Arguing that an Otherwise Valid Foreclosure Should Not Be Invalidated Because the Mortgagee Allegedly did Not Comply Fully with the Requirement Under Massachusetts Law that, Before Taking Possession or Conveying Title, Notice Must Be Given to Tenants, Certain Municipal Officials, and Any Provider of Water and Sewer Services to the Property
Since the collapse of the housing market in 2008, there has been an increased number lawsuits in which a homeowner has sought to thwart or undo a foreclosure on the grounds that the foreclosing party failed to comply with some requirement of the Commonwealth’s nonjudicial foreclosure law. This is another such case, the latest in a string of cases that commenced with U.S. Bank N.A. v. Ibanez, 458 Mass. 637 (2011).
The homeowner here asks the courts to find the foreclosure sale of his property void on the grounds that the mortgagee bank failed to comply with one of a series of statutes that, purportedly, the SJC has declared set out the steps required in order to effect a valid foreclosure sale under the statutory power of sale. This particular statute requires that, within 30 days of the closing, the foreclosing party give notice of the closing to the municipal tax assessor and any sewer or water provider. Since there is no dispute about the failure of the bank to comply with this requirement, the case boils down to whether the SJC really meant what it purportedly said in the six cases the homeowner relies on—and, if so, whether the SJC should continue to mean it.
In its amicus brief, filed in support of the bank, NELF argues that the plaintiff relies exclusively on pure dicta, a point NELF illustrates by analyzing U.S. Bank N.A. v. Schumacher, 467 Mass. 421 (2011), Turra’s strongest case. NELF urges the Court not to be bound by dicta because this important issue has never been placed squarely before the Court and briefed until now. Moving to the substantive legal question raised by this case, NELF demonstrates that the plaintiff’s view of this post-sale notice statute cannot be reconciled with the plain language of G.L. c. 183, § 21, which creates a right to foreclosure by statutory power of sale and which describes all the statutory requirements for the exercise of that power as pre-sale requirements. NELF then shows that the description given in § 21 also excludes from being foreclosure sale requirements other statutes mentioned in the dicta Turra cites, thereby further undermining his argument that the dicta provides a reliable, complete list of statute a mortgagee must comply with. Finally, NELF analyzes the language of the notice statute in question and shows that the statute is not even mandatory, but rather directory.