Statute - September 12, 2002

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Statute - September 12, 2002


    1001 Connecticut Avenue, NW, CONSUMER LAW Suite 510

    Washington, DC 20036 CENTER INC Tel. (202) 452-6252

    Fax (202)463-9462


    January 18, 2008

    1. Title; Declaration of Purpose

1.1. This Chapter shall be known as the “Foreclosure Rescue Fraud Prevention Act.”

1.2. This Act shall be liberally construed to effectuate its purpose, which is to prevent

    homeowners who are facing foreclosure from becoming the victim of persons who

    purport to help save the home while actually taking title to the home and the

    homeowner’s equity.

1.3. The legislature finds that when a homeowner transfers title to the home as part of a

    foreclosure rescue transaction, the homeowner’s intent is merely to provide security for

    the loan of money to avoid foreclosure, not to transfer the home to the rescuer. The

    purpose of this law is to require that all foreclosure rescue transactions comply with

    lending laws; to provide a mechanism to restructure foreclosure rescue transactions and

    other equitable mortgages from a transfer of title into a loan to conform with the

    homeowner’s intentions; to define and forbid certain unfair foreclosure rescue

    transactions; to set out factors that put a potential purchaser or lender on notice to inquire

    as to the rights of a person in possession of the property; and to set out remedies for a

    violation of the Act.

    2. Definitions

2.1. "Bona fide purchaser or lender."

2.1.1. “Bona fide purchaser or lender” means anyone acting in good faith who purchases

    property, as defined in this Act, from the grantee for valuable consideration or

    makes a mortgage loan to the grantee or a subsequent bona fide purchaser, provided

    that he or she had no prior notice of the homeowner's continuing interest, equity or

    right to possess the property, of the facts deeming the deed or conveyance to be an

    equitable mortgage, or of any violation of this Chapter.

2.1.2. In addition to any other grounds for notice under state or federal law, a purported

    bona fide purchaser or lender is on inquiry notice as to the rights of any person in

    possession of the property if the purchaser or lender, or his or her agent, has notice

    (i) that the property is or was in foreclosure or default, or was within the previous 12

    months, and (ii) one or more of the following factors applies:

    thBoston Office: 77 Summer Street, 10 Floor, Boston, MA 02110, (617) 542-8010 Fax (617) 542-8028 total consideration paid to the homeowner, as described in section 5.6.1,

    was less than 82% of the fair market value of the property; homeowner intends to remain or has remained in the property after

    transferring title; grantee who seeks to sell or mortgage the property does not intend to live

    or is not living in the property after acquiring title; property was transferred from the homeowner through a quit claim deed or

    power of attorney, or without a formal closing; grantee seeks a purchase money loan and the purported bona fide lender

    failed to review the purchase and sale documents governing the grantee’s

    acquisition of the property; remain or will remain on the property for which the

    homeowner could be liable after transfer of title; payments made upon the transfer of title from the homeowner (i) are

    characterized as payoffs of liens or other encumbrances not on the title, (ii) are

    due to the homeowner but are assigned to another person; or (iii) violate the

    Real Estate Settlements Procedures Act, 12 U.S.C. ? 2601 et seq. ; grantee is an inter vivos trust created after the default or foreclosure; or purchaser or lender has any other reason to know that the deed or

    conveyance is an equitable mortgage or that the homeowner intends to retain

    title to or possession of the property.

    2.2. “Foreclosure” means the state law process by which a person with a security interest in

    residential property may foreclose on that security interest.

    2.3. “Foreclosure rescue transaction.”

    2.3.1. “Foreclosure rescue transaction” means a transaction that meets all of the

    following elements: subject to this Act is conveyed by a homeowner to a grantee; property is, or was at the time of the foreclosure rescue transaction, in

    default or foreclosure; transaction is designed, intended or promoted by the parties as a means to

    avoid or delay actual or anticipated foreclosure proceedings against the

    property while permitting the homeowner to maintain a legal or equitable

    interest in the property conveyed, including, without limitation, a lease interest,

    a right to possession, an option to acquire the property, or other interest in the

    property conveyed; and grantee enters into the transaction for compensation or gain or for potential

    or contingent compensation or gain.

    2.3.2. A transaction shall not be deemed to be a foreclosure rescue transaction merely

    because it provides the homeowner up to three months beyond the transfer date to

    vacate the property, provided that it is clear from all of the circumstances that the

    homeowner has no expectation of remaining in the property beyond the date to


    2.3.3. The term “foreclosure rescue transaction” includes any contract, agreement, or

    arrangement, or any term thereof, between a grantee and a homeowner that is

    incident to a foreclosure rescue transaction.

    2.3.4. Parol evidence is admissible to show that a transaction is a foreclosure rescue


    2.4. “Formal closing” means an in-person, face-to-face meeting with the homeowner

    conducted by and in the office of a closing agent who is not employed by or affiliated

    with the grantee to complete final documents incident to the sale or transfer of an interest

    in property, or the creation of a mortgage or equitable interest in property, during which

    the homeowner must be presented with a completed copy of any settlement statement

    required under state or federal law.

    2.5. "Grantee" means any person who acquires title to property, as defined in this Act . The

    term “grantee” includes the grantee’s representative as defined in this subdivision,

    successor in interest, or any person acting in joint venture or joint enterprise with the

    grantee. The term “grantee” does not include a person who acquires title as follows:

2.5.1. by a deed as a result of a foreclosure sale;

    2.5.2. by a deed in lieu of foreclosure of any voluntary lien or encumbrance of record,

    other than a lien or encumbrance created in connection with a foreclosure rescue


    2.5.3. at a short sale at which the outstanding obligations against the property, other than

    obligations created in connection with a foreclosure rescue transaction or equitable

    mortgage, are greater than the fair market value of the property;

2.5.4. at any sale of property authorized by statute;

2.5.5. by order or judgment of any court; or

    2.5.6. as a bona fide purchaser or lender as defined in this Act.

    2.6. “Homeowner” means a natural person who, at the time of the foreclosure rescue

    transaction or the creation of an equitable mortgage, held title to the property as defined

    in this Act.

2.7. “In default” means a property whose owner is more than 90 days delinquent on any loan

    or debt, including real estate taxes, that is secured by the property.

2.8. “In foreclosure” means a property for which a secured party or taxing authority has

    initiated a foreclosure.

2.9. “Property” means residential property, whether real or personal, including

    condominiums, modular homes or manufactured or mobile homes, consisting of from

    one to six dwelling units at least one of which is occupied or was occupied prior to the

    transfer of title to the property by the homeowner as a primary residence.

    2.10. "Representative" means a person who in any manner solicits, induces, arranges, or

    causes a homeowner to transfer title or solicits any member of the homeowner's family

    or household to induce or cause a homeowner to transfer title to the property pursuant to

    a foreclosure rescue transaction.

2.11. Title” includes title to or ownership of the property, as well as ownership of an

    interest in the property through a trust document.

    3. Equitable Mortgages.

3.1. Every deed or other conveyance of an interest in property that purports to be an absolute

    conveyance of title to property but was made as security for the performance of an

    obligation, is deemed to be an equitable mortgage. The obligation may have been

    created prior to or contemporaneous with the conveyance and need not be the personal

    liability of any person.

3.2. Intent that the deed or other conveyance serve as security may be inferred by a

    preponderance of the evidence from the totality of the circumstances, including but not

    limited to the following factors:

    3.2.1. statements of the parties;

    3.2.2. the presence of a substantial disparity between the value received by the

    homeowner and the fair market value of the property at the time of the transaction;

    3.2.3. the fact that the homeowner retained possession of the property;

    3.2.4. the fact that the homeowner reserved or was assured an option to repurchase,

    retain or regain title to the property;

    3.2.5. the fact that the homeowner continued to pay real estate taxes on the property;

    3.2.6. the fact that the homeowner continued to pay or to be liable for other

    encumbrances on the property;

    3.2.7. the fact that the homeowner made post-conveyance improvements to the property;


    3.2.8. the nature of the parties and their relationship prior to and after the conveyance.

3.3. Parol evidence shall be admissible to prove that a transaction is an equitable mortgage.

3.4. The grantee of a deed or conveyance that is deemed to be an equitable mortgage is

    deemed to be a mortgagee and may not evict the homeowner nor cause the homeowner

    to quit involuntarily, other than by foreclosure pursuant to the procedures of state law,

    nor may the grantee transfer or encumber any interest in the property. Any such transfer

    or encumbrance is void as to anyone but a bona fide purchaser or lender.

3.5. A transaction deemed to be an equitable mortgage must comply with all applicable state

    and federal laws governing mortgages in property covered by this Act.

3.6. The provisions of this Chapter are in addition to and do not preclude any rights or

    remedies relating to equitable mortgages under common law.

    4. Foreclosure Rescue Transactions.

4.1. All foreclosure rescue transactions are conclusively deemed to be equitable mortgages

    subject to Section 3 without further proof of the elements of that Section.

4.2. All deeds or other conveyances transferring title to property from a homeowner pursuant

    to a foreclosure rescue transaction shall carry the statement on the face of the deed or

    conveyance: “This property is subject to the Foreclosure Rescue Fraud Prevention Act.”

4.3. If the grantee records any deed or other conveyance transferring title from the

    homeowner pursuant to a foreclosure rescue transaction, the grantee shall also document

    and record with the County Recorder’s office any legal or equitable interest that the

    homeowner retains in the title of the property as described in Section 2.3.3. Failure to

    comply with sections 4.2 or 4.3 shall not affect the homeowner’s rights and remedies

    under this Chapter.

4.4. Unfair foreclosure rescue transactions are unlawful, void and a violation of ___. A

    foreclosure rescue transaction is unfair if it meets any of the following criteria:

    4.4.1. The grantee has violated Section 3.4 or 3.5;

    4.4.2. The grantee fails to pay the homeowner consideration amounting to at least 82

    percent of the fair market value of the property. Consideration includes only those

    payments set forth in Section 5.6.1.

    4.4.3. The grantee fails to verify that the homeowner has or is likely to have a reasonable

    ability to make any payments required under the foreclosure rescue transaction and

    to pay for the subsequent reconveyance back to the homeowner of the full title

    previously held by homeowner, based upon consideration of the homeowner’s

    current and expected income, current obligations, employment status, and other

    financial resources (other than the homeowner’s equity in the property that is the

    subject of the transaction), as verified by documentation of all sources of income and

    corroborated by independent verification. is a rebuttable presumption that the grantee has not verified reasonable

    payment ability if the grantee has not obtained documents other than a

    statement by the homeowner of assets, liabilities and income. is a rebuttable presumption that a homeowner has a reasonable ability to

    pay if the grantee demonstrates that at the time the foreclosure rescue

    transaction is consummated, the homeowner’s total monthly debts, including

    amounts owed under the transaction, do not exceed fifty percent of the

    homeowner’s monthly gross income; and the grantee follows the residual

    income guidelines established in 38 C.F.R. ? 36.4337(e) and VA Form 26-

    6393 or their successors.

    4.4.4. The homeowner’s cost to repurchase or to reacquire title to the property exceeds

    the consideration paid to the homeowner as set forth in section 5.6.1 by more than

    10% if the repurchase is exercised within 24 months of the sale, by more than 15% if

    the purchase is exercised more than 24 but within 36 months after the sale, or by

    more than 18% if the repurchase is exercised more than 36 months after the sale.

    4.4.5. The homeowner remains liable for an existing mortgage loan on the property.

    4.4.6. The transaction, restructured as an equitable mortgage pursuant to Section 5, is a

    mortgage referred to in 15 U.S.C. ? 1602(aa) [the Home Owner’s Equity Protection

    Act] and its implementing regulations; or

    4.4.7. The foreclosure rescue transaction is otherwise unfair, deceptive, or commercially


    4.4.8. The criteria set forth in this subsection are for purposes of identifying unfair

    foreclosure rescue transactions and shall not limit a homeowner’s damages against

    the grantee of an unfair foreclosure rescue transaction.

    5. Reformation of Equitable Mortgage.

    5.1. Voidable Deed. A deed or other conveyance that is deemed an equitable mortgage is

    voidable, except as to a bona fide purchaser or bona fide lender, and may be reformed

    into an equitable mortgage at any time while the homeowner remains in possession of

    the property or within three months after the homeowner’s loss of possession of the property other than by way of foreclosure by a party other than the grantee.

    5.2. Demand to Return Title. The homeowner may void a deed or conveyance that is

    deemed an equitable mortgage pursuant to Section 3 or 4.1 and demand that the grantee

    reform the transaction into an equitable mortgage within the time set forth in Section 5.1

    by giving written notice to the grantee or his or her successor in interest. The notice

    need not take any particular form and, however expressed, is effective if it indicates the

    intention of the homeowner to retain or regain title to the property.

    5.3. Recording of Demand to Return Title. If the transaction is a foreclosure rescue

    transaction the homeowner may record the demand to return title with the County

    Recorder’s office of the county in which the property is located, within the time set forth

    in Section 5.1. In order to be recorded, the notice shall contain the name of the

    homeowner and the grantee, shall particularly describe the property, and shall cite this

    Act. The demand to return title shall expire and shall have no effect on the rights of a

    subsequent purchaser or lender if the homeowner has not recorded a lis pendens within

    30 days after recording the demand to return title.

    5.4. Obligation to Return Title. Within 20 calendar days after receipt of a demand to return

    title, the grantee shall reconvey title to the homeowner, subject to any equitable

    mortgage pursuant to 5.5 and 5.6 but free and clear of any encumbrances other than tax

    or utility obligations for which the homeowner would have been responsible had title not

    been transferred.

    5.5. No Prior Tender Required; Recording of Equitable Mortgage. The homeowner’s

    right to void the deed or other conveyance and demand return of the title, and the

    grantee’s obligation to return title, may not be conditioned on the homeowner’s

    repayment of any funds. The recording of the reconveyance may be accompanied by a

    Notice of Equitable Mortgage asserting a mortgage in the amount due pursuant to

    Section 5.6 as follows:

    Notice of Equitable Mortgage. Notice is hereby given that ______ hereby asserts

    an equitable mortgage of $_________against this property pursuant to the

    Foreclosure Rescue Fraud Prevention Act.”

If the amount of the equitable mortgage asserted by the grantee does not conform to the

    requirements of Section 5.6, the homeowner may bring an appropriate action to dispute it

    in court.

    5.6. Obligations Under the Equitable Mortgage. If the grantee has paid any money to or

    on behalf of the homeowner, that money shall be deemed and held an equitable mortgage

    as follows:

    5.6.1. The following shall be deemed the principal of the equitable mortgage: money paid to the homeowner; money paid on behalf of the homeowner that reduced the homeowner’s

    legal obligations secured by the property to persons unaffiliated with the

    grantee; and money paid on behalf of the homeowner to a person unaffiliated with the

    grantee that was necessary to prevent a foreclosure of the property.

    5.6.2. All other fees, charges, interest or other costs paid by the homeowner as part of

    the transaction or for which the homeowner is obligated shall be treated as interest

    and charges on a loan of money secured by a lien on a home under state and federal

    law. If the equitable mortgage is an unfair foreclosure rescue transaction as defined

    in this Act, all such fees, charges, interest or other costs are void and must be

    refunded by the grantee to the homeowner.

    5.6.3. Any payments that the homeowner has made in connection with the transaction

    deemed to be an equitable mortgage, including but not limited to any fees, charges,

    interest, rent, or other payments, shall be deemed payments on the equitable

    mortgage for purposes of state and federal law.

    5.6.4. The balance of the equitable mortgage shall be further reduced by any damages or

    statutory penalties owed by the grantee to the homeowner under this section or any

    other state or federal law governing the transaction.

5.7. Payment of the Equitable Mortgage.

    5.7.1. After the grantee has complied with Section 5.4, the homeowner shall either

    tender the full balance of the equitable mortgage to the grantee within 120 days, or

    make monthly payments to the grantee for one year in an amount based on a 30-year

    amortization of the amount due pursuant to Section 5.6.1, followed by payment of

    the remaining balance in full. Until paid, the balance on the equitable mortgage

    accrues interest at the legal rate from the date of the grantee’s compliance with

    Section 5.4. The court shall not shorten the time for tender or condition the

    grantee’s obligations under Section 5.4 on tender by the homeowner.

    5.7.2. The homeowner’s failure to repay the balance of the equitable mortgage shall not

    invalidate the voiding of the deed or conveyance nor the reconveyance of the

    property. If the homeowner fails to repay the equitable mortgage as set forth in

    Section 5.7.1, the grantee may recover the balance of the equitable mortgage by way

    of foreclosure pursuant to the procedures of state law.

    6. Actions for damages or equitable relief. A homeowner may bring an action for the

    recovery of damages, declaratory or equitable relief for a violation of this Act. The court may

    award to a prevailing homeowner actual damages plus reasonable attorneys' fees, costs and

    expenses. The court may increase the award to an amount not to exceed three times the

    homeowner's actual damages if the court deems such award proper. Any action brought

    pursuant to this Act shall be commenced within six years after the date of the alleged

    violation; provided, however, that a court may grant relief to void or otherwise reverse

    transfer of title from the homeowner only if the action is filed within the time set forth in

    Section 5.1.

    7. Stay of Eviction Action.

7.1. A court hearing an eviction action against the homeowner must stay the eviction action,

    without imposition of a bond, if the homeowner has commenced an action asserting a

    violation of this Act, or has made a prima facie case that the eviction plaintiff is merely a

    mortgagee of an equitable mortgage and has no right to evict. Any court with jurisdiction

    over claims related to the equitable mortgage or foreclosure rescue transaction may issue

    a stay of any eviction action on the same grounds.

7.2. A prima facie case consists of a showing that the homeowner conveyed title to the

    property while the homeowner was in foreclosure or default; that the homeowner

    retained possession of the property subsequent to conveying title; and that the

    homeowner was given or assured an opportunity to retain or regain title to or possession

    of the property. Parol evidence is admissible to make this showing.

7.3. The stay expires upon the latter of:

    7.3.1. the failure of the homeowner to commence an action in a court of competent

    jurisdiction pursuant to this Act within 90 days of the issuance of the stay, or

    7.3.2. the issuance of an order lifting the stay by a court hearing claims related to the

    equitable mortgage or foreclosure rescue transaction.

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