This is a follow-up to: “Man vs. Bank”
Inquiring minds are back in Utah looking at the post-game analysis of the court awarding clear title to a homeowner because the lending institution couldn’t prove they owned the $132,000 note. An article in The Salt Lake Tribune entitled “How accurate are property records?“, explains the points of the case:
A Utah court case in which the owner of a Draper townhouse got clear title to the property, even though he still owed $132,000 on it, raises new legal and financial questions about a property-records database created by mortgage bankers.
The award of a title free of liens means that whoever owns the promissory note on the Draper property — likely a group of faraway investors — no longer has the right to foreclose to collect on a delinquent loan. Indeed, the townhouse owner has sold the property and kept the money. Those who own the promissory note probably don’t even know what occurred.
And [drumroll, please] MERS enters the storyline:
But there also was another entity listed on the trust deeds called the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS). The Mortgage Bankers Association, the Washington, D.C.-based trade group that represents major mortgage lenders, created MERS in the mid-1990s.
MERS is a database where promissory note owners are recorded, with MERS itself then listed on trust deeds at county recorder offices as the “beneficiary” of the note instead of the real lenders or note owners.
The new arrangement greased the way for mortgages to be packaged together and sold to investors who were relieved of the need under the traditional system to record the true owner of the promissory notes and to pay the county recording fees, which average around $35. Attorneys charge MERS is largely an instrument to avoid paying fees every time a promissory note is sold and resold and eventually packaged with others and owned by group of investors.
During the latter part of the real-estate boom, hundreds of thousands of subprime loans were packaged and sold using the MERS system. MERS has registered about 31 million loans, the company’s chief executive said in congressional testimony in November. CEO R.K. Arnold also said in a 2009 deposition that the system had saved its members an estimated $2.4 billion that would have gone to county governments.
And here is the sticking point…the smoking gun:
Under the state’s quiet title laws, Keane said he did not have to name MERS or serve it legal papers in the lawsuit because it was not the legal owner of title to the property. Those were title companies. In addition, attorneys contend, MERS cannot be the “beneficiary” or holder of the promissory note because it readily has admitted it has no financial interest in any notes or mortgages.
The rest of the article is excellent and is highly recommended.
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