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Recognizing Bankruptcy Fraud and Using Experts to Deal With It

29 Mar

By Griffin Dunham

In a perfect world, a debtor’s bankruptcy would involve timely reporting, good faith filings, and full disclosures. Unfortunately, some debtors either enter the process under a cloud of suspicion or make decisions during the process that suggest the estate has been compromised by fraudulent activity. Whether the alleged fraud is a complex bust-out scheme or a simple unreported asset transfer, the debtor may face a serious investigation. Depending on the extent of the allegations, the investigation could be referred as a criminal matter to federal prosecutors. As the severity of the consequences increases, so does the need to have mindful counsel, and possibly an expert witness.
This article attempts to help the reader identify and react to suspicious activity. It will discuss the basic types of fraudulent activity that can derail a bankruptcy proceeding or result in a criminal indictment. By the time this activity is discovered, all interested parties will be racing for leverage.
Lorenzo VelezI. Bankruptcy Fraud – The Basics
Although bankruptcy fraud schemes can simultaneously violate, or even be just a subset of, many other fraudulent schemes (e.g., tax fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, credit card fraud, etc.) that violate federal law, this article is limited to the most commonly recognized forms seen in a bankruptcy context: concealment of assets, false filings, and statutory fraud.
A. 18 U.S.C. § 152. Concealment of assets; false oaths and claims; bribery.
This statute consists of nine crimes, all of which require proof of “knowingly and fraudulently” doing something in a bankruptcy context, namely: (1) concealing property of the debtor’s estate from the court; (2) making a false oath; (3) committing perjury; (4) presenting a false proof of claim against a debtor’s estate; (5) receiving property from the debtor’s estate with the intent to circumvent bankruptcy proceedings; (6) taking a kickback for forbearing on a claim against the debtor; (7) while acting as an agent, transferring or concealing property of an individual debtor or corporation; (8) “cooking the books” to hide a debtor’s financial affairs; and (9) withholding property or financial affairs from the United States Trustee or court.
B. 18 U.S.C. § 157. Bankruptcy fraud.
This statute is a product of the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1994 and was designed to cut down on the amount of “gamers” that were using, or attempting to use, the bankruptcy process as a way to further a fraud scheme. This fraud can come in several forms, such as schemes involving insider depletion of assets over a period of time and the use of the automatic stay to conceal fraudulent activity. The elements of this offense are:
1. The defendant has devised or has intended to devise a scheme or artifice to defraud another; and
2. The defendant, for the purpose of executing or concealing the scheme or artifice or attempting to do so,
(a) files a petition under title 11; or
(b) files a document in a proceeding under title 11; or
(c) makes a false or fraudulent statement in connection with a proceeding under title 11 or a proceeding the defendant falsely asserts is pending under title 11.
II. Will You Know It When You See It?
There are times when bankruptcy fraud allegations are straightforward. For example, whether a debtor or debtor’s agent shredded documents to hide the transfer of unreported property that belonged to the debtor’s estate is not complex. Other situations are trickier, such as a debtor perpetrating an investor pyramid fraud (Ponzi scheme) or a debtor concealing or grossly undervaluing an estate asset. Sometimes fraudulent planning, cover-ups, insider transfers, and long-term asset structuring has been in process for months or years prior to the bankruptcy. Regardless of the complexity of the scheme, counsel must be mindful that suspicious activity is best learned up front, and accordingly handled through the discovery process by way of written documents, depositions, Rule 2004 examinations, and expert consultation. These more “designer” fraud cases include (1) bust-outs, (2) bleed-outs, and (3) looting.
A. Bust-outs.
In a bust-out scheme, a company is set up and builds a decent credit line while holding themselves out to be a reputable business. At first, transactions are small, but by design demonstrate the company can cash flow and reliably service its debts. Once the company’s owners are satisfied that enough reputation and credit building has occurred, vendors are then blitzed with orders for goods, along with a promise of repayment within, for example, 90 days. Once the goods are received, the company sells them and does not appropriate the proceeds to its creditors. The company stalls its creditors for as long as possible, then finally files its bankruptcy petition. The bankruptcy schedules reveal the company to be a low-asset, high-liability operation. This type of scheme is common in connection with distributing consumer products.
B. Bleed-outs.
A bleed-out is most often an inside job, where corporate managers, directors, or officers emaciate a company’s value through insider asset transfers. The company is not necessarily established for the purpose of carrying out a bleed-out, and may not even be in financial distress. However, like any company, its vulnerability is exposed when collusive insiders have control and subordinate the company’s success to their personal gain. Commonly, an insider, or group of insiders, enter into transactions on behalf of the company with the purpose of redirecting a business asset in favor of the insider and to the prejudice of the company. For example, money could be thrown at a fledgling subsidiary that happens to be controlled by an officer who also serves as an officer for the company being depleted. Often these transactions are document-intensive, well-planned, and hidden to reduce the risk of exposure. In other words, simply looking at the statements and schedules will not typically reveal a bleed-out scheme.
C. Looting.
Looting can be one of the most brazen types of bankruptcy fraud. A bankruptcy looting scheme typically involves a debtor’s failing company selling its assets pre-petition to a non-failing company without disclosing to the court the debtor’s involvement in the transaction. The debtor often carries out the fraud by representing that a disinterested buyer has been located, when in fact the buyer is a mere extension, “shell”, or agent of the debtor. By design, the terms of the sale appear legitimate, not unreasonably beneficial to the debtor, and are met with satisfaction by the creditors. The company then either closes its doors or files a Chapter 7 bankruptcy to liquidate and administer any remaining estate. Although looting could theoretically occur during a sale process within a bankruptcy case, Section 363 of the Bankruptcy Code affords a process that should enable creditors to determine whether any sale is reasonable, in good-faith, and proposed at arms’ length.
III. Now That You Have Spotted Fraud (Or Think You Have), Is It Time To Retain An Expert?
Counsel is charged with knowing the law and being able to spot facts that implicate the application of the law. If the facts suggest there would be merit to a fraud investigation, forensics can become the secret weapon to determine whether fraud or criminal activity has occurred. An expert can be an invaluable resource that uncovers previously hidden facts, challenges the proof of the counterparty, and provides an evidentiary roadmap that counsel can use to represent the client. Once the decision is made to reach out to an expert, there are several considerations to process before making the call: (1) who is the right consultant; (2) what will the expert do for the team; (3) how much will the expert cost; and (4) what is the role of counsel once an expert is engaged. Before discussing these considerations in more detail, the absolutely fundamental realization must be that once the facts show an expert is needed, counsel cannot delay in retaining the expert. It is crucial that the expert be on board early and given the time and opportunity to succeed.
A. Who is the right consultant?
There are countless experts that label themselves as “bankruptcy fraud experts.” Some are former law enforcement officers, others specialize within fraud subsets (e.g., real estate equity skimming, theft of employee contributions for health insurance, etc.), and others are credentialed certified fraud examiners. Although not required in every situation, forensic experts are trained to analyze a set of facts with the thought that their actions will be scrutinized in court. When determining who (or which firm) is best for a given situation, it is imperative to find out (a) if the expert has ever handled this type of case before; (b) the resources that will be available to the expert; (c) the expert’s workload and reputation within the community; and (d) if the expert could effectively explain the case in a courtroom and be subject to cross-examination.
B. What will the expert do for the team?
The scope of the services an expert provides entirely depends on the facts of a given case. Although experts are trained to think outside the box and do not strictly adhere to a checklist, there are patterns of behavior or sources of information that have historically yielded results.
Experts have an arsenal of tactics at their disposal, but their ability to deploy them depends on several factors. First, the client’s financial situation may be restrictive. In these situations, it is important to make the expert aware of a cost ceiling and find out how much “bang for the buck” the client will receive. Some experts are willing to provide a role assessment and cost analysis without the client incurring an obligation or fees. In addition to financial limitations, experts cannot use the full range of their skills unless they have a sufficient amount of time to operate. Investigations and requests for information can be time-consuming, so engaging an expert as early in the process as possible can help ensure that the client is given the full benefit of the expert’s abilities.
C. What is the expert’s workload and reputation?
The expert must be able to make the client’s case a top priority. When inquiring about the expert’s workload, this is a great time to discuss communications, frequency of updates, and availability to conduct the investigation in advance of known deadlines in the case. As for reputation, a reliable indicator is always the expert’s former clients and counsel. Any proficient expert will be happy to provide this information. It is often helpful to go one step further and contact the counsel that opposed the expert’s position. This counsel, usually assisted by the opinion of another expert, will have a firm grasp of the expert’s abilities.
D. Can the expert effectively convey the client’s position?
After meeting with the expert, ask yourself if this person is someone that will help the presentation of your case. Not necessarily just with the court, but also in leveraging a settlement by presenting a reasonably acceptable position to the counterparty. The level of education, amount of training, number of cases worked, experience testifying, and mannerisms are all going to be known or visualized by the fact-finder. If these factors will present a problem from a credibility perspective or during cross-examination, continuing the search may be in the client’s best interests.
The decision to hire an expert can be difficult, but if such a decision is made the focus should shift to finding the right person for the client’s needs. There often exists a correlation between the client’s success and the proficiency of the expert. It is therefore incumbent upon counsel to ask questions and spend time researching and performing due diligence to place the facts of the case into the hands of a well-qualified expert.
IV. Conclusion
Bankruptcy fraud is a billion dollar industry. The number of ways debtors defraud creditors and the courts is seemingly countless and growing each year. Although some types of fraud are more complex than others, effective bankruptcy counsel must be able to recognize and react to situations involving fraud. Depending upon the complexity of the situation, recruiting an expert may be a vitally important component to the success of a case.

 

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Watchdog Report: Foreclosure Review Scrapped On Eve Of Critical, Congressman Says

6 Jan

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Posted: 12/31/2012 3:53 pm EST  |  Updated: 12/31/2012 4:08 pm EST

Foreclosure Review
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The surprising decision by regulators to scrap a massive and expensive foreclosure review program in favor of a $10 billion settlement with 14 banks — reported by The New York Times Sunday night — came after a year of mounting concerns about the independence and effectiveness of the controversial program.

The program, known as the Independent Foreclosure Review, was supposed to give homeowners who believe that their bank made a mistake in handling their foreclosure an opportunity for a neutral third party to review the claim. It’s not clear what factors led banking regulators to abandon the program in favor of a settlement, but the final straw may have been a pending report by the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, which was investigating the review program.

Rep. Brad Miller, a North Carolina Democrat, told The Huffington Post that the report, which has not been released, was “critical” and that the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which administers the review, was aware of its findings. Miller said that that one problem the GAO was likely to highlight was an “unacceptably high” error rate of 11 percent in a sampling of bank loan files.

The sample files were chosen at random by the banks from their broader pool of foreclosed homeowners, who had not necessarily applied for relief. The data suggests that of the 4 million families who lost their homes to foreclosure since the housing crash, more than 400,000 had some bank-caused problem in their loan file. It also suggests that many thousands of those who could have applied for relief didn’t — because they weren’t aware of the review, or weren’t aware that their bank had made a mistake. Some of these mistakes pushed homeowners into foreclosure who otherwise could have afforded to keep their homes.

Miller said the news that a settlement to replace the review was in the works caught him by surprise, and stressed that he had no way of knowing whether the impending GAO report had triggered the decision.

It’s not clear what will happen to the 250,000 homeowners who have already applied to the Independent Foreclosure Review for relief. The Times, citing people familiar with the negotiations, said that a deal between the banks and banking regulators, led by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, could be reached by the end of the week. It wasn’t clear how that money would be distributed or how many current and former homeowners who lost their homes to foreclosure — or who were hit with an unnecessary fee — might qualify.

Bryan Hubbard, a spokesman for the OCC, which administers the program, declined to comment on the Times’ story. Hubbard told HuffPost, “The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is committed to ensuring the Independent Foreclosure Review proceeds efficiently and to ensuring harmed borrowers are compensated as quickly as possible.”

Since the housing market crashed in 2007, thousands of foreclosed homeowners have complained that their mortgage company made a mistake in the management of their home loan, such as foreclosing on someone making payments on a loan modification plan. The Independent Foreclosure Review emerged from a legal agreement in April 2011 between 14 mortgage companies and bank regulators over these abusive “servicing” practices. It was supposed to give homeowners an opportunity to have an unbiased third party review their foreclosure and determine whether they might qualify for a cash payout of up to $125,000.

The initial response was tepid, at best. Homeowners and advocates complained that the application forms were confusing and that information about what type of compensation they might get was missing. Some told HuffPost that they were so disillusioned by the federal government’s anemic response to widely reported bank errors that they weren’t going to bother to apply.

In one instance, Daniel Casper, an Illinois wedding videographer, applied to the program in January after years of combat with Bank of America over his home loan. As The Huffington Post reported in October, he was initially rejected, because, according to the bank, his mortgage was not in the foreclosure process during the eligible review period. Promontory Financial Group, which Bank of America hired to review his loan, apparently did not double check Bank of America’s analysis against the extensive documentation that Chase submitted. That documentation clearly showed that his loan was eligible for review.

In recent months ProPublica, an investigative nonprofit, has issued a series of damning articles about the Independent Foreclosure Review. The most recent found that supposedly independent third-party reviewers looking over Bank of America loan files were given the “correct” answers in advance by the bank. These reviewers could override the answers, but they weren’t starting from a blank slate.

Banks, if they did not find a “compensable error,” did not have to pay anything, giving them a strong incentive to find no flaws with their own work.

“It was flawed from the start,” Miller said of the review program. “There was an inherent conflict of interest by just about everyone involved.”

Also on HuffPost:

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Predatory Lending and Predatory Servicing together at last Jan 1, 2013 Civil Code §2924.12(b)

10 Dec

Predatory Lending are abusive practices used in the mortgage industry that strip borrowers of home equity and threaten families with bankruptcy and foreclosure.

Predatory Lending can be broken down into three categories: Mortgage Origination, Mortgage Servicing; and Mortgage Collection and Foreclosure.

Mortgage Origination is the process by which you obtain your home loan from a mortgage broker or a bank.

Predatory lending practices in Mortgage Origination include:
# Excessive points;
# Charging fees not allowed or for services not delivered;
# Charging more than once for the same fee
# Providing a low teaser rate that adjusts to a rate you cannot afford;
# Successively refinancing your loan of “flipping;”
# “Steering” you into a loan that is more profitable to the Mortgage Originator;
# Changing the loan terms at closing or “bait & switch;”
# Closing in a location where you cannot adequately review the documents;
# Serving alcohol prior to closing;
# Coaching you to put minimum income or assets on you loan so that you will qualify for a certain amount;
# Securing an inflated appraisal;
# Receiving a kickback in money or favors from a particular escrow, title, appraiser or other service provider;
# Promising they will refinance your mortgage before your payment resets to a higher amount;
# Having you sign blank documents;
# Forging documents and signatures;
# Changing documents after you have signed them; and
# Loans with prepayment penalties or balloon payments.

Mortgage Servicing is the process of collecting loan payments and credit your loan.

Predatory lending practices in Mortgage Servicing include:
# Not applying payments on time;
# Applying payments to “Suspense;”
# “Jamming” illegal or improper fees;
# Creating an escrow or impounds account not allowed by the documents;
# Force placing insurance when you have adequate coverage;
# Improperly reporting negative credit history;
# Failing to provide you a detailed loan history; and
# Refusing to return your calls or letters.
#

Mortgage Collection & Foreclosure is the process Lenders use when you pay off your loan or when you house is repossessed for non-payment

Predatory lending practices in Mortgage Collection & Foreclosure include:
# Producing a payoff statement that includes improper charges & fees;
# Foreclosing in the name of an entity that is not the true owner of the mortgage;
# Failing to provide Default Loan Servicing required by all Fannie Mae mortgages;
# Failing to follow due process in foreclosure;
# Fraud on the court;
# Failing to provide copies of all documents and assignments; and
# Refusing to adequately communicate with you.

Abuses by Mortgage Service Companies

Although predatory lending has received far more attention than abusive servicing, a significant percentage of consumer complaints over loans involve servicing, not origination. For example, the director of the Nevada Fair Housing Center testified that of the hundreds of complaints of predatory lending issues her office received in 2002, about 42 percent involved servicing once the loan was transferred

Abusive Mortgage Servicing Defined:

Abusive servicing occurs when a servicer, either through action or inaction, obtains or attempts to obtain unwarranted fees or other costs from borrowers, engages in unfair collection practices, or through its own improper behavior or inaction causes borrowers to be more likely to go into default or have their homes foreclosed. Abusive practices should be distinguished from appropriate actions that may harm borrowers, such as a servicer merely collecting appropriate late fees or foreclosing on borrowers who do not make their payments despite proper loss mitigation efforts. Servicing can be abusive either intentionally, when there is intent to obtain unwarranted fees, or negligently, when, for example, a servicer’s records are so disorganized that borrowers are regularly charged late fees even when mortgage payments were made on time.

Abusive servicing often happens to debtors who have filed a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan and are in the process of making payments under the Plan. If you suspect that your mortgage servicer is abusing your relationship by charging unnecessary fees while you are paying off your Chapter 13 Plan, call us. We can help.

There is significant evidence that some Mortgage servicers have engaged in abusive behavior and that borrowers have frequently been the victims. Some servicers have engaged in practices that are not only detrimental to borrowers but also illegal Such abuse has been documented in court opinions and decisions, in the decisions and findings of ratings agencies, in litigation and settlements obtained by government agencies against prominent servicers, in congressional testimony, and in newspaper accounts of borrowers who claim to have been mistreated by servicers. The abusive servicing practices documented in these sources include improper foreclosure or attempted foreclosure, improper fees, improper forced-placed insurance, and improper use or oversight of escrow funds .

Civil Code §2924.12(b) Right to Sue Mortgage Servicers for Injunctive Relief, Damages, Treble Damages, and Right to Attorney’s Fees. : )

5 Dec

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H. Right to Sue Mortgage Servicers for Injunctive Relief, Damages, Treble Damages, and Right to Attorney’s Fees

2013 is going to be a good year

One of the most important provisions of the Act from a lender’s perspective is that it provides borrowers with the right to sue mortgage servicers for injunctive relief before the trustee’s deed upon sale has recorded, or if it has already recorded, to sue for actual economic damages, if the mortgage servicer has not corrected any “material” violation of certain enumerated portions of the Act before the trustee’s deed upon sale recorded. (Civil Code §2924.12(a).) In an area that will certainly open up a Pandora’s Box of litigation, the Act does not define what constitutes a “material” violation of the Act. If a court finds that the violation was intentional, reckless or willful, the court can award the borrower the greater of treble (triple) damages or $50,000. (Civil Code §2924.12(b).) Furthermore, a violation of the enumerated provisions of the Act is also deemed to be a violation of the licensing laws if committed by a person licensed as a consumer or commercial finance lender or broker, a residential mortgage lender or servicer, or a licensed real estate broker or salesman. (Civil Code §2924.12(d).) Lastly, in a one-sided attorney’s fee provision that only benefits borrowers, the court may award a borrower who obtains an injunction or receives an award of economic damages as a result of the violation of the Act their reasonable attorney’s fees and costs as the prevailing party. (Civil Code §2924.12(i).) This provides all the more reason for lenders and mortgage servicers to comply with the terms of the Act. This provision for the recovery by only the borrower of their reasonable attorney’s fees makes it more likely that borrowers will file litigation against mortgage lenders or servicers than they otherwise would. Compliance is the lender’s or mortgage servicer’s best defense to litigation under the Act.

Significantly for lenders, as long as the mortgage servicer remedies the material violation of the Act before the trustee’s deed upon sale has recorded, the Act specifically provides that the mortgage servicer shall not be liable under the Act for any violation or damages. (Civil Code §2924.12(b) & (c).) The Act also clarifies that signatories to the National Mortgage Settlement who are in compliance with the terms of that settlement, as they relate to the terms of the Act, will not face liability under the Act. (Civil Code §2924.12(g).

Improper foreclosure or attempted foreclosure

Because servicers can exact fees associated with foreclosures, such as attorneys’ fees, some servicers have attempted to foreclose on property even when borrowers are current on their payments or without giving borrowers enough time to repay or otherwise working with them on a repayment plan Furthermore, a speedy foreclosure may save servicers the cost of attempting other techniques that might have prevented the foreclosure.

Some servicers have been so brazen that they have regularly claimed to the courts that borrowers were in default so as to justify foreclosure, even though the borrowers were current on their payments. Other courts have also decried the frequent use of false statements to obtain relief from stay in order to foreclose on borrowers’ homes. For example, in Hart v. GMAC Mortgage Corporation, et al., 246 B.R. 709 (2000), even though the borrower had made the payments required of him by a forbearance agreement he had entered into with the servicer (GMAC Mortgage Corporation), it created a “negative suspense account” for moneys it had paid out, improperly charged the borrower an additional monthly sum to repay the negative suspense account, charged him late fees for failing to make the entire payment demanded, and began foreclosure proceedings.

Improper fees

Claiming that borrowers are in default when they are actually current allows servicers to charge unwarranted fees, either late fees or fees related to default and foreclosure. Servicers receive as a conventional fee a percentage of the total value of the loans they service, typically 25 basis points for prime loans and 50 basis points for subprime loans In addition, contracts typically provide that the servicer, not the trustee or investors, has the right to keep any and all late fees or fees associated with defaults. Servicers charge late fees not only because they act as a prod to coax borrowers into making payments on time, but also because borrowers who fail to make payments impose additional costs on servicers, which must then engage in loss mitigation to induce payment.

Such fees are a crucial part of servicers’ income. For example, one servicer’s CEO reportedly stated that extra fees, such as late fees, appeared to be paying for all of the operating costs of the company’s entire servicing department, leaving the conventional servicing fee almost completely profit The pressure to collect such fees appears to be higher on subprime servicers than on prime servicers:

Because borrowers typically cannot prove the exact date a payment was received, servicers can charge late fees even when they receive the payment on time Improper late fees may also be based on the loss of borrowers’ payments by servicers, their inability to track those payments accurately, or their failure to post payments in a timely fashion. In Ronemus v. FTB Mortgage Services, 201 B.R. 458 (1996), under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan, the borrowers had made all of their payments on time except for two; they received permission to pay these two late and paid late fees for the privilege. However, the servicer, FTB Mortgage Services, misapplied their payments, then began placing their payments into a suspense account and collecting unauthorized late fees. The servicer ignored several letters from the borrowers’ attorney attempting to clear up the matter, sent regular demands for late fees, and began harassing the borrowers with collection efforts. When the borrowers sued, the servicer submitted to the court an artificially inflated accounting of how much the borrowers owed.

Some servicers have sent out late notices even when they have received timely payments and even before the end of a borrower’s grace period Worse yet, a servicer might pocket the payment, such as an extra payment of principal, and never credit it to the borrower Late fees on timely payments are a common problem when borrowers are making mortgage payments through a bankruptcy plan

Moreover, some servicers have also added false fees and charges not authorized by law or contract to their monthly payment demands, relying on borrowers’ ignorance of the exact amount owed. They can collect such fees or other unwarranted claims by submitting inaccurate payoff demands when a borrower refinances or sells the house). Or they can place the borrowers’ monthly payments in a suspense account and then charge late fees even though they received the payment Worse yet, some servicers pyramid their late fees, applying a portion of the current payment to a previous late fee and then charging an additional late fee even though the borrower has made a timely and full payment for the new month Pyramiding late fees allows servicers to charge late fees month after month even though the borrower made only one late payment

Servicers can turn their fees into a profit center by sending inaccurate monthly payment demands, demanding unearned fees or charges not owed, or imposing fees higher than the expenses for a panoply of actions For example, some servicers take advantage of borrowers’ ignorance by charging fees, such as prepayment penalties, where the note does not provide for them Servicers have sometimes imposed a uniform set of fees over an entire pool of loans, disregarding the fact that some of the loan documents did not provide for those particular fees. Or they charge more for attorneys’, property inspection, or appraisal fees than were actually incurred. Some servicers may add a fee by conducting unnecessary property inspections, having an agent drive by even when the borrower is not in default, or conducting multiple inspections during a single period of default to charge the resulting multiple fees

The complexity of the terms of many loans makes it difficult for borrowers to discover whether they are being overcharged Moreover, servicers can frustrate any attempts to sort out which fees are genuine.

Improperly forced-placed insurance

Mortgage holders are entitled under the terms of the loan to require borrowers to carry homeowners’ insurance naming the holder as the payee in case of loss and to force-place insurance by buying policies for borrowers who fail to do so and charging them for the premiums However, some servicers have force-placed insurance even in cases where the borrower already had it and even provided evidence of it to the servicer Worse yet, servicers have charged for force-placed insurance without even purchasing it. Premiums for force-placed insurance are often inflated in that they provide protection in excess of what the loan.

Escrow Account Mismanagement

One of the benefits of servicing mortgages is controlling escrow accounts to pay for insurance, taxes, and the like and, in most states, keeping any interest earned on these accounts Borrowers have complained that servicers have failed to make tax or insurance payments when they were due or at all. The treasurer of the country’s second largest county estimated that this failure to make timely payments cost borrowers late fees of at least $2 million in that county over a two-year span, causing some to lose their homes. If servicers fail to make insurance payments and a policy lapses, borrowers may face much higher insurance costs even if they purchase their own, non-force-placed policy. Worse yet, borrowers may find themselves unable to buy insurance at all if they cannot find a new insurer willing to write them a policy

You can make a claim for mortgage service abuse, and often the court will award actual and punitive damages. If you think you have been a victim of mortgage service abuse, contact us. We can help you make a claim.

Many a client call me when its toooooo late however sometimes something can be done it would envolve an appeal and this application for a stay. Most likely you will have to pay the reasonable rental value till the case is decided. And … Yes we have had this motion granted. ex-parte-application-for-stay-of-judgment-or-unlawful-detainer3
When title to the property is still in dispute ie. the foreclosure was bad. They (the lender)did not comply with California civil code 2923.5 or 2923.6 or 2924. Or the didn’t possess the documents to foreclose ie. the original note. Or they did not possess a proper assignment 2932.5. at trial you will be ignored by the learned judge but if you file a Motion for Summary Judgmentevans sum ud
template notice of Motion for SJ
TEMPLATE Points and A for SJ Motion
templateDeclaration for SJ
TEMPLATEProposed Order on Motion for SJ
TEMPLATEStatement of Undisputed Facts
you can force the issue and if there is a case filed in the Unlimited jurisdiction Court the judge may be forced to consider title and or consolidate the case with the Unlimited Jurisdiction Case

BILL NUMBER: AB 278	CHAPTERED
	BILL TEXT

	CHAPTER  86
	FILED WITH SECRETARY OF STATE  JULY 11, 2012
	APPROVED BY GOVERNOR  JULY 11, 2012
	PASSED THE SENATE  JULY 2, 2012
	PASSED THE ASSEMBLY  JULY 2, 2012
	AMENDED IN SENATE  SEPTEMBER 1, 2011
	AMENDED IN SENATE  JUNE 23, 2011

INTRODUCED BY   Assembly Members Eng, Feuer, Mitchell, and John A.
Pérez
   (Principal coauthors: Assembly Members Davis, Carter, and Skinner)

   (Principal coauthors: Senators Leno, Evans, Calderon, Corbett,
DeSaulnier, Hancock, Pavley, and Steinberg)

                        FEBRUARY 8, 2011

   An act to amend and add Sections 2923.5 and 2923.6 of, to amend
and repeal Section 2924 of, to add Sections 2920.5, 2923.4, 2923.7,
2924.17, and 2924.20 to, to add and repeal Sections 2923.55, 2924.9,
2924.10, 2924.18, and 2924.19 of, and to add, repeal, and add
Sections 2924.11, 2924.12, and 2924.15 of, the Civil Code, relating
to mortgages.

	LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST

   AB 278, Eng. Mortgages and deeds of trust: foreclosure.
   (1) Existing law, until January 1, 2013, requires a mortgagee,
trustee, beneficiary, or authorized agent to contact the borrower
prior to filing a notice of default to explore options for the
borrower to avoid foreclosure, as specified. Existing law requires a
notice of default or, in certain circumstances, a notice of sale, to
include a declaration stating that the mortgagee, trustee,
beneficiary, or authorized agent has contacted the borrower, or has
tried with due diligence to contact the borrower, or that no contact
was required for a specified reason.
   This bill would add mortgage servicers, as defined, to these
provisions and would extend the operation of these provisions
indefinitely, except that it would delete the requirement with
respect to a notice of sale. The bill would, until January 1, 2018,
additionally require the borrower, as defined, to be provided with
specified information in writing prior to recordation of a notice of
default and, in certain circumstances, within 5 business days after
recordation. The bill would prohibit a mortgage servicer, mortgagee,
trustee, beneficiary, or authorized agent from recording a notice of
default or, until January 1, 2018, recording a notice of sale or
conducting a trustee's sale while a complete first lien loan
modification application is pending, under specified conditions. The
bill would, until January 1, 2018, establish additional procedures to
be followed regarding a first lien loan modification application,
the denial of an application, and a borrower's right to appeal a
denial.
   (2) Existing law imposes various requirements that must be
satisfied prior to exercising a power of sale under a mortgage or
deed of trust, including, among other things, recording a notice of
default and a notice of sale.
   The bill would, until January 1, 2018, require a written notice to
the borrower after the postponement of a foreclosure sale in order
to advise the borrower of any new sale date and time, as specified.
The bill would provide that an entity shall not record a notice of
default or otherwise initiate the foreclosure process unless it is
the holder of the beneficial interest under the deed of trust, the
original or substituted trustee, or the designated agent of the
holder of the beneficial interest, as specified.
   The bill would prohibit recordation of a notice of default or a
notice of sale or the conduct of a trustee's sale if a foreclosure
prevention alternative has been approved and certain conditions exist
and would, until January 1, 2018, require recordation of a
rescission of those notices upon execution of a permanent foreclosure
prevention alternative. The bill would, until January 1, 2018,
prohibit the collection of application fees and the collection of
late fees while a foreclosure prevention alternative is being
considered, if certain criteria are met, and would require a
subsequent mortgage servicer to honor any previously approved
foreclosure prevention alternative.
   The bill would authorize a borrower to seek an injunction and
damages for violations of certain of the provisions described above,
except as specified. The bill would authorize the greater of treble
actual damages or $50,000 in statutory damages if a violation of
certain provisions is found to be intentional or reckless or resulted
from willful misconduct, as specified. The bill would authorize the
awarding of attorneys' fees for prevailing borrowers, as specified.
Violations of these provisions by licensees of the Department of
Corporations, the Department of Financial Institutions, and the
Department of Real Estate would also be violations of those
respective licensing laws. Because a violation of certain of those
licensing laws is a crime, the bill would impose a state-mandated
local program.
   The bill would provide that the requirements imposed on mortgage
servicers, and mortgagees, trustees, beneficiaries, and authorized
agents, described above are applicable only to mortgages or deeds of
trust secured by residential real property not exceeding 4 dwelling
units that is owner-occupied, as defined, and, until January 1, 2018,
only to those entities who conduct more than 175 foreclosure sales
per year or annual reporting period, except as specified.
   The bill would require, upon request from a borrower who requests
a foreclosure prevention alternative, a mortgage servicer who
conducts more than 175 foreclosure sales per year or annual reporting
period to establish a single point of contact and provide the
borrower with one or more direct means of communication with the
single point of contact. The bill would specify various
responsibilities of the single point of contact. The bill would
define single point of contact for these purposes.
   (3) Existing law prescribes documents that may be recorded or
filed in court.
   This bill would require that a specified declaration, notice of
default, notice of sale, deed of trust, assignment of a deed of
trust, substitution of trustee, or declaration or affidavit filed in
any court relative to a foreclosure proceeding or recorded by or on
behalf of a mortgage servicer shall be accurate and complete and
supported by competent and reliable evidence. The bill would require
that before recording or filing any of those documents, a mortgage
servicer shall ensure that it has reviewed competent and reliable
evidence to substantiate the borrower's default and the right to
foreclose, including the borrower's loan status and loan information.
The bill would, until January 1, 2018, provide that any mortgage
servicer that engages in multiple and repeated violations of these
requirements shall be liable for a civil penalty of up to $7,500 per
mortgage or deed of trust, in an action brought by specified state
and local government entities, and would also authorize
administrative enforcement against licensees of the Department of
Corporations, the Department of Financial Institutions, and the
Department of Real Estate.
   The bill would authorize the Department of Corporations, the
Department of Financial Institutions, and the Department of Real
Estate to adopt regulations applicable to persons and entities under
their respective jurisdictions for purposes of the provisions
described above. The bill would provide that a violation of those
regulations would be enforceable only by the regulating agency.
   (4) The bill would state findings and declarations of the
Legislature in relation to foreclosures in the state generally, and
would state the purposes of the bill.
   (5) The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse
local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the
state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that
reimbursement.
   This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this
act for a specified reason.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

  SECTION 1.  The Legislature finds and declares all of the
following:
   (a) California is still reeling from the economic impacts of a
wave of residential property foreclosures that began in 2007. From
2007 to 2011 alone, there were over 900,000 completed foreclosure
sales. In 2011, 38 of the top 100 hardest hit ZIP Codes in the nation
were in California, and the current wave of foreclosures continues
apace. All of this foreclosure activity has adversely affected
property values and resulted in less money for schools, public
safety, and other public services. In addition, according to the
Urban Institute, every foreclosure imposes significant costs on local
governments, including an estimated nineteen thousand two hundred
twenty-nine dollars ($19,229) in local government costs. And the
foreclosure crisis is not over; there remain more than two million
"underwater" mortgages in California.
   (b) It is essential to the economic health of this state to
mitigate the negative effects on the state and local economies and
the housing market that are the result of continued foreclosures by
modifying the foreclosure process to ensure that borrowers who may
qualify for a foreclosure alternative are considered for, and have a
meaningful opportunity to obtain, available loss mitigation options.
These changes to the state's foreclosure process are essential to
ensure that the current crisis is not worsened by unnecessarily
adding foreclosed properties to the market when an alternative to
foreclosure may be available. Avoiding foreclosure, where possible,
will help stabilize the state's housing market and avoid the
substantial, corresponding negative effects of foreclosures on
families, communities, and the state and local economy.
   (c) This act is necessary to provide stability to California's
statewide and regional economies and housing market by facilitating
opportunities for borrowers to pursue loss mitigation options.
  SEC. 2.  Section 2920.5 is added to the Civil Code, to read:
   2920.5.  For purposes of this article, the following definitions
apply:
   (a) "Mortgage servicer" means a person or entity who directly
services a loan, or who is responsible for interacting with the
borrower, managing the loan account on a daily basis including
collecting and crediting periodic loan payments, managing any escrow
account, or enforcing the note and security instrument, either as the
current owner of the promissory note or as the current owner's
authorized agent. "Mortgage servicer" also means a subservicing agent
to a master servicer by contract. "Mortgage servicer" shall not
include a trustee, or a trustee's authorized agent, acting under a
power of sale pursuant to a deed of trust.
   (b) "Foreclosure prevention alternative" means a first lien loan
modification or another available loss mitigation option.
   (c) (1) Unless otherwise provided and for purposes of Sections
2923.4, 2923.5, 2923.55, 2923.6, 2923.7, 2924.9, 2924.10, 2924.11,
2924.18, and 2924.19, "borrower" means any natural person who is a
mortgagor or trustor and who is potentially eligible for any federal,
state, or proprietary foreclosure prevention alternative program
offered by, or through, his or her mortgage servicer.
   (2) For purposes of the sections listed in paragraph (1),
"borrower" shall not include any of the following:
   (A) An individual who has surrendered the secured property as
evidenced by either a letter confirming the surrender or delivery of
the keys to the property to the mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary, or
authorized agent.
   (B) An individual who has contracted with an organization, person,
or entity whose primary business is advising people who have decided
to leave their homes on how to extend the foreclosure process and
avoid their contractual obligations to mortgagees or beneficiaries.
   (C) An individual who has filed a case under Chapter 7, 11, 12, or
13 of Title 11 of the United States Code and the bankruptcy court
has not entered an order closing or dismissing the bankruptcy case,
or granting relief from a stay of foreclosure.
   (d) "First lien" means the most senior mortgage or deed of trust
on the property that is the subject of the notice of default or
notice of sale.
  SEC. 3.  Section 2923.4 is added to the Civil Code, to read:
   2923.4.  (a) The purpose of the act that added this section is to
ensure that, as part of the nonjudicial foreclosure process,
borrowers are considered for, and have a meaningful opportunity to
obtain, available loss mitigation options, if any, offered by or
through the borrower's mortgage servicer, such as loan modifications
or other alternatives to foreclosure. Nothing in the act that added
this section, however, shall be interpreted to require a particular
result of that process.
   (b) Nothing in this article obviates or supersedes the obligations
of the signatories to the consent judgment entered in the case
entitled United States of America et al. v. Bank of America
Corporation et al., filed in the United States District Court for the
District of Columbia, case number 1:12-cv-00361 RMC.
  SEC. 4.  Section 2923.5 of the Civil Code is amended to read:
   2923.5.  (a) (1) A mortgage servicer, mortgagee, trustee,
beneficiary, or authorized agent may not record a notice of default
pursuant to Section 2924 until both of the following:
   (A) Either 30 days after initial contact is made as required by
paragraph (2) or 30 days after satisfying the due diligence
requirements as described in subdivision (e).
   (B) The mortgage servicer complies with paragraph (1) of
subdivision (a) of Section 2924.18, if the borrower has provided a
complete application as defined in subdivision (d) of Section
2924.18.
   (2) A mortgage servicer shall contact the borrower in person or by
telephone in order to assess the borrower's financial situation and
explore options for the borrower to avoid foreclosure. During the
initial contact, the mortgage servicer shall advise the borrower that
he or she has the right to request a subsequent meeting and, if
requested, the mortgage servicer shall schedule the meeting to occur
within 14 days. The assessment of the borrower's financial situation
and discussion of options may occur during the first contact, or at
the subsequent meeting scheduled for that purpose. In either case,
the borrower shall be provided the toll-free telephone number made
available by the United States Department of Housing and Urban
Development (HUD) to find a HUD-certified housing counseling agency.
Any meeting may occur telephonically.
   (b) A notice of default recorded pursuant to Section 2924 shall
include a declaration that the mortgage servicer has contacted the
borrower, has tried with due diligence to contact the borrower as
required by this section, or that no contact was required because the
individual did not meet the definition of "borrower" pursuant to
subdivision (c) of Section 2920.5.
   (c) A mortgage servicer's loss mitigation personnel may
participate by telephone during any contact required by this section.

    (d) A borrower may designate, with consent given in writing, a
HUD-certified housing counseling agency, attorney, or other adviser
to discuss with the mortgage servicer, on the borrower's behalf, the
borrower's financial situation and options for the borrower to avoid
foreclosure. That contact made at the direction of the borrower shall
satisfy the contact requirements of paragraph (2) of subdivision
(a). Any loan modification or workout plan offered at the meeting by
the mortgage servicer is subject to approval by the borrower.
    (e) A notice of default may be recorded pursuant to Section 2924
when a mortgage servicer has not contacted a borrower as required by
paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) provided that the failure to contact
the borrower occurred despite the due diligence of the mortgage
servicer. For purposes of this section, "due diligence" shall require
and mean all of the following:
   (1) A mortgage servicer shall first attempt to contact a borrower
by sending a first-class letter that includes the toll-free telephone
number made available by HUD to find a HUD-certified housing
counseling agency.
   (2) (A) After the letter has been sent, the mortgage servicer
shall attempt to contact the borrower by telephone at least three
times at different hours and on different days. Telephone calls shall
be made to the primary telephone number on file.
   (B) A mortgage servicer may attempt to contact a borrower using an
automated system to dial borrowers, provided that, if the telephone
call is answered, the call is connected to a live representative of
the mortgage servicer.
   (C) A mortgage servicer satisfies the telephone contact
requirements of this paragraph if it determines, after attempting
contact pursuant to this paragraph, that the borrower's primary
telephone number and secondary telephone number or numbers on file,
if any, have been disconnected.
   (3) If the borrower does not respond within two weeks after the
telephone call requirements of paragraph (2) have been satisfied, the
mortgage servicer shall then send a certified letter, with return
receipt requested.
   (4) The mortgage servicer shall provide a means for the borrower
to contact it in a timely manner, including a toll-free telephone
number that will provide access to a live representative during
business hours.
   (5) The mortgage servicer has posted a prominent link on the
homepage of its Internet Web site, if any, to the following
information:
   (A) Options that may be available to borrowers who are unable to
afford their mortgage payments and who wish to avoid foreclosure, and
instructions to borrowers advising them on steps to take to explore
those options.
   (B) A list of financial documents borrowers should collect and be
prepared to present to the mortgage servicer when discussing options
for avoiding foreclosure.
   (C) A toll-free telephone number for borrowers who wish to discuss
options for avoiding foreclosure with their mortgage servicer.
   (D) The toll-free telephone number made available by HUD to find a
HUD-certified housing counseling agency.
    (f) This section shall apply only to mortgages or deeds of trust
described in Section 2924.15.
   (g) This section shall apply only to entities described in
subdivision (b) of Section 2924.18.
    (h) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1,
2018, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted
statute, that is enacted before January 1, 2018, deletes or extends
that date.
  SEC. 5.  Section 2923.5 is added to the Civil Code, to read:
   2923.5.  (a) (1) A mortgage servicer, mortgagee, trustee,
beneficiary, or authorized agent may not record a notice of default
pursuant to Section 2924 until both of the following:
   (A) Either 30 days after initial contact is made as required by
paragraph (2) or 30 days after satisfying the due diligence
requirements as described in subdivision (e).
   (B) The mortgage servicer complies with subdivision (a) of Section
2924.11, if the borrower has provided a complete application as
defined in subdivision (f) of Section 2924.11.
   (2) A mortgage servicer shall contact the borrower in person or by
telephone in order to assess the borrower's financial situation and
explore options for the borrower to avoid foreclosure. During the
initial contact, the mortgage servicer shall advise the borrower that
he or she has the right to request a subsequent meeting and, if
requested, the mortgage servicer shall schedule the meeting to occur
within 14 days. The assessment of the borrower's financial situation
and discussion of options may occur during the first contact, or at
the subsequent meeting scheduled for that purpose. In either case,
the borrower shall be provided the toll-free telephone number made
available by the United States Department of Housing and Urban
Development (HUD) to find a HUD-certified housing counseling agency.
Any meeting may occur telephonically.
   (b) A notice of default recorded pursuant to Section 2924 shall
include a declaration that the mortgage servicer has contacted the
borrower, has tried with due diligence to contact the borrower as
required by this section, or that no contact was required because the
individual did not meet the definition of "borrower" pursuant to
subdivision (c) of Section 2920.5.
   (c) A mortgage servicer's loss mitigation personnel may
participate by telephone during any contact required by this section.

   (d) A borrower may designate, with consent given in writing, a
HUD-certified housing counseling agency, attorney, or other adviser
to discuss with the mortgage servicer, on the borrower's behalf, the
borrower's financial situation and options for the borrower to avoid
foreclosure. That contact made at the direction of the borrower shall
satisfy the contact requirements of paragraph (2) of subdivision
(a). Any loan modification or workout plan offered at the meeting by
the mortgage servicer is subject to approval by the borrower.
   (e) A notice of default may be recorded pursuant to Section 2924
when a mortgage servicer has not contacted a borrower as required by
paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) provided that the failure to contact
the borrower occurred despite the due diligence of the mortgage
servicer. For purposes of this section, "due diligence" shall require
and mean all of the following:
   (1) A mortgage servicer shall first attempt to contact a borrower
by sending a first-class letter that includes the toll-free telephone
number made available by HUD to find a HUD-certified housing
counseling agency.
   (2) (A) After the letter has been sent, the mortgage servicer
shall attempt to contact the borrower by telephone at least three
times at different hours and on different days. Telephone calls shall
be made to the primary telephone number on file.
   (B) A mortgage servicer may attempt to contact a borrower using an
automated system to dial borrowers, provided that, if the telephone
call is answered, the call is connected to a live representative of
the mortgage servicer.
   (C) A mortgage servicer satisfies the telephone contact
requirements of this paragraph if it determines, after attempting
contact pursuant to this paragraph, that the borrower's primary
telephone number and secondary telephone number or numbers on file,
if any, have been disconnected.
   (3) If the borrower does not respond within two weeks after the
telephone call requirements of paragraph (2) have been satisfied, the
mortgage servicer shall then send a certified letter, with return
receipt requested.
   (4) The mortgage servicer shall provide a means for the borrower
to contact it in a timely manner, including a toll-free telephone
number that will provide access to a live representative during
business hours.
   (5) The mortgage servicer has posted a prominent link on the
homepage of its Internet Web site, if any, to the following
information:
   (A) Options that may be available to borrowers who are unable to
afford their mortgage payments and who wish to avoid foreclosure, and
instructions to borrowers advising them on steps to take to explore
those options.
   (B) A list of financial documents borrowers should collect and be
prepared to present to the mortgage servicer when discussing options
for avoiding foreclosure.
   (C) A toll-free telephone number for borrowers who wish to discuss
options for avoiding foreclosure with their mortgage servicer.
   (D) The toll-free telephone number made available by HUD to find a
HUD-certified housing counseling agency.
   (f) This section shall apply only to mortgages or deeds of trust
described in Section 2924.15.
   (g) This section shall become operative on January 1, 2018.
  SEC. 6.  Section 2923.55 is added to the Civil Code, to read:
   2923.55.  (a) A mortgage servicer, mortgagee, trustee,
beneficiary, or authorized agent may not record a notice of default
pursuant to Section 2924 until all of the following:
    (1) The mortgage servicer has satisfied the requirements of
paragraph (1) of subdivision (b).
   (2) Either 30 days after initial contact is made as required by
paragraph (2) of subdivision (b) or 30 days after satisfying the due
diligence requirements as described in subdivision (f).
   (3) The mortgage servicer complies with subdivision (c) of Section
2923.6, if the borrower has provided a complete application as
defined in subdivision (h) of Section 2923.6.
   (b) (1) As specified in subdivision (a), a mortgage servicer shall
send the following information in writing to the borrower:
   (A) A statement that if the borrower is a servicemember or a
dependent of a servicemember, he or she may be entitled to certain
protections under the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (50
U.S.C. Sec. 501 et seq.) regarding the servicemember's interest rate
and the risk of foreclosure, and counseling for covered
servicemembers that is available at agencies such as Military
OneSource and Armed Forces Legal Assistance.
   (B) A statement that the borrower may request the following:
   (i) A copy of the borrower's promissory note or other evidence of
indebtedness.
   (ii) A copy of the borrower's deed of trust or mortgage.
   (iii) A copy of any assignment, if applicable, of the borrower's
mortgage or deed of trust required to demonstrate the right of the
mortgage servicer to foreclose.
   (iv) A copy of the borrower's payment history since the borrower
was last less than 60 days past due.
   (2) A mortgage servicer shall contact the borrower in person or by
telephone in order to assess the borrower's financial situation and
explore options for the borrower to avoid foreclosure. During the
initial contact, the mortgage servicer shall advise the borrower that
he or she has the right to request a subsequent meeting and, if
requested, the mortgage servicer shall schedule the meeting to occur
within 14 days. The assessment of the borrower's financial situation
and discussion of options may occur during the first contact, or at
the subsequent meeting scheduled for that purpose. In either case,
the borrower shall be provided the toll-free telephone number made
available by the United States Department of Housing and Urban
Development (HUD) to find a HUD-certified housing counseling agency.
Any meeting may occur telephonically.
   (c) A notice of default recorded pursuant to Section 2924 shall
include a declaration that the mortgage servicer has contacted the
borrower, has tried with due diligence to contact the borrower as
required by this section, or that no contact was required because the
individual did not meet the definition of "borrower" pursuant to
subdivision (c) of Section 2920.5.
   (d) A mortgage servicer's loss mitigation personnel may
participate by telephone during any contact required by this section.

   (e) A borrower may designate, with consent given in writing, a
HUD-certified housing counseling agency, attorney, or other adviser
to discuss with the mortgage servicer, on the borrower's behalf, the
borrower's financial situation and options for the borrower to avoid
foreclosure. That contact made at the direction of the borrower shall
satisfy the contact requirements of paragraph (2) of subdivision
(b). Any foreclosure prevention alternative offered at the meeting by
the mortgage servicer is subject to approval by the borrower.
   (f) A notice of default may be recorded pursuant to Section 2924
when a mortgage servicer has not contacted a borrower as required by
paragraph (2) of subdivision (b), provided that the failure to
contact the borrower occurred despite the due diligence of the
mortgage servicer. For purposes of this section, "due diligence"
shall require and mean all of the following:
   (1) A mortgage servicer shall first attempt to contact a borrower
by sending a first-class letter that includes the toll-free telephone
number made available by HUD to find a HUD-certified housing
counseling agency.
   (2) (A) After the letter has been sent, the mortgage servicer
shall attempt to contact the borrower by telephone at least three
times at different hours and on different days. Telephone calls shall
be made to the primary telephone number on file.
   (B) A mortgage servicer may attempt to contact a borrower using an
automated system to dial borrowers, provided that, if the telephone
call is answered, the call is connected to a live representative of
the mortgage servicer.
   (C) A mortgage servicer satisfies the telephone contact
requirements of this paragraph if it determines, after attempting
contact pursuant to this paragraph, that the borrower's primary
telephone number and secondary telephone number or numbers on file,
if any, have been disconnected.
   (3) If the borrower does not respond within two weeks after the
telephone call requirements of paragraph (2) have been satisfied, the
mortgage servicer shall then send a certified letter, with return
receipt requested, that includes the toll-free telephone number made
available by HUD to find a HUD-certified housing counseling agency.
   (4) The mortgage servicer shall provide a means for the borrower
to contact it in a timely manner, including a toll-free telephone
number that will provide access to a live representative during
business hours.
   (5) The mortgage servicer has posted a prominent link on the
homepage of its Internet Web site, if any, to the following
information:
   (A) Options that may be available to borrowers who are unable to
afford their mortgage payments and who wish to avoid foreclosure, and
instructions to borrowers advising them on steps to take to explore
those options.
   (B) A list of financial documents borrowers should collect and be
prepared to present to the mortgage servicer when discussing options
for avoiding foreclosure.
   (C) A toll-free telephone number for borrowers who wish to discuss
options for avoiding foreclosure with their mortgage servicer.
   (D) The toll-free telephone number made available by HUD to find a
HUD-certified housing counseling agency.
   (g) This section shall not apply to entities described in
subdivision (b) of Section 2924.18.
   (h) This section shall apply only to mortgages or deeds of trust
described in Section 2924.15.
   (i)  This section shall remain in effect only until January 1,
2018, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted
statute, that is enacted before January 1, 2018, deletes or extends
that date.
  SEC. 7.  Section 2923.6 of the Civil Code is amended to read:
   2923.6.  (a) The Legislature finds and declares that any duty that
mortgage servicers may have to maximize net present value under
their pooling and servicing agreements is owed to all parties in a
loan pool, or to all investors under a pooling and servicing
agreement, not to any particular party in the loan pool or investor
under a pooling and servicing agreement, and that a mortgage servicer
acts in the best interests of all parties to the loan pool or
investors in the pooling and servicing agreement if it agrees to or
implements a loan modification or workout plan for which both of the
following apply:
   (1) The loan is in payment default, or payment default is
reasonably foreseeable.
   (2) Anticipated recovery under the loan modification or workout
plan exceeds the anticipated recovery through foreclosure on a net
present value basis.
   (b) It is the intent of the Legislature that the mortgage servicer
offer the borrower a loan modification or workout plan if such a
modification or plan is consistent with its contractual or other
authority.
   (c) If a borrower submits a complete application for a first lien
loan modification offered by, or through, the borrower's mortgage
servicer, a mortgage servicer, mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary, or
authorized agent shall not record a notice of default or notice of
sale, or conduct a trustee's sale, while the complete first lien loan
modification application is pending. A mortgage servicer, mortgagee,
trustee, beneficiary, or authorized agent shall not record a notice
of default or notice of sale or conduct a trustee's sale until any of
the following occurs:
   (1) The mortgage servicer makes a written determination that the
borrower is not eligible for a first lien loan modification, and any
appeal period pursuant to subdivision (d) has expired.
   (2) The borrower does not accept an offered first lien loan
modification within 14 days of the offer.
   (3) The borrower accepts a written first lien loan modification,
but defaults on, or otherwise breaches the borrower's obligations
under, the first lien loan modification.
   (d) If the borrower's application for a first lien loan
modification is denied, the borrower shall have at least 30 days from
the date of the written denial to appeal the denial and to provide
evidence that the mortgage servicer's determination was in error.
   (e) If the borrower's application for a first lien loan
modification is denied, the mortgage servicer, mortgagee, trustee,
beneficiary, or authorized agent shall not record a notice of default
or, if a notice of default has already been recorded, record a
notice of sale or conduct a trustee's sale until the later of:
   (1) Thirty-one days after the borrower is notified in writing of
the denial.
   (2) If the borrower appeals the denial pursuant to subdivision
(d), the later of 15 days after the denial of the appeal or 14 days
after a first lien loan modification is offered after appeal but
declined by the borrower, or, if a first lien loan modification is
offered and accepted after appeal, the date on which the borrower
fails to timely submit the first payment or otherwise breaches the
terms of the offer.
   (f) Following the denial of a first lien loan modification
application, the mortgage servicer shall send a written notice to the
borrower identifying the reasons for denial, including the
following:
   (1) The amount of time from the date of the denial letter in which
the borrower may request an appeal of the denial of the first lien
loan modification and instructions regarding how to appeal the
denial.
   (2) If the denial was based on investor disallowance, the specific
reasons for the investor disallowance.
   (3) If the denial is the result of a net present value
calculation, the monthly gross income and property value used to
calculate the net present value and a statement that the borrower may
obtain all of the inputs used in the net present value calculation
upon written request to the mortgage servicer.
   (4) If applicable, a finding that the borrower was previously
offered a first lien loan modification and failed to successfully
make payments under the terms of the modified loan.

         (5) If applicable, a description of other foreclosure
prevention alternatives for which the borrower may be eligible, and a
list of the steps the borrower must take in order to be considered
for those options. If the mortgage servicer has already approved the
borrower for another foreclosure prevention alternative, information
necessary to complete the foreclosure prevention alternative.
   (g) In order to minimize the risk of borrowers submitting multiple
applications for first lien loan modifications for the purpose of
delay, the mortgage servicer shall not be obligated to evaluate
applications from borrowers who have already been evaluated or
afforded a fair opportunity to be evaluated for a first lien loan
modification prior to January 1, 2013, or who have been evaluated or
afforded a fair opportunity to be evaluated consistent with the
requirements of this section, unless there has been a material change
in the borrower's financial circumstances since the date of the
borrower's previous application and that change is documented by the
borrower and submitted to the mortgage servicer.
   (h) For purposes of this section, an application shall be deemed
"complete" when a borrower has supplied the mortgage servicer with
all documents required by the mortgage servicer within the reasonable
timeframes specified by the mortgage servicer.
   (i) Subdivisions (c) to (h), inclusive, shall not apply to
entities described in subdivision (b) of Section 2924.18.
   (j) This section shall apply only to mortgages or deeds of trust
described in Section 2924.15.
    (k)  This section shall remain in effect only until January 1,
2018, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted
statute, that is enacted before January 1, 2018, deletes or extends
that date.
  SEC. 8.  Section 2923.6 is added to the Civil Code, to read:
   2923.6.  (a) The Legislature finds and declares that any duty
mortgage servicers may have to maximize net present value under their
pooling and servicing agreements is owed to all parties in a loan
pool, or to all investors under a pooling and servicing agreement,
not to any particular party in the loan pool or investor under a
pooling and servicing agreement, and that a mortgage servicer acts in
the best interests of all parties to the loan pool or investors in
the pooling and servicing agreement if it agrees to or implements a
loan modification or workout plan for which both of the following
apply:
   (1) The loan is in payment default, or payment default is
reasonably foreseeable.
   (2) Anticipated recovery under the loan modification or workout
plan exceeds the anticipated recovery through foreclosure on a net
present value basis.
   (b) It is the intent of the Legislature that the mortgage servicer
offer the borrower a loan modification or workout plan if such a
modification or plan is consistent with its contractual or other
authority.
   (c) This section shall become operative on January 1, 2018.
  SEC. 9.  Section 2923.7 is added to the Civil Code, to read:
   2923.7.  (a) Upon request from a borrower who requests a
foreclosure prevention alternative, the mortgage servicer shall
promptly establish a single point of contact and provide to the
borrower one or more direct means of communication with the single
point of contact.
   (b) The single point of contact shall be responsible for doing all
of the following:
   (1) Communicating the process by which a borrower may apply for an
available foreclosure prevention alternative and the deadline for
any required submissions to be considered for these options.
   (2) Coordinating receipt of all documents associated with
available foreclosure prevention alternatives and notifying the
borrower of any missing documents necessary to complete the
application.
   (3) Having access to current information and personnel sufficient
to timely, accurately, and adequately inform the borrower of the
current status of the foreclosure prevention alternative.
   (4) Ensuring that a borrower is considered for all foreclosure
prevention alternatives offered by, or through, the mortgage
servicer, if any.
   (5) Having access to individuals with the ability and authority to
stop foreclosure proceedings when necessary.
   (c) The single point of contact shall remain assigned to the
borrower's account until the mortgage servicer determines that all
loss mitigation options offered by, or through, the mortgage servicer
have been exhausted or the borrower's account becomes current.
   (d) The mortgage servicer shall ensure that a single point of
contact refers and transfers a borrower to an appropriate supervisor
upon request of the borrower, if the single point of contact has a
supervisor.
   (e) For purposes of this section, "single point of contact" means
an individual or team of personnel each of whom has the ability and
authority to perform the responsibilities described in subdivisions
(b) to (d), inclusive. The mortgage servicer shall ensure that each
member of the team is knowledgeable about the borrower's situation
and current status in the alternatives to foreclosure process.
   (f) This section shall apply only to mortgages or deeds of trust
described in Section 2924.15.
   (g) (1) This section shall not apply to a depository institution
chartered under state or federal law, a person licensed pursuant to
Division 9 (commencing with Section 22000) or Division 20 (commencing
with Section 50000) of the Financial Code, or a person licensed
pursuant to Part 1 (commencing with Section 10000) of Division 4 of
the Business and Professions Code, that, during its immediately
preceding annual reporting period, as established with its primary
regulator, foreclosed on 175 or fewer residential real properties,
containing no more than four dwelling units, that are located in
California.
   (2) Within three months after the close of any calendar year or
annual reporting period as established with its primary regulator
during which an entity or person described in paragraph (1) exceeds
the threshold of 175 specified in paragraph (1), that entity shall
notify its primary regulator, in a manner acceptable to its primary
regulator, and any mortgagor or trustor who is delinquent on a
residential mortgage loan serviced by that entity of the date on
which that entity will be subject to this section, which date shall
be the first day of the first month that is six months after the
close of the calendar year or annual reporting period during which
that entity exceeded the threshold.
  SEC. 10.  Section 2924 of the Civil Code, as amended by Section 1
of Chapter 180 of the Statutes of 2010, is amended to read:
   2924.  (a) Every transfer of an interest in property, other than
in trust, made only as a security for the performance of another act,
is to be deemed a mortgage, except when in the case of personal
property it is accompanied by actual change of possession, in which
case it is to be deemed a pledge. Where, by a mortgage created after
July 27, 1917, of any estate in real property, other than an estate
at will or for years, less than two, or in any transfer in trust made
after July 27, 1917, of a like estate to secure the performance of
an obligation, a power of sale is conferred upon the mortgagee,
trustee, or any other person, to be exercised after a breach of the
obligation for which that mortgage or transfer is a security, the
power shall not be exercised except where the mortgage or transfer is
made pursuant to an order, judgment, or decree of a court of record,
or to secure the payment of bonds or other evidences of indebtedness
authorized or permitted to be issued by the Commissioner of
Corporations, or is made by a public utility subject to the
provisions of the Public Utilities Act, until all of the following
apply:
   (1) The trustee, mortgagee, or beneficiary, or any of their
authorized agents shall first file for record, in the office of the
recorder of each county wherein the mortgaged or trust property or
some part or parcel thereof is situated, a notice of default. That
notice of default shall include all of the following:
   (A) A statement identifying the mortgage or deed of trust by
stating the name or names of the trustor or trustors and giving the
book and page, or instrument number, if applicable, where the
mortgage or deed of trust is recorded or a description of the
mortgaged or trust property.
   (B) A statement that a breach of the obligation for which the
mortgage or transfer in trust is security has occurred.
   (C) A statement setting forth the nature of each breach actually
known to the beneficiary and of his or her election to sell or cause
to be sold the property to satisfy that obligation and any other
obligation secured by the deed of trust or mortgage that is in
default.
   (D) If the default is curable pursuant to Section 2924c, the
statement specified in paragraph (1) of subdivision (b) of Section
2924c.
   (2) Not less than three months shall elapse from the filing of the
notice of default.
   (3) Except as provided in paragraph (4), after the lapse of the
three months described in paragraph (2), the mortgagee, trustee, or
other person authorized to take the sale shall give notice of sale,
stating the time and place thereof, in the manner and for a time not
less than that set forth in Section 2924f.
   (4) Notwithstanding paragraph (3), the mortgagee, trustee, or
other person authorized to take sale may record a notice of sale
pursuant to Section 2924f up to five days before the lapse of the
three-month period described in paragraph (2), provided that the date
of sale is no earlier than three months and 20 days after the
recording of the notice of default.
   (5) Until January 1, 2018, whenever a sale is postponed for a
period of at least 10 business days pursuant to Section 2924g, a
mortgagee, beneficiary, or authorized agent shall provide written
notice to a borrower regarding the new sale date and time, within
five business days following the postponement. Information provided
pursuant to this paragraph shall not constitute the public
declaration required by subdivision (d) of Section 2924g. Failure to
comply with this paragraph shall not invalidate any sale that would
otherwise be valid under Section 2924f. This paragraph shall be
inoperative on January 1, 2018.
   (6) No entity shall record or cause a notice of default to be
recorded or otherwise initiate the foreclosure process unless it is
the holder of the beneficial interest under the mortgage or deed of
trust, the original trustee or the substituted trustee under the deed
of trust, or the designated agent of the holder of the beneficial
interest. No agent of the holder of the beneficial interest under the
mortgage or deed of trust, original trustee or substituted trustee
under the deed of trust may record a notice of default or otherwise
commence the foreclosure process except when acting within the scope
of authority designated by the holder of the beneficial interest.
   (b) In performing acts required by this article, the trustee shall
incur no liability for any good faith error resulting from reliance
on information provided in good faith by the beneficiary regarding
the nature and the amount of the default under the secured
obligation, deed of trust, or mortgage. In performing the acts
required by this article, a trustee shall not be subject to Title
1.6c (commencing with Section 1788) of Part 4.
   (c) A recital in the deed executed pursuant to the power of sale
of compliance with all requirements of law regarding the mailing of
copies of notices or the publication of a copy of the notice of
default or the personal delivery of the copy of the notice of default
or the posting of copies of the notice of sale or the publication of
a copy thereof shall constitute prima facie evidence of compliance
with these requirements and conclusive evidence thereof in favor of
bona fide purchasers and encumbrancers for value and without notice.
   (d) All of the following shall constitute privileged
communications pursuant to Section 47:
   (1) The mailing, publication, and delivery of notices as required
by this section.
   (2) Performance of the procedures set forth in this article.
   (3) Performance of the functions and procedures set forth in this
article if those functions and procedures are necessary to carry out
the duties described in Sections 729.040, 729.050, and 729.080 of the
Code of Civil Procedure.
   (e) There is a rebuttable presumption that the beneficiary
actually knew of all unpaid loan payments on the obligation owed to
the beneficiary and secured by the deed of trust or mortgage subject
to the notice of default. However, the failure to include an actually
known default shall not invalidate the notice of sale and the
beneficiary shall not be precluded from asserting a claim to this
omitted default or defaults in a separate notice of default.
  SEC. 11.  Section 2924 of the Civil Code, as amended by Section 2
of Chapter 180 of the Statutes of 2010, is repealed.
  SEC. 12.  Section 2924.9 is added to the Civil Code, to read:
   2924.9.  (a) Unless a borrower has previously exhausted the first
lien loan modification process offered by, or through, his or her
mortgage servicer described in Section 2923.6, within five business
days after recording a notice of default pursuant to Section 2924, a
mortgage servicer that offers one or more foreclosure prevention
alternatives shall send a written communication to the borrower that
includes all of the following information:
   (1) That the borrower may be evaluated for a foreclosure
prevention alternative or, if applicable, foreclosure prevention
alternatives.
   (2) Whether an application is required to be submitted by the
borrower in order to be considered for a foreclosure prevention
alternative.
   (3) The means and process by which a borrower may obtain an
application for a foreclosure prevention alternative.
   (b) This section shall not apply to entities described in
subdivision (b) of Section 2924.18.
   (c) This section shall apply only to mortgages or deeds of trust
described in Section 2924.15.
   (d)  This section shall remain in effect only until January 1,
2018, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted
statute, that is enacted before January 1, 2018, deletes or extends
that date.
  SEC. 13.  Section 2924.10 is added to the Civil Code, to read:
   2924.10.  (a) When a borrower submits a complete first lien
modification application or any document in connection with a first
lien modification application, the mortgage servicer shall provide
written acknowledgment of the receipt of the documentation within
five business days of receipt. In its initial acknowledgment of
receipt of the loan modification application, the mortgage servicer
shall include the following information:
   (1) A description of the loan modification process, including an
estimate of when a decision on the loan modification will be made
after a complete application has been submitted by the borrower and
the length of time the borrower will have to consider an offer of a
loan modification or other foreclosure prevention alternative.
   (2) Any deadlines, including deadlines to submit missing
documentation, that would affect the processing of a first lien loan
modification application.
   (3) Any expiration dates for submitted documents.
   (4) Any deficiency in the borrower's first lien loan modification
application.
   (b) For purposes of this section, a borrower's first lien loan
modification application shall be deemed to be "complete" when a
borrower has supplied the mortgage servicer with all documents
required by the mortgage servicer within the reasonable timeframes
specified by the mortgage servicer.
   (c) This section shall not apply to entities described in
subdivision (b) of Section 2924.18.
   (d) This section shall apply only to mortgages or deeds of trust
described in Section 2924.15.
   (e)  This section shall remain in effect only until January 1,
2018, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted
statute, that is enacted before January 1, 2018, deletes or extends
that date.
  SEC. 14.  Section 2924.11 is added to the Civil Code, to read:
   2924.11.  (a) If a foreclosure prevention alternative is approved
in writing prior to the recordation of a notice of default, a
mortgage servicer, mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary, or authorized
agent shall not record a notice of default under either of the
following circumstances:
   (1) The borrower is in compliance with the terms of a written
trial or permanent loan modification, forbearance, or repayment plan.

   (2) A foreclosure prevention alternative has been approved in
writing by all parties, including, for example, the first lien
investor, junior lienholder, and mortgage insurer, as applicable, and
proof of funds or financing has been provided to the servicer.
   (b) If a foreclosure prevention alternative is approved in writing
after the recordation of a notice of default, a mortgage servicer,
mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary, or authorized agent shall not record
a notice of sale or conduct a trustee's sale under either of the
following circumstances:
   (1) The borrower is in compliance with the terms of a written
trial or permanent loan modification, forbearance, or repayment plan.

   (2) A foreclosure prevention alternative has been approved in
writing by all parties, including, for example, the first lien
investor, junior lienholder, and mortgage insurer, as applicable, and
proof of funds or financing has been provided to the servicer.
   (c) When a borrower accepts an offered first lien loan
modification or other foreclosure prevention alternative, the
mortgage servicer shall provide the borrower with a copy of the fully
executed loan modification agreement or agreement evidencing the
foreclosure prevention alternative following receipt of the executed
copy from the borrower.
   (d) A mortgagee, beneficiary, or authorized agent shall record a
rescission of a notice of default or cancel a pending trustee's sale,
if applicable, upon the borrower executing a permanent foreclosure
prevention alternative. In the case of a short sale, the rescission
or cancellation of the pending trustee's sale shall occur when the
short sale has been approved by all parties and proof of funds or
financing has been provided to the mortgagee, beneficiary, or
authorized agent.
   (e) The mortgage servicer shall not charge any application,
processing, or other fee for a first lien loan modification or other
foreclosure prevention alternative.
   (f) The mortgage servicer shall not collect any late fees for
periods during which a complete first lien loan modification
application is under consideration or a denial is being appealed, the
borrower is making timely modification payments, or a foreclosure
prevention alternative is being evaluated or exercised.
   (g) If a borrower has been approved in writing for a first lien
loan modification or other foreclosure prevention alternative, and
the servicing of that borrower's loan is transferred or sold to
another mortgage servicer, the subsequent mortgage servicer shall
continue to honor any previously approved first lien loan
modification or other foreclosure prevention alternative, in
accordance with the provisions of the act that added this section.
   (h) This section shall apply only to mortgages or deeds of trust
described in Section 2924.15.
   (i) This section shall not apply to entities described in
subdivision (b) of Section 2924.18.
   (j)  This section shall remain in effect only until January 1,
2018, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted
statute, that is enacted before January 1, 2018, deletes or extends
that date.
  SEC. 15.  Section 2924.11 is added to the Civil Code, to read:
   2924.11.  (a) If a borrower submits a complete application for a
foreclosure prevention alternative offered by, or through, the
borrower's mortgage servicer, a mortgage servicer, trustee,
mortgagee, beneficiary, or authorized agent shall not record a notice
of sale or conduct a trustee's sale while the complete foreclosure
prevention alternative application is pending, and until the borrower
has been provided with a written determination by the mortgage
servicer regarding that borrower's eligibility for the requested
foreclosure prevention alternative.
   (b) Following the denial of a first lien loan modification
application, the mortgage servicer shall send a written notice to the
borrower identifying with specificity the reasons for the denial and
shall include a statement that the borrower may obtain additional
documentation supporting the denial decision upon written request to
the mortgage servicer.
   (c) If a foreclosure prevention alternative is approved in writing
prior to the recordation of a notice of default, a mortgage
servicer, mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary, or authorized agent shall
not record a notice of default under either of the following
circumstances:
   (1) The borrower is in compliance with the terms of a written
trial or permanent loan modification, forbearance, or repayment plan.

   (2) A foreclosure prevention alternative has been approved in
writing by all parties, including, for example, the first lien
investor, junior lienholder, and mortgage insurer, as applicable, and
proof of funds or financing has been provided to the servicer.
   (d) If a foreclosure prevention alternative is approved in writing
after the recordation of a notice of default, a mortgage servicer,
mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary, or authorized agent shall not record
a notice of sale or conduct a trustee's sale under either of the
following circumstances:
   (1) The borrower is in compliance with the terms of a written
trial or permanent loan modification, forbearance, or repayment plan.

   (2) A foreclosure prevention alternative has been approved in
writing by all parties, including, for example, the first lien
investor, junior lienholder, and mortgage insurer, as applicable, and
proof of funds or financing has been provided to the servicer.
   (e) This section applies only to mortgages or deeds of trust as
described in Section 2924.15.
   (f) For purposes of this section, an application shall be deemed
"complete" when a borrower has supplied the mortgage servicer with
all documents required by the mortgage servicer within the reasonable
timeframes specified by the mortgage servicer.
   (g) This section shall become operative on January 1, 2018.
  SEC. 16.  Section 2924.12 is added to the Civil Code, to read:
   2924.12.  (a) (1) If a trustee's deed upon sale has not been
recorded, a borrower may bring an action for injunctive relief to
enjoin a material violation of Section 2923.55, 2923.6, 2923.7,
2924.9, 2924.10, 2924.11, or 2924.17.
   (2) Any injunction shall remain in place and any trustee's sale
shall be enjoined until the court determines that the mortgage
servicer, mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary, or authorized agent has
corrected and remedied the violation or violations giving rise to the
action for injunctive relief. An enjoined entity may move to
dissolve an injunction based on a showing that the material violation
has been corrected and remedied.
   (b) After a trustee's deed upon sale has been recorded, a mortgage
servicer, mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary, or authorized agent shall
be liable to a borrower for actual economic damages pursuant to
Section 3281, resulting from a material violation of Section 2923.55,
2923.6, 2923.7, 2924.9, 2924.10, 2924.11, or 2924.17 by that
mortgage servicer, mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary, or authorized
agent where the violation was not corrected and remedied prior to the
recordation of the trustee's deed upon sale. If the court finds that
the material violation was intentional or reckless, or resulted from
willful misconduct by a mortgage servicer, mortgagee, trustee,
beneficiary, or authorized agent, the court may award the borrower
the greater of treble actual damages or statutory damages of fifty
thousand dollars ($50,000).
   (c) A mortgage servicer, mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary, or
authorized agent shall not be liable for any violation that it has
corrected and remedied prior to the recordation of a trustee's deed
upon sale, or that has been corrected and remedied by third parties
working on its behalf prior to the recordation of a trustee's deed
upon sale.
   (d) A violation of Section 2923.55, 2923.6, 2923.7, 2924.9,
2924.10, 2924.11, or 2924.17 by a person licensed by the Department
of Corporations, Department of Financial Institutions, or Department
of Real Estate shall be deemed to be a violation of that person's
licensing law.
   (e) No violation of this article shall affect the validity of a
sale in favor of a bona fide purchaser and any of its encumbrancers
for value without notice.
   (f) A third-party encumbrancer shall not be relieved of liability
resulting from violations of Section 2923.55, 2923.6, 2923.7, 2924.9,
2924.10, 2924.11, or 2924.17 committed by that third-party
encumbrancer, that occurred prior to the sale of the subject property
to the bona fide purchaser.
   (g) A signatory to a consent judgment entered in the case entitled
United States of America et al. v. Bank of America Corporation et
al., filed in the United States District Court for the District of
Columbia, case number 1:12-cv-00361 RMC, that is in compliance with
the relevant terms of the Settlement Term Sheet of that consent
judgment with respect to the borrower who brought an action pursuant
to this section while the consent judgment is in effect shall have no
liability for a violation of Section 2923.55, 2923.6, 2923.7,
2924.9, 2924.10, 2924.11, or 2924.17.
   (h) The rights, remedies, and procedures provided by this section
are in addition to and independent of any other rights, remedies, or
procedures under any other law. Nothing in this section shall be
construed to alter, limit, or negate any other rights, remedies, or
procedures provided by law.
   (i) A court may award a prevailing borrower reasonable attorney's
fees and costs in an action brought pursuant to this section. A
borrower shall be deemed to have prevailed for purposes of this
subdivision if the borrower obtained injunctive relief or was awarded
damages pursuant to this section.
   (j) This section shall not apply to entities described in
subdivision (b) of Section 2924.18.
   (k)  This section shall remain in effect only until January 1,
2018, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted
statute, that is enacted before January 1, 2018, deletes or extends
that date.
  SEC. 17.  Section 2924.12 is added to the Civil Code, to read:
   2924.12.  (a) (1) If a trustee's deed upon sale has not been
recorded, a borrower may bring an action for injunctive relief to
enjoin a                                                 material
violation of Section 2923.5, 2923.7, 2924.11, or 2924.17.
   (2) Any injunction shall remain in place and any trustee's sale
shall be enjoined until the court determines that the mortgage
servicer, mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary, or authorized agent has
corrected and remedied the violation or violations giving rise to the
action for injunctive relief. An enjoined entity may move to
dissolve an injunction based on a showing that the material violation
has been corrected and remedied.
   (b) After a trustee's deed upon sale has been recorded, a mortgage
servicer, mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary, or authorized agent shall
be liable to a borrower for actual economic damages pursuant to
Section 3281, resulting from a material violation of Section 2923.5,
2923.7, 2924.11, or 2924.17 by that mortgage servicer, mortgagee,
trustee, beneficiary, or authorized agent where the violation was not
corrected and remedied prior to the recordation of the trustee's
deed upon sale. If the court finds that the material violation was
intentional or reckless, or resulted from willful misconduct by a
mortgage servicer, mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary, or authorized
agent, the court may award the borrower the greater of treble actual
damages or statutory damages of fifty thousand dollars ($50,000).
   (c) A mortgage servicer, mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary, or
authorized agent shall not be liable for any violation that it has
corrected and remedied prior to the recordation of the trustee's deed
upon sale, or that has been corrected and remedied by third parties
working on its behalf prior to the recordation of the trustee's deed
upon sale.
   (d) A violation of Section 2923.5, 2923.7, 2924.11, or 2924.17 by
a person licensed by the Department of Corporations, Department of
Financial Institutions, or Department of Real Estate shall be deemed
to be a violation of that person's licensing law.
   (e) No violation of this article shall affect the validity of a
sale in favor of a bona fide purchaser and any of its encumbrancers
for value without notice.
   (f) A third-party encumbrancer shall not be relieved of liability
resulting from violations of Section 2923.5, 2923.7, 2924.11, or
2924.17 committed by that third-party encumbrancer, that occurred
prior to the sale of the subject property to the bona fide purchaser.

   (g) The rights, remedies, and procedures provided by this section
are in addition to and independent of any other rights, remedies, or
procedures under any other law. Nothing in this section shall be
construed to alter, limit, or negate any other rights, remedies, or
procedures provided by law.
   (h) A court may award a prevailing borrower reasonable attorney's
fees and costs in an action brought pursuant to this section. A
borrower shall be deemed to have prevailed for purposes of this
subdivision if the borrower obtained injunctive relief or was awarded
damages pursuant to this section.
   (i) This section shall become operative on January 1, 2018.
  SEC. 18.  Section 2924.15 is added to the Civil Code, to read:
   2924.15.  (a) Unless otherwise provided, paragraph (5) of
subdivision (a) of Section 2924, and Sections 2923.5, 2923.55,
2923.6, 2923.7, 2924.9, 2924.10, 2924.11, and 2924.18 shall apply
only to first lien mortgages or deeds of trust that are secured by
owner-occupied residential real property containing no more than four
dwelling units. For these purposes, "owner-occupied" means that the
property is the principal residence of the borrower and is security
for a loan made for personal, family, or household purposes.
   (b)  This section shall remain in effect only until January 1,
2018, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted
statute, that is enacted before January 1, 2018, deletes or extends
that date.
  SEC. 19.  Section 2924.15 is added to the Civil Code, to read:
   2924.15.  (a) Unless otherwise provided, Sections 2923.5, 2923.7,
and 2924.11 shall apply only to first lien mortgages or deeds of
trust that are secured by owner-occupied residential real property
containing no more than four dwelling units. For these purposes,
"owner-occupied" means that the property is the principal residence
of the borrower and is security for a loan made for personal, family,
or household purposes.
   (b) This section shall become operative on January 1, 2018.
  SEC. 20.  Section 2924.17 is added to the Civil Code, to read:
   2924.17.  (a) A declaration recorded pursuant to Section 2923.5
or, until January 1, 2018, pursuant to Section 2923.55, a notice of
default, notice of sale, assignment of a deed of trust, or
substitution of trustee recorded by or on behalf of a mortgage
servicer in connection with a foreclosure subject to the requirements
of Section 2924, or a declaration or affidavit filed in any court
relative to a foreclosure proceeding shall be accurate and complete
and supported by competent and reliable evidence.
   (b) Before recording or filing any of the documents described in
subdivision (a), a mortgage servicer shall ensure that it has
reviewed competent and reliable evidence to substantiate the borrower'
s default and the right to foreclose, including the borrower's loan
status and loan information.
   (c) Until January 1, 2018, any mortgage servicer that engages in
multiple and repeated uncorrected violations of subdivision (b) in
recording documents or filing documents in any court relative to a
foreclosure proceeding shall be liable for a civil penalty of up to
seven thousand five hundred dollars ($7,500) per mortgage or deed of
trust in an action brought by a government entity identified in
Section 17204 of the Business and Professions Code, or in an
administrative proceeding brought by the Department of Corporations,
the Department of Real Estate, or the Department of Financial
Institutions against a respective licensee, in addition to any other
remedies available to these entities. This subdivision shall be
inoperative on January 1, 2018.
  SEC. 21.  Section 2924.18 is added to the Civil Code, to read:
   2924.18.  (a) (1) If a borrower submits a complete application for
a first lien loan modification offered by, or through, the borrower'
s mortgage servicer, a mortgage servicer, trustee, mortgagee,
beneficiary, or authorized agent shall not record a notice of
default, notice of sale, or conduct a trustee's sale while the
complete first lien loan modification application is pending, and
until the borrower has been provided with a written determination by
the mortgage servicer regarding that borrower's eligibility for the
requested loan modification.
   (2) If a foreclosure prevention alternative has been approved in
writing prior to the recordation of a notice of default, a mortgage
servicer, mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary, or authorized agent shall
not record a notice of default under either of the following
circumstances:
   (A) The borrower is in compliance with the terms of a written
trial or permanent loan modification, forbearance, or repayment plan.

   (B) A foreclosure prevention alternative has been approved in
writing by all parties, including, for example, the first lien
investor, junior lienholder, and mortgage insurer, as applicable, and
proof of funds or financing has been provided to the servicer.
   (3) If a foreclosure prevention alternative is approved in writing
after the recordation of a notice of default, a mortgage servicer,
mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary, or authorized agent shall not record
a notice of sale or conduct a trustee's sale under either of the
following circumstances:
   (A) The borrower is in compliance with the terms of a written
trial or permanent loan modification, forbearance, or repayment plan.

   (B) A foreclosure prevention alternative has been approved in
writing by all parties, including, for example, the first lien
investor, junior lienholder, and mortgage insurer, as applicable, and
proof of funds or financing has been provided to the servicer.
   (b) This section shall apply only to a depository institution
chartered under state or federal law, a person licensed pursuant to
Division 9 (commencing with Section 22000) or Division 20 (commencing
with Section 50000) of the Financial Code, or a person licensed
pursuant to Part 1 (commencing with Section 10000) of Division 4 of
the Business and Professions Code, that, during its immediately
preceding annual reporting period, as established with its primary
regulator, foreclosed on 175 or fewer residential real properties,
containing no more than four dwelling units, that are located in
California.
   (c) Within three months after the close of any calendar year or
annual reporting period as established with its primary regulator
during which an entity or person described in subdivision (b) exceeds
the threshold of 175 specified in subdivision (b), that entity shall
notify its primary regulator, in a manner acceptable to its primary
regulator, and any mortgagor or trustor who is delinquent on a
residential mortgage loan serviced by that entity of the date on
which that entity will be subject to Sections 2923.55, 2923.6,
2923.7, 2924.9, 2924.10, 2924.11, and 2924.12, which date shall be
the first day of the first month that is six months after the close
of the calendar year or annual reporting period during which that
entity exceeded the threshold.
   (d) For purposes of this section, an application shall be deemed
"complete" when a borrower has supplied the mortgage servicer with
all documents required by the mortgage servicer within the reasonable
timeframes specified by the mortgage servicer.
   (e) If a borrower has been approved in writing for a first lien
loan modification or other foreclosure prevention alternative, and
the servicing of the borrower's loan is transferred or sold to
another mortgage servicer, the subsequent mortgage servicer shall
continue to honor any previously approved first lien loan
modification or other foreclosure prevention alternative, in
accordance with the provisions of the act that added this section.
   (f) This section shall apply only to mortgages or deeds of trust
described in Section 2924.15.
   (g)  This section shall remain in effect only until January 1,
2018, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted
statute, that is enacted before January 1, 2018, deletes or extends
that date.
  SEC. 22.  Section 2924.19 is added to the Civil Code, to read:
   2924.19.  (a) (1) If a trustee's deed upon sale has not been
recorded, a borrower may bring an action for injunctive relief to
enjoin a material violation of Section 2923.5, 2924.17, or 2924.18.
   (2) Any injunction shall remain in place and any trustee's sale
shall be enjoined until the court determines that the mortgage
servicer, mortgagee, beneficiary, or authorized agent has corrected
and remedied the violation or violations giving rise to the action
for injunctive relief. An enjoined entity may move to dissolve an
injunction based on a showing that the material violation has been
corrected and remedied.
   (b) After a trustee's deed upon sale has been recorded, a mortgage
servicer, mortgagee, beneficiary, or authorized agent shall be
liable to a borrower for actual economic damages pursuant to Section
3281, resulting from a material violation of Section 2923.5, 2924.17,
or 2924.18 by that mortgage servicer, mortgagee, beneficiary, or
authorized agent where the violation was not corrected and remedied
prior to the recordation of the trustee's deed upon sale. If the
court finds that the material violation was intentional or reckless,
or resulted from willful misconduct by a mortgage servicer,
mortgagee, beneficiary, or authorized agent, the court may award the
borrower the greater of treble actual damages or statutory damages of
fifty thousand dollars ($50,000).
   (c) A mortgage servicer, mortgagee, beneficiary, or authorized
agent shall not be liable for any violation that it has corrected and
remedied prior to the recordation of the trustee's deed upon sale,
or that has been corrected and remedied by third parties working on
its behalf prior to the recordation of the trustee's deed upon sale.
   (d) A violation of Section 2923.5, 2924.17, or 2917.18 by a person
licensed by the Department of Corporations, the Department of
Financial Institutions, or the Department of Real Estate shall be
deemed to be a violation of that person's licensing law.
   (e) No violation of this article shall affect the validity of a
sale in favor of a bona fide purchaser and any of its encumbrancers
for value without notice.
   (f) A third-party encumbrancer shall not be relieved of liability
resulting from violations of Section 2923.5, 2924.17 or 2924.18,
committed by that third-party encumbrancer, that occurred prior to
the sale of the subject property to the bona fide purchaser.
   (g) The rights, remedies, and procedures provided by this section
are in addition to and independent of any other rights, remedies, or
procedures under any other law. Nothing in this section shall be
construed to alter, limit, or negate any other rights, remedies, or
procedures provided by law.
   (h) A court may award a prevailing borrower reasonable attorney's
fees and costs in an action brought pursuant to this section. A
borrower shall be deemed to have prevailed for purposes of this
subdivision if the borrower obtained injunctive relief or damages
pursuant to this section.
   (i) This section shall apply only to entities described in
subdivision (b) of Section 2924.18.
   (j)  This section shall remain in effect only until January 1,
2018, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted
statute, that is enacted before January 1, 2018, deletes or extends
that date.
  SEC. 23.  Section 2924.20 is added to the Civil Code, to read:
   2924.20.  Consistent with their general regulatory authority, and
notwithstanding subdivisions (b) and (c) of Section 2924.18, the
Department of Corporations, the Department of Financial Institutions,
and the Department of Real Estate may adopt regulations applicable
to any entity or person under their respective jurisdictions that are
necessary to carry out the purposes of the act that added this
section. A violation of the regulations adopted pursuant to this
section shall only be enforceable by the regulatory agency.
  SEC. 24.  The provisions of this act are severable. If any
provision of this act or its application is held invalid, that
invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications that can
be given effect without the invalid provision or application.
  SEC. 25.   No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to
Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because
the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school
district will be incurred because this act creates a new crime or
infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty
for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the
Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within the
meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California
Constitution.

The NEW Sevicing abuse cases california Jan1, 2013

10 Dec

Abuses by Mortgage Service Companies

Although predatory lending has received far more attention than abusive servicing, a significant percentage of consumer complaints over loans involve servicing, not origination. For example, the director of the Nevada Fair Housing Center testified that of the hundreds of complaints of predatory lending issues her office received in 2002, about 42 percent involved servicing once the loan was transferred

Abusive Mortgage Servicing Defined:

Abusive servicing occurs when a servicer, either through action or inaction, obtains or attempts to obtain unwarranted fees or other costs from borrowers, engages in unfair collection practices, or through its own improper behavior or inaction causes borrowers to be more likely to go into default or have their homes foreclosed. Abusive practices should be distinguished from appropriate actions that may harm borrowers, such as a servicer merely collecting appropriate late fees or foreclosing on borrowers who do not make their payments despite proper loss mitigation efforts. Servicing can be abusive either intentionally, when there is intent to obtain unwarranted fees, or negligently, when, for example, a servicer’s records are so disorganized that borrowers are regularly charged late fees even when mortgage payments were made on time.

Abusive servicing often happens to debtors who have filed a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan and are in the process of making payments under the Plan. If you suspect that your mortgage servicer is abusing your relationship by charging unnecessary fees while you are paying off your Chapter 13 Plan, call us. We can help.

There is significant evidence that some Mortgage servicers have engaged in abusive behavior and that borrowers have frequently been the victims. Some servicers have engaged in practices that are not only detrimental to borrowers but also illegal Such abuse has been documented in court opinions and decisions, in the decisions and findings of ratings agencies, in litigation and settlements obtained by government agencies against prominent servicers, in congressional testimony, and in newspaper accounts of borrowers who claim to have been mistreated by servicers. The abusive servicing practices documented in these sources include improper foreclosure or attempted foreclosure, improper fees, improper forced-placed insurance, and improper use or oversight of escrow funds .

Improper foreclosure or attempted foreclosure

Because servicers can exact fees associated with foreclosures, such as attorneys’ fees, some servicers have attempted to foreclose on property even when borrowers are current on their payments or without giving borrowers enough time to repay or otherwise working with them on a repayment plan Furthermore, a speedy foreclosure may save servicers the cost of attempting other techniques that might have prevented the foreclosure.

Some servicers have been so brazen that they have regularly claimed to the courts that borrowers were in default so as to justify foreclosure, even though the borrowers were current on their payments. Other courts have also decried the frequent use of false statements to obtain relief from stay in order to foreclose on borrowers’ homes. For example, in Hart v. GMAC Mortgage Corporation, et al., 246 B.R. 709 (2000), even though the borrower had made the payments required of him by a forbearance agreement he had entered into with the servicer (GMAC Mortgage Corporation), it created a “negative suspense account” for moneys it had paid out, improperly charged the borrower an additional monthly sum to repay the negative suspense account, charged him late fees for failing to make the entire payment demanded, and began foreclosure proceedings.

Improper fees

Claiming that borrowers are in default when they are actually current allows servicers to charge unwarranted fees, either late fees or fees related to default and foreclosure. Servicers receive as a conventional fee a percentage of the total value of the loans they service, typically 25 basis points for prime loans and 50 basis points for subprime loans In addition, contracts typically provide that the servicer, not the trustee or investors, has the right to keep any and all late fees or fees associated with defaults. Servicers charge late fees not only because they act as a prod to coax borrowers into making payments on time, but also because borrowers who fail to make payments impose additional costs on servicers, which must then engage in loss mitigation to induce payment.

Such fees are a crucial part of servicers’ income. For example, one servicer’s CEO reportedly stated that extra fees, such as late fees, appeared to be paying for all of the operating costs of the company’s entire servicing department, leaving the conventional servicing fee almost completely profit The pressure to collect such fees appears to be higher on subprime servicers than on prime servicers:

Because borrowers typically cannot prove the exact date a payment was received, servicers can charge late fees even when they receive the payment on time Improper late fees may also be based on the loss of borrowers’ payments by servicers, their inability to track those payments accurately, or their failure to post payments in a timely fashion. In Ronemus v. FTB Mortgage Services, 201 B.R. 458 (1996), under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan, the borrowers had made all of their payments on time except for two; they received permission to pay these two late and paid late fees for the privilege. However, the servicer, FTB Mortgage Services, misapplied their payments, then began placing their payments into a suspense account and collecting unauthorized late fees. The servicer ignored several letters from the borrowers’ attorney attempting to clear up the matter, sent regular demands for late fees, and began harassing the borrowers with collection efforts. When the borrowers sued, the servicer submitted to the court an artificially inflated accounting of how much the borrowers owed.

Some servicers have sent out late notices even when they have received timely payments and even before the end of a borrower’s grace period Worse yet, a servicer might pocket the payment, such as an extra payment of principal, and never credit it to the borrower Late fees on timely payments are a common problem when borrowers are making mortgage payments through a bankruptcy plan

Moreover, some servicers have also added false fees and charges not authorized by law or contract to their monthly payment demands, relying on borrowers’ ignorance of the exact amount owed. They can collect such fees or other unwarranted claims by submitting inaccurate payoff demands when a borrower refinances or sells the house). Or they can place the borrowers’ monthly payments in a suspense account and then charge late fees even though they received the payment Worse yet, some servicers pyramid their late fees, applying a portion of the current payment to a previous late fee and then charging an additional late fee even though the borrower has made a timely and full payment for the new month Pyramiding late fees allows servicers to charge late fees month after month even though the borrower made only one late payment

Servicers can turn their fees into a profit center by sending inaccurate monthly payment demands, demanding unearned fees or charges not owed, or imposing fees higher than the expenses for a panoply of actions For example, some servicers take advantage of borrowers’ ignorance by charging fees, such as prepayment penalties, where the note does not provide for them Servicers have sometimes imposed a uniform set of fees over an entire pool of loans, disregarding the fact that some of the loan documents did not provide for those particular fees. Or they charge more for attorneys’, property inspection, or appraisal fees than were actually incurred. Some servicers may add a fee by conducting unnecessary property inspections, having an agent drive by even when the borrower is not in default, or conducting multiple inspections during a single period of default to charge the resulting multiple fees

The complexity of the terms of many loans makes it difficult for borrowers to discover whether they are being overcharged Moreover, servicers can frustrate any attempts to sort out which fees are genuine.

Improperly forced-placed insurance

Mortgage holders are entitled under the terms of the loan to require borrowers to carry homeowners’ insurance naming the holder as the payee in case of loss and to force-place insurance by buying policies for borrowers who fail to do so and charging them for the premiums However, some servicers have force-placed insurance even in cases where the borrower already had it and even provided evidence of it to the servicer Worse yet, servicers have charged for force-placed insurance without even purchasing it. Premiums for force-placed insurance are often inflated in that they provide protection in excess of what the loan.

290924_255783101119832_3781507_o

Escrow Account Mismanagement

One of the benefits of servicing mortgages is controlling escrow accounts to pay for insurance, taxes, and the like and, in most states, keeping any interest earned on these accounts Borrowers have complained that servicers have failed to make tax or insurance payments when they were due or at all. The treasurer of the country’s second largest county estimated that this failure to make timely payments cost borrowers late fees of at least $2 million in that county over a two-year span, causing some to lose their homes. If servicers fail to make insurance payments and a policy lapses, borrowers may face much higher insurance costs even if they purchase their own, non-force-placed policy. Worse yet, borrowers may find themselves unable to buy insurance at all if they cannot find a new insurer willing to write them a policy

You can make a claim for mortgage service abuse, and often the court will award actual and punitive damages. If you think you have been a victim of mortgage service abuse, contact us. We can help you make a claim.

Civil Code §2924.12(b) Right to Sue Mortgage Servicers for Injunctive Relief, Damages, Treble Damages, and Right to Attorney’s Fees. : )

5 Dec

prohabition-images

H. Right to Sue Mortgage Servicers for Injunctive Relief, Damages, Treble Damages, and Right to Attorney’s Fees

2013 is going to be a good year

One of the most important provisions of the Act from a lender’s perspective is that it provides borrowers with the right to sue mortgage servicers for injunctive relief before the trustee’s deed upon sale has recorded, or if it has already recorded, to sue for actual economic damages, if the mortgage servicer has not corrected any “material” violation of certain enumerated portions of the Act before the trustee’s deed upon sale recorded. (Civil Code §2924.12(a).) In an area that will certainly open up a Pandora’s Box of litigation, the Act does not define what constitutes a “material” violation of the Act. If a court finds that the violation was intentional, reckless or willful, the court can award the borrower the greater of treble (triple) damages or $50,000. (Civil Code §2924.12(b).) Furthermore, a violation of the enumerated provisions of the Act is also deemed to be a violation of the licensing laws if committed by a person licensed as a consumer or commercial finance lender or broker, a residential mortgage lender or servicer, or a licensed real estate broker or salesman. (Civil Code §2924.12(d).) Lastly, in a one-sided attorney’s fee provision that only benefits borrowers, the court may award a borrower who obtains an injunction or receives an award of economic damages as a result of the violation of the Act their reasonable attorney’s fees and costs as the prevailing party. (Civil Code §2924.12(i).) This provides all the more reason for lenders and mortgage servicers to comply with the terms of the Act. This provision for the recovery by only the borrower of their reasonable attorney’s fees makes it more likely that borrowers will file litigation against mortgage lenders or servicers than they otherwise would. Compliance is the lender’s or mortgage servicer’s best defense to litigation under the Act.

Significantly for lenders, as long as the mortgage servicer remedies the material violation of the Act before the trustee’s deed upon sale has recorded, the Act specifically provides that the mortgage servicer shall not be liable under the Act for any violation or damages. (Civil Code §2924.12(b) & (c).) The Act also clarifies that signatories to the National Mortgage Settlement who are in compliance with the terms of that settlement, as they relate to the terms of the Act, will not face liability under the Act. (Civil Code §2924.12(g).

 

Bankruptcy Laws, You Have Seen Nothing Yet! Mortgage Chaos?

27 Oct

by Bankruptcy Law Network

There are many bright Real Estate Attorneys out there. Likewise, there are many bright Bankruptcy Attorneys out there. But I don’t think there are that many bright Bankruptcy Real Estate Attorneys out there. And the few that do exist…..well, I don’t think they worked for the Mortgage Companies. Why? Well if they did, the transfer of loans would not have existed the way that it did for the past several years.

Lately, the big news in foreclosures has been the Ohio cases where Judge Boyko dismissed 14 foreclosures on October 31, 2007, and his Colleague, Judge Kathleen O’Malley of the same court, followed suite ordering another 32 dismissals on November 14, 2007.   But that’s only the beginning. It gets worse.

Add a bankruptcy filing to the mix and it’s like adding gas to the fire and recipe for disaster. The reason is a little bankruptcy code section called 11 USC 544. Basically, that section allows a Trustee appointed by the Bankruptcy Court to avoid non-perfected liens.Non-perfected liens are liens that exist, but are not fully noticed to everyone, sort of like secret liens. It’s like if someone loans you $50,000 and takes a lien out on your house, but never records their lien with the county recorder. If that house sells, the lien is not paid since escrow was not aware of it. Had it been recorded by a “deed of trust” or “mortgage,” the Title Company and Escrow Company would not have closed once they saw it, unless it was paid.

Because of all the crazy real estate financing, securitization, and reselling of all the mortgages, sort of the same thing has happened with all the mortgages and trust deeds, but on a much larger scale. Normally, most states require that when a mortgage or real estate loan is sold or transferred to another lender, certain things must happen to maintain perfection, that is, in order to make sure that lien gets paid at a later date. Generally, the purchaser of the Mortgage has it recorded at the County Recorders Office. This is usually done thru a recorded assignment of the underlying note and mortgage or a new Mortgage being recorded and transfer of the Note.  The Note is the most important part of any Mortgage or Deed of Trust. The Mortgage or Deed of Trust is useless without the Note, and usually can not exist without it. It’s a negotiable instrument, just like a check. So when it’s transferred, it needs to be endorsed, just like a check. So essentially, all real estate has documents recorded to evidence the lien, and which are linked to the “checks.”  Well, this is where the problem lies.

In most of the Mortgage Transfers which took place recently, the Mortgage or Deed of Trust was transferred, but not the Note. Whoops! Why? It was just too expensive to track down every note for every mortgage since they were all bundled up together and sold in large trusts, then resold, resold, etc. Imagine trying to find 1 note among thousands, which were sold in different trust pools over time. Pretty hard to do! So shortcuts happened.  Soon enough, shortcuts were accepted and since there were very little foreclosure activity during the last 7 year real estate bubble, no one really noticed in the few foreclosures that took place. Until recently. That’s where the Ohio cases come in. Times have now changed. That little shortcut stopped the foreclosures in Ohio since the most basic element of any lawsuit is that the party bringing the lawsuit is the “real party in interest.” That is, they are the aggrieved party, injured party, relief seeking party.  So in Ohio, the Judge dismissed all the cases since they did not possess the Notes or Assignments on the date of filing, and technically were not the real party in interest to file the suit at the time.But that maybe only a temporary problem until they find the note or assignment. At that point, they will probably just file the foreclosure lawsuit again. So it’s just a delay.

But the bigger problem exists in Bankruptcy.  You see, once a Bankruptcy Case is filed, the Automatic Stay goes into effect. Everything is frozen. Mistakes can no longer be corrected. And if the lender did not have the note or recorded assignment when the bankruptcy case was filed, it was an “unperfected lien” at the time of filing.  Unperfected liens get removed in Bankruptcy.  So finding the note or recording an assignment after filing will no longer fix the problem! Finding the note or or recording an assignment is now simply too late and futile.  That $12 shortcut may now have cost the lender a $500,000 mortgage!The Bankruptcy Trustee now is in charge, puts his 11 USC 544 hat on, and voila, removes the mortgage! Yes, that house that once had no equity worth $450,000 with $500,000 owed on it, is now FREE AND CLEAR! He sells it, and disburses all the proceeds to the creditors.

California’s antideficiency rules latest holding

29 Jun

 

Bank of America v Mitchell (2012)

The Editor’s Take: Watching our courts attempt to steer California’s antideficiency rules through the treacherous currents of multiple security contexts is always somewhat painful. Code of Civil Procedure §580d, enacted in 1939, prohibits recovery of a deficiency judgment after a nonjudicial sale, which seems straightforward enough at the start. But 24 years later, the California Supreme Court held that this prohibition did not apply to a creditor suing on its junior note after having been sold out in a senior foreclosure sale (the “sold-out junior exception”). Roseleaf Corp. v Chierighino (1963) 59 C2d 35, 41, 27 CR 873. But then, 30 years after that, a court of appeal held that this sold-out junior exception did not apply to a creditor who held both the senior and junior notes. Simon v Superior Court (1992) 4 CA4th 63, 71, 5 CR2d 428. So from then on, we had a “being your own junior” exception to the “sold-out junior” exception.

A decade after that came two more exceptions to the exception to the exception: The court in Ostayan v Serrano Reconveyance Co. (2000) 77 CA4th 1411, 1422, 92 CR2d 577, , allowed a two-note-holding creditor to foreclose on its junior deed of trust and sell the property subject to its own senior encumbrance (although that is not a §580d issue). More importantly, National Enters., Inc. v Woods (2001) 94 CA4th 1217, 115 CR2d 37, allowed the holder of two notes to judicially foreclose on the first one and to sell the second note to a third party, who then was held able to sue on it as a sold-out junior. This was technically not a §580d issue, since the senior foreclosure was not by power of sale, but the reasoning made it look like we were going to have a “third party transferee” or “unbundling the package” exception to the “being your own junior” exception of Simon. It began to look like Simon would be eaten away with exceptions, especially when the original lender made a timely divestment of one of its notes.

But instead, we now learn from Mitchell that the Simon doctrine will be applied against a third party transferee who took the junior paper from the common lender after that lender had trustee sold the property under its senior deed of trust. Both National Enters. and Mitchell involved a transfer of the junior loan after a sale under the senior security, differing only with regard to whether the senior foreclosure was judicial or nonjudicial, which distinction should perhaps matter more to the selling senior than to the nonselling junior.

So many factors potentially affect the outcomes in these situations that it is really impossible to make any confident predictions. How much does it matter whether the two loans were made at the same or different times? Whether they were for related or entirely different purposes? Whether one of them was transferred (and before or after the other was foreclosed)? Whether the transferred loan was the senior or junior? Whether the one foreclosed was the senior or junior? Whether the foreclosure was judicial or nonjudicial? I can point out these distinctions, but that doesn’t mean I can forecast their effect on the outcome of the next case that comes up. —Roger Bernhardt

 

204 Cal.App.4th 1199 (2012)

139 Cal. Rptr. 3d 562

BANK OF AMERICA, N.A., Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
MICHAEL MITCHELL, Defendant and Respondent.

No. B233924.

Court of Appeals of California, Second District, Division Four.

April 10, 2012.

1202*1202 The Dreyfuss Firm and Bruce Dannemeyer for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Law Offices of Ulric E. J. Usher, Ulric E. J. Usher and Richard Kavonian for Defendant and Respondent.

OPINION

SUZUKAWA, J.—

Appellant Bank of America’s (Bank) predecessor in interest loaned respondent Michael Mitchell (Mitchell) $315,000 to purchase a home, secured by two notes and first and second deeds of trust. When Mitchell defaulted on the loan, the lender foreclosed and sold the property. The lender then assigned the second deed of trust to the Bank, which initiated the present action to recover the indebtedness evidenced by the note. Mitchell demurred, and the court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend, concluding that the Bank’s action was barred by California’s antideficiency law. The Bank appeals from the judgment of dismissal and from the subsequent award of prevailing party attorney fees to Mitchell. We affirm.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

The Bank filed the present action on September 16, 2010, and it filed the operative first amended complaint (complaint), asserting causes of action for 1203*1203 breach of contract, open book account, and money lent, on December 2, 2010. The complaint alleges that Mitchell obtained a loan from GreenPoint Mortgage Funding, Inc. (GreenPoint), on or about September 14, 2006. The loan was evidenced by a note secured by a deed of trust recorded against real property located at 45245 Kingtree Avenue, Lancaster, California (the property). The security for the loan was eliminated by a senior foreclosure sale in 2009. Because Mitchell defaulted on payments owing on the loan, the complaint alleged that he breached the terms of the contract, resulting in damage to the Bank in the principal sum of $63,000, plus interest at the note rate of 11.625 percent from March 1, 2010, through the date of judgment.

Mitchell demurred. Concurrently with his demurrer, he sought judicial notice of several documents, including two deeds of trust, a notice of trustee’s sale, and a trustee’s deed upon sale. On the basis of these documents, he contended that on September 14, 2006, GreenPoint made him two loans to purchase the property, with a note and deed of trust for each loan recorded against the property. The first note and deed of trust were for $252,000, and the second note and deed of trust were for $63,000. Both deeds of trust were recorded on September 21, 2006. Mitchell defaulted on the notes sometime in 2008. A notice of default was recorded, and the property was sold at trustee sale for $53,955.01 on November 6, 2009. More than a year later, on November 18, 2010, GreenPoint assigned the second deed of trust to Bank of America, which subsequently filed the present action to recover on the second note and deed of trust. Mitchell contended that the action was barred by California’s antideficiency legislation, which bars a deficiency judgment following nonjudicial foreclosure of real property.

The trial court granted Mitchell’s request for judicial notice and sustained the demurrer without leave to amend on January 27, 2011, concluding that the Bank’s breach of contract and common counts claims seek recovery of the balance owed on the obligation secured by the second deed of trust and, thus, are barred by the antideficiency statutes as a matter of law. On April 7, 2011, the court awarded Mitchell prevailing party attorney fees of $8,400 and costs of $534.72.

Judgment for Mitchell was entered on July 8, 2011. The Bank appealed from the award of attorney fees on June 17, 2011, and from the judgment on August 8, 2011. We ordered the two appeals consolidated on October 13, 2011.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

“A demurrer tests the legal sufficiency of the factual allegations in a complaint. We independently review the sustaining of a demurrer and determine de novo whether the complaint alleges facts sufficient to state a cause of 1204*1204 action or discloses a complete defense. (McCall v. PacifiCare of Cal., Inc. (2001) 25 Cal.4th 412, 415 [106 Cal.Rptr.2d 271, 21 P.3d 1189]Cryolife, Inc. v. Superior Court (2003) 110 Cal.App.4th 1145, 1152 [2 Cal.Rptr.3d 396].) We assume the truth of the properly pleaded factual allegations, facts that reasonably can be inferred from those expressly pleaded, and matters of which judicial notice has been taken. (Schifando v. City of Los Angeles (2003) 31 Cal.4th 1074, 1081 [6 Cal.Rptr.3d 457, 79 P.3d 569].) We construe the pleading in a reasonable manner and read the allegations in context. (Ibid.)” (City of Industry v. City of Fillmore (2011) 198 Cal.App.4th 191, 205 [129 Cal.Rptr.3d 433].)

“If we determine the facts as pleaded do not state a cause of action, we then consider whether the court abused its discretion in denying leave to amend the complaint. (McClain v. Octagon Plaza, LLC [(2008)] 159 Cal.App.4th [784,] 791-792 [71 Cal.Rptr.3d 885].) It is an abuse of discretion for the trial court to sustain a demurrer without leave to amend if the plaintiff demonstrates a reasonable possibility that the defect can be cured by amendment. (Schifando v. City of Los Angeles[,supra,] 31 Cal.4th [at p.] 1081. . . .)” (Estate of Dito (2011) 198 Cal.App.4th 791, 800-801 [130 Cal.Rptr.3d 279].)

Attorney fee awards normally are reviewed for abuse of discretion. In the present case, however, the Bank contends that the trial court lacked the authority as a matter of law to award attorney fees in any amount. Accordingly, our review is de novo. (Connerly v. Sate Personnel Bd. (2006) 37 Cal.4th 1169, 1175 [39 Cal.Rptr.3d 788, 129 P.3d 1].)

DISCUSSION

I. The Trial Court Properly Sustained the Demurrer Without Leave to Amend

A. Code of Civil Procedure Section 580d

(1) “`In California, as in most states, a creditor’s right to enforce a debt secured by a mortgage or deed of trust on real property is restricted by statute. Under California law, “the creditor must rely upon his security before enforcing the debt. (Code Civ. Proc., §§ 580a, 725a, 726.) If the security is insufficient, his right to a judgment against the debtor for the deficiency may be limited or barred . . . .” [Citation.]’ [Citation.]” (In re Marriage of Oropallo (1998) 68 Cal.App.4th 997, 1003 [80 Cal.Rptr.2d 669].)

Code of Civil Procedure section 580d (section 580d) prohibits a creditor from seeking a judgment for a deficiency on all notes “secured by a deed of 1205*1205 trust or mortgage upon real property . . . in any case in which the real property . . . has been sold by the mortgagee or trustee under power of sale contained in the mortgage or deed of trust.”[1] The effect of section 580d is that “`the beneficiary of a deed of trust executed after 1939 cannot hold the debtor for a deficiency unless he uses the remedy of judicial foreclosure. . . .'” (Simon v. Superior Court (1992) 4 Cal.App.4th 63, 71 [5 Cal.Rptr.2d 428] (Simon).)

(2) In Roseleaf Corp. v. Chierighino (1963) 59 Cal.2d 35 [27 Cal.Rptr. 873, 378 P.2d 97] (Roseleaf), the California Supreme Court held that where two deeds of trust are held against a single property and the senior creditor nonjudicially forecloses on the property, section 580d does not prohibit the holder of the junior lienor “whose security has been rendered valueless by a senior sale” from recovering a deficiency judgment. (59 Cal.2d at p. 39.) There, defendant Chierighino purchased a hotel from plaintiff Roseleaf Corporation. The consideration for the hotel included three notes, each secured by a second trust deed on parcels owned by Chierighino. After the sale of the hotel, the third parties who held the first trust deeds on the three parcels nonjudicially foreclosed on them, rendering Roseleaf’s second trust deeds valueless. Roseleaf then brought an action to recover the full amount unpaid on the three notes secured by the second trust deeds. (Id. at p. 38.)

The trial court entered judgment for Roseleaf. Chierighino appealed, contending that Roseleaf’s action was barred by section 580d, but the Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed. It explained that the purpose of section 580d was to “put judicial enforcement [of powers of sale] on a parity with private enforcement.” (Roseleaf, supra, 59 Cal.2d at p. 43.) That purpose, the court said, would not be served by applying section 580d against a nonselling junior lienor: “Even without the section the junior has fewer rights after a senior private sale than after a senior judicial sale. He may redeem from a senior judicial sale (Code Civ. Proc., § 701), or he may obtain a deficiency judgment. [Citations.] After a senior private sale, the junior has no right to redeem. This disparity of rights would be aggravated were he also denied a right to a deficiency judgment by section 580d. There is no purpose in denying the junior his single remedy after a senior private sale while leaving 1206*1206 him with two alternative remedies after a senior judicial sale. The junior’s right to recover should not be controlled by the whim of the senior, and there is no reason to extend the language of section 580d to reach that result.” (59 Cal.2d at p. 44.)

In Simon, supra, 4 Cal.App.4th 63, the court held that the rule articulated in Roseleafdid not apply to protect a junior lienor who also held the senior lien. There, Bank of America (Lender) lent the Simons $1,575,000, for which the Simons gave it two separate promissory notes. Each note was secured by a separate deed of trust naming the Bank as beneficiary and describing the same real property (the property). Subsequently, the Simons defaulted on the senior note and the Lender foreclosed. The Lender purchased the property at the nonjudicial foreclosure sale and then filed an action to recover the unpaid balance of the junior note. (Id. at p. 66.)

(3) After detailing the history of the antideficiency legislation and the governing case law, the court held that section 580d barred the Lender’s deficiency causes of action. It noted that in Roseleaf, the Supreme Court explained that the purpose of section 580d was to create parity between judicial and nonjudicial enforcement. Such parity would not be served “if [the Lender] here is permitted to make successive loans secured by a senior and junior deed of trust on the same property; utilize its power of sale to foreclose the senior lien, thereby eliminating the Simons’ right to redeem; and having so terminated that right of redemption, obtain a deficiency judgment against the Simons on the junior obligation whose security [the Lender], thus, made the choice to eliminate.” (Simon, supra, 4 Cal.App.4th at p. 77.) The court continued: “Unlike a true third party sold-out junior, [the Lender’s] right to recover as a junior lienor which is also the purchasing senior lienor is obviously not controlled by the `whim of the senior.’ We will not sanction the creation of multiple trust deeds on the same property, securing loans represented by successive promissory notes from the same debtor, as a means of circumventing the provisions of section 580d. [Fn. omitted.] The elevation of the form of such a contrived procedure over its easily perceived substance would deal a mortal blow to the antideficiency legislation of this state. Assuming, arguendo, legitimate reasons do exist to divide a loan to a debtor into multiple notes thus secured, section 580d must nonetheless be viewed as controlling where, as here, the senior and junior lenders and lienors are identical and those liens are placed on the same real property. Otherwise, creditors would be free to structure their loans to a single debtor, and the security therefor, so as to obtain on default the secured property on a trustee’s sale under a senior deed of trust; thereby eliminate the debtor’s right of redemption thereto; and thereafter effect an excessive recovery by obtaining a deficiency judgment against that debtor on an obligation secured by a junior lien the creditor chose to eliminate.” (Id. at pp. 77-78.)

1207*1207 B. Simon and Roseleaf Bar a Deficiency Judgment in the Present Case

(4) Simon is dispositive of the present case. Here, Mitchell executed two promissory notes, for $252,000 and $63,000, secured by the first and second deeds of trust in the property. As in Simon, the first and second deeds of trust were held by a single lender, GreenPoint. GreenPoint, as beneficiary under the first deed of trust, chose to exercise its power of sale by holding a nonjudicial foreclosure sale. GreenPoint thus was not a “sold-out junior” lienor and would not have been permitted to obtain a deficiency judgment against Mitchell under the rule articulated in Simon. The result is no different because GreenPoint, after the trustee sale, assigned the second deed of trust to the Bank. “An assignment transfers the interest of the assignor to the assignee. Thereafter, `”[t]he assignee `stands in the shoes’ of the assignor, taking his rights and remedies, subject to any defenses which the obligor has against the assignor prior to notice of the assignment.”‘ [Citation.]” (Manson, Iver & York v. Black (2009) 176 Cal.App.4th 36, 49 [97 Cal.Rptr.3d 522].) Accordingly, because GreenPoint could not have obtained a deficiency judgment against Mitchell, the Bank also is precluded from doing so.

The Bank urges that Simon is distinguishable because in that case, the lender ultimately purchased the property for a credit bid at its own foreclosure sale, whereas in this case, the property was sold to a third party. The Bank thus contends that “[u]nder Simon if (a) both loans are held by the same lender and (b) that lender acquires the property at the foreclosure sale, the risk of manipulation by the lender is too great, so no deficiency is allowed. But if either is missing, the risk of manipulation is reduced, and a deficiency should be allowed.” Like the trial court, we reject the contention that the lender must have acquired the property at the foreclosure sale forSimon to apply. Although Simon noted the lender’s purchase at the foreclosure sale, that purchase was not material to its holding. Instead, the court’s focus was on the lender’s dual position as holder of the first and second deeds of trust, and its consequent ability to protect its own interest. (Simon, supra, 4 Cal.App.4th at p. 72 [“[The Lender] was not a third party sold-out junior lienholder as was the case inRoseleaf. As the holder of both the first and second liens, [the Lender] was fully able to protect its secured position. It was not required to protect its junior lien from its own foreclosure of the senior lien by the investment of additional funds. Its position of dual lienholder eliminated any possibility that [the Lender], after foreclosure and sale of the liened property under its first lien, might end up with no interest in the secured property, the principal rationale of the court’s decision in Roseleaf.“].)

The Bank further contends that the present case is distinguishable from Simonbecause the presence of a third party purchaser at the foreclosure sale 1208*1208prevented the kind of “manipulation” possible in Simon. According to the Bank, “[w]hen the foreclosure sale results in acquisition by a third party, who competed with the foreclosing lender and all other bidders at the public auction, a low-ball bid is impossible. If the foreclosing lender bids below market, it will be outbid; it will not acquire the property. The lender cannot manipulate the price. The presence of third party bids demonstrates the market is at work to achieve a fair price. Third party bids provide the functional equivalent of a right of redemption. By outbidding the lender, the third party prevents the lender from manipulating the process.” We disagree. Whatever the merits of the Bank’s argument as a matter of policy, it has no support in the statute, and the Bank suggests none. Indeed, nothing in the antideficiency legislation suggests that the presence of a third party bidder at a foreclosure sale excepts the sale from the legislation and permits the lender to seek a deficiency judgment.[2]

For all the foregoing reasons, section 580d bars the deficiency judgment the Bank seeks in the present case and, thus, the trial court properly sustained the demurrer. Because the Bank suggests no way in which the legal defects identified could be cured by amendment, the demurrer was properly sustained without leave to amend.

II. The Trial Court Properly Awarded Mitchell Attorney Fees

A. Relevant Facts

Following the trial court’s order sustaining Mitchell’s demurrer without leave to amend, Mitchell filed a motion for attorney fees pursuant to Civil Code section 1717. Two days later, on February 10, 2011, the Bank filed a request for dismissal with prejudice. It then filed opposition to the motion for attorney fees, contending that there could be no prevailing party within the meaning of Civil Code section 1717 because it had voluntarily dismissed its action.[3]

On March 8, 2011, the trial court vacated the dismissal and granted Mitchell’s motion for attorney fees. It explained that because it had sustained a demurrer to the Bank’s complaint without leave to amend, the Bank did not have a right pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 581 to voluntarily dismiss the action, and the dismissal had been entered in error. It awarded Mitchell attorney fees of $8,400 and costs of $534.72.

1209*1209 B. Analysis

The Bank contends that the trial court lacked authority to award Mitchell attorney fees. It urges that under Code of Civil Procedure section 581, it had an absolute right to dismiss its case voluntarily, so long as it did so with prejudice. Because it did so, there was no prevailing party pursuant to Civil Code section 1717, subdivision (b)(2), and thus the trial court lacked authority to award Mitchell contractual attorney fees.

(5) The Bank is correct that under Civil Code section 1717, a defendant in a contract action is not deemed a prevailing party where the plaintiff voluntarily dismisses the action. (Id., subd. (b)(2) [“Where an action has been voluntarily dismissed or dismissed pursuant to a settlement of the case, there shall be no prevailing party for purposes of this section.”].) Therefore, if the Bank’s dismissal was valid, the Bank is correct that the trial court erred in awarding attorney fees. The trial court determined, however, that the Bank’s dismissal was not valid, the issue to which we now turn.

(6) Pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 581, a plaintiff may voluntarily dismiss an action, “with or without prejudice,” at any time before the “actual commencement of trial.” (§ 581, subds. (b)(1), (c).) Further, a plaintiff may voluntarily dismiss an action with prejudice “at any time before the submission of the cause.” (Estate of Somers (1947) 82 Cal.App.2d 757, 759 [187 P.2d 433].) Upon the proper exercise of the right of voluntary dismissal, a trial court “`would thereafter lack jurisdiction to enter further orders in the dismissed action.’ (Wells v. Marina City Properties, Inc. (1981) 29 Cal.3d 781, 784 [176 Cal.Rptr. 104, 632 P.2d 217].) `Alternatively stated, voluntary dismissal of an entire action deprives the court of both subject matter and personal jurisdiction in that case, except for the limited purpose of awarding costs and . . . attorney fees. [Citations.]’ (Gogri v. Jack in the Box, Inc.(2008) 166 Cal.App.4th 255, 261 [82 Cal.Rptr.3d 629].)” (Lewis C. Nelson & Sons, Inc. v. Lynx Iron Corp. (2009) 174 Cal.App.4th 67, 76 [94 Cal.Rptr.3d 468].)

A plaintiff’s right to voluntarily dismiss an action before commencement of trial is not absolute, however. (Lewis C. Nelson & Sons, Inc. v. Lynx Iron Corp., supra, 174 Cal.App.4th at pp. 76-77Zapanta v. Universal Care, Inc. (2003) 107 Cal.App.4th 1167, 1171 [132 Cal.Rptr.2d 842].) “Code of Civil Procedure section 581 recognizes exceptions to the right; other limitations have evolved through the courts’ construction of the term `commencement of trial.’ These exceptions generally arise where the action has proceeded to a determinative adjudication, or to a decision that is tantamount to an adjudication.” (Harris v. Billings (1993) 16 Cal.App.4th 1396, 1402 [20 Cal.Rptr.2d 718].)

1210*1210 (7) The Supreme Court found such a “determinative adjudication” in Goldtree v. Spreckels (1902) 135 Cal. 666 [67 P. 1091] (Goldtree). There, the defendant’s demurrer to each of the plaintiff’s causes of action was sustained without leave to amend as to the first two. The plaintiff then filed a written request to dismiss the entire case, and the court clerk entered an order of dismissal. The trial court vacated the dismissal, and the plaintiff appealed. (Id. at pp. 667-668.) The Supreme Court affirmed: “In our opinion the subdivision of the section 581 of the Code of Civil Procedure in question cannot be restricted in its meaning to trials of the merits after answer, for there may be such a trial on a general demurrer to the complaint as will effectually dispose of the case where the plaintiff has properly alleged all the facts which constitute his cause of action. If the demurrer is sustained, he stands on his pleading and submits to judgment on the demurrer, and, if not satisfied, has his remedy by appeal. In such a case, we think, there would be a trial within the meaning of the code, and the judgment would cut off the right of dismissal, unless it was first set aside or leave given to amend. [¶] The clerk had no authority, therefore, to enter the dismissal, and being void the court rightly set it aside.” (Id. at pp. 672-673.)

(8) The Supreme Court reached a similar result in Wells v. Marina City Properties, Inc., supra, 29 Cal.3d 781 (Wells). There, the trial court sustained the defendant’s demurrer with leave to amend. The plaintiff failed to amend within the time provided, but instead sought to voluntarily dismiss the action without prejudice. The Supreme Court held that the voluntary dismissal was improperly entered: “[O]nce a general demurrer is sustained with leave to amend and plaintiff does not so amend within the time authorized by the court or otherwise extended by stipulation or appropriate order, he can no longer voluntarily dismiss his action pursuant to section 581, subdivision 1, even if the trial court has yet to enter a judgment of dismissal on the sustained demurrer.” (Id. at p. 789.)

In the present case, the trial court sustained defendant’s demurrer without leave to amend on January 27, 2011. Although the trial court had not yet entered a judgment of dismissal when the Bank filed a request for voluntary dismissal on February 10, 2011, as in Goldtree and Wells, the trial court had already made a determinative adjudication on the legal merits of the Bank’s claim. Accordingly, as in those cases, the Bank no longer had the right to voluntarily dismiss under Code of Civil Procedure section 581.

The Bank contends that the present case is distinguishable from Goldtree and Wellsbecause here it sought to dismiss with prejudice, while in those cases the attempted dismissal was without prejudice. We do not agree. The 1211*1211 court rejected a similar contention in Vanderkous v. Conley (2010) 188 Cal.App.4th 111 [115 Cal.Rptr.3d 249] (Vanderkous). There, the plaintiff and the defendant formerly had lived together on a multilot parcel owned by the plaintiff. An arbitration award entered after their relationship ended directed the parties to cooperate in a lot line adjustment that would result in the home and a garage on a single lot to be owned by the defendant, with the remainder of the parcel to be owned by the plaintiff. The plaintiff was also to have access and utility easements over the garage area for the benefit of his parcel. The easements were executed by the defendant and recorded, but the garage and surrounding property were never transferred because the plaintiff never recorded either the lot line adjustment or the grant deed to the defendant for the garage and setback area. When the plaintiff subsequently sought to record a subdivision map, the title company that was to record the map refused to do so because the grants of easement by the defendant created a cloud on the plaintiff’s title. The plaintiff thus filed a complaint for declaratory relief and to quiet title. (Id. at pp. 114-115.)

Following a trial, the court filed a statement of decision that ordered the defendant to execute a quitclaim deed in favor of the plaintiff, and ordered the plaintiff to compensate the defendant in an amount equal to the full market value of the garage area. If the parties could not agree on the amount the plaintiff was to pay the defendant, each party was ordered to submit an appraisal for the court’s final determination. The defendant submitted an appraisal that valued the garage area at $410,000, and the plaintiff submitted an appraisal that valued the property at $75,000, but also requested a continuance and an evidentiary hearing on the value of the property. The day before the evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff filed a request for dismissal with prejudice with the clerk. The trial court ruled that the plaintiff’s attempt to dismiss was void ab initio and ordered the plaintiff to pay the defendant $199,246 plus attorney fees and costs. (Vanderkous, supra, 188 Cal.App.4th at p. 116.)

(9) The plaintiff appealed, contending that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to set aside his voluntary dismissal of his action and to award attorney fees. (Vanderkous, supra, 188 Cal.App.4th at p. 117.) The court disagreed and affirmed the judgment. It explained: “Section 581, subdivision (d) provides that a complaint may be dismissed with prejudice when the plaintiff abandons it before the final submission of the case.Here, the court’s statement of decision following the three-day court trial, states `[t]he matter was deemed submitted on March 10, 2008, following receipt of closing briefs from both sides.’ The statement of decision resolved Vanderkous’s quiet title cause of action and his claim for declaratory relief, and ordered him to compensate Conley for the fair market value of property she was required to quitclaim to 1212*1212 him. [¶] … [¶] Because Vanderkous has not convinced us that he had an absolute right to dismiss his complaint, we also reject his argument that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to set aside his attempted dismissal. [Citations.] A contrary rule would enable Vanderkous to avoid compliance with the court’s decision and would undermine the trial court’s authority to provide for the orderly conduct of proceedings before it and compel obedience to its judgments, orders, and process. (See § 128, subd. (a).)” (Vanderkous, supra, at pp. 117-118; see also Weil & Brown, Cal. Practice Guide: Civil Procedure Before Trial (The Rutter Group 2011) ¶ 11:28, p. 11-16 (rev. # 1, 2011) [“[O]nce the case is finally submitted for decision, there is no further right to dismiss with prejudice. At that point, plaintiffs cannot avoid an adverse ruling by abandoning the case.”].)

The present case is analogous. As in Vanderkous, the Bank sought to dismiss afterthe court made a dispositive ruling against it, not before. To allow the Bank to dismiss at that late stage would permit procedural gamesmanship inconsistent with the trial court’s authority to provide for the orderly conduct of proceedings before it.

We do not agree with the Bank that its right to dismiss is supported by this division’s decision in Marina Glencoe, L.P. v. Neue Sentimental Film AG (2008) 168 Cal.App.4th 874 [85 Cal.Rptr.3d 800] (Marina Glencoe). There, after the plaintiff presented its evidence on the single bifurcated issue of alter ego liability, the defendant moved for judgment. The court heard argument on the motion but did not rule; the following day, before a ruling on the pending motion, the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the action with prejudice. The defendant moved for prevailing party attorney fees, and the court denied the motion, concluding that the defendant was not entitled to such fees under Civil Code section 1717. The defendant appealed. We affirmed, noting that because the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed with prejudice, “[i]ts intent was to end the litigation, not to manipulate the judicial process to avoid its inevitable end. This was entirely proper.” (168 Cal.App.4th at p. 878.)

The present case is distinguishable from Marina Glencoe. In Marina Glencoe, the plaintiff dismissed its action before the trial court ruled on a dispositive motion, and thus judgment in the defendant’s favor was not inevitable. In the present case, in contrast, the trial court had already sustained Mitchell’s demurrer without leave to amend, and thus judgment against the Bank had already “ripened to the point of inevitability.” (Marina Glencoe, supra, 168 Cal.App.4th at p. 878.) Accordingly, unlike in Marina Glencoe, the Bank no longer had the right to voluntarily dismiss its action, either with or without prejudice.

1213*1213 DISPOSITION

We affirm the judgment of dismissal and award of attorney fees. Mitchell shall recover his appellate costs.

Willhite, Acting P. J., and Manella, J., concurred.

[1] The full text of section 580d is as follows: “No judgment shall be rendered for any deficiency upon a note secured by a deed of trust or mortgage upon real property or an estate for years therein hereafter executed in any case in which the real property or estate for years therein has been sold by the mortgagee or trustee under power of sale contained in the mortgage or deed of trust.

“This section does not apply to any deed of trust, mortgage or other lien given to secure the payment of bonds or other evidences of indebtedness authorized or permitted to be issued by the Commissioner of Corporations, or which is made by a public utility subject to the Public Utilities Act (Part 1 (commencing with Section 201) of Division 1 of the Public Utilities Code).”

[2] Although not relevant to our analysis, we note that the property’s foreclosure sale purchase price of $53,955.01 does not convincingly demonstrate, as the Bank asserts, that the presence of a third party bidder made a “low-ball bid . . . impossible.”

[3] In its opposition, the Bank represented to the court as follows: “The litigation is over. There will be no appeal.”

 

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