Thursday, August 21, 2008

NY Court Denies Tenant Eviction After Foreclosure Sale; Failure To Name, Serve All Occupants As Parties In Foreclosure Action Fatal To Removal Attempt

A February, 2008 lower court decision in Nassau County, New York addressed a situation involving the attempted eviction of four occupants in a home, the title to which was acquired by a mortgage lender in a foreclosure sale that foreclosed the ownership interest of the last owner of record, one Angello Bernard. The court described the four occupants as follows:

  • [Kesha] Springer(1) resides in the Premises with her mother, Lecreta Springer, her sister, Cherryann Dalrymple and Cherryann Dalrymple's twelve year old son. She avers that she has lived in the Premises since 1997.(2) The Premises were previously owned by her parents. When Kesha's father died, her mother had trouble making the mortgage payments. To avoid foreclosure, Lecreta Springer transferred the property to Bernard, who refinanced the property.(3) Although Bernard owned the property, Lecreta Springer made the mortgage payments. Lecreta Springer was again unable to make the mortgage payments and the Property was foreclosed. Lecreta Springer and Kesha have been negotiating with the Bank to purchase premises but have been unable to do so.

In denying the foreclosing lender's motion for a writ of assistance to evict the occupants after the foreclosure sale, the court said:

  • While a writ of assistance may be issued evicting [Kesha] Springer and Bernard from the property, a writ cannot be issued terminating the occupancy of Lecreta Springer, Cherryann Dalrymple or her son. Lecreta Springer, Cherryann Dalrymple and her son were not named or served as parties in the foreclosure action.(4)

The occupants were represented by attorney Lawrence S. Lefkowitz, Hempstead, New York.

For more, including the court's discussion of the New York law it applied in reaching its decision in this case, see MERS, Inc. v Bernard, 2008 NY Slip Op 50308(U) [18 Misc 3d 1134(A)]; February 19, 2008, Supreme Court, Nassau County.

(1) Along with Angello Bernard, Kesha Springer was named as a defendant in the foreclosure action and served with the foreclosure complaint.

(2) It is important to note that the occupants were living in, and were in possession of, the home prior to the commencement of the foreclosure action. The court's decision in this case may very well have been different had the occupants moved in after the commencement of the action, or more precisely, after the recording of the lis pendens once the action was initiated.

(3) I wonder if this was an equity stripping, foreclosure rescue scam???

(4) Apparently, the fact that one of the home's occupants was only 12 years old was no bar to his due process right to be named as a party in the foreclosure action and be served with the lawsuit. Presumably, if there were more minor children living in the household, they, too, would have been entitled to their due process right to be named and served in the foreclosure action, regardless of age. I wonder how many attorneys for foreclosing lenders ever bother naming and serving any occupants who are minors.

The fact that the foreclosing lender named "John Doe" & "Jane Doe" to designate any of the home's occupants as additional defendants in the foreclosure action was apparently, at least in this court's view, insufficient to cut off their occupancy rights in the home after completion of the foreclosure. For more on the use of "John & Jane Doe" alias when naming unknown tenants in foreclosure actions, see yesterday's post, Failure To Name Tenant In Home Foreclosure Action Thwarts Subsequent Eviction Attempt; Use Of "John Doe" Alias Ruled Ineffective Absent Due Diligence. (I can't help wondering how often some attorneys representing foreclosing mortgage lenders mindlessly utilize the "John & Jane Doe" mechanism to name unknown tenants & occupants without exercising any diligence in attempting to ascertain their actual names - maybe as often as they mindlessly use "lost note affidavits" in cases where they don't have physical possession of the actual promissory note). TenantRentSkimmingAlpha

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