The Curious Distraction of Applying “Adverse Possession” Rules to Foreclosures that are Time Barred by Statutes of Limitation.

The reference to “adverse possession” in any of these cases is not about legally changing title due to the statute of limitations enabling adverse possession. I know what that looks like. Possession that is adverse is not the legal definition of the statute governing “adverse possession”. Not even close. In this case the court was using the words “adverse possession” loosely. An adverse possession claim is procedural and substantive.
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For adverse possession to even be an issue that a court could adjudicate one would need to file a complaint alleging that the Plaintiff did NOT have legal title but had possessed the property is an open, adverse way directly against the interests of the title owner. No such complaint has been filed or even referenced in your case or this opinion from the court.
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In the absence of a claim in which a Plaintiff seeks specific relief, the court has no authority or jurisdiction to even consider, much less decide a case. Any ruling predicated on the existence of such a claim  is ultra vires (beyond the authority of the court).
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The only possible procedural exception would be that evidence was admitted without objection into the court record supporting proof that the Plaintiff was occupying land owned by the defendant and that such possession was open, notorious, continuous, hostile, adverse, exclusive and all the other elements of adverse possession. Then a motion to amend the pleading to conform to the evidence could be heard and granted. No such motion was brought in your case or any of these case you are showing me.
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So none of the cases are or even could be adverse possession cases. Opposing counsel is standing adverse possession on its head. She is saying that you are the owner and you are the possessor but that your ownership and possession are adverse to their interest in a process called foreclosure. Note that by definition they are not saying they own or possess the property already. And they are not even saying they have a right to possession. They are saying they have a right to foreclose. The issue of possession could not even be before the court until the court grants foreclosure and there is a sale of the property.
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The right to foreclose is based upon procedural and substantive law. The right to foreclose comes from contract. The contract is the mortgage. The mortgage, contrary to what everyone usually says, has many provisions in it that state that the mortgagor/owner of the property has agreed to undertake certain obligations of maintenance, insurance, and otherwise prevent the value from declining in value except for ordinary wear and tear and passage of time.
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In addition to those covenants the mortgage provides a right to the mortgagee to foreclose if the mortgagor is in breach of the mortgage covenants, one of which is the payment of money in accordance with the terms and conditions of a promissory note. The payment of money is usually referred to as the note which sets forth how much money and the terms of payment. Thus the owner of the property is a mortgagor under the mortgage and an obligor under the note. Those are two separate instruments. 
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If the note is evidence of an underlying debt like a loan from the Payee to the Payor, then the underlying debt is merged into the note by judicial doctrine to prevent the appearance of two liabilities for the same debt. If the named payee on the note is not actually the party who loaned the money then the merger doctrine does not apply and you have two legal liabilities — one because the debtor received money and the other because the same person executed a negotiable instrument that creates a separate liability regardless of the facts and circumstances of the “loan.”
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In such circumstances the Payor could complain and defend that it received no consideration from the payee and avoid liability at trial, but that would not result in dismissal of the lawsuit. That would be a question of fact for the trier of fact to decide.
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And if the negotiable instrument (note) was purchased for value in good faith and without knowledge of the Payor’s defense of lack of consideration, it is quite possible for a judgment to be entered against the Payor, which could include foreclosure of the mortgage which provides for foreclosure in the event that the obligor/mortgagor breaches the terms of the note. And all of that would be in addition to claims that could be made by the real owner of the debt to get paid. The recourse for the homeowner in such a situation is solely against the party who lured him into a signing a note without ever providing the consideration and without any intent to do so.
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As you can see from this exposition, it is entirely possible for the homeowner to theoretically lose twice and be left with a remedy against a now bankrupt originator.
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All of the above is necessary context to see where these courts are going wrong about the existence of the mortgage lien and its enforceability. They are entirely correct in seeing the note as distinguishable from the mortgage and even distinguishable from the debt. They could and often are three separate legal issues, each with its own set of rules. And those rules can vary depending upon the type of proceedings in which they are considered.
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This is why in bankruptcy the lien survives discharge of the obligation for the debt. That isn’t logic. It is just law. The obvious theory would be how can they foreclose on a debt that no longer exists? And the answer is a legal fiction in which the debt is somehow owed by the land, which I know is absurd but that is the law. However that has nothing to do whatsoever with the statute of limitations and the rules of procedure in a state court. And there is zero support in statutes or case law that it does. That is also the law. It’s not matter of persuasive logic.
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Your case is not a bankruptcy case nor does the defense rely upon discharge from bankruptcy which is the only proceeding in which the debt is eliminated as personal liability of the debtor but is retained as a liability against the land. No such doctrine applies in any other proceeding in federal or state courts. Nor has any case even considered the proposition. Nobody has ever suggested that the bankruptcy rule could be applied as doctrine to somehow change other statutory laws passed by the legislature that might bar collection, administration or enforcement of a debt, note or mortgage. It doesn’t exist and your opposition is not saying it does exist. So the issue does not exist.
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What your opposition is tapping into is the idea that the mortgage and the note are separate contracts each susceptible to independent enforcement. For example even if a homeowner is up to date on payments due on a legal debt owed to a real lender the lender could still foreclose if the homeowner failed to comply with local laws and ordinances such that the value of the collateral was threatened and the government agency was threatening fines, liens and foreclosure. The mortgage contract, is, as your opposition suggests, independent up to a point.
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The obvious logical argument in the absence of an enforceable underlying legal debt, is whether the covenants under the mortgage survive even if the note is not enforceable. I would point out here that your opposition is not advancing any such argument and that therefore even if the court were aware of this analysis it would still be wrong to consider it because the court is supposed to be deciding issues brought before it by the parties — not advocating for one side or the other.
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If a Judge, as former trial lawyer, sees something that might advance the cause of one side or the other, the judge is required to be silent unless there are grounds for the court to sua sponte decide on an issue not raised by either side — like jurisdiction.
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There are several logical and legal reasons why the mortgage continues to exist even though the underlying debt is unenforceable, which is most certainly and indisputably the case in your situation. One is simply that the statute of limitations can be waived or renewed by conduct of the debtor. While this has not happened YET, the fact that it is unlikely is speculative and no reason to cancel the mortgage lien.  And because of that possibility — along with the fact that no statute cancels the mortgage when the action is barred on the underlying debt — the mortgage lien continues to survive as a lien.
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The mortgagee, assuming the assignments of mortgage were valid and legal and supported by consideration (very problematic in your situation), has potential or inchoate rights that cannot be extinguished. But that does not give any right to the mortgagee to foreclose the mortgage for the sole reason that the mortgagor, as payor/obligor on the note breached the note — at least not where such a claim is time barred by an unambiguous express statute addressing that claim.
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The enforcement of the obligation is barred by the statute of limitations even though the breach is self-evident. This is a matter of public policy that the legislature of each state decides. Your state may have decided that if you don’t file the claim with six years of the breach you can’t bring the claim later. That is the law.
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Only a law that that specifically expressly supersedes another law can be used to avoid the legal requirements and restrictions of the other law. No such law has been invoked in any of these cases (because none exists) and there is no pronouncement from any court that the law of adverse possession supersedes the statute of limitations on debt because only the legislature can do that.
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The current statute of limitations is clear, unambiguous and expressly articulated.  If the legislature had meant to make an exception for mortgage loans, lawmakers would have declared the exception in the current statute rather than some vague presumed intent to allow for a conflict of laws where none exists.
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The conflict only exists if it is invented. Opposing counsel has invented the conflict and convinced the court to follow her proposed “logic.” But like all arguments, if you start with the wrong premise, you end up with the wrong result. There is no conflict of laws and therefore there is no basis for the court to presume one exists.
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Whether the debt exists or not is a separate question. The fact that a claim is time barred on a debt does not extinguish the debt unless there is a law that says that is the case. Some states have passed such laws.
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Assuming the debt exists for purposes of this argument, there must be a creditor who has paid value for the debt in exchange for ownership or conveyance of that debt. It is pure speculation as to the reason why no claim was filed for within the express statutory period of six years after what opposing counsel claims was a default and acceleration of the debt. And it doesn’t matter what the reason was.
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The claim is barred as matter of statute and public policy. The court receives no argument, assertion or basis for tolling the statute of limitations. That issue does not exist before the court.
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Hence the only possible conclusion is that the statute of limitations applies and the current claim is time-barred; the mortgage agreement cannot be enforced in the future unless and until, during the express term of the mortgage contract, the mortgagor renews the debt or otherwise breaches the terms and conditions of the mortgage agreement — and a legally recognized mortgagee seeks such enforcement.
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4 Responses

  1. Thanks Poppy. And, the problem with bad title is not only – “bad title” – but it also promotes a system of fraud and abuse even so far as the money trail. And, if you find out that there is no money trail for the money you paid, or paid off – you will not be covered by title insurance. This will follow you for the rest of your life.

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  2. The only truthful statement on any of the court filings is the disclaimer on the bottom of the page indicating they are “debt collectors”…the omission of “we don’t know who owns the debt” is intentionally missing.

    As far as Legislative changes, I am certain that “needs” to happen. Acknowledging there is a problem in the current system, is a good start to compensation on the back end, IMHO. No expert here, but things cannot stay the same. We are headed for another crash and no one is doing anything to stop it. As we speak home prices are seriously inflated…corrections will not fix this.

    You see the special warranty deeds and the attempt to indemnify the behavior of the parties passing title …massive title problems…where are the General Warranty Deeds? In your face, they are telling you they cannot warranty – guarantee clean title.

  3. What if the bank is suing in BKR and claiming back rent
    against the homeowner? Are they saying the homeowner
    is in adverse possession?

  4. This is an interesting presentation. I don’t know who this is directed at, and there is no case attachment. . .

    1) How do you define consideration? Is one dollar (sometimes even seen on assignments) considered consideration?

    2) What if a new mortgage does not replace the old mortgage – as related to the borrower? What if the old mortgage was not “satisfied” by the borrower? And, instead it was just cancelled “or otherwise satisfied?”

    3) How do you define a “legally recognized mortgagee?”

    Lien and Title theory are different. The states are split on which applies. New Jersey is a unique state. Borrower holds title until there is a reported default, then title goes to the “Lender.” This makes no difference as to whether or not there is “adverse possession” or any possession. However, what if there was no actual default by the borrower? Then was there ever a “legally recognized mortgagee?”

    As to statute of limitations, what good is it if one escapes debt enforcement, but does not have clear title to the property? While you may live debt free for awhile, the property is still not yours. And because “Title” has been corrupted across the country, many have used the failure to correct it to benefit from the hardship of other people. And, title then continues to be corrupted. I am not sure, is Neil saying SOL prevents debt enforcement of both the note and mortgage? What about a credit report? That, I think, would depend on whether or not there was “technically” a mortgage to start with.

    Is a central focus the errors of title companies? Owner’s title policies cannot be altered for defects “created, assumed, suffered, or agreed to by the insurer.” They stand as is. Sometimes, even that dubious mortgage will be excluded at the onset.

    What Neil I think is explaining is massive flaws in “title,” and massive flaws in law. Poppy may be right — this is all a legislative issue, but any changes are unlikely to be retroactive. ” Creditors” want no part of clean system.

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