Archives for November 2013

MISSOURI REAL ESTATE TAX FORECLOSURE SALES- TIME TO MAKE MONEY

Missouri Real Estate Tax Foreclosure Sale purchases are profitable.  The key is to know where to purchase and the laws for your area.  There are three (3) sets of Missouri statutes used for the sale of real estate for non-payment of real estate taxes: (1) laws that apply to the City of St. Louis, Missouri,  (2) laws that  apply to Jackson County and which may apply to some parts of Kansas City, Missouri, lying outside Jackson County, Missouri , and (3) laws that apply to all other counties like St. Louis County.

Delinquent Real Estate Tax Sale procedures currently used in the City of St. Louis and JacksonCounty are based upon judicial foreclosure of tax liens through land tax suits and provide judicial confirmation of the delinquent tax sale as one of the procedures followed in land tax suits.

Delinquent Real Estate Tax Sale procedures currently used in the County of St. Louis is based upon an administrative action (no judicial foreclosure) by the County Collector of Revenue. You will need a finish up the process with a lawsuit.

Tax Sales are held on different dates and times based on the County.  

St. Charles County– Sales are held once a year in August.

St. Louis City-Real Estate Tax Foreclosure sales are held 5 times a year (MayJuneJulyAugust and October) Sales are held at 9:00 am in the lobby of the Civil Courts Building (10 N Tucker Blvd).

Jefferson County   Real Estate Tax Foreclosure sales are held once each year at 10:00 a.m. on the fourth Monday in August. 

Franklin County- Real Estate Tax Foreclosure sale are held once per year.  The next sale is tentatively scheduled for December 13, 2013 at 10:00am in the Franklin County Commissioner’s Meeting Room.

St. Louis County- The Saint Louis County Collector of Revenue’s office conducts its annual real property tax sale on the fourth Monday in August.

 

 

DEBT COLLECTORS UNDER ATTACK

Debt Collectors under attack:  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) made it clear that debt collection is a major focus by issuing two new bulletins and five action letters for consumers to use when responding to debt collectors. Most significantly, the bulletins not only address the conduct of debt collectors and debt buyers, but they are also directed at creditors and servicers.

When a consumer files a complaint against a collector who is not the original creditor, the CFPB’s website portal allows the consumer to send a separate complaint to the original creditor. This means creditors might be required to respond to complaints about debt buyers, who do not act as service providers and for whom creditors should not be responsible. This reflects a misguided view by the CFPB that there is no difference between debt buyers and debt collectors, and creditors can be responsible for violations of law committed by both types of entities. This underscores the need for creditors to review and potentially revise their debt sales agreements and conduct heightened due diligence on debt buyers.

Bulletin2013-07

This bulletin focuses on the application of the Dodd-Frank Act prohibition of “unfair, deceptive or abusive” acts or practices (UDAAPs) on debt collection. While reminding debt collectors and debt buyers subject to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) that they must also refrain from committing UDAAPs, the bulletin is primarily intended as a warning to persons collecting debts who are not subject to the FDCPA. The FDCPA generally does not apply to first-party creditors collecting their own debts or to servicers when collecting debts that were current when servicing began.

The bulletin reviews the standards the CFPB uses to determine whether conduct constitutes a UDAAP and provides examples of conduct “related to the collection of consumer debt that could, depending on the facts and circumstances, constitute UDAAPs prohibited by the Dodd-Frank Act.” The examples include various acts or practices that would likely be covered by the general FDCPA prohibitions on harassment or abuse, false or misleading representations, and unfair practices, as well as various acts or practices specifically identified in the FDCPA as conduct that violates those prohibitions.

Since the CFPB describes these examples as a “non-exhaustive list,” it would likely consider other acts or practices specifically identified in the FDCPA to be UDAAPs. Creditors who collect their own debts and servicers should review their collection practices with counsel knowledgeable about the FDCPA as well as state debt collection laws (which may track or incorporate certain FDCPA prohibitions).

Bulletin 2013-08

This bulletin targets deceptive representations made by creditors, debt buyers, and debt collectors when collecting consumer debts. (While not specifically mentioned, the bulletin would also cover representations made by servicers.) The bulletin highlights potentially deceptive representations about how paying debts can affect credit reports, credit scores, and creditworthiness. The CFPB states that “based on its supervision, enforcement, and other activities, the CFPB is aware that these types of representations are being made and is concerned that some of  them may be deceptive under the FDCPA, the Dodd-Frank Act, or both.”

The CFPB notes that its examples of what might constitute such potentially deceptive representations “are illustrative and non-exhaustive.” The CFPB indicates that during examinations and enforcement investigations, it may review “communication materials, scripts, and training manuals and related documentation” to assess whether such representations are being made and their factual basis.

The CFPB’s issuance of the bulletins was accompanied by its publication of five action letter templates that consumers can use when corresponding with debt collectors. The letters address various situations such as when a consumer wants to dispute a debt, restrict or stop all communications by the collector, or has hired a lawyer. (It appears that the CFPB’s template for consumers to request more information about a debt that they are disputing may have been based on a template used by a plaintiffs’ class action law firm.)

Also accompanying the bulletins’ issuance was the CFPB’s announcement that its consumer complaint system is now taking debt collection complaints “related to any consumer debt, including credit card debt, mortgages, auto loans, medical bills and student loans.” By inviting consumers to submit complaints about medical bills, the CFPB is likely to receive complaints about such bills regardless of whether they involve any extension of credit. (In the preamble to its debt collection “larger participant” rule, the CFPB acknowledged that the collection of medical debt is not a “consumer financial product or service” under the Dodd-Frank Act unless it involves an extension of credit.)

 

 

FORECLOSURE LAW FIRMS UNDER ATTACK BY GOVERNMENT

Foreclosure law firms are being attacked for the expenses charged in connection with foreclosure actions.  Investigations are on the rise into foreclosure billing practices. At the core of the investigations is how foreclosure law firms billed for allowable “costs” in conjunction with the foreclosure. While government sponsored loans (GSEs) set a fixed-fee for a foreclosure, firms are allowed to bill for additional reimbursable costs like publication notices or title costs.  Many of the large foreclosure firms have ownership/financial interest in the companies that generate these variable fees that appear as costs on a law firm invoice.

Arrangements like these are not per se illegal.  However, this type of vertical integration between the law firm and their service providers creates a strong potential for a conflict of interest, not to mention strong incentives for collusion and price fixing.  Investigators are now looking to see if any evidence of “fee padding” actually exists in these ancillary services.

This issue is not limited to the attorney general of various states.  The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is also conducting its own investigation. MetLife Bank received a subpoena from the DOJ requiring production of documents relating to payments of certain foreclosure related expenses to foreclosure law firms.  The U.S. Attorney’s office is conducting its own investigation when PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. disclosed that it received a subpoena from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

Wake up and understand that these investigations are not completely separate and not wholly uncoordinated.  It is still early in the investigations.  Once the steam builds, these investigations have the potential to be the next “big thing” affecting the mortgage industry.  If there is actual evidence of “fee padding” by foreclosure law firms, then the problem is of epic proportions.

 

TITLE DEFECTS AND INDEMNITY LETTERS

Does a letter of indemnity actually resolve a title defect?  Lenders who have refused indemnity letters for title defects include FNMA, GNMA, and HUD.

It is the current mortgagee’s title insurer that is required to obtain the release from the prior lender.  If they cannot, then they issue an indemnity.  The acceptance of an indemnity letter is only between title insurance underwriters and between FNMA, GNMA or HUD.   So, what these lenders are rejecting is a clear title insurance policy, which in effect means they are rejecting title insurance as a financial product that facilitates mortgage lending.

For decades issuing an indemnity to clear up an unreleased mortgage was standard.  But the old ways no longer apply to unreleased prior mortgages.  Presumably the title agent paid the prior lien off but did not get a release and/or did not record it.  Without proof of payment in full on the loan, no one can assert the loan was paid.

Where a letter of indemnity is deemed unacceptable to fix a title defect, a Quiet Title Action would need to be pursued.  The title company under the policy could file a lawsuit to “quiet the title” on behalf of the homeowner; however, this will not happen because the title company must pay the costs.  Title companies are in the business of taking your money not spending it. Marketable title is what the title policy guarantees.   What is being requested by the Lenders – clear title – is a virtual impossibility. HUD and the other lenders are failing to see the difference between clear title and marketable title.   By issuing the indemnity letter the title company is complying with the terms of the policy; thus, the title company will take no further steps to resolve the issue.

The costs then fall on the lender if they want clear a title defect and not just marketable title.