By Richard D. Vetstein, ESQ
Court Will Consider Mortgage Servicer/MERS Standing and Statutory Foreclosure Affidavits
The Supreme Judicial Court has a busy Fall Term with several important foreclosure cases on the docket. Here's a quick summary.
HSBC Bank v. Jodi Matt (SJC-11101)
The SJC is considering whether a mortgage servicer holding a securitized mortgage has standing to even begin a foreclosure action in the Land Court under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act-one of the first steps in the Massachusetts foreclosure process. I wrote about this case in a prior post here. This ruling will affect just about every conventional mortgage foreclosure in the state. The lower court Land Court opinion can be read here. The court asked for friend-of-the-court briefs, and the Real Estate Bar Association filed a brief supporting the foreclosing lenders. Glenn Russell's brief for the appellant Jodi Matt can be read here.
Oral arguments were held in early September, but unfortunately the webcast is unavailable. One of my sources told me that the justices were very active and peppered both attorneys with lots of questions.
Following the recent Eaton v. FNMA [enhanced version available to lexis.com subscribers] case, which held that a mortgage servicer may foreclosure upon a showing of proper agency and authority, I predict that the Court will ultimately hold that servicers and lenders holding rights to securitized mortgages have legal standing to start the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act proceeding, even if they merely hold a contractual right to the actual mortgage. The most compelling rationale for such a ruling is that the only purpose of the Servicemember proceeding is to ascertain whether the borrower is in active military service. It is not intended to be a forum to litigate issues relating to the propriety of securitized mortgage transfers and contractual standing.
Federal National Mortgage Ass'n v. Hendricks (SJC 11234)
This case has the potential to change Massachusetts foreclosure practice. The issue presented is whether the long-standing Massachusetts statutory form foreclosure affidavit that the foreclosing lender has complied with the foreclosure laws is on its face sufficient. The case will also decide whether the statutory power of sale form, originally drafted in 1912, is also facially sufficient. The docket and briefs filed in the case can be found here.
The case originated from the Boston Housing Court where Hendricks fought his post-foreclosure eviction by Fannie Mae, asserting that the affidavits filed by Fannie Mae reciting compliance with the foreclosure statute were inadmissible and insufficient. A Housing Court judge disagreed, and upheld the foreclosure and the eviction.
With the well-publicized robo-signing controversy looming in the background, I would not be surprised if the SJC rules in favor of Hendricks here and in the process tightens up the requirements for filing foreclosure affidavits. Indeed, that is the trend with the Legislature's recent passing of the Foreclosure Prevention Act. As with the Eaton v. FNMA ruling, the Court should likely make its ruling prospective and not retroactive so as to not disrupt titles in the Commonwealth.
Galiastro v. MERS (SJC DAR 20960)
The SJC just accepted direct appellate review from the Appeals Court in this interesting case. This case will finally decide whether Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS) has standing to foreclose in its own name. The case, however, is somewhat mooted because MERS no longer forecloses in its own name, but there are plenty of MERS foreclosures in back titles. This case will not be argued for several months. I will have analysis after that.
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Mr. Vetstein has represented clients in hundreds of lawsuits and disputes involving business, real estate, construction, condominium, zoning, environmental, banking and financial services, employment, and personal injury law.
In real estate matters, Mr. Vetstein handles residential and commercial transactions and closings. In land use, zoning, and licensing matters, Mr. Vetstein offers his clients an inside perspective as a former board member of the Sudbury Zoning Board of Appeals. Mr. Vetstein has an active real estate litigation practice, and was a former outside claims counsel for a national title company.
Drawing on his own business degree and experience, Mr. Vetstein assists his business clients with new business start ups, acquisitions, sales, contract, employment issues, trademarks, and succession planning. Mr. Vetstein also litigates, arbitrates and mediates a wide variety of commercial disputes.
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