Subject Matter Jurisdiction | 100,000+ Foreclosures Defective in Pennsylvania According to State Superior Court
“Since the Superior Court has now ruled that this Act 91 letter is wrong … the foreclosures that have happened in the past are a problem and for sure no more foreclosures should go forward if that deficient letter is in people’s files”
Halt foreclosures on homes due to paperwork errors, group says
Housing activists are calling on Pennsylvania banks and sheriffs to temporarily halt all home foreclosures, saying a paperwork error could save thousands of people their homes.
The state Superior Court on Jan. 30 ruled in favor of three women facing foreclosure who claimed they were not notified, as required by law, that they could have a face-to-face meeting with their mortgage holders to try to resolve outstanding payments.
The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency issued more than 100,000 such “Act 91″ forms from 1999 through 2008 that did not contain that notification, their lawyer Michael Malakoff said.
That means they, too, could get relief from courts. Another of his pro-bono clients, Kathy Todd of Lincoln Place, was due to go through a sheriff’s sale two weeks from now before it was halted due to the decision.
From the ruling…
This is an appeal from an order that sustained Appellee’s “Motion to Set Aside Judgment and Sheriff’s Sale.” We affirm.
The relevant background underlying this matter can be summarized in the following manner. In October of 2006, Appellant filed a complaint in mortgage foreclosure against Appellee. According to the complaint, Appellee owns a home subject to a mortgage for which Appellant is the mortgagee. Appellant averred that Appellee’s mortgage was in default due to Appellee’s failure to pay her monthly mortgage costs. The parties eventually agreed to settle the matter. In short, the parties agreed to enter a judgment in favor of Appellant for $217,508.81 together with interest. They further agreed that, so long as Appellee made regular payments to Appellant, Appellant would not execute on the judgment. The trial court approved the parties’ settlement on May 7, 2009.
On April 5, 2010, Appellant filed an affidavit of default wherein it alleged that Appellee had defaulted on her payment obligations. The following day, Appellant filed a praecipe for writ of execution. On August 2, 2010, the subject property was sold by sheriff’s sale; Appellant was the successful bidder.
On August 31, 2010, Appellee filed a document which she entitled “Motion to Set Aside Judgment and Sheriff’s Sale.” Appellee contended that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the matter because Appellant failed to comply with the notice requirements of the Homeowner’s Emergency Mortgage Act, 35 P.S. §§ 1680.401c et seq. (“Act 91″). More specifically, Appellee maintained that the Act 91 notice she received from Appellant failed to inform her that she had thirty days to have a face-to-face meeting with Appellant. After holding a hearing, the trial court agreed with Appellee that the Act 91 notice was deficient. The court issued an order setting aside the sheriff’s sale and the judgment; the order also dismissed Appellant’s complaint without prejudice.
Act 91 contains no language that suggests that an Act 91 notice which fails to advise a mortgagor that the mortgagor can meet with the mortgagee will suffice so long as, during the course of the mortgage foreclosure litigation, the mortgagor cannot prove that he or she was prejudiced by the deficient notice. In fact, Act 91 explicitly states that, before a mortgagee can even commence a mortgage foreclosure action, it must give the mortgagor the notice described in Section 1680.403c; Subsection 1680.403c(b)(1) clearly and unambiguously mandates that the notice must inform a mortgagor, inter alia, that the mortgagor can meet face-to-face with the mortgagee.
We conclude that the trial court did not make an error of law or abuse its discretion by sustaining Appellee’s “Motion to Set Aside Judgment and Sheriff’s Sale.” In conjunction with its ruling, the court properly set aside the sheriff’s sale, vacated the judgment, and dismissed Appellant’s complaint without prejudice. Accordingly, we affirm the court’s order.
Subject-matter jurisdiction is the authority of a court to hear cases of a particular type or cases relating to a specific subject matter. For instance, bankruptcy court only has the authority to hear bankruptcy cases.
Subject-matter jurisdiction must be distinguished from personal jurisdiction, which is the power of a court to render a judgment against a particular defendant, and territorial jurisdiction, which is the power of the court to render a judgment concerning events that have occurred within a well-defined territory. Unlike personal or territorial jurisdiction, lack of subject-matter jurisdiction cannot be waived. A judgment from a court that did not have subject-matter jurisdiction is forever a nullity.
To decide a case, a court must have a combination of subject (subjectam) and either personal (personam) or territorial (locum) jurisdiction.
Subject-matter jurisdiction, personal or territorial jurisdiction, and adequate notice are the three most fundamental constitutional requirements for a valid judgment.
Full opinion below…