Uneasy Intersections: The Right to Foreclose and the U.C.C.
66 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2013 Last revised: 22 Feb 2014
Date Written: August 26, 2013
Historically, the practice of real property and foreclosure law was routine and noncontroversial. This legal landscape significantly altered during the spectacular growth of securitization deals involving trillions of dollars of residential mortgage loans. The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) was a driving force behind one of these changes. It adopted amendments to Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code in 1998, at least in part, to facilitate securitization. These modifications included extending coverage to the sale of (not merely to a security interest in) promissory notes, declaring that the sale of the note also constitutes a sale of the mortgage without the need for a written assignment of the mortgage, and providing for automatic perfection of interests in both the note and the accompanying mortgage without the need to file. Meanwhile, the behavior of a number of mortgage lending and securitization participants or their agents generated additional legal complications. Examples include the mishandling of loan notes and mortgages, the forging of indorsements or the submitting of fraudulent affidavits to courts in support of their purported right to foreclose, and the pressing of foreclosures without the necessary documentation.
Confusion about the roles of and intersections among Articles 3 and 9 of the UCC and the right to foreclose under state real property law followed in the wake of these changes. These misunderstandings spawned volumes of judicial rulings, many of which appear to be at odds with each other. In an effort to reduce the ensuing legal confusion about the intersections between the right to foreclose and the UCC, this Article provides a roadmap of the relevant rules in Articles 3 and 9 and the right to foreclose in state real property law. Further, it explores the tension developing over the last decade among Articles 3, 9, and the right-to-foreclose concept in state real property law.
This Article advances the literature concerned with the right to foreclose by categorizing recent state appellate court decisions that address this right by the type of analysis applied by those courts. The rulings from Arizona, California, and Georgia fall into one category and are the subject of special scrutiny because they dismiss the role of the UCC outright. Moreover, these three states have experienced some of the worst foreclosure rates in the nation and permit foreclosures to proceed nonjudicially. Hence, these decisions will affect a broad swath of homeowners in danger of losing their homes. The Article then applies statutory construction principles to determine whether those courts ruled out the UCC unnecessarily, proffering that foreclosure laws in those states could be harmonized with the UCC.
Finally, the Article concludes that where inconsistencies arise between the UCC and state real property law, applying statutory construction principles likely will result in creating a more uniform legal landscape throughout the nation, in protecting homeowners from unjustified foreclosures, and in reducing litigation costs and judicial resources in a distraught foreclosure system.
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