People who are facing the possibility of a foreclosure on their home may want to investigate the history of their mortgage. If the assignment to the foreclosing party is not valid, this may be a viable defense to a foreclosure. In some states, you can demand that the foreclosing party produce a written assignment of the mortgage. If it does not have an assignment or failed to record it as required by state law, this may result in the dismissal of the foreclosure action. Recording rules may require that the foreclosing party record the assignment before starting the foreclosure.
Courts in other states are more lenient in their review of assignments. Since the mortgage is closely associated with the promissory note, the foreclosing party may be allowed to enforce the promissory note even if it cannot produce a valid assignment of the mortgage. You should seek legal guidance in your state to determine whether this defense may be viable.
The Relationship Between Mortgages and Promissory Notes
The mortgage and the promissory note are the two key documents attached to a loan for buying a home. Some purchases involve a deed of trust rather than a mortgage, but they are functionally equivalent in this context. While the promissory note is your guarantee to repay the loan, the mortgage gives the lender the right to foreclose if you do not repay the loan as arranged. The mortgage also identifies the property that will serve as security for the loan. Thus, the two documents work together in establishing the lender’s rights.
The Role of Mortgage Assignments in Loan Transfers
A bank or other lender often will sell a mortgage to another party, which will collect payments and pursue the homeowner if they fail to keep up with the mortgage. To transfer the loan, the original lender will endorse the promissory note to the new owner of the mortgage. This is because collection efforts hinge on owning the promissory note. If the foreclosing party cannot produce the promissory note, the homeowner will have a defense to the foreclosure.
Meanwhile, the new owner will record the assignment of the mortgage. This includes transferring the right to foreclose, as provided by the mortgage, to the new owner. The assignment will provide the amount of the mortgage and the names of the homeowner, the original lender, and the new owner of the mortgage. It also will contain a description of the property attached to the mortgage and the date when the mortgage took effect.
The mortgage industry uses a tool known as the Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS) to keep track of assignments. MERS may be a nominee for the lender, or it may receive the mortgage as an assignment. If MERS is the current assignee, it cannot pursue a foreclosure because it does not have an interest in the promissory note. MERS simply serves as an agent for the current owner of the mortgage and assists in creating a record for transfers of the mortgage. This allows banks to more easily transfer loans among them without creating a new assignment each time. You may have a defense against a foreclosure action if MERS is listed as the owner of the mortgage. However, this likely will be only a temporary solution until the new owner records an assignment in their name.