Latest Moratorium Extensions Are Two-Edged Sword
by Neil Garfield
The new president is facing incoming fire from all directions. If he does not extend the moratorium on foreclosures and evictions, hundreds of thousands of people are going to be homeless. But the extension does not come without costs.
See also https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/black-knights-first-look-2020-ends-with-1-7-million-more-seriously-delinquent-homeowners-than-at-start-of-year-foreclosures-at-record-low-301211915.html
As you have seen on these pages, I am quite confident that none of the scheduled payments from homeowners are legally due. On the other hand, I am loathe to tell homeowners or tenants that they should withhold payments if they can make them.
The reason is basically extortion or duress. By withholding a scheduled payment without a court order telling you can don’t need to make the payment, you put yourself and your home in jeopardy. the Wall Street foreclosure team will use that as their excuse for pursuing collection and enforcement ending in foreclosure and eviction if you don’t properly defend.
The situation with tenants is even more dire. Many if not most rental units are owned by small landlords who do not possess the resources to get through this pandemic period. When the time comes that their units are exempted from moratoriums by time or edict, they will be required to pay the “arrearage” just like everyone else. Those homeowners who are using the moratorium as an excuse to withhold payment without having a plan of attack are headed for trouble — possibly the kind they can’t fix.
The obvious answer to this problem is for homeowners to launch preemptive lawsuits against the securitization team. But my observations and experience show that most judges will not allow such lawsuits to go forward. this is because it is seen as an attack on the financial system generally and because judges are afraid that allowing such lawsuits will invite many more that will clog all the court systems. I have had many judges agree that the lawsuit did state a claim but dismissed it anyway sometimes after as much as 14 months of sitting on the motion to dismiss.
Some people believe that the judges don’t get it. But most of them do “get it” — at least in part. Since those judges believe the loan exists, the loan account exists and that the homeowners almost certainly owe the payments, they see little harm in waiting until enforcement action is brought against the offending homeowner. Then they will occasionally rule in favor of a homeowner who reveals fatal deficiencies in the proof of the claim.
It is during the moratorium periods that homeowners have an unprecedented opportunity to start actions against the securitization team — but not entirely the way most might think. By sending a proper Qualified Written Request and Debt Validation Letter you open up a more palatable action for the Judges in advance of enforcement. This is the opening step in the homeowner’s challenge.
They must answer and they risk some rather harsh sanctions if they lie — so they withhold information. But the information they give in response to the statutory inquiries will most likely contain inconsistencies with their correspondence.
Your questions need to be very specific. And they should start with existence, ownership, and authority over a loan account receivable on the ledger of some company; that entry can only be legal and valid if value was paid in exchange for a conveyance of ownership of the loan account receivable (aka underlying debt or underlying obligation). This is the most basic requirement established by law and custom over centuries in English common law and statutes, American common law; it is also established as the law in every jurisdiction in their adoption of Article 9 §203 of the Uniform Commercial Code.
Next, the homeowner can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Board and the Consumer Division of the Attorney General of their State. Once again a response is mandated by statute and the securitization/foreclosure team does no dare withhold a response. but once again their response is going to be filled with legalese evasion of admitting the simple fact that they don’t own the loan account receivable and they have not been given any authority from anyone who does own it.
Homeowners should not allege nor try to prove that all securitization of residential “debt” is a fraudulent scheme or a lie, even though that is true. It scares judges and it sounds like a conspiracy theory to them. So keep it simple and to the point.
Foreclosure is about restitution for an unpaid debt. If the claiming party has no actual ownership of the debt arising from a real-world transaction in which they paid value in exchange for owning the loan account receivable they fail the test of the condition precedent set forth in 9-203 of the UCC. And that opens the door to “limited” actions for violations of the FDCPA (title X, 124 Stat. 2092 (2010) and other statutes. Those statutes have a bite to them and the foreclosure mills are afraid of them.
The advantage of the preemptive action by the homeowner is that very often the securitization/collection/foreclosure team is not ready with fabricated documents containing false information about transactions that never occurred.
The rule of thumb is to create a vehicle that can be gradually expanded as more information is obtained and the judge is gradually educated as to the true facts of the case. And remember that attorney fees are often recoverable in such actions along with statutory or compensatory damages.
Once filed and discovery is underway, the best practice is to take information gleaned from discovery and then request a leave of court to amend the pleadings to include a broader action for declaratory, injunctive, and supplemental relief.
The homeowner would be seeking damages for illegally trying to enforce a debt, and disgorgement of amounts paid to parties who had no nexus to ownership, or authority over the claimed “debt.” While this premise is true in virtually all cases in which securitization claims were in play, it can only be established by revealing the inability or unwillingness of the opposition to answer the most basic questions about existence, ownership, and authority over the debt.
They can’t but you must do much more than accusing them. You must out litigate them which is why you most likely should have a lawyer who knows how to file motions to dismiss, discovery requests and motions to enforce discovery requests, along with motions for sanctions, motions for the court to adopt a negative inference against the opposition and motions in limine.
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