purpose] [as to [any other party] [(name other party(s)].

That admonishment is not just for jurors — its also for jurists. There is not one set of laws that apply to juries and an entirely different set of substantive law if the case is heard by the Judge. Of course the recent case decided by Judge William Zloch in Fort Lauderdale Federal Court might make these jury instructions directly relevant.

Another example, this time on third party beneficiaries — careful that this double edged sword does not swing back at you and the need for consideration for there to be an enforceable contract—

SC12-1931 Opinion

416.2 THIRD-PARTY BENEFICIARY

(Claimant) is not a party to the contract. However, (claimant) may be entitled to damages for breach of the contract if [he] [she] [it] proves that (insert names of the contracting parties) intended that (claimant) benefit from their contract.

It is not necessary for (claimant) to have been named in the contract. In deciding what (insert names of the contracting parties) intended, you should consider the contract as a whole, the circumstances under which it was made, and the apparent purpose the parties were trying to accomplish.

SOURCES AND AUTHORITIES FOR 416.2

See RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF CONTRACTS § 302 (1981):

[A] beneficiary of a promise is an intended beneficiary if recognition of a right to performance in the beneficiary is appropriate to effectuate the intention of the parties and … the circumstances indicate that the promisee intends to give the beneficiary the benefit of the promised performance.

While the Supreme Court has not commented directly on the applicability of the Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 302 (1981) (but note Justice Shaw’s partial concurrence in Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. McCarson, 467 So.2d 277, 280-81 (Fla. 1985)), all five district courts of appeal have cited the Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 302 (1981). Civix Sunrise, GC, LLC v. Sunrise Road Maintenance Assn., Inc., 997 So.2d 433 (Fla. 2d DCA 2008); Technicable Video Systems, Inc. v. Americable of Greater Miami, Ltd., 479 So.2d 810 (Fla. 3d DCA 1985); Cigna Fire Underwriters Ins. Co. v. Leonard, 645 So.2d 28 (Fla. 4th DCA 1994); Warren v. Monahan Beaches Jewelry Center, Inc., 548 So.2d 870 (Fla. 1st DCA 1989); Publix Super Markets, Inc. v. Cheesbro Roofing, Inc., 502 So.2d 484 (Fla. 5th DCA 1987). See also A.R. Moyer, Inc. v. Graham, 285 So.2d 397, 402 (Fla. 1973), and Carvel v. Godley, 939 So.2d 204, 207-208 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006) (“The question of whether a contract was intended for the benefit of a third person is generally regarded as one of construction of the contract. The intention of the parties in this respect is determined by the terms of the contract as a whole, construed in the light of the circumstances under which it was made and the apparent purpose that the parties are trying to accomplish.”).

Thus servicer advances, FDIC loss mitigation payments, and insurance payments actually received by the creditor (presumed usually to be the trust beneficiaries in a REMIC New York Trust) decrease the amount due TO the creditor — which therefore means that the amount due FROM the borrower must be reduced by the same amount. The fact that out of all the parties to the contract requiring or providing for those payments to the creditor, directly or indirectly, none of them was thinking about a benefit to the homeowner borrowers does not mean it doesn’t count. The bank might not have thought about or even known you had an Aunt Tilly. But when she pays off your mortgage, it doesn’t matter where the money came from.

And as for the contract for loan that is sometimes referred to as a quasi contract, assuming the homeowner has defended by denying the existence of an enforceable contract, here we are —

SC12-1931 Opinion

416.3 CONTRACT FORMATION — ESSENTIAL FACTUAL ELEMENTS (Claimant) claims that the parties entered into a contract. To prove that a contract was

created, (claimant) must prove all of the following:
1. The essential contract terms were clear enough that the parties could understand

what each was required to do;

2. The parties agreed to give each other something of value. [A promise to do something or not to do something may have value]; and

3. The parties agreed to the essential terms of the contract. When you examine whether the parties agreed to the essential terms of the contract, ask yourself if, under the circumstances, a reasonable person would conclude, from the words and conduct of each party, that there was an agreement. The making of a contract depends only on what the parties said or did. You may not consider the parties’ thoughts or unspoken intentions.

Note: If neither offer nor acceptance is contested, then element #3 should not be given. If (Claimant) did not prove all of the above, then a contract was not created.

NOTE ON USE FOR 416.3

This instruction should be given only when the existence of a contract is contested. If both parties agree that they had a contract, then the instructions relating to whether a contract was actually formed would not need to be given. At other times, the parties may be contesting only a limited number of contract formation issues. Also, some of these issues may be decided by the judge as a matter of law. Users should omit elements in this instruction that are not contested so that the jury can focus on the contested issues. Read the bracketed language only if it is an issue in the case.

SOURCES AND AUTHORITIES FOR 416.3

1. The general rule of contract formation was enunciated by the Florida Supreme Court in St. Joe Corp. v. McIver, 875 So.2d 375, 381 (Fla. 2004) (“An oral contract … is subject to the basic requirements of contract law such as offer, acceptance, consideration and sufficient specification of essential terms.”).

2. The first element of the instruction refers to the definiteness of essential terms of the contract. “The definition of ‘essential term’ varies widely according to the nature and complexity of each transaction and is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.Lanza v. Damian Carpentry, Inc., 6 So.3d 674, 676 (Fla. 1st DCA 2009). See also Leesburg Community Cancer Center v. Leesburg Regional Medical Center, 972 So.2d 203, 206 (Fla. 5th DCA 2007) (“We start with the basic premise that no person or entity is bound by a contract absent the essential elements of offer and acceptance (its agreement to be bound to the contract terms), supported by consideration.”).

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3. The second element of the instruction requires giving something of value. In Florida, to constitute valid consideration there must be either a benefit to the promisor or a detriment to the promisee. Mangus v. Present, 135 So.2d 417, 418 (Fla. 1961). The detriment necessary for consideration need not be an actual loss to the promisee, but it is sufficient if the promisee does something that he or she is not legally bound to do. Id.

4. The final element of this instruction requires an objective test. “[A]n objective test is used to determine whether a contract is enforceable.” Robbie v. City of Miami, 469 So.2d 1384, 1385 (Fla. 1985). The intention as expressed controls rather than the intention in the minds of the parties. “The making of a contract depends not on the agreement of two minds in one intention, but on the agreement of two sets of external signs-not on the parties having meant the same thing but on their having said the same thing.” Gendzier v. Bielecki, 97 So.2d 604, 608 (Fla. 1957).

And as to whether the Plaintiff must prove they have been damaged by the defendant’s breach of contract —

SC12-1931 Opinion

416.4 BREACH OF CONTRACT – ESSENTIAL FACTUAL ELEMENTS

To recover damages from (defendant) for breach of contract, (claimant) must prove all of the following:

  1. (Claimant) and (defendant) entered into a contract;
  2. (Claimant) did all, or substantially all, of the essential things which the contract

required [him] [her] [it] to do [or that [he] [she] [it] was excused from doing those things];

3. [All conditions required by the contract for (defendant’s) performance had occurred;]

4. [(Defendant) failed to do something essential which the contract required [him] [her] [it] to do] [(Defendant) did something which the contract prohibited [him] [her] [it] from doing and that prohibition was essential to the contract]; and

Note: If the allegation is that the defendant breached the contract by doing something that the contract prohibited, use the second option.

5. (Claimant) was harmed by that failure.

SC12-1931 Opinion

NOTE ON USE FOR 416.4

In many cases, some of the above elements may not be contested. In those cases, users should delete the elements that are not contested so that the jury can focus on the contested issues.

SOURCES AND AUTHORITIES FOR 416.4

1. An adequately pled breach of contract action requires three elements: (1) a valid contract; (2) a material breach; and (3) damages. Friedman v. New York Life Ins. Co., 985 So.2d 56, 58 (Fla. 4th DCA 2008). This general rule was enunciated by various Florida district courts of appeal. See Murciano v. Garcia, 958 So.2d 423, 423-24 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007); Abbott Laboratories, Inc. v. General Elec. Capital, 765 So.2d 737, 740 (Fla. 5th DCA 2000); Mettler, Inc. v. Ellen Tracy, Inc., 648 So.2d 253, 255 (Fla. 2d DCA 1994); Knowles v. C.I.T. Corp., 346 So.2d 1042, 1043 (Fla. 1st DCA 1977).

2. To maintain an action for breach of contract, a claimant must first establish performance on the claimant’s part of the contractual obligations imposed by the contract. Marshall Construction, Ltd. v. Coastal Sheet Metal & Roofing, Inc., 569 So.2d 845, 848 (Fla. 1st DCA 1990). A claimant is excused from establishing performance if the defendant anticipatorily repudiated the contract. Hosp. Mortg. Grp. v. First Prudential Dev. Corp., 411 So.2d 181, 182- 83 (Fla. 1982). Repudiation constituting a prospective breach of contract may be evidenced by words or voluntary acts but refusal must be distinct, unequivocal and absolute. Mori v. Matsushita Elec. Corp. of Am., 380 So.2d 461, 463 (Fla. 3d DCA 1980).

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3. “Substantial performance is performance ‘nearly equivalent to what was bargained for.’” Strategic Resources Grp., Inc. v. Knight-Ridder, Inc., 870 So.2d 846, 848 (Fla. 3d DCA 2003). “Substantial performance is that performance of a contract which, while not full performance, is so nearly equivalent to what was bargained for that it would be unreasonable to deny the promisee the full contract price subject to the promisor’s right to recover whatever damages may have been occasioned him by the promisee’s failure to render full performance.” Ocean Ridge Dev. Corp. v. Quality Plastering, Inc., 247 So.2d 72, 75 (Fla. 4th DCA 1971).

4. The doctrine of substantial performance applies when the variance from the contract specifications is inadvertent or unintentional and unimportant so that the work actually performed is substantially what was called for in the contract. Lockhart v. Worsham, 508 So.2d 411, 412 (Fla. 1st DCA 1987). “In the context of contracts for construction, the doctrine of substantial performance is applicable only where the contractor has not willfully or materially breached the terms of his contract or has not intentionally failed to comply with the specifications.” National Constructors, Inc. v. Ellenberg, 681 So.2d 791, 793 (Fla. 3d DCA 1996).

5. “There is almost always no such thing as ‘substantial performance’ of payment between commercial parties when the duty is simply the general one to pay.” Hufcor/Gulfstream, Inc. v. Homestead Concrete & Drainage, Inc., 831 So.2d 767, 769 (Fla. 4th DCA 2002).

 

So if you look at both the pleading and the proof from the pretender lenders, they never actually say they paid for anything and they never actually say they were harmed and therefore, the Judge surmises incorrectly, that they don’t have to prove financial injury because it is somehow presumed. That is wrong. And since these jury instructions are published by the Florida Supreme Court, I don’t think the Judge has very much discretion to go outside these instructions when he or she is making the decision himself or herself — without (as the instructions from the Supreme Court say) unequivocally stating the grounds upon which the Judge deviated from the standard jury instruction.
And as for the origination of the loan, which definitely starts as an oral contract —

SC12-1931 Opinion

416.5 ORAL OR WRITTEN CONTRACT TERMS [Contracts may be written or oral.]

[Contracts may be partly written and partly oral.] Oral contracts are just as valid as written contracts.

NOTE ON USE FOR 416.5

Give the bracketed alternative that is most applicable to the facts of the case. If the complete agreement is in writing, this instruction should not be given.

SOURCES AND AUTHORITIES FOR 416.5

1. An “agreement, partly written and partly oral, must be regarded as an oral contract, the liability arising under which is not founded upon an instrument of writing.” Johnson v. Harrison Hardware Furniture Co., 160 So. 878, 879 (Fla. 1935).

2. An oral contract is subject to the basic requirements of contract law such as offer, acceptance, consideration, and sufficient specification of essential terms. St. Joe Corp. v. McIver, 875 So.2d 375, 381 (Fla. 2004).

3. “The complaint alleged the execution of an oral contract, the obligation thereby assumed, and a breach. It therefore set forth sufficient facts which taken as true, would state a cause of action for breach of contract.” Perry v. Cosgrove, 464 So.2d 664, 667 (Fla. 2d DCA 1985).

4. As long as an essential ingredient is not missing from an agreement, courts have been reluctant to hold contracts unenforceable on grounds of uncertainty, especially where one party has benefited from the other’s reliance. Gulf Solar, Inc. v. Westfall, 447 So.2d 363 (Fla. 2d DCA 1984); Community Design Corp. v. Antonell, 459 So.2d 343 (Fla. 3d DCA 1984). When the existence of a contract is clear, the jury may properly determine the exact terms of an oral contract. Perry v. Cosgrove, 464 So.2d 664, 667 (Fla. 2d DCA 1985).

5. “To state a cause of action for breach of an oral contract, a plaintiff is required to allege facts that, if taken as true, demonstrate that the parties mutually assented to ‘a certain and definite proposition’ and left no essential terms open.” W.R. Townsend Contracting, Inc. v. Jensen Civil Construction, Inc., 728 So.2d 297 (Fla. 1st DCA 1999). See also Carole Korn Interiors, Inc. v. Goudie, 573 So.2d 923 (Fla. 3d DCA 1990) (company which provided interior design services sufficiently alleged cause of action for breach of oral contract, when company alleged that: it had entered into oral contract with defendants for interior design services; company had provided agreed services; defendants breached contract by refusing to remit payment; and company suffered damages); Rubenstein v. Primedica Healthcare, Inc., 755 So.2d 746, 748 (Fla. 4th DCA 2000) (“In this case, appellant sufficiently pled that Primedica, upon acquiring Shapiros’ assets, which included their oral agreement with appellant, mutually

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assented to appellant’s continued employment under the same terms and conditions as with Shapiro. Further, he alleged that he suffered damages as a result of his termination.”).

So if the offer  to loan money came from a party who did not loan the money then there is no contract, oral or written, and no documents that could be used as evidence of an enforceable contract because the basic elements of contract are absent. The same would hold true for assignments. Thus the pile of “transfer documents” are all meaningless and worthless unless there was an original enforceable contract.

As for the duty to disclose all intermediary parties and their compensation and the rise of an implied contract —-
SC12-1931 Opinion

416.6 CONTRACT IMPLIED IN FACT

Contracts can be created by the conduct of the parties, without spoken or written words. Contracts created by conduct are just as valid as contracts formed with words.

Conduct will create a contract if the conduct of both parties is intentional and each knows, or under the circumstances should know, that the other party will understand the conduct as creating a contract.

In deciding whether a contract was created, you should consider the conduct and relationship of the parties as well as all of the circumstances.

NOTE ON USE FOR 416.6

Use this instruction where there is no express contract, oral or written, between the parties, and the jury is being asked to infer the existence of a contract from the facts and circumstances of the case.

SOURCES AND AUTHORITIES FOR 416.6

1. “[A]n implied contract is one in which some or all of the terms are inferred from the conduct of the parties and the circumstances of the case, though not expressed in words.” 17A AM. JUR. 2d Contracts § 12 (2009).

2. “In a contract implied in fact the assent of the parties is derived from other circumstances, including their course of dealing or usage of trade or course of performance.” Rabon v. Inn of Lake City, Inc., 693 So.2d 1126, 1131 (Fla. 1st DCA 1997); McMillan v. Shively, 23 So.3d 830, 831 (Fla. 1st DCA 2009).

3. In Commerce Partnership 8098 Limited Partnership v. Equity Contracting Co., 695 So.2d 383, 387 (Fla. 4th DCA 1997), the Fourth District held:

A contract implied in fact is one form of an enforceable contract; it is based on a tacit promise, one that is inferred in whole or in part from the parties’ conduct, not solely from their words.” 17 AM. JUR. 2d Contracts § 3 (1964); Corbin, CORBIN ON CONTRACTS §§ 1.18-1.20 (Joseph M. Perillo ed. 1993). When an agreement is arrived at by words, oral or written, the contract is said to be “express.” 17 AM. JUR. 2d Contracts § 3. A contract implied in fact is not put into promissory words with sufficient clarity, so a fact finder must examine and interpret the parties’ conduct to give definition to their unspoken agreement. Id.; CORBIN ON CONTRACTS § 562 (1960). It is to this process of defining an enforceable agreement that Florida courts have referred when they have indicated that contracts implied in fact “rest upon the assent of the parties.” Policastro v. Myers, 420 So.2d 324, 326 (Fla. 4th DCA 1982); Tipper v. Great Lakes Chemical Co., 281 So.2d 10, 13 (Fla. 1973). The supreme court described the mechanics of this process in Bromer v. Florida Power & Light Co., 45 So.2d 658, 660 (Fla. 1950):

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[A] [c]ourt should determine and give to the alleged implied contract “the effect which the parties, as fair and reasonable men, presumably would have agreed upon if, having in mind the possibility of the situation which has arisen, they had contracted expressly thereto.” 12 AM. JUR. 2d 766.

See Mecier v. Broadfoot, 584 So.2d 159, 161 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991).

Common examples of contracts implied in fact are when a person performs services at another’s request, or “where services are rendered by one person for another without his expressed request, but with his knowledge, and under circumstances” fairly raising the presumption that the parties understood and intended that compensation was to be paid. Lewis v. Meginniss, 12 So. 19, 21 (Fla. 1892); Tipper, 281 So.2d at 13. In these circumstances, the law implies the promise to pay a reasonable amount for the services. Lewis, 12 So. at 21; Lamoureux v. Lamoureux, 59 So.2d 9, 12 (Fla. 1951); A.J. v. State, 677 So.2d 935, 937 (Fla. 4th DCA 1996); Dean v. Blank, 267 So.2d 670 (Fla. 4th DCA 1972); Solutec Corp. v. Young & Lawrence Associates, Inc., 243 So.2d 605, 606 (Fla. 4th DCA 1971).

….

For example, a common form of contract implied in fact is where one party has performed services at the request of another without discussion of compensation. These circumstances justify the inference of a promise to pay a reasonable amount for the service. The enforceability of this obligation turns on the implied promise, not on whether the defendant has received something of value. A contract implied in fact can be enforced even where a defendant has received nothing of value.

I think I made my point. Lawyers, follow Ms. Kelley’s suggestion. You might find your job in court a lot easier.

 

 

 

LOAN MODIFICATIONS

Modifications are like a dirty word in the marketplace. Frustration, chicanery, luring borrowers into default, and crating modifications that are bound to fail so that the banks can get that ever precious foreclosure sale. But there is another side to it, as our guest writer David Abellard points out below.

And while I think the entire mortgage foreclosure thing is a complete sham, it is nonetheless true that homeowners want a a modification far more often than just getting a “free home.” Most of us understand that litigation is about preventing the banks from getting a “free home” — which is to say not just any home, but the home that a family resides in.

Litigation also provides the homeowner with presenting a credible threat, especially if they are after discovery on the money trail. So it is impossible to say how much litigation is necessary to get the best terms, or even if the homeowner SHOULD litigate, because much of that has more to do with personal decisions than the likelihood of success in litigation.

There is also a point I want to make to people who are not sophisticated in finance. An interest rate that is far under market rates IS the equivalent of a principal reduction. If you want to learn more about this, Google “present value” and “future value.” If you stay in the home for the duration of the loan, the impact gets larger and larger. But if you are staying in the home for only a short while then reducing the interest rate won’t do much without an actual principal reduction. As pointed out in prior broadcasts and articles here on livinglies, make sure whoever you are talking to about modification, short-sale or any other settlement is aware of two things:

  1. There are hidden programs throughout the country that provide direct financial assistance to those who want to bring their loan current or who need a reduction in principal. The “expert” you are hiring had better know about them or you might turn down a deal that would otherwise be acceptable.
  2. Get a court order approving the modification as a settlement. Submit an agreed order that expressly refers tot he legal description of the property, the fact that the homeowner is the owner in fee simple absolute — by name — and that the holder of the mortgage and note is identified by name. The order should approve the settlement even if the the settlement agreement is confidential and even if the settlement agreement is not attached to the order.
  3. Snatch and Grab: Many of the banks are still secretly scripting their customer service people to lure you into a default with the promise of a modification, even accepting trial payments, and then foreclosing anyway. The courts are not amused and they are getting banged by this practice — but only where the homeowner brings it up loudly.
  4. People ask me “should I stop paying?” The answer is universally that you don’t want to put yourself in a worse position than the one in which you are already stuck. Voluntary nonpayment is only for those who are pursuing strategies based upon strategic default. If the bank tells you to fall behind by 90 days, don’t believe it — it’s a trap. At best they are trying to steer you into an in house modification where the interest rates and payments are higher than in HAMP, HARP or other programs that do NOT require you to be i default for modification, no matter what anyone tells you.

But modifying the mortgage is a legitimate way of ending your problem as long as you take the necessary steps to protect your title. Thus I am inviting people to write in about modification. David Abellard sketches the modification process below:

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Loan Modification Information

Most homeowners have lost faith in loan modifications. Lenders have been alleged to routinely used the process to trick unsuspected homeowners into agreeing to consent judgment in pending foreclosure cases. The skepticism of some is understandable. However, the foreclosure landscape has shifted a bit in favor of the homeowners. The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently promulgated rules that make loan modification more effective.

Lenders and their servicers could face serious penalty for not complying with the federal regulations that went into effect January 10, 2014. If a loan is modified, the new payment will be based on the household income; which is generally 31% of the household monthly gross income. Loans on a primary residence as well as non-owner residence can be modified.  There are several loan modification programs. The Home Affordable Modification Program (“HAMP”) is a government  program that has been extended until 12/31/15.  If a homeowner does not qualify for HAMP, or the investor doesn’t participate in the HAMP program, banks and servicers also offer internal private modification programs as an alternative.  Loan modifications are primarily designed to create an affordable payment plan for the homeowner based on their current income; it does not create equity by reducing the principle balance of a loan based on current property value.

There are mainly three ways a loan can be modified to create an affordable payment:
1) reduction of interest rate;
2) extension of loan term;
3) waiver or deferment of principle balance.

Regardless of what someone may tell you, applying for a loan modification does not guarantee that you will receive one, nor can anyone guarantee specific results.
Normally, the homeowner will have to complete a trial period which usually last 3 months before the modification becomes final.  Applying for a loan modification under certain circumstances may stop the court from entering a final judgment or selling the property while the modification application is being reviewed.  The application process can be daunting and intimidating. There are some law firms which concentrate on loan modification. They can become a very effective interface between the lender and the borrower and facilitate the process.

David Abellard at The Law Office of Paul A. Krasker, P.A.
Office: 561.328.2268,  or 877-332-1965 ext 194
Email: dabellard@kraskerlaw.com,

 

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