Are Courts in California Truly Limited by Non-Judicial Foreclosure Statutes?
By Michael Doan on May 2, 2009 in Foreclosure Defense, Foreclosure News
Recently, many California Courts have been dismissing lawsuits filed to stop non-judicial foreclosures, ruling that the non-judicial foreclosure statutes occupy the field and are exclusive as long as they are complied with. Thus, in the case where a notice of default is recorded and a lawsuit then filed in response to stop the foreclosure since the foreclosing party does not possess the underlying note, all too often the Court will simply dismiss the case and claim “2924 has no requirement to produce the note.”
Thus, these Courts view the statutes that regulate non-judicial foreclosures as all inclusive of all the requirements and remedies in foreclosure proceedings. Indeed, California Civil Code sections 2924 through 2924k provide a comprehensive framework for the regulation of a nonjudicial foreclosure sale pursuant to a power of sale contained in a deed of trust. This comprehensive statutory scheme has three purposes: ‘“(1) to provide the creditor/beneficiary with a quick, inexpensive and efficient remedy against a defaulting debtor/trustor; (2) to protect the debtor/trustor from wrongful loss of the property; and (3) to ensure that a properly conducted sale is final between the parties and conclusive as to a bona fide purchaser.” [Citations.]’ [Citation.]” (Melendrez v. D & I Investment, Inc. (2005) 127 Cal.App.4th 1238, 1249–1250 [26 Cal. Rptr. 3d 413].)
Notwithstanding, the foreclosure statutes are not exclusive. If someone commits murder during an auction taking place under Civil Code 2924, that does not automatically mean they are immune from criminal and civil liability. Perhaps this is where some of these courts are “missing the boat.”
For example, in Alliance Mortgage Co. v. Rothwell (1995) 10 Cal. 4th 1226, 1231 [44 Cal. Rptr. 2d 352, 900 P.2d 601], the California Supreme Court concluded that a lender who obtained the property with a full credit bid at a foreclosure sale was not precluded from suing a third party who had fraudulently induced it to make the loan. The court concluded that “ ‘the antideficiency laws were not intended to immunize wrongdoers from the consequences of their fraudulent acts’ ” and that, if the court applies a proper measure of damages, “ ‘fraud suits do not frustrate the antideficiency policies because there should be no double recovery for the beneficiary.’ ” (Id. at p. 1238.)
Likewise, in South Bay Building Enterprises, Inc. v. Riviera Lend-Lease, Inc. [*1071] (1999) 72 Cal.App.4th 1111, 1121 [85 Cal. Rptr. 2d 647], the court held that a junior lienor retains the right to recover damages from the trustee and the beneficiary of the foreclosing lien if there have been material irregularities in the conduct of the foreclosure sale. (See also Melendrez v. D & I Investment, Inc., supra, 127 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1257–1258; Lo v. Jensen (2001) 88 Cal.App.4th 1093, 1095 [106 Cal. Rptr. 2d 443] [a trustee’s sale tainted by fraud may be set aside].)
In looking past the comprehensive statutory framework, these other Courts also considered the policies advanced by the statutory scheme, and whether those policies would be frustrated by other laws. Recently, in the case of California Golf, L.L.C. v. Cooper, 163 Cal. App. 4th 1053, 78 Cal. Rptr. 3d 153, 2008 Cal. App. LEXIS 850 (Cal. App. 2d Dist. 2008), the Appellate Court held that the remedies of 2924h were not exclusive. Of greater importance is that the Appellate Court reversed the lower court and specifically held that provisions in UCC Article 3 were allowed in the foreclosure context:
Considering the policy interests advanced by the statutory scheme governing nonjudicial foreclosure sales, and the policy interests advanced by Commercial Code section 3312, it is clear that allowing a remedy under the latter does not undermine the former. Indeed, the two remedies are complementary and advance the same goals. The first two goals of the nonjudicial foreclosure statutes: (1) to provide the creditor/beneficiary with a quick, inexpensive and efficient remedy against a defaulting debtor/trustor and (2) to protect the debtor/trustor from a wrongful loss of the property, are not impacted by the decision that we reach. This case most certainly, however, involves the third policy interest: to ensure that a properly conducted sale is final between the parties and conclusive as to a bona fide purchaser.
This is very significant since it provides further support to lawsuits brought against foreclosing parties lacking the ability to enforce the underlying note, since those laws also arise under Article 3. Under California Commercial Code 3301, a note may only be enforced if one has actual possession of the note as a holder, or has possession of the note not as a non-holder but with holder rights.
Just like in California Golf, enforcing 3301 operates to protect the debtor/trustor from a wrongful loss of the property. To the extent that a foreclosing party might argue that such lawsuits disrupt a quick, inexpensive, and efficient remedy against a defaulting debtor/trustor, the response is that “since there is no enforceable obligation, the foreclosing entity is not a party/creditor/beneficiary entitled to a quick, inexpensive, and efficient remedy,” but simply a declarant that recorded false documents.
This is primarily because being entitled to foreclose non-judicially under 2924 can only take place “after a breach of the obligation for which that mortgage or transfer is a security.” Thus, 2924 by its own terms, looks outside of the statute to the actual obligation to see if there was a breach, and if the note is unenforceable under Article 3, there can simply be no breach. End of story.
Accordingly, if there is no possession of the note or possession was not obtained until after the notice of sale was recorded, it is impossible to trigger 2924, and simple compliance with the notice requirements in 2924 does not suddenly bless the felony of grand theft of the unknown foreclosing entity. To hold otherwise would create absurd results since it would allow any person or company the right to take another persons’ home by simply recording a false notice of default and notice of sale.
Indeed, such absurdity would allow you to foreclose on your own home again to get it back should you simply record the same false documents. Thus it is obvious that these courts improperly assume the allegations contained in the notice of default and notice of sale are truthful. Perhaps these courts simply can not or choose not to believe such frauds are taking place due to the magnitude and volume of foreclosures in this Country at this time. One can only image the chaos that would ensue in America if the truth is known that millions of foreclosures took place unlawfully and millions more are now on hold as a result of not having the ability to enforce the underlying obligation pursuant to Article 3.
So if you are in litigation to stop a foreclosure, you can probably expect the Court will want to immediately dismiss your case. These Courts just can not understand how the law would allow someone to stay in a home without paying. Notwithstanding, laws can not be broken, and Courts are not allowed to join with the foreclosing parties in breaking laws simply because “not paying doesn’t seem right.”
Accordingly, at least for appeal purposes, be sure to argue that 2924 was never triggered since there was never any “breach of the obligation” and that Appellate Courts throughout California have routinely held that other laws do in fact apply in the non-judicial foreclosure process since the policies advanced by the statutory non-judicial foreclosure scheme are not frustrated by these other laws.