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On June 9, Alabama HB 3 went into effect, amending § 5-19-4 of the Alabama Consumer Credit Act (Mini-Code, which does not apply to real estate loans where the creditor is a national bank or federal thrift, except for prepayment penalties), which sets minimum and maximum late charges that may be imposed on consumer credit transactions. Prior to the amendment, § 5-19-4 allowed lenders to charge the greater of $10 or 5% of the amount of the scheduled payment in default, capped at $100, when a payment on a consumer credit transaction - which includes residential mortgage loans - is ten or more days past due. The amendment increases the dollar limitation to $18, while retaining both the alternative 5% of the amount of the scheduled payment provision and the $100 maximum late charge. This amendment brings the Mini Code and Small Loan Act into accord regarding the charging of late fees.
On June 4, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed into law Assembly Bill 283 (AB 283), which revises Nevada’s regulations implementing the federal Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act of 2008 relating to continuing education, criminal and civil liability, and the employment of mortgage agents. Under AB 283, mortgage agents, bankers, brokers, and employees of such entities that (i) are not residential mortgage loan originators, (ii) are not otherwise required to register with the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System & Registry (NMLS), and (iii) have not voluntarily registered or renewed with NMLS are exempt from all regulations promulgated by the Commissioner of Mortgage Lending relating to continuing education requirements. Assembly Bill 283 requires that non-exempt licensees dedicate at least three hours per year to continuing education specific to Nevada laws and regulations per year, as well as an additional two hours of continuing education classes related to ethics. In addition, AB 283 insulates investors who only provide money to acquire a beneficial interest in a mortgage loan from criminal or civil liability resulting from an act or omission committed by a mortgage broker. Finally, AB 283 updates the provisions relating to the licensing and regulation of mortgage agents to clarify the responsibilities of those who hold a certificate of exemption and those who sponsor mortgage agents.
The Vermont Legislature recently amended the Vermont Licensed Lender Act, Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 8, § 2201, to require loan modification employees of mortgage loan servicing companies to obtain individual mortgage loan originator licenses to continue their loan modification efforts for loans serviced by the loan servicing company. The statute defines "loan modification" as an adjustment or compromise of an existing residential mortgage loan and excludes a refinancing transaction. This provision takes effect on July 1, 2011.
Last week’s InfoBytes incorrectly reported on a Florida bill signed into law on May 31 by stating that the law amends provisions of Florida’s mortgage licensing law such that in-house loan processors must secure an individual mortgage loan processor license. Although Florida law previously required persons acting solely as loan processors to secure a loan originator license, the new legislation actually relieves in-house loan processors from individual licensing in Florida. Specifically, the bill excludes in-house loan processors from individual licensure, so long as the individual (i) is an exclusive employee of a single mortgage broker or a mortgage lender, (ii) under direct supervision and instruction of a licensed Florida loan originator, and (iii) engages in loan processing only (i.e., receiving, collecting, distributing, and analyzing information for processing a mortgage loan or communicating with consumers to obtain information necessary to process a mortgage loan (not including offering or negotiating or counseling consumers about mortgage loan rates or terms)). Contract (i.e., independent) loan processors remain subject to loan originator licensure in certain circumstances. This amendment brings Florida’s law more in line with the federal Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act (S.A.F.E.) and other state jurisdictions with respect to treatment of mortgage loan processors. As previously reported, the bill additionally requires mortgage lenders to submit reports of their financial condition to the NMLS registry and to authorize the NMLS registry to obtain a credit report for each of the mortgage lender’s control persons in order to renew a mortgage lender license. The bill becomes effective July 1, 2011.
On May 28, the governor of Texas signed Senate Bill 1496, which added new sections regarding instruments that correct recorded original instruments to the Texas statutes. These new provisions provide that a correction instrument may correct an ambiguity or error in a recorded original instrument of conveyance to transfer real property or an interest in real property, including an ambiguity or error that relates to the description of or extent of the interest conveyed. The legislation states that a correction instrument may make nonmaterial corrections, such as corrections to legal descriptions, names, dates, or facts relating to the acknowledgment or authentication, but the person executing the document must disclose in the instrument the basis for the person’s personal knowledge of the facts relevant to the correction of the recorded original instrument of conveyance. A correction instrument may also make material corrections, such as adding a buyer’s disclaimer, a mortgagee’s consent or subordination, or additional land; removing land from a conveyance; or accurately identifying a lot or unit number that was inaccurately identified in the recorded original instrument of conveyance. While this legislation is slated to be effective September 1, 2011, a correction instrument that substantially complies with the statutory provisions recorded before that date will be given effect.
Oklahoma Amends Telephone Solicitation Statutes to Include Cellular Telephone Calls and Text Messages
On May 26, Oklahoma’s Governor approved legislation amending provisions of the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act and its Telemarketer Restriction Act to address the rapidly increasing use of text messages for commercial solicitation. The new law modifies relevant statutory definitions and expands existing consumer protections related to commercial telephone solicitation to include cellular telephone calls and text messages made by automatic dialing devices without the use of a live operator. The legislation also instructs the Attorney General to expand the do-not-call registry to include an opt-in list of consumers who would do not want to receive any unsolicited telemarketing text messages.
On May 25, Judge Panner, ruling for the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, granted the plaintiff’s request for a declaratory judgment that the defendants violated the Oregon Trust Deed Act, ORS 86.735(1), in pursuing non-judicial foreclosure of their loan without recording all assignments of the trust deed. Hooker v. Northwest Trustee Services, Inc., Civ. No. 10-3111-PA (D. Or. May 25, 2011). In this case, the plaintiffs had obtained a loan from GN Mortgage, LLC in 2005. At that time, a trust deed was recorded naming the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS) as the beneficiary, "solely as nominee for Lender and Lender’s successors and assigns." The note was subsequently assigned several times, and MERS tracked the new lenders in its system. No assignments of the deed of trust were recorded. When the plaintiffs defaulted on their loan in 2009, MERS assigned the deed of trust to Bank of America and appointed Northwest Trustee Services as successor trustee, and Northwest executed a notice of default and election to sell. The assignment of the trust deed, appointment of successor trustee, and notice default were then recorded. After the plaintiffs filed suit, the defendants attempted to correct the documents by having the current lender appoint the trustee, and new documents were recorded. However, the court ordered the defendants to submit a complete chain of title. The MERS records submitted by the defendants indicated a chain of title beginning with Guaranty Bank, with no indication of how Guaranty Bank obtained the loan from GN Mortgage. The court noted that under Oregon law, only the beneficiary of the deed of trust may invoke the power of sale, not merely a nominee for the lender. GN Mortgage (or its successor in interest), as the lender of record, was the beneficiary of the trust deed. The court then noted that under Oregon law, a trustee could invoke the power of sale only if "any assignments of the trust deed by the trustee or the beneficiary ... are recorded in the mortgage records." The court held that tracking the successive assignments of the deed of trust by MERS was insufficient to protect the interests of the homeowner and violates the Oregon Trust Deed Act, because the assignments of the trust deed were not recorded as required by law.
On May 17, Washington enacted new legislation that would require a senior beneficiary of a deed of trust to respond to a seller’s written offer that the senior beneficiary accept the entire net proceeds of the sale when those proceeds are insufficient to pay the full obligation owed within 120 days. The statute applies only when the senior beneficiary receives the written offer from the seller prior to the issuance of a notice of default. The seller must include a copy of the purchase and sale agreement with the offer, and the senior beneficiary’s response must include either an acceptance, rejection, or counter-offer of the seller’s offer. The new requirements do not apply to deeds of trust securing a commercial loan, securing obligations of a grantor who is not the borrower or a guarantor, or securing a purchaser’s obligations under a seller-financed sale. The provisions take effect July 22.
On May 17, the Court of Appeals of Indiana held that Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS), as the mere "nominee" of a mortgage lender, held nothing more than "bare legal title" to a mortgage, and therefore has no rights separate from those of the lender, including no rights to notice of a foreclosure claim by another lender. CitiMortgage, Inc. v. Barabas, No. 48A04-1004-CC-232 (Ind. Ct. App. May 17, 2011). In 2005, Barabas executed a mortgage that provided for the security interest to be "given to [MERS], (solely as nominee for Lender . . . ), as mortgagee." The Lender was Irwin Mortgage Corporation (IMC). The mortgage included the addresses of both MERS and IMC, but it stated that any notice to Lender was to be provided to IMC. Later, the holder of a second mortgage on the property, ReCasa Financial Group (ReCasa) sought to foreclose on the property and named IMC (but not MERS) as a defendant. IMC, however, disclaimed any interest in the property, and Barabas had discharged her debts in bankruptcy. Accordingly, the trial court entered a default judgment in favor of ReCasa and ordered the property sold at a judicial sale. ReCasa wound up repurchasing the property and then reselling it to a third party. Meanwhile, MERS assigned its interest in the original mortgage to CitiMortgage (Citi), which subsequently sought to vacate the default judgment and the subsequent sales. The trial court declined to vacate the default judgment, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. As to Citi’s argument that the default judgment was defective because MERS had not received notice of the foreclosure claim, the Court (relying on Landmark National Bank v. Kesler, 216 P.3d 158 (Kan. 2009)), held that, notwithstanding the fact that the mortgage referred to MERS as both "nominee" and "mortgagee," MERS "served as the mortgagee ‘solely as nominee’ for [IMC]." Thus, when IMC disclaimed its interest in the property, "MERS, as mere nominee and holder of nothing more than bare legal title to the mortgage, did not have an enforceable right under the mortgage separate from the interest held by [IMC]." Because IMC received proper notice, there was no basis to set aside the default judgment. The Court also rejected Citi’s claim under Indiana Code 32-29-8-3, which provides that a purchaser at a judicial sale without notice that the mortgage has been assigned holds the premises free and discharged of the lien, unless the assignee redeems the premises within one year of the sale. Although Citi did seek to redeem the premises within one year of the judicial sale, it had been more than one year since (i) ReCasa’s foreclosure complaint and (ii) Citi’s effort to intervene in Barabas’s bankruptcy case to assert its rights to the property. Therefore, the Court determined that Citi’s claim was "precluded . . . because it failed to intervene until more than a year after it first acquired interest in the property."
On May 16, the governor of Maine signed House Bill 748, which amended Maine’s statutes regarding the release of a mortgage. The legislation added a provision requiring that, within 30 days after receiving the recorded release of the mortgage from the registry of deeds, the mortgagee must send the release by first class mail to the mortgagor. The legislation also provides that, if the release is not sent by first class mail to the mortgagor within 30 days, the mortgagee will be liable to an aggrieved party for damages equal to exemplary damages of $500. In addition to recording fees, the mortgagee may charge the mortgagor for any postage fees incurred in sending the release to the mortgagor. The legislation will be effective 90 days after the adjournment of the legislature, which is scheduled for June 15.
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk to discuss “Hot topics outside of CA” at the California Mortgage Bankers Association Conference
- Jon David D. Langlois to discuss “LIBOR Transition: How will the pieces come together in time?” at the American Bar Association In the Know-Live webinar
- Buckley Webcast: Dissecting the annual federal agency fair lending summit
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Regulators always ring twice: Responding to a government request” at ALM Legalweek