How the 2014 Changes to Regulation Z (TILA) and Regulation X (RESPA) Impact Homeowners who are in Default on their Mortgage or in Bankruptcy

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is the federal agency that oversees and sets the standards and regulations for how home mortgages are serviced by lenders, particularly in the wake the post-2010 mortgage crisis. Amongst its many duties, the CFPB is tasked with creating and enforcing regulations on how home mortgages are serviced in the United States and, more specifically, how homeowners that are in default or in an active bankruptcy proceeding. In January 2014, the CFPB made some notable changes to Regulation Z (TILA) and Regulation X (RESPA) in an effort to provide homeowners with greater consumer protections regarding their mortgages.

For more information about foreclosure in Minnesota and options in bankruptcy, read Foreclosure in Minnesota: Know the Process, Timeline and How Bankruptcy Can Help.

As of January 10, 2014, the CFPB instituted new mandatory requirements regarding mortgages, including the following changes that apply to homeowners in bankruptcy proceedings:

  • “Dual tracking” of foreclosure actions now prohibited while a mortgage modification application is pending. Most important for many homeowners is that the recent 2014 changes now prohibit foreclosure while the homeowner has a mortgage modification application pending a response from their bank. “Dual tracking” is the practice of many banks to continue foreclosure proceedings while at the same time consider a mortgage modification application submitted by the homeowner. Understandably, this dual tracking caused enormous frustration for homeowners already struggling through the tedious and often prolonged process of obtaining a mortgage modification before the clock ticked down on a simultaneous foreclosure proceeding. Instead, mortgage servicers are now prohibited from initiating foreclosure proceedings during the first 120 days of delinquency and also must stop a foreclosure proceeding if the homeowner has submitted a “complete” application for loss mitigation.
  • Monthly mortgage statements must be provided despite the homeowner’s default or bankruptcy. Previously, many homeowners in default on their home mortgage or in an active bankruptcy proceeding experienced that their lender ceased sending the periodic mortgage statements that are relied on to track mortgage account information and make the monthly mortgage payments. With the 2014 changes, the mortgagee bank must now provide a homeowner who is 45 days or more delinquent with a detailed statement that includes, amongst other items: the date of first delinquency and a six-month account history that tracks the accrued delinquency over time, notification of risks such as foreclosure as well as loss mitigation options including mortgage modification and contact information for HUD-approved home counselors and the total amount due to bring the account current. These new rules do not apply to some fixed rate mortgages, reverse mortgages or timeshares.
  • Notice of all mortgage payment changes must be filed with the Bankruptcy Court and provided to Chapter 13 debtors. Previously, homeowners in bankruptcy cases were not always notified when their adjustable rate mortgage adjusted interest rate and, accordingly, their monthly payment also adjusted. With the 2014 changes, homeowners in Chapter 13 will receive notice from the mortgagee bank of the upcoming mortgage payment change since the bank must now file a statement with the bankruptcy court each time that the mortgage payment changes due to an adjustment in interest rate or other change in terms.
  • Force placed insurance now restricted. Previous to the 2014 changes by the CFPB, some mortgagee banks required that homeowners compensate the bank for mandatory hazard insurance that the bank obtains instead of the homeowner providing their own homeowner’s insurance. Once the bank obtained a separate insurance policy on the home, the bank would then force the homeowner to compensate the bank either by a mandatory and additional escrow into their mortgage payment and/or a charge-back to the homeowner for the bank-paid insurance. This force placed insurance often resulted in higher premiums to the homeowner, additional bank fees and increased the total arrearage owed to bring the mortgage current. The January 2014 changes now mandate that the mortgagee bank must now provide at least two notices to the homeowner requesting proof of insurance before the bank can institute the often more costly force placed insurance. Additionally when it is allowed after the requisite notice, the bank’s costs and fees associated with force placed insurance are also now restricted.
  • Banks must respond to homeowner request for account information and error reporting within 60 days. The 2014 changes to Regulations Z and X now require that mortgagee banks respond to homeowner requests for account information and alleged account errors within 60 days. Additionally, mortgagee banks must provide confirmation to the homeowner of their request within 5 days and must initiate an investigation within 30 days.

Links to more information on CFPB and consumer protection in mortgage servicing laws:

For more information on the foreclosure process in Minnesota and how Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy may help, contact Wartchow Law Office for a free bankruptcy consultation to understand your options.

How to Postpone the Sheriff’s Sale: Minnesota Statutory Postponement of Foreclosure Sale

In Minnesota, homeowners can apply for a postponement of the sheriff’s sale scheduled in a foreclosure process. So long as the foreclosure process is the standard “foreclosure by advertisement” (i.e., the most common Minnesota foreclosure process for residential homestead property), the sheriff’s sale is at least several weeks away, and the documents are properly completed and recorded in the correct offices, a sheriff’s sale will be automatically postponed by five months. The trade-off to gaining these extra months prior to foreclosure is that the usual six-month redemption period following foreclosure will be reduced to five weeks due to the postponement. Homeowners may wish to postpone their sheriff’s sale so that they remain record owner of the property so that they may qualify for a refinance or mortgage modification.

Under the Minnesota statute, the homeowner is referred to as the “mortgagor” and the lender is referred to as the “mortgagee”.

Be sure to follow the directions closely and watch the timeline for postponement, as the documents must be processed in a specific window of time at least 15 days prior to the sheriff’s sale date.

The general requirements for postponement of sheriff’s sale under Minnesota Statute 580.07:

  • Property must be classified as a homestead property.
  • Property must consist of one to four dwelling units.
  • Property is being foreclosed under a “foreclosure by advertisement” process having a six month redemption period under Minn. Stat. 580.23, subd 1.
  • Homeowner completes a notarized Affidavit of Postponement (see link below) and has it recorded at the county’s recorder office at least 15 days prior to the date scheduled for the sheriff’s sale. Be sure to keep a copy for the next step.
  • Homeowner files by mail or delivers in-person a copy of the recorded Affidavit of Postponement along with a copy of the Notice of Mortgage Foreclosure Sale to the county sheriff’s office at least 15 days prior to the sale date, along with the service fee. Note that the Notice of Mortgage Foreclosure Sale must be attached to the affidavit.
  • Deliver to the attorney/law firm conducting the mortgage foreclosure a copy of the recorded affidavit at the same time that the Affidavit is delivered to the sheriff’s office.

Resources for more information:

Lynn Wartchow is the founding attorney of Wartchow Law Office located in Edina, MN and represents individual consumer and business bankruptcy clients in the Minneapolis / St. Paul and greater Twin Cities metro area in Chapter 7, Chapter 13 and Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings filed in the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Minnesota. 

Condo, Townhome and HOA Association Liens in Minnesota

In Minnesota, if you have unpaid condominium or townhome association assessments—which are often called “HOAs”—these unpaid amounts operate automatically as a lien on the property under Minnesota Statute § 515B.3-116(a), which is part of the Minnesota Common Interest Ownership Act.

What a condo or townhome association lien typically means for the homeowner is that you cannot get out of paying past due HOA assessments while you own the property. Further, it means that the property can be foreclosed by the Association for unpaid homeowner’s association assessments even if you are current on your mortgages. Due to the financial risk of having unpaid HOAs, the Association’s Board of Directors will often opt to foreclose for lesser amounts and on quicker timelines than a mortgagee would typically foreclose an unpaid mortgage.

For the Association, the protection of an automatic Minnesota statutory lien on the property provides a high level of protection for the Association from accruing large amounts of unpaid HOA assessments for which the other members of the Association may have to make up via a special assessment. Unpaid HOA assessments can be collected upon against a unit owner via a lawsuit against the homeowner and very likely at the expense of the homeowner when the Association’s attorney fees are added to the statutory lien amount. Under the Minnesota Common Interest Ownership statute and likely under the Association’s declaration and bylaws, the automatic lien also includes other amounts and charges associate with collection efforts.

Additional to these legal remedies, many Minnesota homeowner’s declarations and bylaws include the provision that the Association may suspend the rights of any owner or occupant including their guests to use the common element amenities. This means that not only will that homeowner be denied their voting rights, but also that a homeowner’s right to use common amenities such as laundry, parking and other services may be suspended for the non-payment of HOA assessments and other charges due to the Association. Minnesota law does not usually allow for the Association to suspend utility services and physical access to the unit.

The best bet is to stay current on your Association dues and avoid any accrual of assessments, late charges and other fees. Bankruptcy may help you by discharging some amounts due to the Association, but the availability of bankruptcy relief for condo or townhome liens is often dependent on the individual circumstances and whether the owner intends to keep the property.

Located in Edina, Lynn Wartchow represents homeowners in all Chapters of bankruptcy in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Ramsey and Hennepin County, and throughout Minnesota.

Homeowners Associations and Bankruptcy: How Does Bankruptcy Affect My Condo or Townhome and My Association Dues (HOAs)?

The prevalence of condo and townhome development in the mid-2000s throughout Minneapolis and the suburbs was hit especially hard by the decline in the real estate market, with prices sinking disproportionately on these urban homes that were often originally overpriced and over-marketed to younger consumers. Owners of condos or townhomes who file bankruptcy should be aware of the Minnesota laws that govern the association’s rights as well as be properly advised of what bankruptcy can and cannot do with regard to unpaid HOA assessments.

Under Minnesota law, a homeowner’s association has a statutory lien for any unpaid HOA assessments, which means that unpaid association dues automatically become a lien against the property much like a second mortgage would be however without the need for the HOA to record the lien with the county. Additionally, the association also has a claim against the homeowner for any unpaid HOA dues incurred prior to filing bankruptcy. With both avenues of relief available, the association has several options to collect against a defaulting homeowner, including restriction of rights to use common amenities, bringing a civil action against the homeowner and even foreclosure of the unit under Minnesota law.

While the bankruptcy of an association member will discharge their personal liability to repay the HOA assessments accrued through the file date of the bankruptcy case, the association nonetheless still retains its lien against the property. This association lien can be foreclosed just same as an unpaid second mortgage. An association lien often also includes additional amounts for unpaid late charges or interest, fines imposed upon an owner for violations of the HOA’s rules and regulations, attorney fees incurred by the association, and any other amounts charged against an owner under the association’s declaration.

In either Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13, the rule of thumb is that a homeowner will be liable for most if not all HOA assessments in spite of their bankruptcy, particularly if the property is not foreclosed or otherwise the homeowner continues to own the property. This is because any HOAs arising after the file date of a bankruptcy case are not included in the bankruptcy, and any HOAs that arose prior to the file date of a bankruptcy case usually remain a lien against the property and therefore must be paid off in order for the owner to sell or refinance. If the property is foreclosed, the homeowner generally will owe all HOAs due through the later date of either the foreclosure (i.e., the sheriff’s sale in Minnesota) or the homeowner’s bankruptcy.

In Chapter 13, the homeowner can obtain relief with regard to HOA arrears by paying those off with interest over the course of a three to five year Chapter 13 plan.

If you are considering bankruptcy and own a condo or townhome, it’s important to understand how bankruptcy may impact your liability for HOA association dues and other assessments, your right to continue to occupy the property and use the common amenities (noting some amenities can be denied), and foreclosure. Especially under these circumstances, you should seek advice from a bankruptcy attorney who can advise you on the best way to obtain bankruptcy relief while protecting your interests with regard to your property.

Lynn Wartchow is a Minneapolis / St. Paul area bankruptcy attorney representing clients in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 consumer bankruptcy proceedings in Minnesota since 2005. Email for a free bankruptcy consultation to understand your options in Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Foreclosure in Minnesota: Know the Process, Timeline and How Bankruptcy Can Help

Home foreclosures in Minnesota are common and arguably are even on the rise despite an improving real estate market. In April 2012, the Star Tribune reported that while foreclosures were slightly down during the first quarter of 2012, signs still point to an 11 percent increase in Minnesotans facing foreclosure, adding that one in 312 Minnesota homeowners have received some sort of notice of foreclosure.

Home foreclosure in Minnesota happens via one of two legal proceedings: either the lender forecloses by advertisement or the lender forecloses by action. This post only discusses foreclosure by advertisement, which is the more common of the two Minnesota home foreclosure processes.

In a foreclosure by advertisement, the defaulting homeowner will typically receive one or more pre-foreclosure notices that warn of their lender’s intent to start the foreclosure process if payments are not brought current within a specified time. The time between the first default in mortgage payments and a homeowner’s receipt of the pre-foreclosure notice can be one to three months or more, depending on the lender and any efforts the homeowner may be making to do a workout with their lender. After the pre-foreclosure notice has gone out and the homeowner still has not brought their mortgage current, the lender will then serve the homeowner with a notice of sheriff’s sale. While the Minnesota laws governing service of process in a foreclosure proceeding are detailed, most homeowners are served in-person with the foreclosure papers at their home address. The Notice of Sheriff’s Sale, sometimes also called the auction notice, will provide the date, time and location of the upcoming sheriff’s sale, usually to be held six weeks after the date of service and at the county sheriff’s office. Once the sheriff’s sale has come and passed, ownership of the home transfers to the winning bidder (which is usually the lender for the first mortgage on the home) and the homeowner then has his or her redemption period to reside in the home before vacating it permanently. The length of the redemption period varies according to circumstances, but is most often six months from the date of the sheriff’s sale.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy can help a homeowner save their home from foreclosure by providing an avenue to repay the mortgage arrears over three to five years in a Chapter 13 plan. In fact, mortgage arrears is one of the most Common Reasons for Filing Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Minnesota. If the homeowner can afford to make the monthly Chapter 13 plan payments, their mortgage may be brought current at the end of the Chapter 13 plan, in addition to the discharge of other debts allowed in bankruptcy.

Chapter 7 can stall the foreclosure process for two or more months and, like Chapter 13 bankruptcy, can also serve to discharge any deficiency owed on the second mortgage. While Chapter 7 bankruptcy will not help to resolve any mortgage arrears owed so that the homeowner can save their home, it can buy more time in the house before the homeowner must leave.

Keep reading for more information about How to Postpone a Sheriff’s Sale in Minnesota.

While Minnesota law governs the foreclosure process, the terms of a mortgage also govern a homeowner’s rights and a lender’s ability to foreclose. For more information on the foreclosure process in Minnesota and how Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy may help, contact Wartchow Law Office for a free bankruptcy consultation to understand your options.

When Will I Owe a “Deficiency” after Foreclosure in Minnesota? It Depends.

Under some circumstances after foreclosure, a deficiency may still be owed on a foreclosed property. A deficiency or “deficiency judgment” is obtained by some lenders (a.k.a. “mortgagees”) after a foreclosure on real estate where the sales price of the property does not cover the balance due on the mortgage plus related any fees and costs. The amount of the deficiency is usually the difference between the total amount due on the note including expenses and costs and the amount received from the foreclosure sale (or the fair market value of the mortgaged property if the property is agricultural).

Typically under the Minnesota Anti-Deficiency Statute (Minn. Stat. 582.30), a homeowner is protected from owing a deficiency on the first mortgage on foreclosed homestead real estate. This protection only applies to certain, although common, circumstances where the property is the owner’s home and the foreclosure process was conducted as a foreclosure by advertisement. If the property is not homestead, or otherwise if the owner moves out of the property or the property is foreclosed by action, Minnesota’s statutory protection against a deficiency may not apply.

Indications that no deficiency may be owed on a foreclosed home:

  • Property is classified as a homestead property
  • The home’s value is more than what was owed on the mortgage (i.e., the home had equity)
  • Foreclosure was conducted as a “foreclosure by advertisement”
  • Mortgage in question was the first mortgage
  • Home was not abandoned before the foreclosure process was complete
  • A discharge was received in prior bankruptcy and no refinance or reaffirmation of the mortgage has occurred since

Indications that a deficiency may be owed on a foreclosed home:

  • The property was non-homestead property, i.e. rental, agricultural or commercial property
  • The amount due on the mortgage exceeds the value or sales price of the property (i.e., no equity exists in the property)
  • Mortgage in question was the second or third mortgage (i.e., any mortgage other than first priority lien)
  • Foreclosure was conducted as a “foreclosure by action”
  • Instead of foreclosure, the property was short sold, surrendered or transferred back to the lender by a deed in lieu

A discharge in Chapter 7, Chapter 13 (or Chapter 11) bankruptcy relieves a debtor from owing a deficiency on a foreclosed mortgage in most instances. In order to understand your rights and the potential liability for deficiency that you may face, you should contact an attorney to review the real estate property and foreclosure process applicable to you.

Lynn Wartchow is the founding attorney of Wartchow Law Office located in Edina, MN and represents individual consumer and business bankruptcy clients in the Minneapolis / St. Paul and greater Twin Cities metro area in Chapter 7, Chapter 13 and Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings filed in the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Minnesota. Wartchow Law Office also represents consumer debtors in bankruptcy proceedings filed in the Western District of Wisconsin.

Received a Form 1099-C on Foreclosed Home? You May Qualify for the Mortgage Forgiveness Exclusion to Cancellation of Debt Income.

If you receive a Form 1099-C reporting ‘debt cancellation’ income after a home foreclosure, you may qualify for the Mortgage Forgiveness exclusion. As if the distress of home foreclosure isn’t enough, homeowners may receive a Form 1099-C from their former mortgage lender reporting the deficiency owed as income to the homeowner. The income reported on the Form 1099-C is what’s referred to as “Cancellation of Debt Income” or “Discharge of Indebtedness Income”, both of which generally must be reported as taxable income on an individual’s Form 1040 federal and state tax returns. When the 1099 relates to foreclosed real estate, the amount of cancelled debt can be significant and can consequently result in a substantial increase in tax liability for that year, loss of tax refunds or even additional tax liabilities owed to the IRS and Minnesota Department of Revenue.

For a more detailed discussion on tax debt and other tax resolution issues, be sure to read Wartchow Law’s Tax Blog.

Typically, cancellation of debt is an income realization event that must be reported on one’s tax returns. The idea is that any amount of principal or interest that a person legally owes but does not have to repay is considered taxable income in the year that such debt is cancelled. As an illustration, if you owe a commercial lender $15,000 between interest and principal due on a loan but that creditor agrees to accept $5,000 and cancel the other $10,000 in satisfaction of the full amount, that creditor is required by federal law to issue an IRS Form 1099-C, which reports the $10,000 cancelled debt as taxable income to you. Depending on the circumstances, the amount reported on Form 1099 must be included as personal income unless a statutory exclusion applies. Most of the IRS’s income exclusions are conditioned upon insolvency of the taxpayer—i.e., total debts exceed total fair market value of all assets—however bankruptcy is not necessarily required to qualify under certain IRS insolvency exclusions. Even in the absence of insolvency, a homeowner may still qualify for the Mortgage Forgiveness exclusion.

The Mortgage Forgiveness exclusion is provided under the Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007, which allows most taxpayers to exclude 1099 income resulting from the discharge of debt on their principal residence. The key to qualifying for this exclusion is that the debt must have been incurred to buy, build or substantially improve your principal residence and the debt must have been secured by your principal residence. Most traditional mortgages on homestead properties would meet this criteria. Currently, the Mortgage Debt Relief Act only applies through 2012, after which it may be extended by additional act of Congress.

When an individual files for bankruptcy, Section 108 of the Internal Revenue Code automatically excludes any debt that was discharged in the bankruptcy from taxable income. This is why consumer debtors who receive a discharge in a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceeding rarely receive a 1099 regarding any of the discharged debts (and if you do, you should talk to your tax preparer about your options to dispute the 1099).

Wartchow Law Office is a law firm located in Edina, Minnesota with  an exclusive practice in Chapter 7, Chapter 13 and Chapter 11 bankruptcy law,  representing individual consumer and business clients throughout the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota.

For more information on The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act and Debt Cancellation, see IRS Publication 4681 and IRS Form 982 available on the IRS website at www.irs.gov. You should always ask your tax professional for tax advice and not rely on information found online. This information is intended for entertainment purposes only and use of any information from this site or any other web site referred to is for general information only and does not represent personal tax advice either express or implied. You are encouraged to seek professional tax advice for personal income tax questions and assistance.  

Bankruptcy May Increase Your Options in Foreclosure

Foreclosure is a common predicament faced by many people filing bankruptcy, and is an issue that affects homeowners at every income level. If you are behind or “in arrears” on your mortgage payments for more than a couple months, chances are your primary mortgage lender will send you a pre-foreclosure notice demanding that you make payment otherwise they will take legal action. Eventually if the mortgage is not brought current, a mortgage lender will initiate a foreclosure proceeding. Once served with the notice of sheriff’s sale that formally commences a foreclosure proceeding, most homeowners have six weeks until their house is sold at the county sheriff’s office and then six months thereafter to remain in the home through the redemption period*.

If you want to save your home and stop a sheriff’s sale, bankruptcy can help. While both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy will stop the ticking clock of a foreclosure or sheriff’s sale, Chapter 13 may also help you save your home by providing a way for you to pay mortgage arrears over time through a Chapter 13 payment plan, while still resolving other unsecured debts such as credit cards that may restrict your cash flow. Either form of bankruptcy puts an automatic stay on the foreclosure process—that is to say, it freezes the foreclosure process—from the moment a bankruptcy petition is filed, providing you with crucial time while your sheriff’s sale is temporarily stayed.

Even if you want to move forward without your home, Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy can provide months more time in the house without mortgage payments, truly offering a fresh start and way to rebuild your finances for what’s next. And because bankruptcy is a long term solution to dischargeable debts, you won’t receive a deficiency judgment or taxable 1099 on a foreclosed or short sold property once you receive a discharge in bankruptcy.

If you are in the midst of foreclosure, the best time to take advantage of your bankruptcy options is prior to the sheriff’s sale. Even after a sheriff’s sale, you may still have options to extend the time you can stay in the home and also discharge of the underlying debts.

This website has extensive information on the foreclosure process in Minnesota, what Chapter 13 can do to help you save your home, and how bankruptcy can minimize your debt while maximize the time you can stay in the home should it go through foreclosure.

*The foreclosure process, timeline and other requirements of law vary on the type of real estate owned and the type of foreclosure proceeding commenced by a lender, amongst other factors. The information provided here represents the general foreclosure process in Minnesota and you should always consult an attorney for how the law applies under your specific circumstances.