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What is the Effect of TILA Rescission on My Title? Can I Sue for Damages?

by Neil Garfield | August 6, 2018

I have been getting the same questions from multiple attorneys and homeowners. One of them is preparing a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on rescission, but is wondering, as things stand whether she has any right to sue for damages. When our team prepares a complaint or other pleading for a lawyer or homeowner we concentrate on the elements of what needs to be present and the logic of what we are presenting. It must be very compelling or the judge will regard it as just another attempt to get out of justly due debt.

Combining fact patterns from multiple inquiries we start with a homeowner who actually sent two notices of rescission (2010 and 2017). Questions vary from who do I sue for damages to how do I get my title back?

Note that the biggest and most common error in rescission litigation is that the homeowner attempts to (a) have the court declare the rescission effective contrary to their own argument that it is already effective by operation of law, 15 USC §1635, and (b) seek to enforce the TILA rescission statutory duties beyond one year after rescission.

Whether you can sue for damages is one question. Whether the rescission had the effect of removing the jurisdiction, right or authority to dispossess you of title is another. And whether title ever changed is yet another. Yes you can sue for damages if not barred by a statute of limitations. Yes authority is vitiated by operation of law regardless of the status of litigation. And NO, title never changed and you probably own your house unless state law restricts your right to claim such ownership.

All three questions are related.

Taking the last question (did title actually change?) first, my opinion is that the rescission was effective when mailed. Therefore the note and mortgage were void. The failure of the alleged “lender” to comply with the rescission duties and then pursue repayment within one year from the date of rescission bars them from pursuing the debt. So at this point in time (equally applicable to the 2017 rescission notice) there is no note, mortgage or enforceable debt.

  • Hence any further activities to enforce the note and mortgage were legally void. And that means that any change of title wherein a party received title via any instrument executed by anyone other than you is equally legally void. In fact, that would be the very definition of a wild deed.
  • The grantor did not have any right, title or interest to convey even if it was a Sheriff, Clerk or Trustee in a deed of trust.
  • Any other interpretation offered by the banks would in substance boil down to arguments about why the rescission notice should not be effective upon mailing, like the statute says and like SCOTUS said 9-0 in Jesinoski.
  • CAUSES OF ACTION would definitely include
    • the equitable remedy of mandatory and prohibitive injunctions to prevent anyone from clouding your title or harassing you for an unenforceable debt would apply. But as we have seen, the trial courts and even the appellate courts refuse to concede that the rescission notice is effective upon mailing by operation of law, voiding the note and mortgage.
    • such a petition could also seek supplemental relief (i.e., monetary damages) and could be pursued as long as the statute of limitations does not bar your claim for damages. This is where it gets academically interesting. You are more likely to be barred if you use the 20010 rescission than you are if you use the 2016 rescission.
    • a lawsuit for misrepresentation (intentional and/or negligent) might also produce a verdict for damages — compensatory and punitive. It can be shown that bank lawyers were publishing all over the internet warning the banks to stop ignoring rescission. They knew. And they did it anyway. Add that to the fact that the foreclosing party was most often a nonexistent trust with no substance to its claim as administrator of the loan, and the case becomes stronger and potentially more lucrative.
    • CLASS ACTION: Mass joinder would probably be the better vehicle but the FTC and AG’s (and other agencies) have bowed to bank pressure and made mass joinder a dirty word. It is the one vehicle that cannot be stopped for failure to certify a class because there is not class — just a group of people who have the same cause fo action with varying damages. The rules for class actions have become increasingly restrictive but it certainly appears that technically the legal elements for certification fo the class are present. It is very expensive for the lawyers, often exceeding $1 million in costs and expenses other than fees.
    • Bottom line is that you legally still own your property but it may take a court to legally unwind all of the wrongful actions undertaken by previous courts at the behest of banks misrepresenting the facts. Legally title never changed, in my opinion.

Taking the second question (the right to dispossess your title) my answer would obviously be in the negative (i.e., NO). Since there was no right to even attempt changing title without the homeowner’s consent and signature, petitions to vacate such actions and for damages would most likely apply.

  • This question is added because the courts are almost certainly going to confuse (intentionally or not) the difference between unauthorized actions and void actions.
  • The proper analysis is obviously that the rescission is effective upon mailing by operation of law.
  • Being effective by operation of law means that the action constitutes an event that has already happened at the moment that the law says it is effective. If a court views this simply as “unauthorized” actions then it will most likely slip back into its original “sin”, to wit: treating rescission as a claim rather than an event that has already transpired.

And lastly the issue of claims for damages. There are different elements to each potential cause of action for damages or supplemental relief. I would group them as negligence, fraud, and breach of statutory duty.

  • As to the last you are barred from enforcing statutory duties in the TILA rescission statute if you are seeking such relief more than one year after rescission. But there are other statutes — RESPA, FDCPA and state statutes that are intended to provide for consumer protection or redress when the statutes are violated. There are statutory limits on the amount of damages that can be awarded to a consumer borrower.
  • Fraud requires specific allegations of misrepresentations — not just an argument that the position taken by the banks and servicers was wrong or even wrongful. It also requires knowledge and intent to deceive. It is harder to prove first because fraud must be proven by clear and convincing evidence which is close to beyond a reasonable doubt. Second it is harder to prove because you must go into “state of mind” of a business entity. The reward for proving fraud is that it might open the door to punitive damages and such awards have been in the millions of dollars.
  • Negligence is the easier to prove that it is more likely than not that the Defendant violated a statutory or common law duty — a duty of care. So the elements are simple — duty, breach of that duty, proximate cause of injury, and the actual injury. Negligent misrepresentation and negligent super vision and gross negligence are popular.

 

 

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