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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

5th Circuit says bank and mortgage servicer did not engage in “dual tracking”

Courts Appellate Fifth Circuit RESPA Consumer Finance Mortgages State Issues Mortgage Servicing Foreclosure

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On December 15, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of defendants in a mortgage foreclosure action. According to the opinion, after the plaintiff fell behind on his mortgage payments, the defendant bank’s mortgage servicer approved him for a trial loan modification plan that required timely reduced payments for a period of three months. The plaintiff stated that he complied with the trial plan but that the defendant bank nevertheless foreclosed on his property and sold the property to a third defendant. The plaintiff further claimed that he did not learn about the sale of his property until two months after it happened when the third defendant sought to evict him. The plaintiff sued the bank and mortgage servicer for violating RESPA and the Texas Debt Collection Act (TDCA), and sued the purchaser of the property “asserting claims to quiet title and for trespass to try title.” All defendants moved for summary judgment, which the district court granted based on evidence that refuted each allegation. The plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the 5th Circuit first reviewed, among other claims, the plaintiff’s RESPA claim, which alleged the bank and mortgage servicer engaged in “dual tracking” by initiating foreclosure proceedings while the plaintiff’s trial modification plan was purportedly still active. According to the court, dual tracking occurs when “the lender actively pursues foreclosure while simultaneously considering the borrower for loss mitigation options.” The appellate court agreed with the district court’s conclusion that summary judgment was appropriate because the plaintiff did not submit his first payment by the deadline established under the trial modification plan, and thus “did not timely accept the Trial Modification Plan.” As such, the bank and mortgage servicer did not engage in “dual tracking” because there was no obligation to notify the plaintiff of any denial of a permanent loan modification or to provide an opportunity to appeal, and accordingly was not considering the plaintiff for loss mitigation options. The court also found deficiencies in the plaintiff’s Texas law and TDCA claims.

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