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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

2nd Circuit affirms borrower standing in mortgage recordation delay suit

Courts Appellate Second Circuit Mortgages State Issues Consumer Finance

Courts

On May 10, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit determined that class members have constitutional standing to sue a national bank for allegedly violating New York’s mortgage-satisfaction-recording statutes, which require lenders to record borrowers’ repayments within 30 days. The plaintiffs filed a class action suit alleging the bank’s recordation delay harmed their financial reputations, impaired their credit, and limited their borrowing capacity. The district court agreed, ruling that the plaintiffs had Article III standing to sue because the bank’s alleged violation of the mortgage-satisfaction-recording statutes created a “material risk of harm” to them.

On appeal, the majority opinion first determined, among other things, that “state legislatures may create legally protected interests whose violation supports Article III standing, subject to certain federal limitations.” The alleged state law violations in this matter, the majority wrote, constitute a concrete and particularized harm to the plaintiffs in the form of both reputational injury and limitations in borrowing capacity during the recordation delay period. Moreover, the majority concluded that the bank’s alleged failure to report the plaintiffs’ mortgage discharge “posed a real risk of material harm” because the public record reflected an outstanding debt of over $50,000, which could “reasonably be inferred to have substantially restricted” the plaintiffs’ borrowing capacity. The dissenting judge argued, however, that the plaintiffs “never suffered a cloud on title prohibiting them from selling their property, or adverse effects on their credit, or an inability to finance another property, or even a risk of these harms,” and that the “trivial nature of a recordation delay is reflected in the 30-day delay that is tolerated without penalty, and by the small penalty exacted even after 90 days.”

The 2nd Circuit joined the Third, Seventh, Ninth, and Tenth circuits in holding that state legislatures have the power to “create ‘legally protected interests’” that, when violated, satisfy Article III injury-in-fact requirement, noting that it is “aware of no Circuit holding to the contrary.”

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