U.S. Bank v. Ibanez

Senate Bill 1987 Passes Legislature at Midnight Hourstop20foreclosure1.jpg

Senate Bill 1987, sponsored by Shrewsbury State Senator Michael Moore and the Massachusetts Land Title Association, would render clear and marketable to any title affected by a defective foreclosure arising out of the U.S. Bank v. Ibanez ruling. Estimates are that hundreds of innocent homeowners are affected by paperwork errors by foreclosure lenders, rending them unable to sell or refinance their homes.

After some favorable press in the Worcester Telegram and Boston Globe (to which I was happy to contribute), the Legislature passed the somewhat controversial bill at the midnight hour on July 31, the last night of the legislative session. The bill moves on to the Governor’s desk where housing advocates are still lobbying for rejection of the bill. The housing advocates’ arguments really show a complete lack of understanding of the title defect problem and its disasterous effect on the housing market. The bill preserves the right to challenge foreclosures and sue the banks, while helping innocent homeowners who are stuck with bad title. The upside of the bill is that more affordable homes can hit the real estate market. Isn’t that the goal of housing advocates rather than allow foreclosed homes to sit, blighted and decadent?

If you have been affected by an “Ibanez” title defect and otherwise support the bill, please contact the Governor’s Office through his email system:

http://www.mass.gov/governor/contact-us.html#email

Hopefully, I will have good news to report in the coming days…

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mass ibanez titleIt appears we may be nearing the end of the misery resulting from the infamous U.S. Bank v. Ibanez foreclosure decision, which has caused hundreds if not thousands of title defects across the Commonwealth. A recent Land Court ruling combined with significant movement on curative legislation may clear the vast majority of these defective titles.

By way of background, titles of properties afflicted with Ibanez title defects came out of faulty foreclosures, and in worst cases, cannot be sold or refinanced. Many homeowners have been waiting for 5 years or longer for some kind of resolution so they can sell or refinance their homes. 

Daukas v. Dadoun Land Court Ruling

This past week on July 23, 2014, Land Court Justice Keith Long (ironically the same judge who wrote the original Ibanez ruling) held that an Ibanez title can be cleared through the foreclosure by entry procedure as long as three years have passed since the faulty foreclosure. Typically in Massachusetts lenders use both the power of sale/auction method and entry method of foreclosure. Unlike the power of sale/auction method, however, a foreclosure by entry takes three years to ripen into good title. Judge Long ruled that even where the power of sale/auction method was defective due to non-compliance with the Ibanez decision, the foreclosure by entry method would not be affected by this non-compliance provided that the lender was the “holder” of the mortgage at the time of the entry and three years have passed since the entry.

So what does that mean in plain English? It means that titles with Ibanez defects may be insurable and marketable provided that (1) the foreclosing lender conducted and recorded a proper foreclosure by entry, (2) the entry was conducted by a lender who was the proper holder of the foreclosed mortgage, and (3) three (3) years have passed since the foreclosure entry. If you have been dealing with an Ibanez defective title, it’s best to contact an experienced title attorney and/or your title insurance company (if you have one) to see if you qualify. Feel free to contact me at rvetstein@vetsteinlawgroup.com.

Thank you to Attorney Jeffrey Loeb of Rich May PC for alerting me to the Land Court case.

Senate Bill 1987

Senate Bill 1987, sponsored by Shrewsbury State Senator Michael Moore and the Massachusetts Land Title Association, would render clear and marketable to any title affected by a defective foreclosure after 3 years have passed from the foreclosure. The bill, which has been passed by the Senate and is now before the House, is very close to being passed by both branches of the legislature, hopefully during this summer legislative session.

This is great news for the real estate market. I don’t have firm numbers, but there are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of these unsellable properties just sitting on the sidelines, and now they can get back onto the market. This is exactly what the inventory starved market needs.

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mass ibanez titleShould Result In Much-Needed Inventory Boost To Housing Market

Good news to report for property owners saddled with toxic titles resulting from the seminal U.S. Bank v. Ibanez foreclosure ruling. Massachusetts lawmakers are poised to pass into law a new bill aimed at legislatively clearing up all of these defective titles.

By way of background, properties afflicted with Ibanez title defects, in worst cases, cannot be sold or refinanced. And homeowners without title insurance have been compelled to spend thousands in legal fees to clear their titles, while some have not been able to clear their titles at all.

The new legislation, Senate Bill 1987, would render clear and marketable any title affected by a defective foreclosure after 3 years have passed from the foreclosure. Most of these toxic titles were created prior to 2009, so the vast majority of them will be cleared up.

The bill does preserve any existing litigation over the validity of foreclosures. The legislation does not apply if there is an existing legal challenge to the validity of the foreclosure sale in which case record notice must be provided at the registry of deeds. The bill also does not shield liability of foreclosure lenders and attorneys for bad faith and consumer protection violations over faulty foreclosures.

The bill has recently been passed by the Senate and now moves on to the House. Word is that it should pass through the House and on to the Governor’s Desk.

Shrewsbury State Senator Michael Moore and the Massachusetts Land Title Association have sponsored this effort for several years now. I have been supporting this effort as well.

This is great news for the real estate market. I don’t have firm numbers, but there are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of these unsellable properties just sitting on the sidelines, and now they can get back onto the market. This is exactly what the inventory starved market needs.

(Hat tip to Colleen Sullivan over at Banker and Tradesman for passing along this important information).

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stop20foreclosure1Court Uses Novel Equitable Assignment of Mortgage Theory 

In what could be the first test case of a new theory to clear up defective foreclosure titles — and much welcome news for property owners stuck with toxic titles — Massachusetts Land Court Judge Gordon Piper has ruled that the theory of equitable assignment of an improperly foreclosed mortgage can be used to clear title of an improperly foreclosed property.

The case is Cavanaugh v. GMAC Mortgage LLC, et al., 11 MISC 447901 (embedded below) and was recently appealed by noted foreclosure attorney, Glenn Russell, Esq., who represented the prevailing homeowners in the landmark U.S. Bank v. Ibanez case. The case will now go up to the Massachusetts Appeals Court, or, given its importance, perhaps taken up by the Supreme Judicial Court on direct appellate review.

In this case, GMAC Mortgage foreclosed a mortgage given by Maureen Cavanaugh of Fairhaven, then granted a foreclosure deed to Fannie Mae. The foreclosure, however, was defective because notice of the foreclosure sale was not published in the local newspaper as required by Massachusetts foreclosure law. Fannie Mae later sold the property to Timothy Lowney.

Ms. Cavanaugh sued the lenders and Mr. Lowney in a Land Court “quiet title” action to re-claim her property back. This is essentially the same situation as presented in the Bevilacqua vs. Rodriguez case where a property owner was stuck with a defective foreclosure title. The Court in Bevilacqua suggested an alternative theory to solve the defective title by using the conveyance of the foreclosure deed as an equitable assignment of the original mortgage, so the new property owner could foreclose and obtain clear title in the process.

Judge Piper used this equitable assignment theory in the Cavanaugh case, ruling that Lowney, the new buyer, holds the GMAC Mortgage through equitable assignment, and may now foreclose upon Ms. Cavanaugh, thereby clearing the way to get clean title. Equally important, Judge Piper ordered GMAC and Fannie Mae to assign the underlying promissory note from Ms. Cavanaugh to Lowney so that he holds both the note and the mortgage as required by after the important Eaton v. Fannie Mae case several months ago.

This is an important and much-needed judicial development for assisting homeowners who have been unable to refinance or sell their properties due to “Ibanez” and other foreclosure related title defects. This case also illustrates the importance of obtaining an owner’s policy of title insurance which appears to have provided coverage to Mr. Lowney in this matter.

Cavanaugh v. GMAC Mortgage — Massachusetts Land Court by

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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.
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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

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No Easy Fix For Defective Foreclosure Titles After U.S. Bank v. Ibanez Ruling

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued its opinion today in the much anticipated Bevilacqua v. Rodriguez case considering property owners’ rights when they are saddled with defective titles stemming from improper foreclosures in the aftermath of the landmark U.S. Bank v. Ibanez ruling last January. (Text of case is embedded below). Where Ibanez consider the validity of foreclosures plagued by late-recorded or missing mortgage assignments, Bevilacqua is the next step, considering what happens when lenders sell defective foreclosure titles to third party purchasers. Previously, I discussed the oral argument in the case here and detailed background of the case here.

The final ruling is mix of bad and good news, with the bad outweighing the good as fixing defective Massachusetts foreclosure titles just got a lot harder and more expensive. But, contrary to some sensationalist headlines, the sky is not falling down as the majority of foreclosures performed in the last several years were legal and conveyed good title. Bevilacqua affects those minority percentage of foreclosures where mortgage assignments were not recorded in a timely fashion under the Ibanez case and were otherwise conducted unlawfully. Importantly, Bevilacqua does not address the robo-signing controversy, which may or may  not be considered by the high court in another case.

The Bad News

First the bad news. The Court held that owners cannot bring a court action to clear their titles under the “try title” procedure in the Massachusetts Land Court. This is the headline that the major news outlets have been running with, but it was not a surprise to anyone who has been following the case. Contrary to the Daily Kos, the court did not take the property away from Bevilacqua. He never held good title it in the first place–and you can blame the banksters for that. If you don’t own a piece of property (say the Brooklyn Bridge), you cannot come into court and ask a judge to proclaim you the owner of that property, even if the true owner doesn’t show up to defend himself. It’s Property Law 101.

The Good News

Next the good news. The court left open whether owners could attempt to put their chains of title back together (like Humpty-Dumpty) and conduct new foreclosure sales to clear their titles. Unfortunately, the SJC did not provide the real estate community with any further guidance as to how best to resolve these complicated title defects.

Background: Developer Buys Defective Foreclosure Title

Frank Bevilacqua purchased property in Haverhill out of foreclosure from U.S. Bank. Apparently, Bevilacqua invested several hundred thousand dollars into the property, converting it into condominiums. The prior foreclosure, however, was bungled by U.S. Bank and rendered void under the Ibanez case. Mr. Bevilacqua (or presumably his title insurance attorney) brought an action to “try title” in the Land Court to clear up his title, arguing that he is the rightful owner of the property, despite the faulty foreclosure, inasmuch as the prior owner, Rodriguez, was nowhere to be found.

Land Court Judge Keith Long (ironically the same judge who originally decided the Ibanez case) closed the door on Mr. Bevilacqua, dismissing his case, but with compassion for his plight.

“I have great sympathy for Mr. Bevilacqua’s situation — he was not the one who conducted the invalid foreclosure, and presumably purchased from the foreclosing entity in reliance on receiving good title — but if that was the case his proper grievance and proper remedy is against that wrongfully foreclosing entity on which he relied,” Long wrote.

Given the case’s importance, the SJC took the unusual step of hearing it on direct review.

No Standing To “Try Title” Action In Land Court

The SJC agreed with Judge Long that Bevilacqua did not own the property, and therefore, lacked any standing to pursue a “try title” action in the Land Court. The faulty foreclosure was void, thereby voiding the foreclosure deed to Bevilacqua. The Court endorsed Judge Long’s “Brooklyn Bridge” analogy, which posits that if someone records a deed to the Brooklyn Bridge, then brings a lawsuit to uphold such ownership and the “owner” of the bridge doesn’t appear, title to the bridge is not conveyed magically. The claimant in a try title or quiet title case, the court ruled, must have some plausible ownership interest in the property, and Bevilacqua lacked any at this point in time.

The court also held, for many of the same reasons, that Bevilacqua lacked standing as a “bona fide good faith purchaser for value.” The record title left no question that U.S. Bank had conducted an invalid foreclosure sale, the court reasoned.

Door Left Open? Re-Foreclosure In Owner’s Name?

A remedy left open, however, was whether owners could attempt to put their chains of title back together and conduct new foreclosure sales in their name to clear their titles. The legal reasoning behind this remedy is rather complex, but essentially it says that Bevilacqua would be granted the right to foreclosure by virtue of holding an “equitable assignment” of the mortgage foreclosed upon by U.S. Bank. There are some logistical issues with the current owner conducting a new foreclosure sale and it’s expensive, but it could work.

That is if the SJC rules in the upcoming Eaton v. FNMA case that foreclosing parties do not need to hold both the promissory note and the mortgage when they foreclose. An adverse ruling in the Eaton case could throw a monkey wrench into the re-foreclosure remedy–it would also be an even bigger bombshell ruling than Ibanez, as it would throw into question the foreclosure of every securitized mortgage in Massachusetts.

In Bevilacqua’s case, he did not conduct the new foreclosure sale, so it was premature for the court to rule on that issue. Look for Bevilacqua to conduct the new foreclosure and come back to court again. The SJC left that option open.

Other Remedies & What’s Next?

The other remedy to fix an Ibanez defect, which is always available, is to track down the old owner and obtain a quitclaim deed from him. This eliminates the need for a second foreclosure sale and is often the “cleanest” way to resolve Ibanez titles.

Another option is waiting out the 3 year entry period. Foreclosure can be completed by sale or by entry which is the act of the foreclosure attorney or lender representative physically entering onto the property. Foreclosures by entry are deemed valid after 3 years have expired from the certificate of entry which should be filed with the foreclosure. It’s best to check with a real estate attorney to see if this option is available.

The last resort is to demand that the foreclosing lender re-do its foreclosure sale. The problem is that a new foreclosure could open the door for a competing bid to the property and other logistical issues, not to mention recalcitrant foreclosing lenders and their foreclosure mill attorneys.

Title insurance companies who have insured Ibanez afflicted titles have been steadily resolving these titles since the original Ibanez decision in 2009. I’m not sure how many defective foreclosure titles remain out there right now. There certainly could be a fair amount lurking in titles unknown to those purchasers who bought REO properties from lenders such as U.S. Bank, Deutsche Bank, etc. If you bought such a property, I recommend you have an attorney check the back title and find your owner’s title insurance policy. Those without title insurance, of course, have and will continue to bear the brunt of this mess.

More Coverage:

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Richard D. Vetstein, Esq. is an experienced real estate litigation attorney who’s handled numerous foreclosure title defect matters & cases in Land Court and Superior Court. Please contact him if you are dealing with a Massachusetts foreclosure title dispute.

Bevilacqua v. Rodriguez; Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court October 18, 2011

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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.

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Update (10/18/11): The Court has issued its opinion, affirming the Land Court’s dismissal. For a full analysis, click here.

Update (9/10/11): The Court has suspended its rule for the issuance of the final opinion within 130 days of oral argument. Hopefully, the decision will come down soon.

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The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court heard arguments today in the case of Bevilacqua v. Rodriguez on whether a home buyer can rightfully own a property if the bank that sold it to him didn’t have the right to foreclose on the original owner, after the U.S. Bank v. Ibanez landmark ruling in January. This case, which national legal experts are watching closely, may determine the rights of potentially thousands of innocent purchasers who bought property at foreclosure sales that have been rendered invalid after the Ibanez ruling.

Land Court Ruling

The case started in the Land Court where Judge Keith Long (ironically the same judge who originally decided the Ibanez case) ruled that the buyer of property out of an invalid foreclosure has no right to bring a “try title” action to establish his ownership rights because he never had good title in the first place. Judge Long’s ruling can be read here.

“I have great sympathy for Mr. Bevilacqua’s situation — he was not the one who conducted the invalid foreclosure, and presumably purchased from the foreclosing entity in reliance on receiving good title — but if that was the case his proper grievance and proper remedy is against that wrongfully foreclosing entity on which he relied,” Long wrote.

Whose Side Are They On Anyways?

Given the importance of the case, the SJC accepted it on direct appellate review. The oral arguments can be viewed here.

The positions taken by the case participants were curious to say the least. While the mortgage lobby argued in favor of the homeowner’s right to clear his title, the state Attorney General’s office argued against that position. Doesn’t the Commonwealth have a vested interest in assisting the thousands of innocent home buyers who have been impacted by the sloppiness of the mortgage and foreclosure industry? Maybe Attorney General Coakley didn’t want to give the impression that she was favoring the mortgage industry? But she’s short-sighted if she doesn’t realize that Ibanez title problems have hurt a lot of innocent folks. These people have transformed foreclosed properties from blighted eyesores into nice homes.

Tough Options

The AG feels that existing remedies are sufficient to assist home buyers clear Ibanez related title problems. From the front line trenches, I can tell you, they are often not. The remedies are: (1) sue the foreclosing lender for damages, (2) sue to force the lender to fix the deficiencies with the original foreclosure and re-foreclose, or (3) obtain a deed from the original owner, if the person is still even around. Options 1 and 2 are a non-starters. Homeowners want their titles cleared, not a huge legal battle with the likes of a U.S. Bank. And what about the lenders who are bankruptcy and out of business? What do homeowners do then? Option 3 has worked in cases I’ve handled. But what if the previous owner is long gone? Homeowners are out of luck then.

There is also a potential solution under a “foreclosure by entry theory” where home owners can wait 3 years from the foreclosure where their title will ripen into good title. However, in many of bungled foreclosures I’ve seen, the lenders have performed the entry improperly, so that option doesn’t work. And who’s wants to wait 3 years to sell or refinance their homes?

A Workable Solution?

The high court is being asked to craft a judicial solution to this huge mess. To backtrack, there has been legislation filed on these matters, to much initial fanfare, but it is still making its way through the legislative sausage making machine. If anyone has an legislative update, please comment below.

So isn’t it a good idea to have some kind of streamlined judicial remedy to help innocent home purchasers clear these toxic titles? I think so, and here’s why. First, the previous owners won’t get harmed because they defaulted on their mortgage, and in the vast majority of cases have no financial means or interest in making mortgage payments and returning to their foreclosed homes. If they want back in the game, well, pay your mortgage. Second, the innocent home buyers who purchased these toxic foreclosure titles won’t be left holding the bag and having to sue the foreclosing lenders many of whom are out of business. They won’t have to chase old owners across the U.S. either, often being forced to pay these owners ransom money to sign a deed over. Third, the title insurance companies won’t have to pay out huge claims and hire pricey attorneys to fix these messes, thereby keeping premiums level. Lastly, good public policy favors enabling blighted foreclosed properties to be sold and rehabilitated.

Better yet, get the banks to fund the system.

Broad Effect

Bevilacqua’s case could affect the securitized trusts that bundled mortgages and sold securities to investors. Like the Ibanez case, the court’s decision may resonate with other states as they grapple with the rights of new home buyers who may hesitate to complete a purchase for fear of uncertain title. That may be especially so in states such as Massachusetts that don’t require court action to seize a house.

“The Massachusetts case will have significant repercussions in many states that allow nonjudicial foreclosure,” Alan White, a law professor, commented to Businessweek. “The decision in Bevilacqua will not only determine the fate of past foreclosure sale deeds, but hopefully provide guidance so that lenders and their lawyers can get it right going forward.”

The final ruling should be release in several months. We’ll report on it then. In the meantime, I will continue to help clear the titles of the true victims of U.S. Bank v. Ibanez.

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Last night, 60 Minutes did a compelling segment — Mortgage Paperwork Mess: Next Housing Shock? – on an important issue we’ve been covering here on the Blog . The segment details rampant forgeries by $10/hour bank “vice-presidents” and the pervasive robo-signing of bogus mortgage documents by “document mills” and “foreclosure factories.”

We’ve been particularly concerned about the thousands of Massachusetts residents who purchased foreclosed properties which are now left with defective titles due to the various errors and missteps of foreclosing lenders and their foreclosure attorneys. In the 60 Minutes segment, the new head of the FDIC, Sheila Bair, proposes a federal “Superfund” to clean up this colossal mess. That’s certainly a good idea. Innocent home buyers shouldn’t have to bear the burden of all the mistakes and shortcuts made by a banking industry too eager to process foreclosures at any cost.

More Coverage:

U.S. Bank v. Ibanez case

Defective Foreclosure Titles In Massachusetts: What’s Next?

 

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From the Lawrence (Mass.) Eagle Tribune:

Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin filed legislation last Friday to give the Land Court authority to create a special master to deal with foreclosures that may have occurred improperly. Anyone seeking to challenge the legitimacy of a foreclosure would have one year to file a lawsuit in the court.

Galvin’s bill follows a Supreme Judicial Court decision in U.S. Bank v. Ibanez, upholding a 2009 Land Court ruling that a bank or lender must have proper documentation proving it holds a title before foreclosing on a home.

“It’s opened the door to anyone that wants to question a foreclosure that’s already moved forward,” Galvin said of the decision. As the secretary of state, Galvin is the state’s register of deeds. Galvin’s bill will go to the Legislature for debate.

The special court could play host to homeowners who purchased a foreclosed home staking claim against a former homeowner who may have faced an improper foreclosure. Galvin pointed out that about 40,000 foreclosures have taken place in Massachusetts since 2006.

“I doubt that half of them are going to be involved in this,” Galvin said. “I don’t know if it’s 5 percent. But if it’s 5 percent, that’s 2,000 properties.”

Depending on the numbers of foreclosure affected, this may be a step in the right direction–as long as homeowners are able to obtain clear title and get reimbursement of any out of pocket expenses dealing with a problem they didn’t create. As with any special court or master, there’s always a short statute of limitations imposed. So we’ll keep an eye out on that.

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Click for Ibanez Foreclosure Case Oral Argument Recap

The oral argument in the much anticipated U.S. Bank v. Ibanez companion cases is Thursday October 7, 2010 at 9:00AM at the Supreme Judicial Court, John Adams Courthouse, One Pemberton Square, Boston, MA.

If you cannot make it into Boston, you can watch the live webcast here.

Here is a link to the Ibanez-borrower side brief.

Here is the lenders’ brief.

The friend of the court brief from the Real Estate Bar Association is here.

In addition to the merits of the Land Court’s ruling, watch for a discussion of whether the Land Court’s ruling will be applied retroactively, which will leave thousands of invalid foreclosure titles intact, or prospectively, which will minimize the damage of this decision. I’ve been predicting that the SJC will strike a balance by upholding the Land Court on the merits, but applying the ruling prospectively.

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Update (July 27, 2010): Oral argument is scheduled for October 7, 2010.

Good news for those eagerly following the controversial U.S. Bank v. Ibanez case, which invalidated thousands of foreclosures across the state. On March 22, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (the highest appellate court in the state) agreed to take the case on direct appellate review (as I originally predicted). This sets the stage for one of the most important real estate decisions in recent years.

The SJC’s acceptance of the case now expedites what will be the final word in this case, good news for everyone affected by this ruling. A final decision, however, is still many months away. Both sides still have to file briefs, and the case will be scheduled for oral argument probably within 4-5 months, with a decision coming several months later. (Appeals take time).

Click here and here for my prior posts on this case. Here is Globe reporter Jenifer McKim’s story on the development.

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Update (2/25/10)Mass. High Court May Take Ibanez Case

I’ve been asked several times recently for an update on the status of Land Court judge Keith Long’s controversial ruling in U.S. Bank v. Ibanez, which invalidated thousands of foreclosures across Massachusetts. Click here for my prior post on the case.

Unfortunately for those affected by the decision, not much is going on. Lenders have reportedly appealed the decision. Word has it that the lenders have hired mega-firm K&L Gates to handle the appeal. (Interestingly, K&L Gates is the same firm which secured a major ruling against the Massachusetts Real Estate Bar Association over non-attorneys handling real estate closings in Massachusetts).

The record in the Land Court is currently being assembled. The Massachusetts Appellate Court database doesn’t even list the case as yet up on appeal. Accordingly, this appeal is many, many months away from being decided.

Also, watch for the lenders to ask the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to take the case on direct appeal. While this will delay the appeal some in the short term, the SJC is the final stop on the appellate railway, and its decision is the final word on the matter. Given the pro-consumer decisions recently issued by the high court and its current makeup of somewhat liberal justices, my money is still on an unfavorable decision for lenders in this case.

In the meantime, I’m hearing that lenders are simply re-doing their foreclosures with the correct loan paperwork (i.e., the mortgage assignments) brought up to date. For buyers who had an agreement to purchase a foreclosed home, this most likely means you will have to wait in line again and re-bid on the second foreclosure.

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