Skip to main content
Menu Icon

InfoBytes Blog

Financial Services Law Insights and Observations


Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter and other publications for news affecting the financial services industry.

  • California appellate court upholds ruling on debt collection practices


    Recently, the California Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District upheld a ruling against a defendant and its related entities. Plaintiff had filed a class action lawsuit against the defendants, alleging that they had violated the FDCPA and California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL) in their debt collection practices related to homeowners’ associate (HOA) assessments.

    The case was removed from federal to state court after the parties agreed on the move. Plaintiff was permitted to amend her complaint to include allegations against the law firm representing the debt collector and its associates, asserting they were “alter egos” of the debt collector. The state court agreed to bifurcate the claims and first addressed the UCL claim. The court found in favor of plaintiff, ruling that defendant had violated the FDCPA (a prerequisite to finding liability under the UCL) and that the law firm was jointly and severally liable for restitution and attorney fees for class counsel.

    On appeal, defendants contended first that the trial court incorrectly upheld the federal court's decision that a waiver of California Civil Code section 5655(a), which required the application of payments be first applied to assessments owed, was invalid. This waiver was included as part of the payment plan that plaintiff agreed to, but the federal court determined it was void as a matter of public policy. Second, the defendants argued that the court was incorrect that defendants breached the FDCPA by issuing pre-lien notices and letters before issuing a notice of default. Finally, the defendants challenged the trial court's decision to approve plaintiff’s request to split the trial and prioritize a non-jury trial on her claim under the UCL.

    In denying defendants’ claims, the appellate court agreed that the section 5655(a) waiver was invalid because it contradicted public policy intended to protect homeowners. Additionally, the court doubted whether the collection agency’s pre-lien letter could reasonably be characterized as threatening foreclosure and agreed with the trial court that “the least sophisticated debtor would reasonably understand this language in [defendant’s] pre-[notice of default] letter as threatening foreclosure in violation of section 5720.” Finally, regarding the decision to bifurcate plaintiff’s claims, the court decided that defendant did not sufficiently demonstrate that the trial court had abused its discretion in granting plaintiff’s motion to bifurcate. 

    Courts California Debt Collection Consumer Protection HOA Consumer Finance

  • HUD issues guidance on HECM assignment claims during Covid-19

    Federal Issues

    On April 14, HUD issued Mortgagee Letter 2020-12 to inform mortgagees of alternative documentation options and delayed documentation delivery deadlines for submitting Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) claims for during the Covid-19 related closures. In particular, alternative documentation is permitted to document that taxes are current, HOA and condominium dues are not delinquent, and the borrower will occupy the property as a principal residence. The guidance addresses delayed delivery of original notes, mortgages, and assignments to the Secretary. It also reminds mortgagees of the required repurchase of the HECM if the HECM did not meet all criteria at the time of assignment claim payment. 

    Federal Issues Covid-19 HUD HECM HOA Mortgages

  • Maryland court of appeals: state consumer protection act covers HOA collections


    On January 27, the Court of Appeals of Maryland affirmed the dismissal of a homeowners association’s (HOA) confessed judgment complaint against a consumer, and stated that the HOA could not file an amended complaint. According to the opinion, the consumer owned a home that is part of an HOA, which makes annual assessments to cover the costs of general upkeep of the common areas. When she fell behind in paying her HOA assessments, the HOA drafted and the consumer signed, a promissory note (note) that contained a confessed judgment clause. The consumer defaulted on the note and the HOA filed a complaint for judgment by confession along with the note and an affidavit that stated the note did not involve a consumer transaction. The district court entered judgment for the HOA. The consumer filed a motion to vacate the judgment, claiming that the note arose from a consumer transaction, and the confessed judgment clause was prohibited under the Maryland Consumer Protection Act (MCPA). The district court agreed that the note evidenced a consumer transaction and vacated the confessed judgment and set the matter for trial. After the consumer received a notice regarding the trial on the issue, she filed a motion to dismiss, which was denied, and she appealed to the circuit court. The circuit court held that the confessed judgment was prohibited and that the complaint was required to be dismissed. The HOA filed a petition for writ of certiorari, which the Court of Appeals granted.

    Upon review, the Court of Appeals found that under the MCPA (i) the HOA assessments are consumer debt; (ii) the HOA’s note was an extension of consumer credit; and (iii) confessed judgment clauses in contracts involving consumer transactions are prohibited. Further, the Court of Appeals determined that the HOA could not “circumvent the protections afforded to a debtor under the [M]CPA by inserting language into a confessed judgment clause which purports to preserve a debtor’s legal defenses.” The Court of Appeals also rejected the consumer’s assertion that the note was void as a result of the confessed judgment clause, finding instead that though the HOA should not be allowed to file an amended complaint in the current action, the HOA could file a separate action for breach of contract if the unlawful clause was severed from the note. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals stated that the current action should be dismissed without prejudice.

    Courts State Issues State Regulation Consumer Protection Debt Collection HOA Appellate Consumer Lending | Consumer Finance Consumer Finance

  • Nevada Supreme Court Holds that HOA "Superpriority" Statute Does Not Violate Due Process, Declines to Follow 9th Circuit


    On January 26, in Saticoy Bay LLC Series 350 Durango 104 v. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, No 68630, (Nev. Jan 26, 2017), the Nevada Supreme Court reaffirmed its interpretation of the state statute granting priority lien status to unpaid condo assessments (Nev. Rev. Stat. § 116.3116 et seq.); specifically that foreclosure of such liens extinguishes prior-recorded mortgages. The Nevada Supreme Court declined to follow a 2016 ruling by the Ninth Circuit holding that the statute violates the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. Rather, the Nevada Supreme Court stated that the Due Process Clause protects individuals from state actions, and a foreclosing HOA cannot be deemed to be a state actor. In doing so, the court specifically notes that “[w]e acknowledge that the Ninth Circuit has recently held that the Legislature's enactment of NRS 116.3116 et seq. does constitute state action. . . . However, for the aforementioned reasons, we decline to follow its holding.”

    Courts Mortgages Foreclosure Due Process HOA Ninth Circuit

Upcoming Events