May California Deed of Trust Assignee enforce it without recording

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Conundrum:  You find out that the
assignee of your California Deed of Trust never acknowledged and
recorded the deed of trust with the clerk of courts, and now wants
to enforce the mortgage in order to foreclose.  You dig around and
find these California Civil Code sections below.  Should you attack
the assignee’s standing to foreclose?

Answer:  No. In California, the assignee of
beneficial interest in a mortgage security instrument must duly
acknowledge and record the assignment in order to have the right to
force a foreclosure sale.  The assignee of a beneficial interest in
a deed of trust need not record the assignment in order to force a
foreclosure sale.

Discussion:  A mortgage differs from a deed of
trust.  Both secure the note, such that they entitle the owner of
beneficial interest in the note (or agent) to enforce the note by
foreclosure and forcible sale of the property.  However, a mortgage
requires enforcement through judicial action – the foreclosing party
must sue the borrower for breaching the note.  By contrast, a deed
of trust involves a trustee who receives notice of the breach and of
fulfillment of conditions precedent from the owner of beneficial
interest in the note (or holder or agent), then orders the sale of
the property held in trust.  A mortgage operates as a lien with
title remaining in the borrower (technically, it goes to the
mortgagee for purposes of a mortgage only), and a deed of trust
conveys title to the trustee until the borrower has retired the
debt.

It seems axiomatic that owner of beneficial interest in the note
(oobi) may, in the event the borrower breaches the note, enforce the
note through foreclosure and forcing the sale of the property
securing the debt. Furthermore, it seems axiomatic that the oobi may
assign the security instrument, to another party who may enforce the
security instrument by forcing a foreclosure sale. 

But… always verify what the law means by looking at how the courts
have opined.

For reference see Calvo v HSBC Bank, 199 CAL.APP.4TH 118 (CAL. APP.
2011)

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California
Civil Code Section

2932. A power of sale may
be conferred by a mortgage upon the mortgagee or any other
person, to be exercised after a breach of the obligation for
which the mortgage is a security.

2932.5. Where a power to sell real property is given to
a mortgagee, or other encumbrancer, in an instrument intended
to secure the payment of money, the power is part of the
security and vests in any person who by assignment becomes
entitled to payment of the money secured by the instrument.
The power of sale may be exercised by the assignee if the
assignment is duly acknowledged and recorded.

2924. (a) Every transfer of an interest in
property, other than in
trust, made only as a security for the performance of another
act, is
to be deemed a mortgage, except when in the case of personal
property it is accompanied by actual change of possession, in
which
case it is to be deemed a pledge. Where, by a mortgage created
after
July 27, 1917, of any estate in real property, other than an
estate
at will or for years, less than two, or in any transfer in trust
made
after July 27, 1917, of a like estate to secure the performance
of
an obligation, a power of sale is conferred upon the mortgagee,
trustee, or any other person, to be exercised after a breach of
the
obligation for which that mortgage or transfer is a security,
the
power shall not be exercised except where the mortgage or
transfer is
made pursuant to an order, judgment, or decree of a court of
record,
or to secure the payment of bonds or other evidences of
indebtedness
authorized or permitted to be issued by the Commissioner of
Corporations, or is made by a public utility subject to the
provisions of the Public Utilities Act, until all of the
following
apply: (1) The trustee, mortgagee, or beneficiary, or any of
their
authorized agents shall first file for record, in the office of
the
recorder of each county wherein the mortgaged or trust property
or
some part or parcel thereof is situated, a notice of default.
That
notice of default shall include all of the following: (A) A
statement identifying the mortgage or deed of trust by
stating the name or names of the trustor or trustors and giving
the
book and page, or instrument number, if applicable, where the
mortgage or deed of trust is recorded or a description of the
mortgaged or trust property. (B) A statement that a breach of
the obligation for which the
mortgage or transfer in trust is security has occurred. (C) A
statement setting forth the nature of each breach actually
known to the beneficiary and of his or her election to sell or
cause
to be sold the property to satisfy that obligation and any other
obligation secured by the deed of trust or mortgage that is in
default. (D) If the default is curable pursuant to Section
2924c, the
statement specified in paragraph (1) of subdivision (b) of
Section
2924c. (2) Not less than three months shall elapse from the
filing of the
notice of default. (3) Except as provided in paragraph (4),
after the lapse of the
three months described in paragraph (2), the mortgagee, trustee,
or
other person authorized to take the sale shall give notice of
sale,
stating the time and place thereof, in the manner and for a time
not
less than that set forth in Section 2924f. (4) Notwithstanding
paragraph (3), the mortgagee, trustee, or
other person authorized to take sale may record a notice of sale
pursuant to Section 2924f up to five days before the lapse of
the
three-month period described in paragraph (2), provided that the
date
of sale is no earlier than three months and 20 days after the
recording of the notice of default. (5) Until January 1, 2018,
whenever a sale is postponed for a
period of at least 10 business days pursuant to Section 2924g, a
mortgagee, beneficiary, or authorized agent shall provide
written
notice to a borrower regarding the new sale date and time,
within
five business days following the postponement. Information
provided
pursuant to this paragraph shall not constitute the public
declaration required by subdivision (d) of Section 2924g.
Failure to
comply with this paragraph shall not invalidate any sale that
would
otherwise be valid under Section 2924f. This paragraph shall be
inoperative on January 1, 2018. (6) No entity shall record or
cause a notice of default to be
recorded or otherwise initiate the foreclosure process unless it
is
the holder of the beneficial interest under the mortgage or deed
of
trust, the original trustee or the substituted trustee under the
deed
of trust, or the designated agent of the holder of the
beneficial
interest. No agent of the holder of the beneficial interest
under the
mortgage or deed of trust, original trustee or substituted
trustee
under the deed of trust may record a notice of default or
otherwise
commence the foreclosure process except when acting within the
scope
of authority designated by the holder of the beneficial
interest. (b) In performing acts required by this article, the
trustee shall
incur no liability for any good faith error resulting from
reliance
on information provided in good faith by the beneficiary
regarding
the nature and the amount of the default under the secured
obligation, deed of trust, or mortgage. In performing the acts
required by this article, a trustee shall not be subject to
Title
1.6c (commencing with Section 1788) of Part 4. (c) A recital in
the deed executed pursuant to the power of sale
of compliance with all requirements of law regarding the mailing
of
copies of notices or the publication of a copy of the notice of
default or the personal delivery of the copy of the notice of
default
or the posting of copies of the notice of sale or the
publication of
a copy thereof shall constitute prima facie evidence of
compliance
with these requirements and conclusive evidence thereof in favor
of
bona fide purchasers and encumbrancers for value and without
notice. (d) All of the following shall constitute privileged
communications pursuant to Section 47: (1) The mailing,
publication, and delivery of notices as required
by this section. (2) Performance of the procedures set forth in
this article. (3) Performance of the functions and procedures
set forth in this
article if those functions and procedures are necessary to carry
out
the duties described in Sections 729.040, 729.050, and 729.080
of the
Code of Civil Procedure. (e) There is a rebuttable presumption
that the beneficiary
actually knew of all unpaid loan payments on the obligation owed
to
the beneficiary and secured by the deed of trust or mortgage
subject
to the notice of default. However, the failure to include an
actually
known default shall not invalidate the notice of sale and the
beneficiary shall not be precluded from asserting a claim to
this
omitted default or defaults in a separate notice of default. (f)
With respect to residential real property containing no more
than four dwelling units, a separate document containing a
summary of
the notice of default information in English and the languages
described in Section 1632 shall be attached to the notice of
default
provided to the mortgagor or trustor pursuant to Section 2923.3.

COURT OF APPEAL OF
CALIFORNIA, SECOND DISTRICT. EIGHT.
CALVO V. HSBC BANK USA, N.A. 
199 CAL.APP.4TH 118 (CAL. APP. 2011)

DECIDED SEPT. 13, 2011

EUGENIA
CALVO, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. HSBC BANK USA, N.A.,
as Trustee, etc., Defendant and Respondent.

No.
B226494.

Court
of Appeal of California, Second District. Eight.

September
13, 2011.

Appeal
from the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No.
BC415545, Mark V. Mooney, Judge. *119

Dennis
Moore for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Houser
Allison, Eric D. Houser, Robert W. Norman, Jr., and
Carrie N. Heieck for Defendant and Respondent.

*120

OPINION

Plaintiff
Eugenia Calvo obtained a loan secured by a deed of trust
against her residence. The original lender assigned the
loan and deed of trust to HSBC Bank USA, N.A. (HSBC Bank).
A new trustee was also substituted after the loan was
originated. Plaintiff defaulted in payment of the loan.
The new trustee initiated foreclosure proceedings and
executed a foreclosure sale of plaintiffs residence.
Notice of the assignment of the deed of trust appeared
only in the substitution of trustee, which was recorded on
the same date as the notice of trustee’s sale. The second
amended complaint seeks to set aside the trustee’s sale
for an alleged violation of Civil Code section 2932.5, 1 which requires the
assignee of a mortgagee to record an
assignment before exercising a power to sell real
property. HSBC Bank and its agent, the nominal beneficiary
under the deed of trust, demurred to the second amended
complaint, and the trial court sustained the demurrer
without leave to amend.

1.

All statutory
references are to the Civil Code unless otherwise
specified.

We
find defendant HSBC Bank did not violate section 2932.5
because that statute does not apply when the power of sale
is conferred in a deed of trust rather than a mortgage. We
affirm the judgment dismissing the complaint.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff
sued HSBC Bank and Mortgage Electronic Registration
Systems, Inc. (MERS), its agent and nominal beneficiary
under the deed of trust recorded against her residence.
Plaintiff had borrowed money from CBSK Financial Group,
Inc., which is not a defendant in this lawsuit. Her loan
was secured by a deed of trust against her residence that
was recorded on September 1, 2006. The deed of trust
identified plaintiff as the trustor, CBSK Financial Group
as the lender, MERS as the nominal beneficiary and
lender’s agent, and Lawyers Title Company as the trustee.
In the deed of trust, plaintiff granted title to her
residence to the trustee, in trust, with the power of
sale. The deed of trust stated: “MERS (as nominee for
Lender and Lender’s successors and assigns) has the right:
to exercise any or all of those interests, *121 including, but not
limited to, the right to foreclose and sell the Property;
and to take any action required of Lender including, but
not limited to, releasing and canceling the Security
Instrument.”

Aztec
Foreclosure Corporation was substituted as trustee under
the deed of trust on or about June 2, 2008. The
substitution of trustee stated that MERS, as nominee for
HSBC Bank, “is the present Beneficiary” under the deed of
trust, as MERS had been for the original lender. The
substitution of trustee was not recorded until October 14,
2008, the same date on which Aztec Foreclosure Corporation
recorded a notice of trustee’s sale. More than three
months before recordation of the substitution of trustee,
Aztec Foreclosure Corporation had recorded a notice that
plaintiff was in default in payment of her loan and that
the beneficiary had elected to initiate foreclosure
proceedings. The notice of default advised plaintiff to
contact HSBC Bank to arrange for payment to stop the
foreclosure.

HSBC
Bank bought plaintiffs residence in the foreclosure sale,
and a trustee’s deed upon sale was recorded on January 9,
2009. The gist of the complaint is that HSBC Bank
initiated foreclosure proceedings under the deed of trust
without any recordation of the assignment of the deed of
trust to HSBC Bank in violation of section 2932.5.

DISCUSSION

A
demurrer tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. We
review the complaint de novo to determine whether it
alleges facts sufficient to state a cause of action. For
purposes of review, we accept as true all material facts
alleged in the complaint, but not contentions, deductions
or conclusions of fact or law. We also consider matters
that may be judicially noticed. ( Blank v. Kirwan (1985) 39 Cal.3d 311, 318 [ 216 Cal.Rptr. 718, 703 P.2d 58].) When a
demurrer is sustained without leave to amend, “we decide
whether there is a reasonable possibility that the defect
can be cured by amendment: if it can be, the trial court
has abused its discretion and we reverse; if not, there
has been no abuse of discretion and we affirm.” ( Ibid.) Plaintiff has
the burden to show a reasonable possibility the complaint
can be amended to state a cause of action. ( Ibid.)

The
trial court did not err in sustaining the demurrer without
leave to amend. Plaintiffs lawsuit rests on her claim that
the foreclosure sale was void and should be set aside
because HSBC Bank invoked the power of sale without
complying with the requirement of section 2932.5 to record
the assignment of the deed of trust from the original
lender to HSBC Bank. We find no merit in this contention. *122

Section
2932.5 provides: “Where a power to sell real property is
given to a mortgagee, or other encumbrancer, in an
instrument intended to secure the payment of money, the
power is part of the security and vests in any person who
by assignment becomes entitled to payment of the money
secured by the instrument. The power of sale may be
exercised by the assignee if the assignment is duly
acknowledged and recorded.”

It
has been established since 1908 that this statutory
requirement that an assignment of the beneficial interest
in a debt secured by real property must be recorded in
order for the assignee to exercise the power of sale
applies only to a mortgage and not to a deed of trust. In Stockwell v. Barnum(1908) 7 Cal.App. 413 [ 94 P. 400] ( Stockwell), the
court affirmed the judgment against a plaintiff who sought
to set aside and vacate a sale of real property under a
deed of trust. In Stockwell, a couple
borrowed money from two individuals and gave them a
promissory note that provided, in case of default in the
payment of interest, the holder of the note had the option
to demand payment of all the principal and interest. To
secure payment of the note, the borrowers executed and
delivered a deed of trust by which they conveyed to the
trustee legal title to a parcel of real estate, with the
power of sale on demand of the beneficiaries of the
promissory note. The borrowers defaulted. The original
lenders assigned the note to another individual, who
elected to declare the whole amount of principal and
interest due and made demand on the trustee to sell the
property. Before the trustee’s sale was made, but on the
same day as the trustee’s sale, the defaulting couple
conveyed the real property to the plaintiff, who then sued
to set aside the trustee’s sale.

One
of the bases on which the plaintiff in Stockwell sought to set
aside the sale was that no assignment of the beneficial
interests under the deed of trust was recorded and
therefore the original lender’s assignee had no right to
demand a trustee’s sale of the property. The plaintiff inStockwell relied on former
section 858, the predecessor of section 2932.5, as support
for this contention. (The parties correctly acknowledge
that § 2932.5 continued former § 858 without substantive
change.) (Law Revision Com. com., Deering’s Ann. Civ.
Code, § 2932.5 (2005 ed.) p.
454.) TheStockwell court found the
statute did not apply to a trustee’s sale.

The Stockwell court
distinguished a trust deed from a mortgage, explaining
that a mortgage creates only a lien, with title to the
real property remaining in the borrower/mortgagee, whereas
a deed of trust passes title to the trustee with the power
to transfer marketable title to a purchaser. The court
reasoned that since the lenders had no power of sale, and
only the trustee could transfer title, it was immaterial
who held the note. ( Stockwell, supra, 7
Cal.App. at p. 416
.) “The transferee of a
negotiable promissory note, *123 payment of which
is secured by a deed of trust whereby the title to the
property and power of sale in case of default is vested in
a third party as trustee, is not an encumbrancer to whom
power of sale is given, within the meaning of section 858
. . . .” ( Id. at p. 417.)

The
holding of Stockwell has never been
reversed or modified in any reported California decision
in the more than 100 years since the case was decided. The
rule that section 2932.5 does not apply to deeds of trust
is part of the law of real property in California. After
1908, only the federal courts have addressed the question
whether section 2932.5 applies to deeds of trust, and only
very recently. Every federal district court to consider
the question has followed Stockwell. (See, e.g., Roque v. SunTrust
Mortgage, Inc.
(N.D.Cal., Feb. 10, 2010, No.
C-09-00040 RWM) 2010
U.S.Dist. Lexis 11546
, p. *8 [“Section 2932.5
applies to mortgages, not deeds of trust. It applies only
to mortgages that give a power of sale to the creditor,
not to deeds of trust which grant a power of sale to the
trustee.”]; Parcray v. Shea
Mortgage, Inc.
 (E.D.Cal.,
Apr. 23, 2010, No. CV-F-09-1942 OWW/GSA) 2010
U.S.Dist. Lexis 40377
, p. *31 [“There is no
requirement under California law for an assignment to be
recorded in order for an assignee beneficiary to
foreclose.”]; Caballero v. Bank of
America
 (N.D.Cal.,
Nov. 4, 2010, No. 10-CV-02973-LHK) 2010
U.S.Dist. Lexis 122847
, p. *8 [“§ 2932.5 does not require the
recordation of an assignment of a beneficial interest for
a deed of trust, as
opposed to a mortgage”].)2

2.

Plaintiff cited only one
bankruptcy court decision in support of her argument
that section 2932.5 applies to deeds of trust. ( U.S. Bank N.A. v.
Skelton (In re Salazar
) (Bankr. S.D.Cal. 2011) 448
B.R. 814
.) We find the analysis in that case
unpersuasive. Holdings of the federal courts are not
binding or conclusive on California courts, though they
may be entitled to respect and careful consideration. ( Bank of Italy etc.
Assn. v. Bentley
 (1933) 217 Cal. 644,653 [20 P.2d 940] ( Bank of Italy).) A
federal bankruptcy court decision interpreting
California law, however, is not due the same deference.
(SeeStern v. Marshall (2011) 564
U.S. ___
 [ 180
L.Ed.2d 475
, 131 S.Ct. 2594].)

Plaintiff
argues that Stockwell is “[o]utdated”
and, that in the “modern era,” there is no difference
between a mortgage and a deed of trust. Plaintiff
misconstrues Bank of Italy, supra, 217 Cal. 644 as holding that
deeds of trust are the same as mortgages with a power of
sale, and therefore, as supporting her argument that
section 2932.5 applies to both mortgages and deeds of
trust. First, our Supreme Court inBank of Italy did not consider
or construe section 2932.5 or its predecessor statute.

Second,
the court in Bank of Italy did not hold that
a mortgage is the same as a deed of trust. Far from it;
theBank of Italy court recognized
that the distinction between a mortgage, which creates
only a lien, and a deed of trust, *124which
passes title to the trustee, “has become well settled in
our law and cannot now be disturbed.” ( Bank of Italy, supra, 217
Cal. at p. 655
.) Third, the court’s holding was
expressly limited to the question (not in issue here)
whether in California it is permissible to sue on a
promissory note secured by a deed of trust without first
exhausting the security or showing that it is valueless.
The trial court had found “that no action may be brought
on a note secured by a deed of trust unless and until the
security is exhausted. The correctness of this conclusion
is the sole point involved on this appeal.” ( Id. at pp. 647, 648,
650.)

The
plaintiff in Bank of Italy had argued the
only statute requiring that security be exhausted before
suing on the note was limited to mortgages and did not
include the distinctly different deeds of trust. ( Bank of Italy, supra, 217
Cal. at p. 653
.) The Bank of Italy court therefore
considered whether the differences between a mortgage and
a deed of trust under California law should permit the
holder of a note secured by a deed of trust to sue on the
note without exhausting the security by a sale of the
property. The court recognized there were an increasing
number of cases that applied the same rules to deeds of
trust that are applied to mortgages and concluded that
“merely because `title’ passes by a deed of trust while
only a `lien’ is created by a mortgage,” in both
situations the security must be exhausted before suit on
the personal obligation. ( Bank of Italy, supra, 217
Cal. at pp. 657-658
.) Nothing in the holding or
analysis of the Bank of Italy opinion supports
plaintiffs position here that we should find section
2932.5 applies to a deed of trust.

Plaintiff
also is mistaken in contending that Strike v. Trans-West
Discount Corp.
 (1979) 92 Cal.App.3d 735 [ 155 Cal.Rptr. 132] ( Strike) supports her
position. In Strike, a homeowner
had a judgment entered against him on a business debt he
had guaranteed. The homeowner later defaulted in payments
on a bank loan that was secured by a deed of trust against
his home, and he asked the judgment creditor to help him
out. The judgment creditor agreed to buy an assignment of
the home loan and deed of trust from the bank, consolidate
the indebtedness on the home loan with the amount owed to
satisfy the judgment, and extend the maturity date of
these obligations.

The
homeowner defaulted again, and the judgment creditor
initiated nonjudicial foreclosure proceedings. The
homeowner sued in an attempt to avoid foreclosure and
eviction but did not prevail at trial. The Court of Appeal
affirmed. Among the homeowner’s arguments that were
rejected on appeal was the contention that the judgment
creditor’s interest in his home was an equitable lien that
could only be foreclosed by judicial process. The Court of
Appeal found the creditor had the right to pursue
nonjudicial foreclosure, distinguishing an equitable
subrogee from an assignee of a deed of trust with *125 the power of sale.
The court stated: “A recorded assignment of note and deed
of trust vests in the assignee all of the rights,
interests of the beneficiary [citation] including
authority to exercise any power of sale given the
beneficiary ([§ 858]).” (Strike, supra, 92
Cal.App.3d at p. 744
.)

Plaintiff
contends the sentence quoted above establishes that
section 2932.5 (formerly codified at § 858) applies to
deeds of trust. But the Strike court was not
asked to consider or construe the predecessor of section
2932.5. TheStrike court briefly
referred to the predecessor of section 2932.5 by way of
illustrating the difference between an equitable subrogee
and an assignee under a deed of trust with a power of
sale. ( Strike, supra, 92
Cal.App.3d at p. 744
.) “`It is axiomatic, of
course, that a decision does not stand for a proposition
not considered by the court.`” ( Agnew v. State Bd. of
Equalization
 (1999) 21 Cal.4th 310, 332 [ 87 Cal.Rptr.2d 423, 981 P.2d 52].)

In
California, over the course of the past century, deeds of
trust have largely replaced mortgages as the primary real
property security device. (See 4 Miller Starr, Cal. Real
Estate (3d ed. 2003) former § 10:2, p. 15.) Thus, section
2932.5 (and its predecessor, § 858) became practically
obsolete and was generally ignored by borrowers,
creditors, and the California courts. On the other hand,
other statutes expressly give MERS the right to initiate
foreclosure on behalf of HSBC Bank irrespective of the
recording of a substitution of trustee. Section 2924,
subdivision (a)(1), states that a “trustee, mortgagee, or
beneficiary, or any of their authorized agents,” may
initiate the foreclosure process. MERS was both the
nominal beneficiary and agent (nominee) of the original
lender and also of HSBC Bank, which held the note at the
time of the foreclosure sale of plaintiffs residence.
Thus, MERS had the statutory right to initiate foreclosure
on behalf of HSBC Bank pursuant to section 2924,
subdivision (a)(1).

MERS
also had the right to initiate foreclosure on behalf of
HSBC Bank pursuant to the express language of the deed of
trust. Plaintiff agreed in the deed of trust that MERS had
the right to initiate foreclosure and to instruct the
trustee to exercise the power of sale as nominee (i.e.,
agent) of the original lender and its successors and
assigns. (Gomes v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc.
 (2011) 192 Cal.App.4th 1149,1157,
fn. 9 [ 121 Cal.Rptr.3d 819]
[construing a deed of trust identical in pertinent part to
the trust deed in this case as granting MERS power to
initiate foreclosure as the agent of the note holder, even
if not also as beneficiary].) HSBC Bank was the assignee
of the original lender. Accordingly, HSBC Bank and MERS,
its nominal beneficiary and agent, were entitled to invoke
the power of sale in the deed of trust, and plaintiff has
alleged no legal basis for setting aside the sale in this
case. *126

We
affirm the judgment of dismissal. Respondent is to recover
its costs of appeal.

Bigelow,
P. J., and Flier, J., concurred.

*127

Bob Hurt            Blog
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Author: bob

Retired computer industry entrepreneur. Writer, philosopher, student of law.

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