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[NYSC] DISMISSED “NO EVIDENCE MERS TRANFERRED INTEREST IN NOTE” LNV CORP v. MADISON REAL ESTATE LLC

[NYSC] DISMISSED “NO EVIDENCE MERS TRANFERRED INTEREST IN NOTE” LNV CORP v. MADISON REAL ESTATE LLC


EXCERPT:

In this case, Plaintiff has not provided any evidence which shows that when MERS assigned the mortgage to Plaintiff, it also transferred the interest in the underlying note. According to the mortgage assignment contract, MERS held legal title to the mortgage. There is no language in the agreement which transfers interest in the note to MERS. Because MERS did not hold title to the underlying note, it could not transfer any rights to the underlying note when it assigned the mortgage to Plaintiff. See LPP Mortgage Ltd v. Sabine Properties No. 103648/10,2010 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 4216, at*7 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co. Sept. 1, 2010); Lamy , 824 N.Y.S.2d at 769 (Sup. Ct. Suffolk Co. 2006); HSBC Bank USA v. Miller, 26 Misc. 3d 407,411,889 N.Y.S.2d 430,433 (Sup. Ct. Sullivan Co. 2009). Without a transfer of title to the underlying note, Plaintiff cannot foreclose on the property based on default payment and lacks standing under CPLR 5 321 1 (a)(3)

[…]

Therefore, it is
ORDERED that Defendant’s motion to dismiss is granted; and it is further
ORDERED that this action is dismissed; and it is further
ORDERED that the clerk of the court directed to enter judgment accordingly.

Continue below…

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CA CLASS ACTION: FORSTER v. WELLS FARGO, AMERICA’S SERVICING COMPANY “Fraudulent Modification Practices”

CA CLASS ACTION: FORSTER v. WELLS FARGO, AMERICA’S SERVICING COMPANY “Fraudulent Modification Practices”


FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION

(Breach of Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing)

SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION

(Equitable Estoppel)

THIRD CAUSE OF ACTION

(Inducing Breach of Contract)

FOURTH CAUSE OF ACTION

(Unjust Enrichment)

FIFTH CAUSE OF ACTION

(Violation of California Business & Professional Code 17200, et seq., Unlawful, Unfair, or Fraudulent Business Practices)

WELLS FARGO CA

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NJ APPEALS COURT VOIDS MORTGAGE: US BANK, N.A. VS. NIKIA HOUGH, ET AL.

NJ APPEALS COURT VOIDS MORTGAGE: US BANK, N.A. VS. NIKIA HOUGH, ET AL.


StopForeclosureFraud.com

While US Bank cannot foreclose on the home, it can sue her to collect the debt she still owes.

Hough’s attorney, Henry Loeb of Somerville, said, “It’s a split decision. She is very happy about having the mortgage voided. But we thought there were decent arguments to have the entire loan voided.”

read the full article here…My Central Jersey

Appeals Court Opinion

US BANK, N.A. v. HOUGH

US BANK, N.A., Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
NIKIA HOUGH, Defendant-Appellant, and
MR. HOUGH, HUSBAND OF NIKIA HOUGH; NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY AFFAIRS; COUNCIL ON AFFORDABLE HOUSING; TOWNSHIP OF PISCATAWAY; NEW JERSEY HOUSING AND MORTGAGE FINANCE AGENCY; STATE OF NEW JERSEY; and THE COMMONS AT PISCATAWAY, INC., Defendants.

No. A-5623-08T3.

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division.

Argued January 12, 2010.

Reargued April 13, 2010.

Decided September 14, 2010.

Henry A. Loeb argued the cause for appellant (Blumberg & Rosenberg, P.A., attorneys; Mr. Loeb, on the brief).

Vladimir Palma argued the cause for respondent (Phelan Hallinan & Schmieg, PC, attorneys; Mr. Palma, on the brief).

Geraldine Callahan, Deputy Attorney General, argued the cause for amicus curiae Office of the Attorney General (Paula T. Dow, Attorney General, attorney; Nancy Kaplen, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Ms. Callahan, on the statement in lieu of brief).

Before Judges Fuentes, Gilroy and Simonelli.

GILROY, J.A.D.

This is a real property foreclosure action. Plaintiff US Bank, N.A. seeks to foreclose upon defendant Nikia Hough’s residential condominium unit located in the Township of Piscataway (the Township). The condominium unit forms part of the Township’s affordable housing obligation and, as such, is subject to the Uniform Housing Affordability Controls (UHAC) adopted by defendant New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA), N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.1 to -26.26. Hough appeals from the June 12, 2009 order that denied her motion seeking to “void judgment of foreclosure and to dismiss plaintiff’s complaint with prejudice.”

The primary question presented is whether a commercial lender, which makes a loan secured by a mortgage on an affordable housing unit in excess of the amount permitted by N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.8(b), is prohibited from seeking to foreclose the mortgage. We answer the question in the affirmative, holding that the mortgage is void pursuant to N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.18(e). Accordingly, we reverse.

I.

We briefly state the procedural history and facts leading to this appeal. On January 14, 2004, Hough purchased the condominium unit for $68,142.86. To fund part of the purchase price, Hough borrowed $61,329 from Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Inc., and secured the loan by executing a mortgage in favor of Wells Fargo. Because the condominium formed a part of the Township’s affordable housing obligation, the deed contained the following restriction:

The owner’s right title and interest in this unit and the use, sale and resale of this property are subject to the terms, conditions, restrictions, limitations and provisions as set forth in Ordinance number 88-34, as amended, which Ordinance is entitled “An Ordinance Establishing and Creating Regulations Governing the Conduct of the Purchase and/or Rental of Affordable Housing in the Township of Piscataway[,”]. . . as well as those terms, conditions, restrictions, limitations, and provisions as set forth in the “Affordable Housing Plan of the Commons at Piscataway” dated April 3, 1991 which plan was filed in the Office of the Clerk of Middlesex County . . . on June 20, 1991. Both are on file with the Piscataway Township Department of Planning and Community Development.

The deed was recorded in the Middlesex County Clerk’s Office on March 15, 2004.

On March 25, 2005, Hough refinanced the condominium unit by borrowing $108,000 from Mortgage Lenders Network, USA, Inc. At the time of the mortgage transaction, the maximum allowable resale price of the condominium unit, pursuant to N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.6, was approximately $68,735.41.[ 1 ] Hough executed a promissory note in favor of Mortgage Lenders, secured by a mortgage on the condominium unit. The mortgage was recorded in the Middlesex County Clerk’s Office on April 14, 2005. Hough used the mortgage proceeds to satisfy the Wells Fargo purchase money mortgage then in the amount of $62,795.10, and for other personal unsecured debts, and real property tax liens. Hough netted $20,080.45 from the mortgage refinance. The new mortgage included the same affordable housing restriction contained in the January 14, 2004 deed. On February 1, 2007, Hough defaulted on the mortgage.

On June 12, 2007, Mortgage Lenders filed a complaint in foreclosure against Hough.[ 2 ] On July 20, 2007, Mortgage Lenders assigned the mortgage to plaintiff. On July 8, 2008, plaintiff filed an amended complaint adding as defendants: the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA), the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), the Township, HMFA, and Hough’s condominium, The Commons at Piscataway, Inc. Plaintiff served Hough with the amended complaint and summons on August 13, 2008. Plaintiff entered default against defendants on September 18, 2008.

The Township filed an answer alleging priority over plaintiff’s mortgage based on the deed restriction. On December 15, 2008, plaintiff and the Township filed a consent order under which the Township withdrew its answer; and plaintiff agreed to prosecute the action subject to the affordable housing restriction referenced in the January 14, 2004 deed, to provide the Township with notice of any sheriff’s sale, and to request the court return the matter to the Office of Foreclosure as an uncontested action.

On January 26, 2009, plaintiff filed and served a notice for entry of final judgment. On March 9, 2009, plaintiff filed proofs in support of its request for entry of judgment. In the interim, Hough filed a motion seeking to void the judgment of foreclosure and to dismiss the complaint with prejudice, contending that the mortgage violated the UHAC regulations, as it secured a loan in excess of the amount permitted pursuant to N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.8(b).

On April 3, 2009, mistakenly believing that final judgment had already been entered, the trial court denied the motion, concluding that vacating the judgment would improperly bestow a benefit upon Hough because she had been aware of the affordable housing restrictions when she borrowed the money, paid off the Wells Fargo mortgage, and otherwise used or retained the balance of the mortgage proceeds. It is from this order that Hough appeals.

The order appealed from is not a final judgment. A “final judgment in an action to foreclose a real estate mortgage fixes the amount due under the mortgage and directs the sale of the real estate to raise funds to satisfy the amount due.” Eisen v. Kostakos, 116 N.J. Super. 358, 365 (App. Div. 1971). Accordingly, the order appealed from is interlocutory, as it is not final as to all parties and all issues. Janicky v. Pt. Bay Fuel, Inc., 396 N.J. Super. 545, 549-50 (App. Div. 2007). Nonetheless, because of the importance of the issue presented, we grant leave to appeal nunc pro tunc. Gill v. N.J. Dep’t of Banking & Ins., 404 N.J. Super. 1, 8 (App. Div. 2008).

Hough initially argued that we should reverse and declare only the mortgage void, pursuant to N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.18(e). In countering plaintiff’s assertion that she would receive a windfall if the court were to void the entire indebtedness, Hough contended that plaintiff’s assertion “ignore[d] that it is only [plaintiff’s] mortgage that is void under the COAH regulation at issue and not the [n]ote or therefore the underlying debt. Rather, the regulation unequivocally establishes a reasoned and non-confiscatory penalty for a violation of its requirement; a loss of the obligation’s secured status.”

Questioning whether N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.18(e) requires voiding only the mortgage or whether it also requires voiding the indebtedness, we invited the Attorney General to address the issue on behalf of the HMFA. Consistent with Hough’s initial assertion, the Attorney General argued it is only “the mortgage secured by the affordable property that offends the regulation and is void as against public policy.” Nonetheless, contrary to her initial position, Hough contended at re-argument that we should not only void the mortgage, but also declare the underlying indebtedness void as against public policy.

II.

The January 14, 2004 deed restriction placed lenders on constructive notice that the condominium unit was part of the Township’s Mount Laurel[ 3 ] affordable housing obligation subject to the UHAC regulations.[ 4 ] The amount of indebtedness that can legally be secured by a mortgage on an affordable housing unit is governed by N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.8, which provides:

(a) Prior to incurring any indebtedness to be secured by an ownership unit, the owner shall submit to the administrative agent a notice of intent to incur such indebtedness, in such form and with such documentary support as determined by the administrative agent, and the owner shall not incur any such indebtedness unless and until the administrative agent has determined in writing that the proposed indebtedness complies with the provisions of this section.

(b) With the exception of original purchase money mortgages, during a control period, neither an owner nor a lender shall at any time cause or permit the total indebtedness secured by an ownership unit to exceed 95 percent of the maximum allowable resale price of that unit, as such price is determined by the administrative agent in accordance with N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.6(c).

“Administrative agent” is defined in the regulations as meaning “the entity responsible for administering the affordability controls of this subchapter with respect to specific restricted units, as designated pursuant to N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.14.” N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.2.

The “maximum allowable resale price” of an affordable housing unit is determined in accordance with N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.6:

(c) The initial purchase price of a restricted ownership unit financed under [Urban Home Ownership Recovery Program] or [Market Oriented Neighborhood Investment Program] unit shall be calculated so that the monthly carrying costs of the unit, including principal and interest (based on a mortgage loan equal to 95 percent of the purchase price and the Federal Reserve HR15 rate of interest), taxes, homeowner and private mortgage insurance and condominium or homeowner association fees do not exceed 28 percent of the eligible monthly income of a household whose income does not exceed 45 percent of median income, in the case of a low-income unit, or 72 percent of median income, in the case of a moderate-income unit, and that is of an appropriate household size as determined under N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.4.

(d) The maximum resale price for a restricted ownership unit, if the resale occurs prior to the one-year anniversary of the date on which title to the unit was first transferred to a certified household, is the initial purchase price. If the resale occurs on or after such anniversary date, the maximum resale price shall be consistent with the regional income limits most recently published by COAH and calculated pursuant to [N.J.A.C.] 5:94-7.2(b). The administrative agent shall prove all resale prices, in writing and in advance of the resale, to assure compliance with the foregoing standards.

[N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.6.]

Lastly, the prohibition against securing loans in excess of the amount permitted by N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.8(b) with a mortgage against an affordable housing unit is enforced in part by N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.18(e), which provides:

Banks and other lending institutions are prohibited from issuing any loan secured by owner-occupied real property subject to the affordability controls set forth in this subchapter, if such loan would be in excess of the amounts permitted by the restriction documents recorded in the deed or mortgage book in the county in which the property is located. Any loan issued in violation of this subsection shall be void as against public policy.

[(Emphasis added).]

Hough contends that because N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.8(e) provides that “[a]ny loan issued in violation of [the regulation] shall be void as against public policy,” that the regulation prohibits plaintiff from seeking not only to foreclose upon the mortgage, but also from seeking to collect upon the underlying debt instrument. Plaintiff counters that because it has agreed with the Township that it will foreclose upon the condominium unit subject to the affordable housing restrictions, stipulating that any sheriff’s sale will not produce a sale price higher than the maximum resale price as determined by the UHAC regulations, and the property would be sold only to a qualified buyer as determined under those regulations, that we should affirm the trial court’s order denying defendant’s motion to dismiss the complaint. Plaintiff also contends that if we prohibit it from proceeding with its foreclosure action, Hough “would clearly have been unjustly enriched,” when, in fact, her own acts or omissions materially contributed to the mortgage refinance in violation of N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.8(b). In support of that contention, plaintiff cites N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.8(a), which requires an owner to give notice of intent to the administrative agent that the owner intends to incur an indebtedness secured by a mortgage on the affordable housing unit, other than a first purchase money mortgage loan. Plaintiff asserts the record is devoid of any evidence that Hough gave the required notice before she refinanced the property with Mortgage Lenders.

The HMFA, through the Attorney General, contends that N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.18(e) only requires the voiding of the mortgage as against public policy, contending that “[t]he regulation does not affect the underlying debt as that does not undermine the regulation’s purpose.” We agree with the HMFA’s interpretation of the regulation.

“[W]e `give great deference to an agency’s interpretation and implementation of its rules enforcing the statutes for which it is responsible.'” ZRB, LLC v. NJ Dep’t of Envtl. Prot., 403 N.J. Super. 531, 549 (App. Div. 2008) (quoting In re Freshwater Wetlands Prot. Act Rules, 180 N.J. 478, 488 (2004)); see also DiMaria v. Bd. of Trustees of Pub. Employees’ Ret. Sys., 225 N.J. Super. 341, 351 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 113 N.J. 638 (1988). “That deference stems from the recognition that agencies have specialized expertise and superior knowledge in the areas of law delegated by the Legislature.” Lourdes Med. Ctr. v. Bd. of Rev., 394 N.J. Super. 446, 458 (App. Div. 2007), rev’d. on other grounds, 197 N.J. 339 (2009).

The agency’s interpretation need not be the only permissible one or even the one that the court would have chosen had the question been first presented to it. Matturri v. Bd. of Trs. of Judicial Ret. Sys., 173 N.J. 368, 382 (2002). So long as the agency’s interpretation is not “plainly unreasonable,” it will prevail. Ibid. Nonetheless, “we are not `bound by the agency’s interpretation of the statute or its determination of a strictly legal issue.'” ZRB, supra, 403 N.J. Super. at 550 (quoting In re Taylor, 158 N.J. 644, 658 (1999)).

Applying these principles, we conclude that HMFA’s interpretation of N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.18(e) is not “plainly unreasonable” because it supports the primary purpose of the UFAC regulations. Thus, plaintiff is only barred from seeking to foreclose upon the mortgage; it is not barred from seeking to collect upon the underlying obligation.

The Legislature enacted the New Jersey Fair Housing Act (FHA), N.J.S.A. 52:27D-301 to 329, to further the goals of the Supreme Court’s Mount Laurel decisions. The Court in Mt. Laurel I declared that the New Jersey Constitution “requires every developing municipality, through its land use ordinance, to provide a realistic opportunity for the construction of its fair share of the region’s low and moderate income housing needs.” In re Adoption of Unif. Hous. Affordability Controls by the N.J. Hous. and Mortgage Fin. Agency, 390 N.J. Super. 89, 92 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 192 N.J. 65 (2007); see also N.J.S.A. 52:27D-302a. In Mt. Laurel II, the Court mandated that “municipalities were required to address not only the housing needs of their own citizens, but also the housing needs `of those residing outside of the municipality but within the region that contributes to the housing demand within the municipality.'” In re Adoption of Unif. Hous. Affordability Controls, supra, 390 N.J. Super. at 93 (quoting Mt. Laurel II, supra, 92 N.J. at 208-09).

To implement the legislative process of the FHA, the Legislature established COAH, N.J.S.A. 52:27D-305a, and appointed the HMFA as the agency to “establish affordable housing programs to assist municipalities in meeting the obligation of developing communities to provide low and moderate income housing.” N.J.S.A. 52:27D-321. COAH and the HMFA are authorized to adopt and promulgate rules and regulations necessary to carry out their statutory charges. N.J.S.A. 52:27D-307.5 and N.J.S.A. 52:27D-321e, f, and g, respectively.

Pursuant to the FHA, the HMFA developed and now administers housing affordability controls. 36 N.J.R. 3655(a). The purpose of those controls is to “ensure the continuing affordability of housing receiving credit from [COAH] or receiving funding under the Neighborhood Preservation Balanced Housing . . . program.” Ibid. (citation omitted).

In adopting N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.18(e), the HMFA pronounced that it is against public policy for a commercial lender to issue a loan secured by an affordable housing unit for an amount in excess of 95% of the units’ maximum allowable resale price. The focus of the regulation is the use of an affordable housing unit as security for an excessive loan. Stated differently, if a lending institution is permitted to make a loan secured by a mortgage against an affordable housing unit in excess of 95% of the maximum resale price of the unit, default on the loan could result in foreclosure, thus leading to the loss of the affordable housing unit. This would countermand the public policy of ensuring that affordable housing units remain affordable and occupied by lower income households. Ibid. It is with this goal in mind that HMFA asserts that “it is the mortgage secured by the affordable property that offends the regulation and is void as against public policy. The regulation does not affect the underlying debt as that does not undermine the regulation’s purpose.”

We reject defendant’s contention that N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.18(e) requires voidance of both the mortgage and the underlying indebtedness. Such an interpretation would unduly enrich Hough, with Hough having contributed to the mortgage refinance. Regulations, like statutes, must be construed “to avoid . . . interpretations that lead to absurd or unreasonable results.” State v. Lewis, 185 N.J. 363, 369 (2005); see also Cosmair, Inc. v. Dir., N.J. Div. of Tax., 109 N.J. 562, 570 (1988) (“[i]f a literal construction of the words of a statute be absurd, the act must be so construed as to avoid the absurdity. The court must restrain the words.”) (quoting State v. Clark, 29 N.J.L. 96, 99 (1860)).

We reverse the June 12, 2009 order that denied defendant’s motion seeking to dismiss plaintiff’s foreclosure complaint with prejudice. Plaintiff may file a separate action seeking to collect upon the unsecured underlying indebtedness.

1. The record contains a November 13, 2007 letter from the Township, advising that the maximum allowable resale price of the condominium unit on that date was $68,735.41. Although the record does not contain any evidence of the maximum allowable resale price as of the date of the mortgage transaction, Hough certified that it was lower than on November 13, 2007.
2. At time Hough executed the mortgage in favor of Mortgage Lenders, she executed the mortgage as a single person. The complaint also named “Mr. Hough” as a defendant as Mortgage Lenders did not know at the time of filing the complaint whether Hough had married subsequent to execution of the mortgage.
3. S. Burlington County NAACP v. Twp. of Mount Laurel, 92 N.J. 158 (1983) (Mt. Laurel II); S. Burlington County NAACP v. Twp. of Mount Laurel, 67 N.J. 151, appeal dismissed and cert. denied, 423 U.S. 808, 96 S. Ct. 18, 46 L. Ed. 2d 28 (1975) (Mt. Laurel I).
4. We note that the January 14, 2004 deed restriction does not conform to the mandatory deed form contained in the Appendixes to N.J.A.C. 5:80-26 that were later adopted on November 23, 2004, effective December 20, 2004. 36 N.J.R. 5713(a). The mandatory deed restrictions contained in the Appendixes prohibit a property owner from incurring an indebtedness secured by a mortgage upon the affordable housing unit as contained in N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.18(d)4iii and in N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.8(b). N.J.A.C. 5:80-26, Appendix A, Mandatory Deed Form for Ownership Units, Art. 4C. Plaintiff does not contest that it was on constructive notice that the property was an affordable housing unit, subject to the UHAC regulations.

This copy provided by Leagle, Inc.

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Posted in conspiracy, dismissed, foreclosure, foreclosure fraud, foreclosures, mortgage, note, us bank, void, wells fargoComments (1)

‘NO PROOF’ MERS assigned BOTH Mortgage and NOTE to HSBC

‘NO PROOF’ MERS assigned BOTH Mortgage and NOTE to HSBC


The “Assignment of Mortgage,” which is attached as exhibit E to the opposition papers, makes no reference to the note, and only makes reference to the mortgage being assigned. The Assignment has a vague reference to note wherein it states that “the said assignor hereby grants and conveys unto the said assignee, the assignor’s beneficial interest under the mortgage, “but this is the only language in the Assignment which could possibly be found to refer to the note.

Contrary to the affirmation of Ms. Szeliga in which she represented, in paragraph 17, that there was language in the assignment which specifically referred to the note, the assignment in this case does not contain °a specific reference to the Note.

In light of the foregoing, the Court is satisfied that there is insufficient proof to establish that both the note and the mortgage have been assigned to the Plaintiff, and therefore, it is hereby ORDERED that the Plaintiff has no standing to maintain the foreclosure action; and it is further ORDERED that the application of Defendant, Jeffrey F. Miller, to dismiss is granted, without prejudice, to renew upon proof of a valid assignment of the note.

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RELATED ARTICLE:

___________________________

HSBC BANK and STEVEN J. BAUM LAW FIRM both SANCTIONED for filing a FRIVOLOUS lawsuit

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Posted in chain in title, concealment, conflict of interest, conspiracy, CONTROL FRAUD, foreclosure, foreclosure fraud, foreclosure mills, foreclosures, HSBC, investigation, Law Office Of Steven J. Baum, lawsuit, MERS, MERSCORP, mortgage, MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS INC., noteComments (1)

HSBC BANK and STEVEN J. BAUM LAW FIRM both SANCTIONED for filing a FRIVOLOUS lawsuit

HSBC BANK and STEVEN J. BAUM LAW FIRM both SANCTIONED for filing a FRIVOLOUS lawsuit


Hat tip to Jeffrey Miller…

Attached are the three decisions in my case.  It has taken a close to two years of fighting.
Although it is a small monetary win, HSBC BANK and the STEVEN J. BAUM LAW FIRM were both
SANCTIONED for filing a FRIVOLOUS law suit.
Hope this may help others, especially in NY.  You can post as much as you like.

Jeffrey Miller

[ipaper docId=36469458 access_key=key-2e2icvg8d7j0zqqgp9i5 height=600 width=600 /]

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Posted in concealment, conflict of interest, conspiracy, CONTROL FRAUD, corruption, dismissed, foreclosure, foreclosure fraud, foreclosure mills, foreclosures, HSBC, Law Office Of Steven J. Baum, lawsuit, MERS, MERSCORP, mortgage, MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS INC., Mortgage Foreclosure Fraud, sanctioned, STOP FORECLOSURE FRAUDComments (0)

HIGHLIGHTS FROM A DEPOSITION OF JEFFREY STEPHAN |By Lynn E. Szymoniak, Esq. Ed., Fraud Digest

HIGHLIGHTS FROM A DEPOSITION OF JEFFREY STEPHAN |By Lynn E. Szymoniak, Esq. Ed., Fraud Digest


By Lynn E. Szymoniak, Esq. Ed., Fraud Digest (www.frauddigest.com) July 18, 2010

These are highlights from the deposition of Jeffrey B. Stephan, taken June 7, 2010, in a foreclosure case in Maine, Federal National Mortgage Association v. Nicole M. Bradbury, et al., Maine District Court, District Nine, Division of Northern Cumberland, Docket No. BRI-RE-09-65. The deposition was taken by Attorney Thomas Cox of Portland, Maine.

Jeffrey Stephan says his current title is team leader of the document execution team for GMAC. He estimates that he signs between 8,000 and 12,000 documents monthly. He supervises a team of 14 employees.

Mortgage Assignments and Affidavits in support of Summary Judgment signed by Stephan have been used by GMAC, FANNIE & FREDDIE in over 100,000 foreclosure cases.

“LPS” in the last line refers to Lender Processing Services in Jacksonville, Florida.

In a previous deposition, Stephan stated that the notaries who notarize his signature are often not actually present in the room with him when he signs documents.

Despite all of the mounting evidence and admissions, Jeffrey Stephan, Scott Anderson, Bryan Bly, Linda Green, Erica Johnson-Seck, Christina Trowbridge and the other “bank officers” employed by the companies serving the securitized
mortgage-backed trust industry will be back at their desks Monday morning, pens (or rubber stamps) in hand.

Page 16-17, Lines 17-25, 2-11

Q: What training have you received?

A: I received side-by-side training from another team leader to instruct me on how to review the documents when they are received from my staff.

Q: Who was that person?

A: That person, at the time, I believe, was a gentleman named Kenneth Ugwuadu. U-G-W-U-A-D-U. He is no longer with GMAC.

Q: How long did that training last?

A: Three days.

Q: Were there any written or printed training materials or manuals used as apart of that training?

A: No.

Page 20, Lines 19-24:

Q.: In your capacity as the team leader for the document execution team, do you have any role in the foreclosure process, other than the signing of documents?

A: No.

Page 54, Lines 12-25:

Q: When you sign a summary judgment affidavit, do you check to see if all of the exhibits are attached to it?

A: No.

Q. Does anybody in your department check to see if all the exhibits are attached to it at the time that it is presented to you for your signature?

A: No.

Q: When you sign a summary judgment affidavit, do you inspect any exhibits attached to it?

A: No.

Page 62-63, Lines 23-25, 2-6:

Q: Is it fair to say when you sign a summary judgment affidavit, you don’t know what information it contains, other than the figures that are set forth within it?

A: Other than the borrower’s name, and if I have signing authority for that entity, that is correct.

Page 69, Lines 2-20:

Q: Mr. Stephan, referring you again to the bottom line on Page 1 of Exhibit 1, it states: I have under my custody and control, the records relating to the mortgage transaction referenced below.

It’s correct, is it not, that you did not have in your custody any records of GMAC at the time that you signed a summary judgment affidavit?

A: I have the electronic record. I do not have papers.

Q: You have access to a computer, is that what you mean?

A: Yes.
(objections omitted)

Page 45, Lines 2-11:

Q: Mr. Stephan, do you recall testifying in your Florida deposition in December with regard to your employees, and you said, quote, they do not go into the system and verify that the information is accurate?

A: That is correct.

Page 41, Line 19:

Q: Do your employees have any direct communication with outside counsel?

A: Yes, through the LPS System.

Please click on Fraud Digest’s logo to read more articles like this.

Here is the Deposition Below:

Via: 4closurefraud

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Posted in fraud digest, Lender Processing Services Inc., LPS, robo signer, securitization, STOP FORECLOSURE FRAUD, TrustsComments (1)

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST!! IN RE BRIGID In re: MARY BRIGID, Chapter 7, Debtor. MARY ANN RABIN, Plaintiff, v. MARY BRIGID, et al., Defendants. Case No. 08-18750, Adversary Proceeding No. 09-1062. United States Bankruptcy Court, N.D. Ohio.

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST!! IN RE BRIGID In re: MARY BRIGID, Chapter 7, Debtor. MARY ANN RABIN, Plaintiff, v. MARY BRIGID, et al., Defendants. Case No. 08-18750, Adversary Proceeding No. 09-1062. United States Bankruptcy Court, N.D. Ohio.


SAFE!

Via: Livinglies

More and more Judges are finding ways to destroy the entire mortgage — a message to those “lenders” who refuse to reduce principal as settlement of the dispute.

Submitted by Max Gardner

In re: MARY BRIGID, Chapter 7, Debtor.
MARY ANN RABIN, Plaintiff,
v.
MARY BRIGID, et al., Defendants
.

Case No. 08-18750.

Adversary Proceeding No. 09-1062.

United States Bankruptcy Court, N.D. Ohio.

May 21, 2010.

MEMORANDUM OF OPINION

ARTHUR I. HARRIS, Bankruptcy Judge

This matter is currently before the Court on the cross-motions for summary judgment of the plaintiff-trustee, Mary Ann Rabin, and defendant RBC Mortgage Company. At issue is whether the trustee is entitled to avoid a mortgage because the notary’s certificate of acknowledgment failed to recite the name of the party whose signature was acknowledged, notwithstanding a postpetition attempt to correct this omission. For the reasons that follow, the Court holds that the mortgage was not executed in accordance with Ohio’s statutory requirements and can be avoided by the trustee as it relates to the undivided half interest of the debtor Mary Brigid. Accordingly, the trustee’s motion for summary judgment is granted, and RBC Mortgage’s motion for summary judgment is denied.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Unless otherwise indicated, the following facts are not in dispute. The debtor Mary Brigid and non-debtor Susan Radbourne are joint owners of the real property located at 3000 Yorkshire Road, Cleveland Heights Ohio, 44118. The deed was recorded on September 10, 1999, and provides “Mary Brigid, unmarried and Susan M. Radbourne, unmarried remainder to the survivor of them.” On July 9, 2003, RBC Mortgage extended a loan to Radbourne. The loan was secured by a mortgage of the real property, which was recorded in the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s office, Instrument No. 20030110552 on July 11, 2003.

Page 26 of the mortgage (Docket # 38 Ex. D ) provides in pertinent part:

BY SIGNING BELOW, Borrower accepts and agrees to the terms and 
covenants contained in this Security Instrument and in any riders 
executed by Borrower and recorded with it.

WITNESSES:

X/s/ Brent A. White             /s/ Susan M. Radbourne     
 Brent A. White                Susan M. Radbourne  — Borrower

                                 /s/ Mary Brigid            
                                    — Borrower

STATE OF OHIO

COUNTY OF Cuyahoga   

 On this 9  day of July 2003 , before me, a Notary Public in and for 
said County and State, personally appeared
 Susan M. Radbourne                                             
 Unmarried                                
 ___________________________________________________________________
the individual(s) who executed the foregoing instrument and 
acknowledged that he/she/they did examine and read the same and
did sign the foregoing instrument, and that the same is 
his/her/their free act and deed.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and official seal.

                                    /s/ Brent A. White         
                                    Notary Public

                                                          (Seal)

                                 *   *   *

On November 7, 2008, the debtor filed a petition under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code (case # 08-18750). On February 5, 2009, the trustee of the Chapter 7 estate initiated this adversary proceeding seeking to avoid the mortgage of RBC Mortgage as it relates to the debtor’s half interest pursuant to section 544 of the Bankruptcy Code and to determine the interests of all parties in the property.

The complaint named as defendants Mary Brigid, Susan Radbourne, Mortgage Electronic Registration System,  RBC Mortgage Company, Chase Home Finance, Huntington National Bank, the Cuyahoga County Treasurer, and the City of Cleveland Heights. The treasurer, City of Cleveland Heights, Mary Brigid, Susan Radbourne, and RBC Mortgage filed answers to the complaint. In its answer, the City of Cleveland Heights asserted a judgment lien in the amount of $1,316.80 at the rate of 5% interest from February 26, 2009, No. JL06258471. Radbourne asserted an undivided half interest in the property in question. She also brought a cross-claim for negligence against RBC Mortgage and requested a reservation of her right to purchase the real estate pursuant to Section 363(i). In its answer, RBC Mortgage asserted that the debtor held only bare legal title and that the trustee had constructive notice.

On June 4, 2009, all parties stipulated that the Cuyahoga County Treasurer has the first and best lien on the subject property for taxes and assessments. On December 27, 2009, the debtor’s deposition was taken, at which the debtor acknowledged signing the mortgage outlined above. On January 13, 2010, attorney David A. Freeburg filed an affidavit of facts regarding the acknowledgment of the mortgage by Mary Brigid. On January 14, 2010, the trustee filed a motion for summary judgment seeking to avoid the mortgage held by RBC Mortgage. On January 21, 2010, RBC Mortgage filed a cross-motion for summary judgment and a response. Briefing on the cross-motions for summary judgment is complete, and the Court is ready to rule.

JURISDICTION

Determinations of the validity, extent, or priority of liens are core proceedings under 28 U.S.C. section 157(b)(2)(K). The Court has jurisdiction over core proceedings under 28 U.S.C. sections 1334 and 157(a) and Local General Order No. 84, entered on July 16, 1984, by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), as made applicable to bankruptcy proceedings by Bankruptcy Rule 7056, provides that a court shall render summary judgment, if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

The moving party bears the burden of showing that “there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that [the moving party] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Jones v. Union County, 296 F.3d 417, 423 (6th Cir. 2002). See generally Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party meets that burden, the nonmoving party “must identify specific facts supported by affidavits, or by depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file that show there is a genuine issue for trial.” Hall v. Tollett, 128 F.3d 418, 422 (6th Cir. 1997). See, e.g., Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986) (“The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff’s position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff.”). The Court shall view all evidence in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party when determining the existence or nonexistence of a material fact. See Tenn. Dep’t of Mental Health & Mental Retardation v. Paul B., 88 F.3d 1466, 1472 (6th Cir. 1996).

DISCUSSION

Under the “strong arm” clause of the Bankruptcy Code, the bankruptcy trustee has the power to avoid transfers that would be avoidable by certain hypothetical parties. See 11 U.S.C. § 544(a). Section 544 provides in pertinent part:

(a) The trustee shall have, as of the commencement of the case, and without regard to any knowledge of the trustee or of any creditor, the rights and powers of, or may avoid any transfer of property of the debtor or any obligation incurred by the debtor that is voidable by —

Page 7

. . . .

(3) a bona fide purchaser of real property, other than fixtures, from the debtor, against whom applicable law permits such transfer to be perfected, that obtains the status of a bona fide purchaser and has perfected such transfer at the time of the commencement of the case, whether or not such a purchaser exists.

11 U.S.C. §544. Any transfer under section 544 is preserved for the benefit of the estate. See 11 U.S.C. § 551.

The mortgage provides that federal law and the law of the jurisdiction in which the property is located will control. Because the real property in question is located in Ohio, the Court will apply Ohio law to determine whether the trustee can avoid the mortgages using the “strong arm” clause. See Simon v. Chase Manhattan Bank (In re Zaptocky), 250 F.3d 1020, 1024 (6th Cir. 2001) (applicable state law governs determination whether hypothetical bona fide purchaser can avoid mortgage).

Under Ohio law, a bona fide purchaser is a purchaser who “`takes in good faith, for value, and without actual or constructive knowledge of any defect.'” Stubbins v. Am. Gen. Fin. Serv., Inc. (In re Easter), 367 B.R. 608, 612 (Bankr. S.D. Ohio 2007), quoting Terlecky v. Beneficial Ohio, Inc. (In re Key), 292 B.R. 879, 883 (Bankr. S.D. Ohio 2003); see also Shaker Corlett Land Co. v. Cleveland, 139 Ohio St. 536 (1942). The Bankruptcy

Code expressly provides that a bankruptcy trustee is a bona fide purchaser regardless of actual knowledge. See In re Zaptocky, 25,0 F.3d at 1027 (“actual knowledge does not undermine [trustee’s] right to avoid a prior defectively executed mortgage.”). Because actual knowledge does not affect the trustee’s strong-arm power, the Court need only determine whether the trustee had constructive knowledge of the prior interests held by the defendant RBC Mortgage.

Ohio law provides that “an improperly executed mortgage does not put a subsequent bona fide purchaser on constructive notice.” Zaptocky, 250 F.3d at 1028. Ohio courts have refused to allow a recorded mortgage to give constructive notice when the mortgage has been executed in violation of a statute. See In re Nowak, 10,4 Ohio St. 3d 466 (2004) (listing cases). The first question, then, is whether the mortgage was executed in compliance with, or substantially conforms to applicable statutory law. A second question, if the mortgage was not executed in compliance, is whether the December 27, 2009, acknowledgment by Mary Brigid and the January 13, 2010, affidavit filed by attorney Freeburg corrected the defect. A third question, if the lien remains defective, is what interest the trustee is entitled to avoid.

The Mortgage Was Not Properly Executed in Accordance with Ohio Revised Code § 5301.01

Ohio Revised Code § 5301.01 requires four separate acts to properly execute a mortgage: (1) the mortgage shall be signed by the mortgagor; (2) the mortgagor shall acknowledge his signing in front of a notary public, or other qualified official; (3) the official shall certify the acknowledgment; and (4) the official shall subscribe his name to the certificate of acknowledgment. OHIO REV. CODE ANN. § 5301.01(A) (2004); see Drown v. GreenPoint Mortgage Funding, Inc. (In re Leahy), 376 B.R. 826, 832 (Bankr. S.D. Ohio 2007) (listing four requirements provided by Ohio Rev. Code. § 5301.01).2 At issue in this case is whether the certificate of acknowledgment, which omitted the name of Mary Brigid, satisfies the third requirement to proper execution of a mortgage.

Certification of an acknowledgment is governed by Ohio Revised Code sections 147.53-147.58. Ohio Revised Code section 147.53 provides:

The person taking an acknowledgment shall certify that:

(A) The person acknowledging appeared before him and acknowledged he executed the instrument;

(B) The person acknowledging was known to the person taking the acknowledgment, or that the person taking the acknowledgment had satisfactory evidence that the person acknowledging was the person described in and who executed the instrument.

The Ohio Revised Code further provides that a certificate of acknowledgment is acceptable in Ohio if it is in a form prescribed by the laws or regulations of Ohio or contains the words “acknowledged before me,” or their substantial equivalent. OHIO REV. CODE § 147.54. Ohio’s statutory short form acknowledgment for an individual is as follows:

      State of ________

      County of ________

      The foregoing instrument was acknowledged before me this (date) by
      (name of person acknowledged.)

      (Signature of person taking acknowledgment)
      (Title or rank) (Serial number, if any)

OHIO REV. CODE § 147.55(A).

The trustee argues that the mortgage was improperly recorded because the certification of acknowledgment does not conform to section 5301.01 of the Ohio Revised Code with respect to the debtor. Specifically, the trustee asserts that the clause fails to identify the name of the debtor. The Court agrees. Recent case law, including a 2008 decision from the Sixth Circuit BAP, supports the trustee’s position that an acknowledgment is defective if it fails to identify the person whose signature is being acknowledged. See In re Nolan, 38,3 B.R. 391 (6th Cir. B.A.P. 2008)In re Sauer, 41,7 B.R. 523 (Bankr. S.D. Ohio 2009); Daneman v. Nat’l City Mortg. Co. (In re Cornelius), 408 B.R. 704, 708 (Bankr. S.D. Ohio 2009) (“The absence of the name of the mortgagee acknowledging election is the functional equivalent of no certificate of acknowledgment and renders an acknowledgment insufficient.”); Drown v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. (In re Peed), 403 B.R. 525, 531 (Bankr. S.D. Ohio 2009) affirmed at No. 2:09cv347 (S.D. Ohio Feb. 18, 2010); Terlecky v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. (In re Baruch), No. 07-57212, Adv. No. 08-2069, 2009 Bankr. Lexis 608 at *22 (Bankr. S.D. Ohio Feb. 23, 2009) (“An acknowledgment clause containing nothing relative to the mortgagor’s identity is insufficient; rather, an acknowledgment clause must either identify the mortgagor by name or contain information that permits the mortgagor to be identified by reference to the mortgage.”); In re Leahy, 37,6 B.R. at 832. See also Smith’s Lessee v. Hunt, 13 Ohio 260, 269 (1844) (holding that court was unable to infer name of grantor when acknowledgment was blank as to the grantor and, thus, the mortgage was defective and did not convey title).

The holdings in Nolan, Smith’s Lessee, and similar cases are also supported by case law interpreting almost identical statutory provisions for acknowledgment clauses in Kentucky and Tennessee. See, e.g., Gregory v. Ocwen Fed. Bank (In re Biggs), 377 F.3d 515 (6th Cir. 2004) (affirming bankruptcy court’s decision avoiding deed of trust under section 544 and Tennessee law when deed of trust omitted names of acknowledging parties); Select Portfolio Servs. v. Burden (In re Trujillo), 378 B.R. 526 (6th Cir. B.A.P. 2007) (affirming bankruptcy court’s decision avoiding mortgage under section 544 and Kentucky law when debtor was not named or identified in certificate of acknowledgment).

Because RBC Mortgage conceded that at the time of execution the mortgage was defective, and because no argument was made regarding substantial compliance, this Court holds that the mortgage failed to substantially comply with the filing requirements. Therefore, the mortgage was improperly executed with respect to the debtor because the certification of acknowledgment failed to indicate who appeared before the notary public as required under Ohio Revised Code section 5301.01.

RBC Mortgage’s Attempt to Validate the Defective Mortgage via Section 5301.45 is Ineffective

The Court rejects the argument of RBC Mortgage that Ohio Revised Code section 5301.45 and Bankruptcy Code section 546(a)(1) allow it to correct a defective acknowledgment and defeat the trustee’s strong arm powers by using the debtor’s testimony taken at a deposition postpetition. First, section 5301.45 simply does not apply to any situation other than the correction of pagination of acknowledgment clauses. Second, even if section 5301.45 did apply, the postpetition acknowledgment by the debtor was not voluntary. These issues are discussed more fully below.

1. Section 5301.45 is meant as a mechanism to correct pagination only

While older versions of the statutes at issue in this case date back as early as the 1800’s, the Court begins its analysis with the 1910 version of the Ohio General Code. See THE GENERAL CODE OF THE STATE OF OHIO (The Commissioners of Public Printing of Ohio 1910) (“Being an Act entitled `An Act to revise and consolidate the general statutes of Ohio”). Section 8510 of the 1910 Ohio General Code provided:

A deed, mortgage, or lease of any estate or interest in real property, must be signed by the grantor, mortgagor, or lessor, and such signing be acknowledged by the grantor, mortgagor, or lessor in the presence of two witnesses, who shall attest the signing and subscribe their names to the attestation. Such signing also must be acknowledged by the grantor,

mortgagor, or lessor before a judge of a court of record in this state, or a clerk thereof, a county auditor, county surveyor, notary public, mayor, or justice of the peace, who shall certify the acknowledgment on the same sheet on which the instrument is written or printed, and subscribe his name thereto.   (Emphasis added). This 1910 statute outlined the requirements to validate a deed, mortgage, or lease, including the necessity for two witnesses and that the acknowledgment page be on the same page as the instrument, and is the precursor to Ohio Revised Code section 5301.01.

The original version of what is now Ohio Revised Code section 5301.45 is provided in Local Laws and Joint Resolutions, 57 v 10, and was titled as section 8559 of the Ohio General Code. The current version of the statute is substantially identical to its 1910 version and provides in full:

When a deed, mortgage, lease, or other instrument of writing intended to convey or encumber an interest in real estate is not printed or written on a single sheet, or when the certificate of acknowledgment thereof is not printed or written on the same sheet with the instrument, and such defective conveyance is corrected by the judgment of a court, or by the voluntary act of the parties thereto, such judgment or act shall relate back so as to be operative from the time of filing the original conveyance in the county recorder’s office.

OHIO REV. CODE § 5301.45.

Thus, the state of the law regarding the formal requirements of a valid mortgage in 1910 was that although section 8510 required the instrument and acknowledgment clause to be on the same page, section 8559 allowed for correction of this deficiency through voluntary act of the parties or judgment by the court. However, the Ohio Supreme Court held in 1939 that certificates bound to an instrument substantially complied with the statute. The Court explained that:

When the provision now found in Section 8510, General Code, was enacted, more than a hundred years ago, deeds, mortgages and leases were usually and could easily be written in their entirety on a single sheet of paper. In recent years many of such instruments are so long that to write or print them on one sheet would require a roll of paper. Often, too, the acknowledgments are so numerous as to present the same difficulty. What the Legislature sought by the enactment of the provisions now found in Section 8510 was no doubt the prevention of fraud that might be readily perpetrated if the certificate of acknowledgment were on a sheet separate from the instrument itself. With respect to the lease in litigation this danger is eliminated because the certificates are bound to the other parts by rivets so as to make a unified whole.

S.S. Kresge Co., v. Butte, 136 Ohio St. 85, 89-90 (1939).

Noticeably missing from later versions of section 8510 (now 5301.01 of the Ohio Revised Code), is the requirement that the notary certify the acknowledgment on the same sheet as the instrument. See OHIO REV. CODE § 1.01 (“All statutes of a permanent and general nature of the state as revised and consolidated into general provisions, titles, chapters, and sections shall be known and designated as the `Revised Code'”); OHIO GENERAL CODE § 8510, OHIO REV.CODE § 5301.01. In fact, the current version of section 5301.07 specifically provides that no instrument conveying real estate is defective or invalid because “the certificate of acknowledgment is not on the same sheet of paper as the instrument.”

It appears that section 5301.45 was enacted to afford an opportunity for parties to physically affix separate pages of an instrument and an acknowledgment clause to enable substantial compliance with section 5301.01. The Ohio Jurisprudence 3d contains an analysis of the interplay between these statutes.

[Section 5301.45] assumes that the certificate of acknowledgment must be printed or written on the same sheet with the mortgage, or else the mortgage is defective; but there is now no statute specifically requiring the acknowledgment to be on the same sheet. The reason for the above provision, so far as acknowledgments are concerned, undoubtedly lies in the fact that under an earlier from of RC section 5301.01, it was required that the acknowledgment be on the same sheet of paper as that on which the conveyance was written. It seems likely that the omission from the statute in this respect was due to judicial construction of the former statute, in regard to which the courts, recognizing the ever-increasing length of instruments such as mortgages, held that the instrument was valid where the sheets were securely fastened together and a certificate of acknowledgment was on the last page. In some cases, emphasis was placed upon the sheets being so fastened together that the one bearing the certificate of acknowledgment could not be removed without showing evidence of mutilation.

69 O. Jur. 3d Mortgages § 102 (1986).

The Ohio Transaction Guide, a multi-volume set that has provided

practitioners with research tools and practice tips for over thirty years is instructive and consistent with this Court’s understanding of the intention of the statute. Section 188.30 of the Ohio Transaction Guide provides that “if a deed is not printed or written on the same sheet with the instrument, the conveyance may be corrected by the judgment of a court or by the voluntary act of the parties.” It continues by providing that “[a]lthough it is not necessary to the validity of the deed that the acknowledgment appear on the same sheet of paper as the deed, the usual practice is to convey the property with the necessary acknowledgments on the same sheet.” Thus, the original and later versions of section 5301.45 were designed as a mechanism for correcting failure to adhere to a repealed requirement of section 5301.01. This Court holds that section 5301.45 was enacted to amend mortgages and deeds where the execution and acknowledgment clauses were on separate pieces of paper, at a time in history when such documents were required to appear on the same page, and the parties wished to physically bind them together. Therefore, section 5301.45 cannot be used to correct the type of acknowledgment clause defect at issue in this case.

2. The debtor’s postpetition acknowledgment was not voluntary

Even if this Court were to find that section 5301.45 can be utilized to cure a defective mortgage certification clause under section 546(b)(1), the debtor’s postpetition acknowledgment was not voluntary. Specifically, the debtor testified at a deposition after being served with process and was required to answer questions under oath. This is not the type of voluntary behavior provided for by the statute, especially because both the deposition and “re-recording” of the mortgage took place after the trustee had initiated this adversary proceeding, and served the debtor with a summons and complaint.

In summary, this Court holds that section 5301.45 can only retroactively perfect a mortgage where the instrument and acknowledgment clause are on separate pages, the parties voluntarily act to attach those pages, and the mortgage is otherwise a validly executed document. Therefore, the Court rejects RBC Mortgage’s attempt to use section 5301.45 and the debtor’s postpetition deposition testimony to correct the type of acknowledgment clause defect at issue in this case.

The Trustee May Avoid the Debtor’s Undivided Half Interest in the Subject Property

Although it is well established that a trustee may avoid a debtor’s half interest when a mortgage is found to be valid as to one co-owner and defective as to the other co-owner, RBC Mortgage asserts that the title of the tenancy held by the debtor and Radbourne somehow mandates a different result. This Court finds that Radbourne and the debtor held the property as joint tenants, as evidenced by the deed’s use of the language to “Mary Brigid, unmarried and Susan Radbourne, unmarried, remainder to the survivor of them,” (emphasis added). Section 5302.20 provides that a deed showing a clear intent to create a joint tenancy with rights of survivorship “shall be liberally construed to do so.” OHIO REV. CODE § 5302.20. This Court finds that based on the clear reading of the deed in question, the intention of the parties was to create a joint tenancy with rights of survivorship.

Further, joint tenants hold “an equal share of the title during their joint lives unless otherwise provided in the instrument creating the survivorship tenancy.” OHIO REV. CODE § 5302.20. Although this statute provides that joint tenants are subject to a proportionate share of the costs related to ownership, it also provides that when a creditor of a survivorship tenant enforces a lien against the debtor’s interest, the interest “shall be equal unless otherwise provided in the instrument creating the survivorship tenancy.” OHIO REV. CODE § 5302.20. This proposition is supported by recent case law. In Simon v. CitiMortgage, Inc., (In re Doubov), 423 B.R. 505 (N.D. Ohio 2010), the bankruptcy trustee sought to avoid the debtor wife’s half interest in property that both spouses mortgaged as joint tenants. The trustee argued that a defective acknowledgment rendered the mortgage avoidable as to the debtor wife. Judge Morgernstern-Clarren held:

When the debtors granted the mortgage, they held the property under a survivorship tenancy. See Ohio Rev. Code §§ 5302.17, 5302.20. Under this form of ownership each survivorship tenant holds an equal share of the title to the property during their joint lives (unless the instrument creating the tenancy provides otherwise, which this one does not.) Ohio Rev. Code 5302.20(B). . . .

. . . .

Under Ohio law, a person is precluded from granting a mortgage on property in which he has no interest. See Ins. Co. Of N. Am. v. First Nat’l Bank of Cincinnati, 444 N.E. 2d 456, 459 (Ohio Ct. App. 1981). Additionally “a mortgagor can only bind the estate or property he has, and a `mortgagee can take no greater title than that held by the mortgagor.'” Stein v. Creter (In re Creter), Adv. No 06-2042, 2007 WL 2615214, at *4 (Bankr. N.D. Ohio Sept. 5, 2007) (quoting 69 Ohio Jur. 3d Mortgages and Deeds of Trusts § 17); see also Stubbins v. HSBC Mortgage Servs., Inc. (In re Slack), 394 B.R. 164, 170 (Bankr. S.D. Ohio 2008). When Mr. Doubov gave the mortgage to Citifinancial, he only held title to the property under a survivorship tenancy; that one-half interest is what he mortgaged.

In re Doubov, 42,3 B.R. at 513-14.

Similarly, when the debtor and Radbourne mortgaged the property, they did so as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. The instrument creating the tenancy did not provide for other treatment of ownership, and thus the debtor, as a matter of law, held an undivided half interest in the property at the time it was mortgaged. When Radbourne gave the mortgage to RBC Mortgage, she only held a half interest, and that is what RBC Mortgage received. This conclusion is supported by the fact that both the debtor and Radbourne answered the trustee’s complaint by claiming an undivided half interest in the property, and this Court declines to consider any argument by RBC Mortgage that the debtor owes Radbourne some equitable relief as a result of her filing for a petition for bankruptcy. This Court holds that the certificate of acknowledgment is defective and the trustee can avoid themortgage as it relates to the undivided half interest of Mary Brigid.

Unresolved Matters Including Radbourne’s Cross-Claim

While it appears that this decision resolves most of the claims at issue in this adversary proceeding, one matter not yet addressed in this decision is Radbourne’s cross-claim against RBC Mortgage. In her cross-claim, Radbourne alleges that she was damaged as a result of negligence by RBC Mortgage in the preparation of the loan documentation and closing of the loan transaction that are the subject of this adversary proceeding. In its cross-motion for summary judgment, RBC Mortgage also seeks summary judgment on Radbourne’s cross-claim. Radbourne has not filed a response.

The Court is reluctant to decide the merits of Radbourne’s cross-claim absent further argument from the parties on the question of jurisdiction to hear this claim. For example, even if the parties were to consent to the undersigned judge entering a final judgment on the cross-claim, the Court has serious doubts as to whether it has “related to” subject matter jurisdiction over a non-debtor’s tort claim against another non-debtor. See 28 U.S.C. § 1334; In re Dow Corning Corp., 8,6 F.3d 482 (6th Cir. 1996).

An action is “related to bankruptcy if the outcome could alter the debtor’s rights, liabilities, options, or freedom of action (either positively or negatively) and which in any way impacts upon the handling and administration of the bankruptcy estate.”  86 F.3d at 489 (quoting Pacor, Inc. v. Higgins, 743 F.2d 984, 994 (3d Cir. 1984)). For example, any recovery to the non-debtor Radbourne is unlikely to affect the debtor’s estate, either positively or negatively. Accordingly, any party wishing to have this Court decide the cross-claim should be prepared to address the issue of subject matter jurisdiction at a status conference at 1:30 P.M. on June 8, 2010.

In addition, while not included as a separate count, the trustee does seek, in her prayer for relief, authority to sell the real property, including the interest of the non-debtor co-owner. Therefore, counsel shall be prepared to advise the Court at the status conference as to what additional steps are needed to resolve all remaining claims in this adversary proceeding. Until there is a final decision on Radbourne’s cross-claim and any other unresolved claims, this is not a final judgment for purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 158. See Bankr. Rule 7054 and Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b).

CONCLUSION

For the reasons stated above, the Court holds that the certificate of acknowledgment is defective and the trustee can avoid the mortgage as it relates to the half interest of the debtor. Accordingly, the trustee’s motion for summary judgment is granted. While it appears that this decision is largely dispositive, until there is a final decision on Radbourne’s cross-claim, this is not a final judgment for purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 158. See Bankr. Rule 7054 and Fed R. Civ. P. 54(b). The Court will conduct a status conference at 1:30 p.m. on June 8, 2010. Counsel shall be prepared to advise the Court as to what additional steps are needed to resolve all remaining claims in this adversary proceeding.

Page 24

JUDGMENT

For the reasons stated in the separate Memorandum of Opinion, the Court holds that the certificate of acknowledgment is defective and the trustee can avoid themortgage as it relates to the half interest of the debtor. Accordingly, the trustee’s motion for summary judgment is granted. While it appears that this decision is largely dispositive, until there is a final decision on Radbourne’s cross-claim, this is not a final judgment for purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 158. See Bankr. Rule 7054 and Fed R. Civ. P. 54(b). The Court will conduct a status conference at 1:30 p.m. on June 8, 2010. Counsel shall be prepared to advise the Court as to what additional steps are needed to resolve all remaining claims in this adversary proceeding.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

—————

Notes:

1. This Memorandum of Opinion is not intended for official publication.

2. In Zaptocky, the Sixth Circuit identified “three major prerequisites for the proper execution of a mortgage: (1) the mortgagor must sign the mortgage deed; (2) the mortgagor’s signature must be attested by two witnesses; and (3) the mortgagor’s signature must be acknowledged or certified by a notary public.” Zaptocky, 250 F.3d at 1024. The differences between Zaptocky’s three requirements and Leahy’s four requirements are (A) the deletion in Leahy of Zaptocky’s second requirement — attestation by two witnesses — due to a change in the statute, and (B) the Leahy court’s breaking down of Zaptocky’s third requirement — certification of acknowledgment — into three separate parts.

—————

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