“FREE HOUSE” in NJ Bankruptcy Court

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see http://stopforeclosurefraud.com/2014/11/18/in-re-washington-bankr-court-d-new-jersey-morris-county-homeowner-gets-a-free-house/

also see Senator Elizabeth Warren Ramping Up Attack: When Will “Principal reduction” become a reality?

This case is notable for several reasons:

  1. The Judge expresses outright that it is general judicial bias that homeowner should not prevail in foreclosure litigation.
  2. Nevertheless this Judge trashes the the claim of SPS (Specialized Loan Services) and BONY (Bank of New York) Mellon leaving the homeowner with what the Judge calls a free house.
  3. The Judge concludes that the mortgage was unenforceable and that the note was unenforceable after a careful examination of the statute of limitations under New Jersey law.
  4. The Judge concludes that the mortgage is void, not just unenforceable, thus clearing title.

While we can be pleased with the result, some of the reasoning might not withstand an appeal, if the foreclosers take the risk of filing one.

Here are some interesting excerpts:

“No one gets a free house.” This Court and others have uttered that admonition since the early days of the mortgage crisis, where homeowners have sought relief under a myriad of state and federal consumer protection statutes and the Bankruptcy Code. Yet, with a proper measure of disquiet and chagrin, the Court now must retreat from this position, as Gordon A. Washington (“the Debtor”) has presented a convincing argument for entitlement to such relief. So, with figurative hand holding the nose, the Court, for the reasons set forth below, will grant Debtor’s motion for summary judgment.
The Defendants accelerated the maturity date of the loan to the June 1, 2007 default date, as acknowledged in the Assignment (dkt. 7, Exhibit L).[10] Moreover, neither the Debtor nor the Defendants have taken any measures under the note or mortgage, or under the Fair Foreclosure Act, to de-accelerate the debt, and the Defendants have further failed to file a foreclosure complaint within 6 years of the accelerated maturity date as required by N.J.S.A. § 2A:50-56.1(a). Accordingly, the Defendants are now time-barred from filing a foreclosure complaint and from obtaining a final judgment of foreclosure.

11 U.S.C. § 502(b)(1) (emphasis added). 11 U.S.C. § 506 controls the allowance of secured claims and provides that, if the claim underlying the lien is disallowed, then the lien is void:

(a)(1) An allowed claim of a creditor secured by a lien on property in which the estate has an interest, or that is subject to setoff under section 553 of this title, is a secured claim to the extent of the value of such creditor’s interest in the estate’s interest in such property, or to the extent of the amount subject to setoff, as the case may be, and is an unsecured claim to the extent that the value of such creditor’s interest or the amount so subject to setoff is less than the amount of such allowed claim. Such value shall be determined in light of the purpose of the valuation and of the proposed disposition or use of such property, and in conjunction with any hearing on such disposition or use or on a plan affecting such creditor’s interest.

(d) To the extent that a lien secures a claim against the debtor that is not an allowed secured claim, such lien is void, unless [conditions not relevant here exist].
As explained above, by application of N.J.S.A. § 2A:50-56.1(a) and (c), the Defendants are time-barred under New Jersey state law from enforcing either the note or the accelerated mortgage. As a result, Defendants’ proof of claim 7 must be disallowed under 11 U.S.C. § 502(b)(1) as unenforceable against the Debtor or against Debtor’s property under applicable state law. Having determined that Defendants do not have an allowed secured claim, the underlying lien is deemed void pursuant to 11 U.S.C. §§ 506(a)(1) and (d).[11]
In light of Defendants’ acceleration of the maturity date of the underlying debt as of June 1, 2007, and because neither Debtor nor Defendants took any action under either the mortgage instruments, or the Fair Foreclosure Act, to de-accelerate the maturity date, Defendants’ right to file a foreclosure complaint expired 6 years after the June 1, 2007 acceleration date under N.J.S.A. § 2A:50-56.1(a). Given that Defendants’ putative secured claim is unenforceable under 11 U.S.C. § 502(b)(1), by applicable New Jersey statute, their mortgage lien is void under 11 U.S.C. § 506(d), and the Debtor retains the property, free of any claim of the Defendants. Debtor is to submit a form of judgment. The Court will proceed to gargle in an effort to remove the lingering bad taste.
11] In as much as the Court finds that the Defendants are time-barred from enforcing the note or the mortgage, it is not necessary to address Debtor’s arguments that Defendants lack standing to enforce the note and mortgage based on alleged defects in the Assignment or the alleged impact of a Settlement Agreement.
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