New York Law Journal: New York’s Foreclosure Abuse Prevention Act: What You Need to Know

New York Law Journal, January 11, 2023 

Diana M. Eng and Andrea M. Roberts


On Dec. 30, 2022, Gov. Hochul signed the Foreclosure Abuse Prevention Act (Act). The Act, which amends the Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law (RPAPL), General Obligations Law (GOL) and Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR), became effective immediately and applies to all actions commenced under CPLR 213(4) and in which a final Judgment of Foreclosure and Sale has not been enforced. As such, the Act applies to pending actions, not just new actions commenced after the effective date.

Highlights of the Act are summarized below, but please refer to the full text of the Act for additional information and potential further updates after the date of this publication (NY State Assembly Bill A7737B (nysenate.gov)):

    • The Act adds a new subdivision 4 to RPAPL §1301, which provides that while an action is pending or after final judgment, no other action shall be commenced, including an action to foreclose, without leave of court. The failure to obtain leave of court shall be a defense in the new action and the commencement of the new action without leave of court discontinues the other action, unless, prior to the entry of final judgment in the other action, a defendant raises the failure to comply with the condition precedent or seeks dismissal of the action under CPLR 3211(a).

In addition, RPAPL §1301(4) makes clear that the subdivision shall not act as a stay or statutory prohibition for purposes of calculating the statute of limitations. Further, if it is determined that an action to foreclose under the mortgage or recover under the note is time-barred, the subdivision expressly states that any other action to foreclose or recover under the same debt is similarly time-barred. The amendment overrules New York case law holding that since a lender has a right to the election of remedies, if the court holds that enforcement of the mortgage based on a borrower’s non-payment is time-barred, res judicata does not absolutely bar the lender from electing a different remedy of pursuing a money judgment under the unpaid note.

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New York Law Journal: Can the Foreclosure Abuse Prevention Act Survive a Constitutional Challenge?

New York Law Journal, January 6, 2023 

Diana M. Eng and Andrea M. Roberts


In February 2021, the New York Court of Appeals issued a long-awaited decision in Freedom Mortgage v. Engel, 37 N.Y.3d 1 (2021), which, among other things, held that the voluntary discontinuance of a foreclosure action constitutes an affirmative revocation of acceleration because such “discontinuance withdraws the complaint and, when the complaint is the only expression of demand for immediate payment of the entire debt, this is the functional equivalent of a statement by the lender that the acceleration is being revoked.” Id. at 31-32. This decision was reasoned upon longstanding case law governing contract interpretation. See Albertina Realty Co. v. Rosbro Realty, 258 N.Y. 472 (1932); Kilpatrick v. Germania Life Ins. Co., 183 N.Y. 163 (1905).

Engel was seen as a win for the financial services industry after years of the appellate courts and New York State Legislature imposing obstacles that delayed foreclosures or prevented lenders from foreclosing upon defaulted residential mortgage loans. Foreclosure defense attorneys and pro bono legal services labelled Engel “egregious” because they viewed it as a license for banks to bring previously time-barred cases “back to life.” See Maria Volkova, ‘Foreclosure Abuse Prevention Act’ awaits New York governor’s signature, HousingWire (May 13, 2022). As a result, the New York State Legislature drafted the “Foreclosure Abuse Prevention Act” (Act), which amends CPLR 3217 by adding a new subdivision (e) to provide that the voluntary discontinuance of an action, whether by motion, order, stipulation or notice, shall not waive, postpone, cancel, toll, extend, revive or reset the statute of limitations, unless prescribed by statute. NY State Assembly Bill A7737BNY State Senate Bill S5473D. The Act became effective immediately upon Governor Hochul’s execution on Dec. 30, 2022 and applies to all actions commenced under CPLR 213(4) and in which a final judgment of foreclosure and sale has not been enforced. A.B. A7737B, §10. As such, the Act retroactively applies to pending actions, not just actions commenced after the effective date.

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New Jersey Law Journal: The Aftermath of ‘TransUnion v. Ramirez’: An Emerging Circuit Split

New Jersey Law Journal, January 3, 2023 

Diana M. Eng, Andrea M. Roberts, and Alina Levi


For years, federal courts relied on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Spokeo v. Robins, 578 U.S. 330 (2016), to ascertain whether a federal plaintiff demonstrated “concrete harm” such that his claims conferred Article III standing. However, the Spokeo standard was sufficiently vague, resulting in a circuit split regarding what constitutes “concrete harm.” In June 2021, the Supreme Court addressed this split in its TransUnion v. Ramirez, 141 S. Ct. 2190 (2021) (TransUnion) decision by attempting to clarify the Spokeo standard for “concrete harm.” In a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court unequivocally rejected “the proposition that ‘a plaintiff automatically satisfies the injury-in-fact requirement whenever a statute grants a person a statutory right and purports to authorize that person to sue to vindicate that right,’” 141 S. Ct. at 2205 (quoting Spokeo, 578 U.S. at 341). The court emphasized that “an important difference exists between a plaintiff’s statutory cause of action to sue a defendant over the defendant’s violation of federal law, and a plaintiff’s suffering concrete harm because of the defendant’s violation of federal law.” The latter is required to satisfy Article III standing to confer federal jurisdiction: “Only those plaintiffs who have been concretely harmed by a defendant’s statutory violation may sue that private defendant over that violation in federal court.” As Kavanaugh succinctly stated: “No concrete harm, no standing.”

TransUnion was viewed as a significant win for financial institutions and the defense bar thought it would reduce the number of federal lawsuits, particularly from plaintiffs who alleged purely statutory violations. However, despite the Supreme Court’s clarification in TransUnion, courts are still reaching different conclusions on what constitutes concrete harm, and a new circuit split is already emerging, particularly with respect to intangible harms, such as economic or emotional distress, and informational harms.

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Farewell, Hunstein—Eleventh Circuit Holds Disclosing Debtor’s Information to Mail Vendor Does Not Establish Concrete Harm

Wayne Streibich, Diana M. Eng, and Andrea M. Roberts ●

Financial institutions, debt collectors, debt collection law firms, and consumer-facing businesses should take note that the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the prior panel’s decision and has ruled that merely providing a consumer’s information to a mail vendor to send a debt collection letter did not violate the FDCPA since it is not a public disclosure and, therefore, the consumer did not suffer concrete harm sufficient to confer Article III standing. The Eleventh Circuit En Banc Panel’s decision should result in the dismissal of other pending FDCPA actions based on this mailing vendor theory and reduce future actions. Further, the decision has broader implications beyond FDCPA cases, as it outlines the Eleventh Circuit’s overall approach in evaluating whether a plaintiff has sufficiently alleged concrete harm. 

In Hunstein v. Preferred Collection and Management Services, Inc., 2022 WL 4102824 (11th Cir. Sept. 8, 2022), the Eleventh Circuit’s En Banc Panel reversed the prior panel’s decision and held “no concrete harm, no standing,” citing the United States Supreme Court’s decision in TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez, 141 S. Ct. 2190 (2021). As such, the Eleventh Circuit held that the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida (“District Court”) lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate plaintiff’s claim, vacated the District Court’s Order, and remanded with instructions to dismiss the case without prejudice. 

Summary of Facts and Background

After Richard Hunstein (“Plaintiff”) failed to timely pay a medical bill, the hospital transferred the debt to Preferred Collection and Management Services, Inc. (“Defendant”), a debt collection agency. Defendant sent Hunstein a debt collection letter through a commercial mail vendor. In preparation for mailing the letter, Defendant provided the mail vendor with certain information, including Hunstein’s name, his son’s name, and the amount of the debt. 

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Third Circuit Adopts New “Reasonable Reader” Standard and Holds Reporting Consumers’ Pay Status as Past Due with $0 Balance after Transfer Did Not Violate the FCRA

Diana M. Eng and Andrea M. Roberts 

In Bibbs v. TransUnion LLC, 2022 WL 3149216 (3d Cir. Aug. 8, 2022), the Third Circuit Court of Appeals (“Third Circuit”) affirmed the United States District Court for the District of Pennsylvania’s (“District Court”) orders granting TransUnion’s motions for judgment on the pleadings and dismissing the Complaints in three separate actions by Appellants Marissa Bibbs, Michael Parke, and Fatoumata Samoura (collectively, “Appellants”) for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”). Specifically, the Third Circuit held that TransUnion’s credit reporting of Appellants’ accounts, which reflected a Pay Status of more than 120 days past due, a $0 balance, and closing of their accounts due to transfer, when read in their entirety, were accurate and not misleading under the “reasonable reader” standard.

Summary of Facts and Background

Appellants admittedly defaulted under their respective student loans.[1] After the defaults, Navient and Fedloan closed and transferred Appellants’ accounts. As such, Navient and Fedloan reported to the credit reporting agencies, including appellee TransUnion, that the accounts were closed with a balance of zero and all of Appellants’ payment obligations were transferred. Further, the reporting reflected a Pay Status of more than 120 days past due.

After reviewing their credit reports, Appellants, through counsel, sent TransUnion a letter disputing the accuracy of the reports. Specifically, Appellants asserted that the reporting was erroneous because Appellants owed no money to Navient and Fedloan, the prior creditors, and thus, “it is impossible for their current status to be listed as late.”

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Fifth Circuit Holds Mere Statutory Violation of the FDCPA, Future Risk of Harm, Confusion, and Lost Time Are Insufficient to Establish Article III Standing

Wayne Streibich, Diana M. Eng, and Alina Levi

Financial institutions, debt collectors, debt collection law firms, and consumer-facing businesses should take note that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that merely asserting a statutory violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), confusion, lost time, and/or a future risk of harm are insufficient to establish Article III standing. The Fifth Circuit’s application and clarification of the United States Supreme Court’s 2021 decision in TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez, —U.S.—, 141 S. Ct. 2190, 2200 (2021) (“TransUnion”) should result in the dismissal of other pending actions and prevent future actions based on allegations of a mere statutory violation of the FDCPA, future risk of harm, lost time, and/or confusion resulting from debt collection communications.

In Perez v. McCreary, Veselka, Bragg & Allen, P.C., — F.4th —, No. 21-50958, 2022 WL 3355249, at *1 (5th Cir. Aug. 15, 2022), the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (“Fifth Circuit”) vacated a class certification order and remanded the case to be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, holding that a statutory violation of the FDCPA, alone, is insufficient to confer Article III standing. Further, the Fifth Circuit held that a purported future risk of harm, experiencing confusion, and/or lost time are insufficient to allege the required injury-in-fact for Article III standing to maintain a lawsuit in federal court.

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California’s Highest Court Confirms Lenders Owe No Duty to Borrowers to Process, Review, and Respond to Loan Modification Applications and Nixes Negligence Claim

Wayne Streibich, Diana M. Eng, Cheryl S. Chang, and Jessica A. McElroy

Financial institutions, lenders, and servicers should take note that the California Supreme Court affirmed a Court of Appeal decision confirming there is no duty for a lender to “process, review and respond carefully and completely to” a borrower’s submitted loan modification application. In doing so, California’s highest court resolved a split of authority at the appellate level. However, the Court specifically disclaimed consideration of negligent misrepresentation or promissory estoppel claims, noting that nothing in the opinion “should be understood to categorically preclude those claims in the mortgage modification context.”

In Sheen v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.[1] (March 7, 2022), the California Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeal, which upheld the trial court’s decision sustaining defendant lender’s demurrer to plaintiff borrower’s negligence claim in a case involving a junior lien and a lender’s alleged negligence in failing to respond timely to the borrower’s request to modify a second position deed of trust.

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New York Further Extends the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention and Small Businesses Acts to January 15, 2022, but Provides a Way to Challenge Hardship Declarations

Wayne StreibichDiana M. Eng, and Chenxi Jiao


Lenders, mortgage servicers, and other financial institutions should take note that the New York State legislature has extended the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act (“CEEFPA”) and the COVID-19 Emergency Protect Our Small Businesses Act to January 15, 2022. Therefore, the requirements and stays with respect to residential and commercial foreclosures and evictions and credit reporting remain effective through January 22, 2021, to the extent a tenant or mortgagor has submitted a Hardship Declaration. The legislature also amended the statutes, in part, to address the United States Supreme Court’s August decision blocking the enforcement of Part A of the CEEFPA for violating landlords’ due process rights. Per the amendments, landlords and mortgagees can now challenge a self-certified Hardship Declaration in Court.

On September 2, 2021, through a Special Legislative Session, New York State extended the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act (“CEEFPA”) and the COVID-19 Emergency Protect Our Small Businesses Act (“SBA”) through January 15, 2022. As discussed in our August 17, 2021 Alert, in Chrysafis v. Marks, No. 21A8, — S. Ct. –, 2021 WL 3560766 (Aug. 12, 2021), the United States Supreme Court (“SCOTUS”) granted an injunction blocking the enforcement of CEEFPA and held that Part A of the CEEFPA, a provision allowing tenants to submit an affidavit self-certifying their pandemic-related hardship to prevent eviction, violated the plaintiffs-landlords’ due process rights (“Hardship Declaration”) and was unconstitutional. New York’s new legislation attempts to address this constitutional issue by providing a mechanism for landlords and mortgagees in residential and commercial evictions and foreclosures to challenge the Hardship Declarations by filing a motion.

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U.S. Supreme Court Blocks Enforcement of a Limited Part of New York’s COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act

Wayne Streibich, Diana M. Eng, and Chenxi Jiao


Financial institutions, lenders, and servicers should take note that the United States Supreme Court (“SCOTUS”) granted an injunction filed by plaintiffs-landlords seeking to prevent the enforcement of New York’s COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020 (“CEEFPA”) because it violates their due process rights. However, SCOTUS limited its ruling to enjoin the enforcement of only Part A of the CEEFPA, which provides that if a tenant self-certifies financial hardship, a landlord generally cannot contest the certification and denies the landlord a hearing. Thus, financial institutions, lenders, and servicers should continue to abide by other prohibitions regarding foreclosures, evictions, and credit reporting in the CEEFPA.

On August 12, 2021, in Chrysafis v. Marks, No. 21A8, — S. Ct. –, 2021 WL 3560766 (Aug. 12, 2021), the United States Supreme Court granted an injunction blocking the enforcement of New York’s COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020—an anti-eviction law originally passed on December 28, 2020, and subsequently extended. SCOTUS found that the provision allowing tenants to submit an affidavit self-certifying their pandemic-related hardship to prevent eviction violated the plaintiffs-landlords’ due process rights (“Hardship Declaration”).

Background

When enacted on December 28, 2020, the CEEFPA stayed all pending residential eviction proceedings and foreclosure actions for 60 days and provided a further stay through May 1, 2021, to those defendants who provided their landlord or lender/servicer, as applicable, with a Hardship Declaration certifying that they have been negatively impacted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. On May 4, 2021, the CEEFPA was extended to, among other things, protect tenants who submitted a Hardship Declaration from eviction until August 31, 2021.

On May 6, 2021, a small group of landlords and the Rent Stabilization Association (“Landlords”) filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District of New York challenging the constitutionality of the CEEFPA. The district court dismissed the Landlords’ complaint and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied the Landlords’ request for an injunction pending their appeal. The Landlords then filed for a petition for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court and, on July 26, 2021, filed an application for emergency injunctive relief, which was presented to Justice Sotomayor and referred to SCOTUS.

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How SCOTUS Clarified the Spokeo Standard of “Concrete” Harm Necessary to Establish Article III Standing, and What It Means for the Future of Class Actions

Ana Tagvoryan, Deborah A. Skakel, Edward W. Chang, Scott E. Wortman, Jeffrey N. Rosenthal, Chenxi Jiao, and Harrison M. Brown

On June 25, 2021, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez, No. 20-297, 2021 WL 2599472 (U.S. June 25, 2021) (“TransUnion”), providing much needed clarity regarding the type of “concrete” harm necessary to establish a plaintiff’s standing under Article III of the United States Constitution.

In a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Kavanaugh, the Court expounded on its ruling in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 578 U.S. 330 (2016), using several examples to illustrate how to measure the harm plaintiffs allege from a statutory violation. As Justice Kavanaugh succinctly stated: “No concrete harm, no standing.”

In TransUnion, the lower court certified a class of 8,124 absent class members who purportedly suffered injury under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) because TransUnion had placed an alert on their credit report indicating that the consumer’s name was a “potential match” to a name on the list maintained by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) of terrorists, drug traffickers, and other serious criminals.

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