Quiet Title “Packages”

The promise by some title search vendors of a cheap lawsuit that will get rid of your mortgage is generally not based in reality. You might be able to beat a foreclosure with title issues but you probably won’t get rid of the mortgage or deed of trust without pleading and proving that the mortgage or deed of trust is completely void — like it never should have existed or doesn’t exist now by operation of law.
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There are many people out there who are pursuing a business model of offering a quiet title package, sometimes using the word “Turnkey.” Most of these people are well-meaning but not lawyers and they are lacking basic legal knowledge. While the title work by people like BPInvestigations is excellent, the promise by some title search vendors of a cheap lawsuit that will get rid of your mortgage is generally not based in reality. You might be able to beat a foreclosure with title issues but you probably won’t get rid of the mortgage or deed of trust without pleading and proving that the mortgage or deed of trust is completely void — like it never should have existed or doesn’t exist now by operation of law.

Personally I think that condition is satisfied by TILA rescission, but the courts are still rebelling against the idea of giving that much power to borrowers. So while I am certain it is correct, I am equally certain that the defense shield raised by the banks is working even though it does not pass muster legally and will probably be struck down again by the US Supreme Court.

While these offers may sound attractive there are many pitfalls and trap doors that will prevent a homeowner from actually achieving anything by focusing on a strategy that is dependent upon a court issuing a declaration quieting title. The very word “quiet” should give you a hint. There must be an actual controversy or dispute involving a present situation requiring the court to decide the rights of the parties. Courts are NOT in the business of issuing advisory opinions.

The Marketing title says it all — it is a “turnkey” “quiet title” package suing for damages. There is no such thing as turnkey title — they don’t know all the possibilities of defects in title. And they won’t know it even after they produce a title report either, although they will have a pretty good list of possibilities of title defects.
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Without a title expert (usually an attorney) analyzing the title going back to the last time that a real title examiner looked carefully at title to the subject property, nobody knows what is a defect, what can be corrected by affidavit, and what prevents the grantee of an instrument from doing anything with it. This might mean going back 30 years or more.

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Quiet title is an action in equity that is a complaint for declaratory relief wherein the court says “here are the names of the stakeholders and here is the stake of each holder.” But no court is going to allow the lawsuit for that without pleading a present controversy — because that would be the Court giving legal advice.

So you would have to say “A is the owner of the property but B (or B, C and D) is/are saying it is the owner of the property (or B is saying that it has a valid encumbrance upon the land. I am trying to sell, refinance the land and I can’t complete the transaction because of B’S claim, which I think is bogus because [fill in the blank, e.g., the mortgage is a void or wild instrument because …]. So in order to complete my pending transaction I need a declaration from the court as to whether B is a stakeholder, like they say or B is not a stakeholder like I say.” If you don’t have those elements present the court will dismiss the lawsuit 99 times out of 100.

The promise of damages is bogus. That is an action at law that could be derived from any number of breaches or torts by the defendant(s). It could never derive from a turnkey quiet title package even if there was one. It would be a different lawsuit saying B had this duty, they breached it, or committed an intentional tort, and that was the proximate cause of actual damages to me that include x, y and z.

 

And as many people have found out when they sued for quiet title and had their suit dismissed or judgment entered against them there are two main reasons for that. First, they could not properly plead a present controversy or the competing “stakes” in the property. Second, they could not tie in ACTUAL damages to a breach of duty or intentional tort by the defendant. Proximately caused means legally caused.

Most judges view such lawsuits as “”B is bad. Give me title and whatever monetary damages you think will punish them.” The homeowners are skipping the part that where there are no actual damages you don’t get punitive damages. You can’t sue for JUST punitive damages. If you don’t have actual damages you don’t have standing to sue. The Latin for this is damnum absque injuria. Just because somebody was negligent or greedy doesn’t mean you can sue if you are not a party who suffered actual damages from their illegal act.

FDCPA and FCCPA: Temperatures rising

FDCPA and FCCPA (or similar state legislation) claims are getting traction across the country. Bank of America violated the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) and the related Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (“FCCPA”). (Doc. 26). The Goodin case is a fair representation of the experience of hundreds of thousands of homeowners who have tried to reconcile the numbers given to them by Bank of America and others.

In a carefully worded opinion from Federal District Court Judge Corrigan in Jacksonville, the Court laid out the right to damages under the FDCPA and FCCPA. The Court found that BOA acted with gross negligence because they continued their behavior long after being put on notice of a mistake on their part and awarded the 2 homeowners:

  • Statutory damages of $2,000
  • Actual damages for emotional distress of $100,000 ($50,000 per person)
  • Punitive damages of $100,000
  • Attorneys fees and costs

 

See http://www.leagle.com/decision/In%20FDCO%2020150623E16/GOODIN%20v.%20BANK%20OF%20AMERICA,%20N.A.

The story is the same as I have heard from thousands of other homeowners. The “servicer” or “bank” misapplies payments, negligently posts payments to the wrong place and refuses to make any correction despite multiple attempts by the homeowners to get their account straightened out. Then the bank refuses to take any more payments because the homeowners are “late, ” “delinquent”, or in “default”, following which they send a default notice, intent to accelerate and then file suit in foreclosure.

The subtext here is that there is no “default” if the “borrower” tenders payment timely with good funds. The fact that the servicer/bank does not accept them or post them to the right ledger does not create a default on the part of the borrower, who has obviously done nothing wrong. There is no default and there is no delinquency. The wrongful act was clearly committed by the servicer/bank. Hence there is no default by the borrower in any sense by any standard. It might be said that if there is a default, it is a default by Bank of America or whoever the servicer/bank is in another case.

Using the logic and law of yesteryear, we frequently make the mistake of assuming that if there is no posting of a payment, no cashing of a check or no acceptance of the tender of payment, that the borrower is in default but it is refutable or excusable — putting the burden on the borrower to show that he/she/they tendered payment. In fact, it is none of those things. When you parse out the “default” none of the elements are present as to the borrower.

This case stands out as a good discussion of damages for emotional distress — including cases, like this one, where there is no evidence from medical experts nor medical bills resulting from the anguish of trying to sleep for years knowing that the bank or servicer is out to get your house. The feeling of being powerless is a huge factor. If an institution like BOA fails to act fairly and refuses to correct its own “errors,” it is not hard to see how the distress is real.

I of course believe that BOA had no procedures in place to deal with calls, visits, letters and emails from the homeowner because they want the foreclosure in all events — or at least as many as possible. The reason is simple: the foreclosure judgment is the first legally valid instrument in a long chain of misdeeds. It creates the presumption that all the events, documents, letters and claims were valid before the judgment was entered and makes all those misdeeds enforceable.

The Judge also details the requirements for punitive damages — i.e., aggravating circumstances involving gross negligence and intentional acts. The Judge doesn’t quite say that the acts of BOA were intentional. But he describes BOA’s actions as so grossly negligent that it must approach an intentional, malicious act for the sole benefit of the actor.

 

PRACTICE NOTE ON MERGER DOCTRINE AND EXISTENCE OF DEFAULT:

It has always been a basic rule of negotiable instruments law that once a promissory note is given for an underlying obligation (like the mortgage contract), the underlying obligation is merged into the note and is suspended while the note is still outstanding. Discharge on the note would (due to the rule that the two are merged) result in discharge discharge of the underlying obligation. Thus paying the note would also pay the obligation. Because of the merger rule, the underlying obligation is not available as a separate course of action until the note is dishonored.

 

The problem here is that most lawyers and most judges are not very familiar with the UCC even though it constitutes state law in whatever state they are in. They see the UCC as a problem when in fact it is a solution. it answers the hairy details without requiring any interpretation. It just needs to be applied. But just then the banks make their “free house” argument and the judge “interprets a statute that is only vaguely understood.

The banks know that judges are not accustomed to using the UCC and they come in with a presumed default simply because they show the judge that on their own books no payment was posted. And of course they have no record of tender and refusal by the bank. The court then usually erroneously shifts the burden of proof, as to whether tender of the payment was made, onto the homeowner who of course does not  have millions of dollars of computer equipment, IT platforms and access to the computer generated “accounts” on multiple platforms.

This merger rule, with its suspension of the underlying obligation until this honor of the note cut is codified in §3-310 of the UCC:

(b) unless otherwise agreed and except as provided in subsection (a), if a note or an uncertified check is taken for an obligation, the obligation is suspended to the same extent the obligation would be discharged if an amount of money equal to the amount of the instruments were taken, and the following rules apply:

(2) in the case of a note, suspension of the obligation continues until dishonor of the note or until it is paid. Payment of the note results in the discharge of the obligation to the extent of the payment.

thus until the note is dishonored there can be no default on the underlying obligation (the mortgage contract). All foreclosure statutes, whether permitting self-help or requiring the involvement of court, forbid foreclosure unless the underlying debt is in”Default.” That means that the maker of the promissory note must have failed to make the payments required by the note itself, and thus the node has been dishonored. Under UCC §3-502(a)(3) a hello promissory note is dishonored when the maker does not pay it when the footnote first becomes payable.

Padget v OneWest – IndyMac Provides some insight into RESPA remedies

The Ocwen Court provided an example for clarity: “Suppose an S & L signs a mortgage agreement with a homeowner that specifies annual interest rate of 6 percent and a year later bills the homeowner at a rate of 10 percent and when the homeowner refuses to pay institutes foreclosure proceedings. It would be surprising for a federal regulation to forbid the homeowner’s state to give the homeowner a defense based on the mortgagee’s breach of contract.” Ocwen, 491 F.3d at 643-44.

Padget-One west bank dba Indymac

Editor’s Note: The assumption was made that One West owned the loan when it was clearly securitized. One West used the fact that Plaintiff admitted that One West was the owner of the loan and therefore undermined Plaintiff’s case against One West as a debt collector which requires the actor to be collecting for the benefit of a third party.

This is where the rubber meets the road. either you are going to master the nuance introduced by securitization or you are going to let the other side have a field day with misrepresentations that you have admitted are true.

PADGETT, Plaintiff,
v.
ONEWEST BANK, FSB, d/b/a INDYMAC

Civil Action No. 3:10-CV-08
United States District Court, Northern District of West Virginia, Martinsburg

parties filed an Agreed Order in the bankruptcy court resolving IndyMac’s motion to lift the automatic stay. (Id. at ¶ 14). Pursuant to this Agreed Order, the plaintiff’s mortgage was deemed current as of May 1, 2008, and the one payment for which the plaintiff was in arrears was added onto the end of the mortgage. (Id. at ¶¶ 15-
16). The first payment due under the Agreed Order was due in May 2008. (Id. at ¶ 17). The plaintiff made the May 2008 payment in a timely fashion and has made his monthly mortgage payment each month after May 2008, up to and including the date of the filing of the plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint. (Id. at ¶¶ 18-19).

In March 2009, Defendant OneWest Bank, F.S.B. (“OneWest”) purchased IndyMac, whereupon IndyMac Mortgage Services (“IndyMac MS”) became a division of OneWest. (Id. at ¶¶ 20-21). On July 16, 2009, OneWest, doing business as IndyMac MS, sent the plaintiff a letter claiming he was one month behind on his payments. (Id. at ¶ 22). In response, on July 28, 2009, the plaintiff wrote to OneWest, enclosing a copy of the Agreed Order from his bankruptcy proceeding and requesting that OneWest supply him with documentation that he nevertheless remained one month behind. (Id. at
¶¶ 24-26). Again, on August 3, 2009, and September 16, 2009, IndyMac MS sent letters to the plaintiff alleging he was behind on his mortgage payments. (Id. at ¶¶ 28-29).

OneWest continues to assess monthly late fees against his account and has informed credit reporting agencies that the plaintiff’s mortgage is delinquent, though plaintiff alleges he is current on his monthly mortgage payments.

OneWest argued that all of the plaintiff’s claims for relief were preempted by the Home Owners’ Loan Act of 1933, 12 U.S.C. § 1461, et seq. (“HOLA”). (Id. at 4).

Motion to Dismiss denied in part and granted in part. Motion to Strike denied. Plaintiff was allowed to proceed.

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