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Foreclosures still slow

The foreclosure process across New York state continues to experience delays, and the question is whether multiple factors are to blame.

A search of Monroe County Clerk’s Office records returned 1,927 notices of pendency related to mortgage foreclosure in 2010, compared with 2,443 the year before and 2,485 in 2008. Last year’s foreclosure halt and changes in document filing are the primary culprits.

The New York State Unified Court System announced last October that attorneys filing foreclosure forms will be required to verify their accuracy.

The new requirement came on the heels of accusations that lienholders cut corners by allowing foreclosure and other mortgage-related documents to be “robo-signed” as homes were seized nationwide, skipping important verification steps along the way.

“The foreclosure process in New York state is extremely complex and subject to extensive judicial review,” according to foreclosure attorney Steven J. Baum. “We believe this review respects the due process of anyone who challenges a foreclosure.”

Baum served on a group as part of the New York State Bar Association’s Real Property Law Section, which made recommendations for changes in the affirmation’s language.

Earlier this month The New York Times alleged that Baum demonstrated conflict of interest and processed “shoddy or even fabricated paperwork in foreclosure actions” that led to the filing of a lawsuit by an aggrieved homeowner in 2010.

Suggesting he was among those the new affirmation was aimed at, the Times quoted Judge Arthur M. Schack of the New York State Supreme Court of Brooklyn as saying that one of Baum’s filings (as legal counsel to a mortgage lender) was “incredible, outrageous, ludicrous and disingenuous.”

“Consumer activists and attorneys representing homeowners have their own agenda in this process,” Baum responded when asked about the Times allegations, “including degrading the legal work we conduct on behalf of our clients by using terms like ‘foreclosure mill,’ which I find personally and professionally insulting.”

“What is important now is that all parties attempt to work together to resolve issues amicably. The barrage of accusations and litigation does little to help the underlying problems.”

More recently, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court invalidated U.S. Bancorps and Wells Fargo & Co. foreclosure sales while affirming a lower-court ruling to set aside foreclosure actions. While Baum said it is difficult to know what the area implications of the ruling will be, John A. DiCaro, managing partner at Shapiro, DiCaro & Barak LLP, seemed more certain.

“The issues which were central to the [U.S. Bank v. Ibanez] decision, namely standing and the thoroughness and precision of the proofs and pleadings in a foreclosure,” DiCaro said, “are germane to foreclosures across the country, including New York.

“The determination that the Ibanez plaintiff lacked standing [appears to be] largely based on doctrines which are unique to Massachusetts law,” he said. “It is unlikely that a New York court would have reached this decision on the same set of facts.”