Meet the Mortgage: Your Invitation to a Face-to-Face Discussion

Meet the Mortgage: Your Invitation to a Face-to-Face Discussion

In a recent complex case involving foreclosure, Wells Fargo Bank emerged victorious against homeowner Jason A. Sutton. The bank was granted possession of the property in question, having met the requirements stipulated under federal regulations, which demand that the lender make earnest attempts to organize a face-to-face meeting with the homeowner before resorting to foreclosure. This judgment has now been reaffirmed, although it’s worth diving into the details for a more nuanced understanding of the case.

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Originally, Sutton had filed an appeal against the initial judgment. However, his notice of appeal was denied by the Housing Court clerk’s office, citing the Massachusetts COVID-19 pandemic eviction moratorium. Upon examination, the court determined that the clerk’s office should have, in fact, accepted and documented Sutton’s appeal. This was particularly interesting as Sutton had filed his appeal in a timely fashion, but it was rejected based on a misinterpretation of the law. The court clarified that the statute does not provide the authority for a clerk’s office to outright reject a notice of appeal, which gives the court the appellate jurisdiction needed to review the case.

The federal guidelines for VA-backed loans contain an exhaustive checklist that lenders must consult before proceeding with foreclosure. These guidelines require the lender to understand the reason behind the loan default, assess the borrower’s current financial circumstances, and attempt to devise a mutually agreeable plan to resolve the default. One significant component of these guidelines is the requirement for a “reasonable effort” to set up a face-to-face meeting with the borrower.

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In this particular case, Wells Fargo Bank was found to have gone to significant lengths to engage with Sutton. After he defaulted on his mortgage, the bank informed him of his rights and options through a letter. Further, a substantial phone conversation took place between the two parties, during which the bank gathered considerable financial information from Sutton. Despite these conscientious efforts and multiple follow-ups, Sutton failed to respond. Given his lack of response, the court found it reasonable that Wells Fargo could not realistically schedule a face-to-face meeting.

In conclusion, Wells Fargo Bank did everything by the book, making all “reasonable efforts” to reach out to Sutton before foreclosing on his property. The absence of a face-to-face meeting was due to Sutton’s lack of communication, and thus the judgment in favor of Wells Fargo Bank stands as valid.

The case is Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Sutton, presided over by Justice Ditkoff. The motion for summary judgment was heard by Judge Dina E. Fein, who also oversaw the original case. Legal representation for Wells Fargo included Sean R. Higgins and Brandon R. Dillman, while Sutton represented himself. The case holds particular importance given its deep dive into the intricacies of federal regulations and their application in foreclosure cases.

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