By Howard Lax, Bodman PLC
In Keen v. Helson and Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC (CA6 No. 18-6035, July 18, 2019), the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that only the persons signing a mortgage note have a right to sue for Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) violations under federal law. RESPA grants a private right of action to borrowers, but the statute does not define “borrower.” The court held that a borrower is the person who signs a note and directly receives the loan proceeds. Other loan beneficiaries do not have a right to sue the lender or loan servicer for violations of RESPA consumer protections. Hence, a spouse who signs the mortgage to release dower and/or homestead rights does not have the right to sue a loan servicer for violation of borrower protection requirements (12 CFR §§ 1024.30 to 1024.41), even when the spouse makes payments after the borrower dies. The court suggested that Keen might pursue her claims in state court under state consumer protection laws.
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