Erik Chickedantz - Super, Indeed
Dinsmore Is Hiring In Indiana

Seventh Circuit Rejects Borrower’s HAMP Contract Breach Claim: Part 1 of 2

Lesson. Under Indiana law, if a lender or its loan servicer does not sign the proposed HAMP TPP agreement, then there is no binding contract.

Case cite. Taylor v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, 958 F.3d 556 (7th Cir. 2020)

Legal issue. Whether the borrower had a viable Home Affordable Mortgage Program (HAMP) breach of contract claim against his lender.

Vital facts. Today’s post relates to the borrower’s appeal of the district court’s decision, about which I discussed in 2018: Indiana Federal Court Dismisses Borrower’s Contract Claim Against Lender Because Lender Never Executed The HAMP Trial Period Plan.

Lender informed Borrower of a HAMP-related loan mod opportunity and sent him a proposed Trial Period Plan (TPP) to be signed and returned in order to start the process. The agreement stated that the trial period would not begin until both sides signed off and until Lender returned the signed agreement to Borrower. Borrower executed, but Lender never did. The loan was never modified. The reason Lender did not execute the agreement and modify the loan was that Borrower did not qualify.

Procedural history. Borrower sued Lender alleging that Lender failed to honor the loan modification offer. As it relates to this post, Borrower sued for breach of contract. Lender filed a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings for failure to state a claim. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana granted the motion, and Borrower appealed.

Key rules. The opinion in Taylor contains a very helpful introduction to HAMP. If you’re not familiar with the program or the TPP, you should read the case.

In Indiana, to have an enforceable contract, the elements of offer, acceptance, and consideration must be present. “The agreement comes into existence when one party (the offeror) extends an offer, and the other (the offeree) accepts the offer and its terms.” However, an offer can be qualified or held in abeyance until a condition is fulfilled. This is known as a condition precedent. “If an offer contains a condition precedent, a contract does not form unless and until the condition is satisfied.”

Holding. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s order dismissing the contract claim.

Policy/rationale. The Court concluded as follows:


The TPP unambiguously stated that the trial modification would "not take effect unless and until both [Borrower] and [Lender] sign it and [Lender] provides [Borrower] with a copy of this Plan with [Lender’s] signature." And if [Lender] did "not provide [Borrower] a fully executed copy of this Plan and the Modification Agreement," then "the Loan Documents will not be modified and this Plan will terminate." This language is clear and precise and created a condition precedent that required Borrower to countersign the TPP and return a copy to Borrower before the trial modification commenced.

The Court’s rationale was that, since the TPP never came into effect, no contractual obligations were imposed on Lender. One of the underlying policies behind the decision was that there “were other constraints on Lender's consideration of Borrower's loan modification request—not the least of which were imposed by the federal HAMP guidelines—but none could arise from the unsigned, ineffective TPP proposal.”

My next post will address Borrower’s waiver theory.

Related posts.

__________
My practice includes representing lenders, as well as their mortgage loan servicers, in connection with consumer finance litigation. If you need assistance with a similar matter, please call me at 317-639-6151 or email me at john.waller@dinsmore.com. Also, don’t forget that you can follow me on Twitter @JohnDWaller or on LinkedIn, or you can subscribe to posts via RSS or email as noted on my home page.

Comments