State-level legislation introduced earlier this year proposed that the
beneficiary of a trust deed have only 30 days after payoff to deliver a written request to the trustee to reconvey the property back to the grantor.
If the beneficiary delayed delivery of the request and missed the 30-day deadline by even one day, the beneficiary would be liable to the grantor for $500, the legislation stated. This amount would be in addition to all actual damages incurred by the grantor.
Consequently, if a prospective sale of the property was lost because of a delay in following through with the reconveyance, the beneficiary would be held liable for substantial damages.
This can be a real trap if it takes more than 30 days to forward a request for reconveyance. The $500 fine could be just the beginning. In the opinion of George C. Reinmiller Trustee Inc., beneficiaries, loan servicers and trustees will probably see more of this type of legislation around the country, because a limited few have been slow in completing reconveyances.
The penalties and monetary losses don’t stop there.
With the rise in foreclosures and an increase in budget cutbacks, lenders and servicers have been seeing a higher demand to have complete and accurate collateral files to certify their pools of loans.
By completing an audit and ensuring everything is there, servicers will find it easier to close on the sale of the pool and will see a decrease in requests for the repurchase of certain assets in the file. These certified pools of loans are considered more valuable and are, therefore, sold relatively easily.
In today’s market, purchasers of pools look for any number of reasons for a seller to repurchase loans. One such reason – in fact, the most common reason – is incomplete files.
If there are problems within a pool, lenders and servicers can spend huge amounts of money trying to discover the missing pieces. Another possible headache is the time and money involved to go back and forth with the attorney trying to resolve these types of issues should the loan fall into foreclosure. If the issues cannot be resolved quickly, the seller may have to buy back the loans, which is something a struggling company shudders to hear.
What can lenders and loan servicers do to quickly correct these types of problems or keep them from occurring in the first place?
The more time that passes between origination and file verification, the more costly and difficult it becomes to obtain any missing documents. Sometimes, with cutbacks (such as loss of human resources) or, as we see happening more frequently these days, the relocation of offices, documents can be forgotten or misplaced and can end up sitting incomplete in an abandoned filing cabinet that will probably go untouched until someone accidentally comes across it.
Servicers should take aggressive document control and verify they have the documents they need in each file as soon as possible. If documents are missing, there are still strategies that can be employed.
Finding and obtaining missing original documents that have to be publicly recorded (e.g., mortgages, assignments and assumptions) are fairly easy to retrive. For instance, you can get a certified copy from the county recorder where the property is located, as long as the document was originally recorded.
Research can be done to verify whether the document was recorded by searching the county’s Web site or speaking with the recorder’s office. You may obtain a certified copy by phone or by mailing in a certified copy request to the county recorder. However, there are a few recording districts that require an abstractor to physically come in to research and/or request a copy of a document.
Obtaining copies of missing documents that were never recorded on the public record – such as title policies – can get much more complicated. One can always go directly to the title company or title agent that issued the policy, but with current conditions in the economy and mortgage industry, title companies have been closing their doors.
The next step is to contact the underwriter. Most underwriters will not send the original policy, because they normally do not have it. However, they should be able to send a certified copy. Because each purchaser is different and may have a different concept of what is acceptable, specificity is key. Get a clear definition of what a certified copy of a title policy is from the purchaser before obtaining one from the underwriter.
There is a chance that the underwriter may not have the policy, either. In that case, the underwriter might have to re-issue it, which can get pretty costly. To re-issue the policy, the underwriter will normally require a complete chain of assignments. Most underwriters will only reissue a title policy directly from the current beneficiary of the mortgage and will use the assignments on record to verify that person’s identity.
With Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS), missing assignments have, in recent years, become less of a problem for some, but there are still many mortgages that are not registered with MERS. With the countless number of banks and mortgage companies being sold or closing, it can become a Sherlock Holmes case trying to find an entity that can sign and, therefore, complete the assignment chain. It usually starts with searching various Web sites and tracking down the current holder or entity of the company.
When all else fails
Then the phone calls start in an attempt to find the right person to sign the document. What happens if you can’t find anyone to sign? In many cases, when there is no one left that can sign an assignment, a lost assignment affidavit is a possible resolution. But keep in mind that only certain states and/or recording jurisdictions allow these affidavits. If all else fails, then it is up to the courts to resolve the problem, which is when the expenses start to increase once again.
By having all loan files complete, one is able to move quickly if a loan is paid in full, as well. Steep penalties can be avoided in certain states by providing a release or reconveyance in a timely manner. This is especially important if Reinmiller’s opinion holds true and the trend of shortened compliance time frames grows further.
Lenders and servicers should take a proactive approach in their daily functions and do whatever it takes to ensure that their files are complete from the start to avoid costly mistakes with unpredictable results.
Jessica Woods is vice president of Richmond Monroe Group Inc., an outsource services provider offering processing and technology solutions to the servicing industry. She can be reached at (417) 447-2931 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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