1st DCA CA: Not so Fast on Rubber Stamping Foreclosures

As we have seen for months there have been a steady stream of cases in which the courts have turned back to the fundamental requirements of due process and the rule of law. Here the court reminds (again) that judicial notice is not a substitute for foundation of facts in dispute AND that the homeowner’s right to sue for wrongful foreclosure is NOT to be dismissed even if it is poorly worded.

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See CUPP v FNMA 8/2/17

Cupp v. Fannie Mae

While once again we see the regretable tendency to keep essential decisions out of public records, we also see that the court now comprehends the basic fallacy behind “loans” subject to false claims of transfer, securitization, sale and purchase.

And once again the court states with clarity the basic elements of procedural law. The fact that you owe money doesn’t mean you owe it to anyone who sues you.  If the party initiates a nonjudicial sale they will subject to the same rigor as in judicial cases. Nonjudicial procedure was not meant to allow strangers to win cases they would lose if they were required to file suit.

Significant quotes:

The nonjudicial foreclosure system is designed to provide the lender- beneficiary with an inexpensive and efficient remedy against a defaulting borrower, while protecting the borrower from wrongful loss of the property and ensuring that a properly conducted sale is final between the parties and conclusive as to a bona fide purchaser.” (Yvanova v. New Century Mortgage Corp. (2016) 62 Cal.4th 919, 926 (Yvanova).)

The elements of a tort cause of action for wrongful foreclosure are: “`(1) the trustee or mortgagee caused an illegal, fraudulent, or willfully oppressive sale of real property pursuant to a power of sale in a mortgage or deed of trust; (2) the party attacking the sale (usually but not always the trustor or mortgagor) was prejudiced or harmed; and (3) in cases where the trustor or mortgagor challenges the sale, the trustor or mortgagor tendered the amount of the secured indebtedness or was excused from tendering.'” (Miles v. Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. (2015) 236 Cal.App.4th 394, 408.) Grounds satisfying the first element include: when the trustee did not have the power to foreclose, when the borrower did not default, and when the deed of trust is void. (Lona v. Citibank, N.A. (2011) 202 Cal.App.4th 89, 104- 105.) “A foreclosure initiated by one with no authority to do so is wrongful” and satisfies the first element. (Yvanova, supra, 62 Cal.4th at p. 929.)

our Supreme Court observed that the trustee of a deed of trust “acts merely as an agent for the borrower- trustor and lender-beneficiary” and, under section 2924, subdivision (a)(1), may initiate nonjudicial foreclosure “only at the direction of the person or entity that currently holds the note and the beneficial interest under the deed of trust—the original beneficiary or its assignee—or that entity’s agent.” (Yvanova, supra, 62 Cal.4th at p. 927.) “[I]f the borrower defaults on the loan, only the current beneficiary may direct the trustee to undertake the nonjudicial foreclosure process.” (Id. at pp. 927-928.) However, the court also recognized that promissory notes and deeds of trust are negotiable instruments that may be sold by a lender without any notice to the borrower and “that a borrower can generally raise no objection to the assignment of the note and deed of trust.” (Id. at p. 927.) The Yvanova court concluded:

“If a purported assignment necessary to the chain by which the foreclosing entity claims that power is absolutely void, meaning of no legal force or effect whatsoever [citations], the foreclosing entity has acted without legal authority by pursuing a trustee’s sale,” and the borrower would have standing to sue for wrongful foreclosure in the case of such an unauthorized sale. (Id. at p. 935.)

The logic of defendants’ no-prejudice argument implies that anyone, even a stranger to the debt, could declare a default and order a trustee’s sale—and the borrower would be left with no recourse because, after all, he or she owed the debt to someone, though not to the foreclosing entity. This would be an `odd result’ indeed.” (Id. at p. 938.) “A homeowner who has been foreclosed on by one with no right to do so has suffered an injurious invasion of his or her legal rights at the foreclosing entity’s hands. No more is required for standing to sue.” (Id. at p. 939.) The court disapproved a line of Court of Appeal decisions that had reached contrary conclusions. (Yvanova, at p. 939, fn. 13; see Jenkins v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. (2013) 216 Cal.App.4th 497; Siliga v. Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (2013) 219 Cal.App.4th 75; Herrera v. Federal National Mortgage Assn. (2012) 205 Cal.App.4th 1495 (Herrera); Fontenot v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (2011) 198 Cal.App.4th 256 (Fontenot).)

The trial court appears to have agreed with respondents’ contention they could conclusively establish that RTC did hold the beneficial interest at the time of the 1995 Assignment. In its preamble, the 1995 Assignment recites that, in June 1993, the Office of Thrift Supervision appointed RTC as receiver for WFSL. It further recites that, in September 1994, the Office of Thrift Supervision replaced the conservator of WFSB with RTC. Finally, the preamble states that RTC, as receiver for WFSB, “is the current beneficiary under the Deed of Trust.”

The trial court could properly take notice of the fact the 1995 Assignment was recorded, the date of its execution, the parties to the transaction, and its legal effect if that effect is undisputed and clear from the face of the document. (See Intengan v. BAC Home Loans Servicing LP (2013) 214 Cal.App.4th 1047, 1055; Fontenot, supra, 198 Cal.App.4th at pp. 264-265.) However, contrary to respondents’ repeated assertion, we cannot take judicial notice of the truth of hearsay recitations of fact contained within the 1995 Assignment. (See Yvanova, supra, 62 Cal.4th at p. 924, fn. 1; Herrera v. Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. (2011) 196 Cal.App.4th 1366, 1369, 1375 [trial court improperly took judicial notice of truth of hearsay recitation, within assignment, that a particular entity held beneficial interest under deed of trust before its assignment]; Intengan, at pp. 1055, 1057; Fontenot, at p. 265.) Cupp clearly disputes the notion that RTC held the beneficial interest at the time of the 1995 Assignment. We conclude the trial court erred in taking judicial notice that RTC held the beneficial interest in the Deed of Trust at the time of the 1995 Assignment.[8]

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