We discuss various issues faced by lenders and servicers when attempting to foreclose on “zombie” mortgages, meaning second mortgages on which the borrower has not made a payment for a considerable period of time and the lender or servicer has not previously taken action to foreclose.  First, we look at the CFPB’s May 2023 advisory guidance on the enforcement of time-barred mortgage loans.  We then discuss defenses to foreclosure raised by borrowers, specifically that the loan was charged-off, discharged in a bankruptcy, or time-barred, and look at decisions in the states of Washington, Colorado, and Utah in which courts have addressed these defenses.  We conclude with a discussion of steps that lenders and servicers should consider taking before attempting to foreclose on a “zombie” mortgage.

Melanie Vartabedian and Matthew Morr, partners in Ballard Spahr’s Consumer Financial Services Group, discuss the issues.

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