The Indiana Supreme Court has posted best practices regarding mortgage foreclosures filed in Indiana. The Indiana attorney general also filed a petition Monday with the Supreme Court supporting the best practices and asking for the Supreme Court to require those recommendations in mortgage foreclosure proceedings.
These guidelines were developed by a foreclosure-prevention task force established by the Indiana Supreme Court, which included the attorney general’s office, judges, Supreme Court staff, legal services attorneys, and attorneys for mortgage lenders.
The guidelines are based on observations of the functions and results of settlement conferences that have taken place around the state under a statute that went into effect July 1, 2009, and settlement conferences that have taken place as part of the Mortgage Foreclosure Trial Court Assistance Project.
Among the Supreme Court’s recommendations are standards for lenders who file pleadings against borrowers, best practices regarding settlement conferences, and that notice be given to borrowers if something changes post-judgment.
Best practices for pleadings include explanation as to why the plaintiff should be classified as a “person entitled to enforce” the instrument; that the original instrument should be readily available if the court requests it; that any endorsements or transfers of loan instruments should be readily available if the court requests them; if the original instrument has been lost, counsel should follow the correct procedures; and that the plaintiff should provide contact information for every defendant debtor, including potentially illegal “rescue agencies” that may be linked to the mortgage.
Best practices for settlement conferences include separate notice from the trial court to each defendant debtor; if the plaintiff claims the defendant is not eligible for settlement conference, the plaintiff should present proof of why (including whether the borrower does not live in the residence or that the borrower previously failed to comply with a foreclosure prevention agreement); and if additional documentation is needed at settlement conference, the settlement conference should reconvene to give borrowers a chance to provide any missing information.
The best practices also include possible sanctions for lenders who do not follow trial court directives regarding settlement conferences. This includes a plaintiff’s failure to appear at a settlement conference or asking the defendant to waive his or her right to a settlement conference. Sanctions imposed by judges in Allen and St. Joseph counties have ranged from $150 to $2,500, according to the document.
In addition to the Supreme Court’s recommendations, the petition submitted by Attorney General Greg Zoeller and Abby Kuzma, chief counsel and director of the Consumer Protection Division of the AG’s office, includes additional recommendations, including a requirement that “Plaintiffs shall include a Verified Affidavit describing Defendant’s compliance with federal requirements to engage Plaintiff in loss mitigation efforts and the reason for denial of loss mitigation.”
Zoeller’s petition also requests the Supreme Court to make the best practices requirements rather than recommendations, suggesting that “should” be changed to “shall” in all of the Supreme Court’s recommendations.