CHRISTOPHER J. JACOBS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
FANNIE MAE, MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS, INC. (MERS), AND SETERUS, INC. Defendants-Respondents.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted May 14, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Warren County, Docket No. C-16002-12.
Christopher J. Jacobs, appellant pro se.
McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter, L.L.P., attorneys for respondents (Ryan P. Mulvaney, of counsel; Lauren E. Steller, on the brief).
Before Judges Yannotti and Hayden.
Plaintiff, Christopher J. Jacobs, appeals from a May 23, 2012 Chancery Division order denying his motion for entry of a default judgment and dismissing his complaint in a quiet title action. We affirm.
We glean the following facts from the sparse record. In 2005, Jacobs borrowed $272, 650 from Ivanhoe Financial, Inc. (Ivanhoe), which was secured by a mortgage on his property. Defendant Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS) was listed as the nominee on the mortgage. On January 4, 2012, MERS assigned the mortgage to defendant Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae), which designated defendant Seterus, Inc. (Seterus) as its loan servicer. Ivanhoe has been out of business for some time.
In September 2011, Jacobs stopped making his mortgage payments. Shortly thereafter, Jacobs wrote letters to Fannie Mae, MERS, and Seterus demanding that they provide documentation proving that Fannie Mae was the current holder of the mortgage loan. The letters stated that "public records" do not list Fannie Mae as the mortgage holder and demanded that each defendant provide proof of its interest in the mortgage within fifteen days.
Seterus responded by providing the requested documentation, including the mortgage, note and assignment of mortgage. Jacobs sent a second letter to Seterus declaring that its proof was inadequate, demanding further documentation, and stating that a failure to respond "to the letter within five days signaled Seterus' agreement" that he may "discontinue any payment whatsoever without recourse." When MERS and Fannie Mae did not respond within fifteen days, Jacobs sent each a second letter listing "agreed upon stipulation[s] of facts, " and declaring that if defendants did not respond within five days, they agreed that they had no interest in his mortgage. Neither entity responded.
On January 24, 2012, Jacobs filed a quiet title action in the Chancery Division, naming Fannie Mae, MERS and Seterus as defendants. Jacobs claimed that because no "public record" listed Fannie Mae as the mortgage holder, the court should declare his property unencumbered by any mortgage. He alleged that defendants' failure to respond to his "notices of agreement" meant that defendants "exercised the express option of nonresponse . . . as their confirmation that no such verifiable claim exists." Based on defendants' failure to answer his letters, Jacobs argued that defendants had stipulated that his property was unencumbered and asked the court to declare it free and clear of the mortgage lien.
Defendants did not file a timely answer to the complaint due to a potential conflict between counsel for Seterus and then-defendant Chase. After obtaining the conflict waiver on March 23, 2012, defendants' counsel attempted to contact Jacobs at least twice by phone and left a voicemail each time.
On March 30, after defendants' counsel left the first voicemail, Jacobs filed a Request for Entry of Default. On April 10, 2012, defendants sent a letter by certified mail asking Jacobs to stipulate to ...