BANK OF NEW YORK vs. LAKS | NJ Appeals Court Reversal "A notice of intention is deficient...if it does not provide the name and address of the lender"

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BANK OF NEW YORK vs. LAKS | NJ Appeals Court Reversal “A notice of intention is deficient…if it does not provide the name and address of the lender”

BANK OF NEW YORK vs. LAKS | NJ Appeals Court Reversal “A notice of intention is deficient…if it does not provide the name and address of the lender”

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE
APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY
APPELLATE DIVISION

DOCKET NO. A-4221-09T3

BANK OF NEW YORK AS TRUSTEE FOR
THE CERTIFICATE HOLDERS CWALT
2004 26T1,
Plaintiff-Respondent,

v.

SARAH G. LAKS and EDWARD
EINHORN, her husband,
Defendants-Appellants,
and
PNC BANK, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION,
Defendant.
___________________________________
Submitted May 23, 2011 – Decided August 8, 2011

EXCERPTS:

The defendants in an action to foreclose a residential mortgage appeal from the denial of their motion to vacate the judgment of foreclosure and dismiss the complaint without prejudice. We reverse and remand for entry of an order granting that relief.

[…]

Laks missed her May 2008 payment on the note and every monthly payment thereafter. On August 13, Countrywide Home Loans,3 plaintiff’s loan servicer, sent a notice of intention to foreclose to Laks by certified mail, return receipt requested. The notice of intention recited that Countrywide was acting on behalf of the owner of Laks’s promissory note, without identifying the owner. The notice of intention also warned that if Laks did not pay $21,279.64 to Countrywide within 30 days, then Laks’s noteholder, again not identified, would institute foreclosure proceedings against her. The notice concluded by advising Laks that if she did not agree that default had occurred or if she disputed the amount required to cure her default, she could contact Countrywide at an address and telephone number stated in the notice. Nowhere on the notice was Laks informed that plaintiff was the owner of her promissory note nor was she given plaintiff’s address. Three days before the foreclosure complaint was filed, MERS assigned Laks and Einhorn’s mortgage to plaintiff.

[…]

Thus, compliance with this notice provision is, in effect, a condition the lender must satisfy in order to either “accelerate the maturity of any residential mortgage obligation” or “commence any foreclosure or other legal action to take possession of the residential property which is the subject of the mortgage.” N.J.S.A. 2A:50-56(a). In fact, with narrow exceptions inapplicable here, “[c]ompliance with [N.J.S.A. 2A:50-56] shall be set forth in the pleadings of any legal action” to foreclose a residential mortgage. N.J.S.A. 2A:50- 56(f). The notice of intention must include specific information “state[d] in a manner calculated to make the debtor aware of the situation[.]” N.J.S.A. 2A:50-56(c).5 The information the Legislature has deemed essential to the Act’s purpose includes:

“the particular obligation or real estate security interest”; “the nature of the default claimed”; the debtor’s right to cure the default; what the debtor must do to cure; and the date by which it must be done to avoid the filing of a foreclosure complaint. N.J.S.A. 2A:50-56(c)(1)-(5). The notice also must advise the debtor of the consequences of a failure to cure —specifically, that the lender may take steps to terminate the debtor’s ownership of the property by filing a foreclosure action and that the debtor will be required to pay the lender’s court costs and counsel fees if the debtor does not cure.
N.J.S.A. 2A:50-56(c)(6)-(7). In addition to the foregoing information about rights, responsibilities and consequences, the Legislature has determined that the notice of intention must include three items of information that are best characterized as helpful to a debtor interested in curing default. The first two are advice to seek counsel from an attorney — including references to the New Jersey Bar Association, Lawyer Referral Service and Legal Services — and a list of programs providing assistance for those seeking to cure default. N.J.S.A. 2A:50-56(c)(9)-(10). The third, and the one critical in this case, is “the name and address of the lender and the telephone number of a representative of the lender whom the debtor may contact if the 9 A-4221-09T3 debtor disagrees with the lender’s assertion that a default has occurred or the correctness of the mortgage lender’s calculation of the amount required to cure default.” N.J.S.A. 2A:50- 56(c)(11).

There is no question that the notice of intention mailed to Laks did not provide the name or address of the lender as required by subsection (c)(11). The notice of intention named no entity other than the mortgage servicer, Countrywide.

[…]

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