Massachusetts title defect attorney

notary-public

SJC Decision Provides Clarity to Title Attorneys

Now that the summer is over, it’s time to get back to blogging! During the quiet summer months, the Supreme Judicial Court issued an important decision for real estate attorneys and the title community in Bank of America v. Casey (June 16, 2016) (link to case). The SJC confirmed that a statutory curative attorney’s affidavit may be recorded with the registry of deeds correcting a defective notary acknowledgment on a mortgage which otherwise could have invalidated the instrument. This is a very helpful decision, and should result in more titles (and properties) being cleared and sold.

Defective Notary Acknowledgment

In 2005, Alvaro and Lisa Pereira refinanced their New Bedford property with Bank of America, N.A. The Pereiras individually initialed the bottom of each page of the mortgage agreement except the signature page, on which the full signature of each appears. Attorney Raymond J. Quintin, the closing attorney, also signed this page, as the notary to the Pereiras’ execution of the mortgage. The mortgage agreement contains a certificate of acknowledgment (acknowledgment) on a separate page. The Pereiras individually initialed the acknowledgment page at the bottom, but the acknowledgment itself is blank in the space designated for the names of the persons appearing before the notary public, and the Pereiras’ names do not appear elsewhere on the page. Quintin notarized the acknowledgment, affixing his signature and his notary public seal. 

Seven years later (which is unexplained in the ruling), Attorney Quintin signed and recorded an “Attorney’s Affidavit, M.G.L. Ch. 183, Sec. 5B” stating that he properly witnessed the Pereiras signing the mortgage and that “through inadvertence, the names of the parties executing this mortgage, Lisa M. Pereira and Alvaro M. Pereira, were omitted from the notary clause.” Parenthetically, these curative affidavits are quite common in the industry.

Approximately six months later, Mr. Pereira filed for bankruptcy and sought to be released from responsibility under the mortgage on the ground that the mortgage contained a material defect — the omission of the mortgagors’ names from the acknowledgment.

SJC–Attorney Affidavits Pursuant to G.L. c. 183, sec. 5B May Cure Defective Notary Acknowledgment

The Court first went over the general rule that a defective notary acknowledgment is usually grounds to void any recordable instrument altogether. Mass. General Laws chapter 183 section 5B provides a cure to this problem by providing that “an affidavit made by a person claiming to have personal knowledge of the facts therein stated and containing a certificate by an attorney at law that the facts stated in the affidavit are relevant to the title to certain land and will be of benefit and assistance in clarifying the chain of title may be filed for record and shall be recorded in the registry of deeds where the land or any part thereof lies.”

The Court then ruled that the curative affidavit recorded by the closing attorney cured the defect and validated the mortgage. The Court said the attorney’s affidavit must comply with the formal requirements of § 5B, attests to facts that clarify the chain of title by supplying information omitted from the originally recorded acknowledgement, and references the previously recorded mortgage. As long as it does that, the problem is solved.

This isn’t a “sexy” opinion, but it is nevertheless important to the real estate bar and community.

{ 1 comment }

Update (2/6/14):  Legislation to Fix Ibanez Defects Much Closer to Passage

Update (8/3/12): Foreclosure Prevention Act Signed, But Fails To Address Ibanez Title Problems

Massachusetts Senate Bill 830 Addresses Toxic Foreclosure Titles

Finally, Massachusetts lawmakers have taken action to help innocent purchasers of foreclosed properties in the aftermath of the U.S. Bank v. Ibanez and Bevilacqua v. Rodriguez decisions, which resulted in widespread title defects for previously foreclosed properties. The legislation, Senate Bill 830, An Act Clearing Titles To Foreclosed Properties, is sponsored by Shrewsbury State Senator Michael Moore and the Massachusetts Land Title Association. Full text is embedded below.

The bill, if approved, will amend the state foreclosure laws to validate a foreclosure, even if it’s technically deficient under the Ibanez ruling, so long as the previously foreclosed owner does not file a legal challenge to the validity of the foreclosure within 90 days of the foreclosure auction.

The bill has support from both the community/housing sector and the real estate industry. Indeed, the left-leaning Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA), non-profit umbrella organization for affordable housing and community development activities in Massachusetts, has filed written testimony in support of the bill.

Properties afflicted with Ibanez title defects, in worst cases, cannot be sold or refinanced. Homeowners without title insurance are compelled to spend thousands in legal fees to clear their titles. Allowing such foreclosed properties to sit and languish in title purgatory is a huge drain on individual, innocent home purchasers and the housing market itself.

A recent case in point:  I was recently contacted by a nice couple who bought a Metrowest condominium in 2008 after it had been foreclosed. Little did they know that the foreclosure suffered from an “Ibanez” title defect. Unfortunately, the lawyer who handled the closing did not recommend they buy owner’s title insurance. They have been unable to track down the prior owner who went back to his home country of Brazil, and now they are stuck without many options, unable to refinance or sell their unit. This bill will help people like this who have helped the housing market by purchasing foreclosed properties, and improving them.

The bill is now before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. Please email them to show your support of Senate Bill 830.
_______________________________________________
Richard D. Vetstein, Esq. is a Massachusetts real estate and title defect attorney. He can be reached by email at info@vetsteinlawgroup.com or 508-620-5352.

Massachusetts Senate Bill 830

{ 14 comments }

Ironically on the same day Bank of American is about to sign a historic $8.5 Billion settlement agreement over bad mortgages, somebody finally went through a registry of deeds to look at the effect of the U.S. Bank v. Ibanez decision and the validity of mortgage assignments in Massachusetts. This just came in off the Housing Wire and is scorching through the real estate newswires.

Audit Shows 75% of Mortgage Assignment Are Invalid In Mass. County

According to an audit performed by McDonnell Property Analytics, in the Salem, Mass. Registry of Deeds, 75% of mortgage assignments are “invalid.” About 27% of invalid assignments are fraudulent, McDonnell said, while 35% are robo-signed and 10% violate the Massachusetts Mortgage Fraud Statute.

McDonnell said it could only determine the financial institution that owned the mortgage in 60% of the cases reviewed. There are 683 missing assignments for the 287 traced mortgages, representing about $180,000 in lost recording fees.

“What this means is that the degradation in standards of commerce by which the banks originated, sold and securitized these mortgages are so fatally flawed that the institutions, including many pension funds, that purchased these mortgages don’t actually own them,” according to analysts at McDonnell. “The assignments of mortgage were never prepared, executed and delivered to them in the normal course of business at the time of the transaction.”

John O’Brien, register of deeds for Essex County in the northeastern corner of Massachusetts, urged state attorneys general for a third time to cease settlement talks with the nation’s largest servicers. In May, O’Brien sent a letter to Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller for this same purpose.

“My registry is a crime scene as evidenced by this forensic examination,” said O’Brien. “This evidence has made it clear to me that the only way we can ever determine the total economic loss and the amount damage done to the taxpayers is by conducting a full forensic audit of all registry of deeds in Massachusetts.”

Is This Audit Flawed Though?

Now, a few observations about this “audit.”

First, McDonnell Property Analytics is a company engaged in the business of stopping or delaying foreclosures and performing related audits. The company makes money when consumers hire them to perform audits of the mortgage paperwork when they are facing foreclosure. The owner of the company is on a crusade against the mortgage industry to expose the paperwork and robo-signing mess, not that that’s a bad thing. But there’s some built in bias here on this purported audit.

Second, there’s no indication of the methodology to determine whether a mortgage assignment is “invalid” or “fraudulent.” What does that mean exactly? What are the audit’s definitions of “invalid” and “fraudulent.” Same for “robo-signed.” Who is determined to be a “robo-signer,” and how is that determination made? I’d like to see the underlying assumptions here.

Based on what I’ve read so far on this “audit,” I’m not sure it would hold up in a court of law. The 75% invalid rate seems very high and questionable, in my opinion. But certainly, these are good questions to ask and analyze and bring to the forefront. It’s clear that Essex Registrar of Deeds John O’Brien wants to recoup all the millions in recording fees he’s lost to the securitization industry and MERS, and he’s the most outspoken of all the registrars of deeds on this problem. (Hmmm, I wonder if Mr. O’Brien has higher political aspirations?).

Well, this problem is big enough that BofA just threw $8.5 Billion to make it go away, and bank stocks are still anemic. So we’ll see how this ultimately plays out.

{ 4 comments }

yodaDon’t Let An Undischarged Mortgage Ruin Your Closing

Real estate attorneys are often confronted with difficult and complex title defects which need to be cured. With the refinancing boom of the last 10 years, sloppy, high-volume closing attorneys occasionally failed to obtain discharges of mortgage they were paying off at closing. Likewise, home equity closings at local bank branches were also notorious for not tracking down and recording mortgage discharges.

These undischarged mortgages and “missing” discharges from years ago rear their ugly heads when the homeowner goes to sell his property and a full 50 year title examination is undertaken by a competent closing attorney. Some of these missing discharges are from old banks and financial institutions which have gone bankruptcy, are now in FDIC receivership, or were merged with other banks several times. Some are with private lenders who are no where to be found. Of course, title must be cleared prior to closing or there is no closing!

This is when even the most experienced real estate closing attorney has to call in the cavalry. And that person is someone like Kurt Stuckel, Esq.

I like to call Kurt the Jedi Master Discharge Tracker. Operating out of a small office in little Pepperell, Mass., Attorney Stuckel handles and solves thousands of title requests every year for real estate attorneys and title companies throughout the Commonwealth. He’s handled several thorny issues for me in recent months – even one where I thought “there’s no way he can get this one” from the FDIC–and low and behold, he did. His fees are reasonable, and he makes the closing attorney look good in front of their clients.

If you are in need of excellent title curative services, please contact Kurt Stuckel, Esq. at 978.443.5241 or email at kurt@kurtstuckel.com. And tell him I sent you!

{ 2 comments }

Real Time Analytics