Friday, April 1, 2011

Trustee Where Art Thou?

If you own property in Washington, you more than likely signed a deed of trust.  It was one of the thicker documents in that stack of paperwork that you didn't read but it can be summed up like this.  You gave some third party the right to sell your house if you don't pay.  The trustee is chosen by the beneficiary (read that as bank) and is oft time paid for by the beneficiary, usually only when the home is going into foreclosure because it us underwater.  However, that doesn't mean that he works for the beneficiary as we would traditionally look at an employee.  Its more like a professional, that is why attorneys often work as trustees.

Just because a Trustee is appointed by the banks, it still has a duty to the Borrower or homeowner.  By statute, the Trustee owes the borrower a duty of good faith.  According to case law decided prior to the language in the statute being added, the duty was that of a fiduciary.  Other than in an esoteric, legal debate do those two standards have much space between them.  Both are high standards and the Trustee must meet that standard in its dealing with the borrower.

So you can imagine my surprise this afternoon when I am making a phone call on behalf of a borrower.  The Trustee screwed up the paperwork on the Notice of Default.  Some people think I am being nit picky when I complain about the trustee not being able to do math, and that was the case here also.  However, in addition to not being able to do simple addition, the trustee's printer had cut off the last few digits of some of the numbers so that they were unreadable.  You may wonder how I could do math with missing numbers, but I can do multiplication as well, and the inputs for the missing numbers were available. 

So over a month ago, a letter was sent informing the trustee that it had screwed up, a phone call was returned saying, hey, we're reissuing the notice of default.  Today, in checking on the sale, it was still on, so new letters were sent, and phone calls were made.

In my phone conversation with the woman working for the Trustee, presumably the trustee, as the Trustee is a corporation, she said that I had to talk to the beneficiary about reissuing the Notice of Default.  Well, I said the trustee is the one responsible for issuing the NOD and so I need to talk to the trustee.  Trustee says to me on the phone, "We don't make decisions, we do what the lender tells us to do." My response, stunned silence.

Due to the duty of good faith, there must be more responsibility with the trustee.  It cannot simply say we do as the bank tells us.  That would be like the trustee of a child's trust saying, I do whatever the kid wants me to do.   So if the kid wants a million dollars of chewing gum, he gets it?  I don't think so.

The opposite of Good Faith, is Bad Faith.  Bad Faith is something that can be pursued in a civil action much like any other tort.  The other nice thing about bad faith, is it lends itself to consumer protection actions.  Trustees need to be wary, because responses like that make me wonder where the real trustee is, and if he agrees with the asinine things his employees say.

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