A trial court doesn’t have the authority to modify a mortgage agreement without the consent of both parties participating in a settlement conference if they don’t agree to the terms of a foreclosure prevention agreement, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.
In Nationstar Mortgage, LLC v. Jeffrey A. Curatolo, et al., 45A03-1211-MF-469, Nationstar Mortgage LLC appealed the trial court order modifying its mortgage agreement with Jeffrey Curatolo. Curatolo executed the $245,000 mortgage in 2006, which was assigned to Nationstar in 2010. It filed its complaint to foreclosure in September 2011.
The parties entered into a foreclosure settlement conference, as allowed under I.C. 32-30-10.5, in which Curatolo successfully completed a three-month plan set up by Nationstar. But the mortgage company wanted new financial documents because of a discrepancy in Curatolo’s stated income and then sought to have Curatolo pay an additional $300 for a three-month period.
The trial court deemed these actions as a bad faith maneuver and modified the mortgage agreement.
“[N]owhere does the statute give a trial court the authority to enter a final order modifying the mortgage agreement,” Chief Judge Margret Robb wrote. “The fact that the legislature itself could not have impaired the contractual obligations of the parties lends further support to our conclusion it did not intend to give the courts that authority. Because the mortgage agreement was based upon the parties’ mutual assent, they must both agree to any permanent modification. Nor is this a case where the court was merely interpreting or enforcing a previously entered into agreement.”
Curatolo argued that the modification was a proper sanction for Nationstar’s misconduct.
“And while the trial court found that Nationstar’s behavior evidenced bad faith, we cannot agree that requesting additional documentation in response to a change of income or requesting an additional $300 per month from Curatolo was bad faith. Curatolo was not entitled to a final foreclosure prevention agreement with terms to his liking,” Robb wrote.
The COA ordered more proceedings on the matter consistent with this opinion. Robb noted that this decision should not be read to limit the ability of the parties to enter into a mutually agreed upon foreclosure prevention agreement. In that case, the trial court may dismiss or stay the foreclosure as provided by I.C. 32-30-10.5-10(e).