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NJDC denies foreclosure law firm’s motion for a gag order silencing homeowners’ counsel in proposed RICO class action against Phelan Hallinan & Schmieg and Wells Fargo

NJDC denies foreclosure law firm’s motion for a gag order silencing homeowners’ counsel in proposed RICO class action against Phelan Hallinan & Schmieg and Wells Fargo


IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY

CHARLES GILES, et al.,
Plaintiffs,

v.

PHELAN, HALLINAN & SCHMIEG,
L.L.P., et al.,
Defendants.

This matter is before the Court on the motion for temporary
restraints and entry of a protective order by Defendants Phelan
Hallinan & Schmieg, P.C., Francis S. Hallinan, Rosemarie Diamond,
Full Spectrum Services, Inc., and Land Title Services of New
Jersey, Inc. (“Moving Defendants”) [Docket Item 5]; the Court
having received briefing in support of the motion by the Moving
Defendants on November 21, 2011 and in opposition to the motion
by Plaintiffs on November 28, 2011; the Court having heard oral
argument on the motion from the Parties at a hearing on November
28, 2011;

For the reasons articulated in the Oral Opinion read into
the record at the November 28, 2011 hearing; and for good cause
shown

IT IS, this 28th day of November, 2011, ORDERED that the motion for temporary restraints and entry
of a protective order shall be, and hereby is, DENIED without
prejudice.

s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
U.S. District Judge

PLAINTIFFS’ MEMORANDUM IN OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER

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NJ Class Action | GILES v. PHELAN HALLINAN & SCHMIEG, WELLS FARGO

NJ Class Action | GILES v. PHELAN HALLINAN & SCHMIEG, WELLS FARGO


IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY

CHARLES J. and DIANE GILES, and
LAURINE SPIVEY,
individually and on behalf of all
others similarly situated,

Plaintiffs,

v.

PHELAN HALLINAN & SCHMIEG, LLP,
PHELAN HALLINAN & SCHMIEG, P.C.,
LAWRENCE T. PHELAN, FRANCIS S. HALLINAN,
DANIEL G. SCHMIEG, ROSEMARIE DIAMOND,
FULL SPECTRUM SERVICES, INC., and
LAND TITLE SERVICES OF NEW JERSEY, INC.,
WELLS FARGO & COMPANY, and
WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A.

Defendants

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NEW JERSEY Superior Court Dismissal “Hole in the chain of title, Big enough to drive a truck through” U.S. BANK v. SPENCER

NEW JERSEY Superior Court Dismissal “Hole in the chain of title, Big enough to drive a truck through” U.S. BANK v. SPENCER


U.S. BANK NATIONAL
ASSOCIATION, AS TRUSTEE FOR
J.P. MORGAN ACQUISITION CORP.
2006-FRE2, ASSET BACKED PASSTHROUGH
CERTIFICATES, SERIES
2006-FRE2
,

V.

ARTHUR SPENCER, MRS. ARTHUR
SPENCER, HIS WIFE; JOHN M.
ALFIS
,

Argued: March 18, 2011
Decided: March 22, 2011
Amended: March 28, 2011
Honorable Peter E. Doyne, A.J.S.C.

John Habermann, Esq. appearing on behalf of the plaintiff, U.S. Bank National
Association, as trustee for J.P. Morgan Acquisition Corp. 2006-FRE2, asset backed passthrough
certificates, series 2006-FRE2 (Phelan Hallinan & Schmieg, PC).

Gary E. Stern, Esq. appearing on behalf of the defendant, Arthur Spencer (Gary E. Stern, Esq.).

EXCERPT:

Analysis

A. Standing

Defendant’s counsel argued plaintiff did not have standing to sue as there was a break in the chain of title by the U.S. Bank assignment. Counsel specified the Fremont Investment assignment was by Fremont to Fremont Investment; the U.S. Bank assignment was by Fremont to U.S. Bank. The break was said to occur when Fremont, and not Fremont Investment, assigned the note and mortgage to U.S. Bank. Defendant’s counsel contended no explanation or turnover of documentation justified plaintiff’s right to prosecute the current foreclosure proceeding.19 However, the U.S. Bank assignment was from MERS as nominee for FGC d/b/a Fremont and its successors and/or assigns. As Fremont Investment was an assignee of Fremont pursuant to the Fremont Investment assignment, there appears to be no break in title when the mortgage and note were transferred pursuant to the U.S. Bank assignment. Nevertheless, plaintiff has provided no documentation or support for its position it is the trustee for J.P. Morgan, and therefore has not established its right to sue on behalf of JP Morgan.

Of greater import was defendant’s counsel’s argument plaintiff did not have standing as there was no proof the named plaintiff ever took physical possession of the note. Plaintiff’s counsel countered the original note was forwarded to him upon request for the location of the note but was inadvertently returned by counsel to plaintiff. It is though surprising the reply did not set forth, competently, plaintiff possessed the note on filing of the complaint.20

Without establishing physical possession of the note, plaintiff may not be an entity which may foreclose pursuant to the first and second categories in section 301, namely, as a (1) holder of the instrument or (2) a nonholder in possession of the instrument who has the rights of the holder.21 N.J.S.A. 12A:3-301. As plaintiff has not alleged, let alone established, the loss of possession of the instrument or the instrument was paid or accepted by mistake and the payor or acceptor recovered payment or revoked acceptance, plaintiff may not be a party who may foreclose pursuant to the third category in section 301, namely, a person not in possession of the instrument who is entitled to enforce the instrument. N.J.S.A. 12A:3-301; 12A:3-309(a); 12A:3-418(d). Therefore, plaintiff failed to establish standing as it is not a person entitled to enforce the note.N.J.S.A. 12A:3-301.

Plaintiff has failed to establish standing as its relationship as trustee to JP Morgan was not set forth; more importantly, though, plaintiff has failed to establish it had or has physical possession of the note and/or failed to demonstrate the note was indorsed. As such, summary judgment for plaintiff is denied and the cross-motion for summary judgment is granted. Although both motions may have been decided on the basis of lack of standing alone, for purposes of completeness, the court also shall analyze whether the evidence presented in support of plaintiff’s motion was competent and thereafter whether plaintiff has set forth a prima facie case in foreclosure.

B. Admissibility of evidence

Defendant’s counsel correctly asserted no competent witness has brought forth admissible evidence. Yoder does not claim to be a person with personal knowledge. R. 1:6-6. Furthermore, the exhibits attached to the Yoder Cert. do not fall within the business records exception as Yoder does not claim be a person with actual knowledge or to have produced the exhibits by obtaining information from such a person.22 N.J.R.E. 803(c)(6). Therefore, the exhibits submitted on plaintiff’s behalf were inadmissible hearsay and the court may not consider them. This is particularly perplexing as this issue was squarely put forth in defendant’s opposition and cross-motion, was not addressed in plaintiff’s reply, and follows shortly after the publication of Ford, supra.

As plaintiff has failed to justify the relief sought by competent, admissible evidence, plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment is denied. Lastly, the court shall analyze whether plaintiff has set forth a prima facie case in foreclosure.

C. Material issues in foreclosure proceeding

While plaintiff’s counsel conceded the circumstances surrounding the alleged default were “unfortunate,” he asserted it “did not create the fire to the premises nor . . . change the zoning of the subject property.” Plaintiff’s counsel set forth defendant failed to make payments pursuant to the executed note, and the mortgage was executed and recorded. However, as issues of fact remain concerning the fact-sensitive allegations of (1) unclean hands (2) breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing,23 and, (3) as restoration was not “feasible,” why the proceeds were not applied to the sums secured, plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment is further denied.24 Had defendant’s crossmotion for summary judgment been brought solely upon the allegations of unclean hands and breach of the duty of good-faith and fair dealing, the court would have denied the cross-motion and the matter would have proceeded in the normal course to further explore the facts underlying the defenses; however, summary judgment for defendant is appropriate on the basis of lack of standing.

Conclusion

Some are more empathetic than others to mortgagors who are no longer paying their contractual committed amount in a manner consistent with their obligations. Motions for summary judgment or oppositions to motions for summary judgment based on technical deficiencies or defenses are coming before the chancery courts at an ever increasing rate. This case, though, is distinct from the “run of the mill” motion where defendant’s attorney raises “technical objections” in an effort to delay the seemingly inevitable in an attempt to garner for clients as much time in the home as the law will
permit without paying outstanding obligations.

Here, not only has plaintiff failed to establish standing to bring the instant foreclosure action or present admissible evidence by a competent witness, defendant’s competent assertions have also given rise to fact-sensitive defenses.

Defendant’s crossmotion is granted as plaintiff has failed to establish standing and has failed to comply with the court’s January 25, 2011 order.25 Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment is denied on three grounds: (1) lack of standing, (2) failure to present a prima facie case by presenting admissible evidence by a competent witness, (3) and defenses raised would be in need of further exploration.

The action is dismissed without prejudice.26 The court’s order shall be sent under separate cover.

19At oral argument defendant’s counsel argued there is a hole in the chain of title “big enough to drive a truck through.” Counsel alleged there was no documentation or support indicating the note was assigned by Fremont Investment. This was the same argument counsel made on the papers.

Continue below…

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NEW JERSEY NOTICE TO THE BAR

NEW JERSEY NOTICE TO THE BAR


RE: Emergent Amendments to Rules 1:5-6, 4:64-1 and 4:64-2

In light of irregularities in the residential foreclosure practice as reported in sworn deposition testimony in New Jersey and other states, the Court has adopted, on an emergent basis, amendments to Rules 1:5-6, 4:64-1 and 4:64-2. These amendments are effective December 20, 2010. The new rule and the amendments, along with the Order adopting them, appear with this notice. The Court’s Order also contains directions for counsel in pending uncontested residential foreclosure cases.

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Mortgage Fraud…Ally Financial (GMAC), Bank of America, Citibank, JPMorgan, OneWest, Wells Fargo: By Lynn Szymoniak, Esq.

Mortgage Fraud…Ally Financial (GMAC), Bank of America, Citibank, JPMorgan, OneWest, Wells Fargo: By Lynn Szymoniak, Esq.


Mortgage Fraud

Ally Financial/GMAC
Bank of America

Citibank

JP Morgan Chase

OneWest Bank

Wells Fargo Bank

Action Date: December 20, 2010
Location: Mercer County, NJ

New Jersey State Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner entered an order To Show Cause “In The Matter of Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Pleadings and Document Irregularities” in Civil Action No. F-059553-10, Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, General Equity Part, Mercer County on December 20, 2010. Six mortgage servicing companies and their bank-owners were ordered to show cause why the Court should not suspend their rights to foreclose.

First on the list was Ally Financial, formerly known as GMAC. Ally/GMAC is the employer of Jeffrey Stephan who was exposed as one of many “robo-signers” – a phrase indicating that an employee signed thousands of documents used in foreclosure cases with no idea of the truth of the matters asserted in the documents, and more often than not, without even having read what was signed.

Stephan signed thousands of Affidavits, but he signed tens of thousands of Mortgage Assignments – the documents used by mortgage-backed trusts to show that the trusts acquired the mortgages at issue and have the right to foreclose.

Stephan signed these Mortgage Assignments for many different mortgage-backed trusts. Over 50 RALI (Residential Accredit Loans, Inc.) Trusts relied almost exclusively on Mortgage Assignments signed by Stephan. Over 44 RAMP (Residential Asset Mortgage Products) Trusts also used Assignments churned out by Stephan. At least 20 RASC (Residential Asset Securities Corp.) Trusts used Stephan assignments almost exclusively in foreclosures. At least 40 other mortgage-backed trusts, including certain Aames Mortgage Investment Trusts, certain Bear Stearns Trusts and certain Harborview Trusts all relied on Ally/GMAC’s Stephan for proof of their right to foreclose.

These trusts needed the Stephan-made assignments because the trusts’ depositors, sponsors, trustees and document custodians failed to obtain the critical documents, including notes and assignments, at the inception of the trust – despite promises to investors and regulators that these documents had been obtained and were being safeguarded.

In Florida, Stephan’s name appears on thousands of Mortgage Assignments, most often on documents prepared by the Law Offices of David Stern, who is under investigation by the Florida Attorney General. In almost every case, Stephans signed as a Vice President of Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems.

According to the Stephan documents, the trusts almost always acquired these mortgages AFTER they were already in default, and often AFTER foreclosure proceedings had been initiated.

Many different banks, in their capacity as Trustees for mortgage-backed trusts, used Stephan Assignments, but Stephan documents were most often used by Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, Bank of NY Mellon and U.S. Bank.

Assuming that each trust has mortgage loans with a face value of one billion dollars – and that over 200 trusts are involved, the amount in controversy is staggering.

Also disturbing is the number of Assignments on Stephan/Stern documents where the assignee trust is unidentified. The Stephan/Stern team repeatedly prepared and filed Assignments where only the Trustees – and not the trusts themselves – were identified as the new owners of the mortgages. “U.S. Bank as Trustee” and “Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas as Trustee” are the new owners of thousands of mortgages.

Stephan often wrongly stated his own job title, the date the assignment to the trusts took place, and the identity of the trusts. Stephan’s conduct – and the documents he produced – will not stand up to the most superficial examination. Chief Justice Rabner seems determined to dig much deeper.

The other five companies named by Chief Justice Rabner have the very same problems, having produced hundreds of thousands of flawed loan documents for mortgage-backed trusts, signed by individuals with very limited knowledge or authority. Their role was to sign their names without questioning or understanding what they signed.

According to Chief Justice Rabner, the next step may be the Appointment of a Special Master “to inquire into and report to the court on the extent of irregularities concerning affidavits, certifications, assignments and other documents from time to time filed with the court in residential mortgage foreclosure actions…” Past and present business practices would be examined and the Master could also consider whether sanctions should be imposed…and a suggested formula to determine an appropriate sanction.”

By his Order, Chief Justice Rabner gave hope to hundreds of thousands of victims of fraud by securities companies, banks, mortgage companies and mortgage servicing companies.

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READ JUDGE ORDER: New Jersey Court May Order Foreclosure Freeze

READ JUDGE ORDER: New Jersey Court May Order Foreclosure Freeze


EXCERPT:

The nature of the problem calls for a balancing of the court’s supervisory and adjudicatory roles and responsibilities. The court has therefore established the procedure in this Order to address the pressing needs of the Office of Foreclosure while providing due process to affected parties. The court will direct that the six Foreclosure Plaintiff’s named on this order show cause at a hearing scheduled for January 19, 2011, why the court should not suspend the processing of all foreclosures matters involving the six Foreclosure Plaintiffs and appoint Special Masters to review their past and proposed foreclosure practices.

Continue below…


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PA: Homeowners Appeal to Third Circuit in Foreclosure Fraud Class Action Against Countrywide, Wells Fargo and Phelan Hallinan & Schmieg

PA: Homeowners Appeal to Third Circuit in Foreclosure Fraud Class Action Against Countrywide, Wells Fargo and Phelan Hallinan & Schmieg


On December 6, 2010, the homeowners filed a brief with the Third Circuit, maintaining that reversal of the July 14th order is necessary because (1) the lower court abused its discretion by altogether ignoring the substance of the proposed Amended Complaint and (2) the lower court erred as a matter of law in misconstruing federal bankruptcy law as a basis for its dismissal of the earlier Complaint.

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT

No. 10-3431

DENNIS A. RHODES et al, on behalf of themselves and all others
similarly situated,
Plaintiffs-Appellants,

– v.-

ROSEMARY DIAMOND et al,
Defendants-Appellees.

APPEAL FROM AN ORDER OF THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT
COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA,

09-cv-1302

APPELLANTS’ OPENING BRIEF
AND APPENDIX VOLUME I
(Pages A1-A13)

TABLE OF CONTENTS
STATEMENT OF JURISDICTION ……………………………………………… 1
STATEMENT OF ISSUES …………………………………………………………………………… 1
STATEMENT OF THE CASE …………………………………………………… 2
STATEMENTOFFACTS ……………………………………………………… 4
Appellees’ Foreclosure Practices ……………………………………………………………. .4
Facts Alleged in the PAC ……………………………………………………………………….. 8
Independent Confirmation of Abusive Foreclosure Practices ……………………. 11
SUMMARY OF THE ARGUMENT …………………………………………….. 15
ARGUMENT …………………………………………………………………….. 17
I. THE COURT BELOW ABUSED ITS DISCRETION BY DENYING
THE HOMEOWNERS’ MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE THE PAC ………… 17
II. THE COURT BELOW ERRONEOUSLY DISMISSED
THE HOMEOWNERS’ ORIGINAL COMPLAINT ………………………………….. 21
A. Bankruptcy Creditors Have A Duty to Amend Inaccurate Claims ………. 21
B. The U.S. Bankruptcy Code Does Not Preclude FDCPA Lawsuits
Brought to Remedy Institutionalized Debt Collection Abuses …………… 21
CONCLUSION …………………………………………………………………… 30
CERTIFICATION REGARDING BAR MEMBERSHIP ……………………….. 31
CERTIFICATE OF COMPLIANCE …………………………………………….. 32
CERTIFICATE OF IDENTICALNESS ………………………………………….. 33
CERTIFICATE OF VIRUS CHECK ……………………………………………. 34

Continue below…

BHN LAW FIRM

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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.

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