As readers of my Blog are aware, there has been a legal issue in the nation as to whether MERS, the Mortgage Electronic Registration System, can foreclose on a Deed of Trust if they do not own the Promissory Note. First a little background. A loan is generally made up of two documents: 1) the Promissory Note in which the borrower promises to repay the lender upon terms set forth in the Note; and 2) the Deed of Trust which gives the lender a security interest in the real property. If the borrower defaults in payment under the terms of the Note, the lender can take the property based upon a foreclosure power contained in the Deed of Trust. Depending upon the State and the method of foreclosure used, the lender may or may not be able to obtain a court judgment against the borrower for any portion of the loan not paid (deficiency judgment).
During the growth of the real estate bubble from 2000-2008, lenders regularly sold the loans to get money to make more loans. This involved assigning the Note and Deed of Trust to the new owner and recording the assignment of the Deed of Trust. This process was costing lenders millions of dollars in recording fees. Their solution to avoid this was the creation of a separate entity, MERS, which would be assigned the Deed of Trust but note the Note. Then, if there was a default, whoever then held the Note would tell MERS to foreclose. The legal question this raised was whether MERS had any real rights to enforce the loan default terms or were they merely an agent of the actual owner of the loan, ie: the holder of the Note. This is very important because if MERS is only an agent, they have no legal right (“standing”) to take any action… only the holder of the Note can. In States where foreclosure can only be done through a legal action (such as Ohio, Florida, and others), foreclosure actions by MERS started getting thrown out of Court when they could not prove that they also owned the Note.
These early successes gave birth to law firms promoting that they would stop foreclosures by finding the disconnect between MERS and the Note holder. However, it also started legal argument nationwide on whether this ownership of both the Note and Deed of Trust was required. In May 2010, the US Bankruptcy Court in California ruled that if MERS did not own the Note, they could not foreclose on the debt (Case of Rickie Walker). However, that did not settle the dispute. As reported in DSNews.com , Courts around the country have continued to differ. Last week, a New York judge ruled that MERS cannot foreclose unless they own the Note. But within days, judges in Kansas and Mass. ruled that ownership was not required. Other Courts, particularly the Minnesota Supreme Court, ruled that MERS could foreclose. On February 18, 2011, California Court of Appeals (4th Dist) ruled that MERS could foreclose (Gomes v Countrywide Home Loans). In that case, MERS was actually named in the Deed of Trust signed by the borrower and had authority to foreclose. Different facts might bring a different result.
Only rulings by a State’s Supreme Court are binding on all lower courts in a State so it is likely that the dispute will continue. However, consensus appears to be growing in the Courts around the nation that MERS does not need to own the Note to foreclose on the security. Perhaps, although not stated, this reflects a judicial attitude that since the borrower has actually defaulted in repaying the debt, they should not be able to use the MERS technicality to avoid the consequences.
Time will tell how this dispute eventually plays out. In the meantine, we advise that you do not get lured in by advertisements promising they’ll stop foreclosures because MERS doesn’t own the Note.
If you have specific questions about your loan and the lender rights or any other legal issues, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We offer a $200 flat fee consultation to evaluate your liabilities and strategize a resolution. This can be done in person or by phone. If interested, please call us at 916-966-2260.
The information presented in this Article is not to be taken as legal advice. Every persons situation is different. If you are upside-down on your loan(s), especially if youre facing a lender lawsuit, get competent legal advise in your State immediately so that you can determine your best options.