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Arias v. Elite Mortgage Group, Inc.

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

January 23, 2015

LEONARDO ARIAS and RUTH M. PADILLA, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
ELITE MORTGAGE GROUP, INC., RAY SALAZAR, W.M.C. MORTGAGE, CORPORATION, GE MONEY, GE CAPITAL, and DEUTSCHE BANK, Defendants, and BANK OF AMERICA, N.A., s/h/a BANK OF AMERICA HOME LOANS, Defendant-Respondent

Submitted: December 9, 2014.

Approved for Publication January 23, 2015.

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Docket No. L-1316-12.

Joseph A. Chang, attorney for appellants ( Mr. Chang, of counsel and on the brief; Jeffrey Zajac, on the brief).

Reed Smith LLP, attorneys for respondent ( Aaron M. Bender, of counsel and on the brief).

Before Judges REISNER, KOBLITZ and HAAS. The opinion of the court was delivered by REISNER, P.J.A.D.

OPINION

Page 22

[439 N.J.Super. 274] REISNER, P.J.A.D.

[439 N.J.Super. 275] Plaintiffs Leonardo Arias and Ruth M. Padilla[1] appeal from an April 19, 2013 order granting summary judgment in favor of defendant Bank of America, N.A. (the bank).

To summarize, this case involves a dispute over a mortgage securing a loan plaintiffs obtained to purchase a two-family house.[2] Plaintiffs claim that they had a contractual right to a loan modification under the terms of the Trial Period Plan (TPP) Agreement they signed pursuant to the federal Home Affordable Mortgage Program (HAMP), and they assert that defendant breached the contract. In the alternative, they contend that the bank violated the covenant of good faith and fair dealing in denying them the loan modification.

The motion judge concluded that the TPP Agreement was not a binding contract to modify the loan. The judge found that plaintiffs, who are licensed real estate agents, understood that the Agreement did not give them any such contractual right. The judge reasoned that the bank was not required to provide plaintiffs with a loan modification, based on its determination that they did not qualify for one. The judge also concluded that plaintiffs had " no viable cause of action" under the federal HAMP guidelines, or based on the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

Our review of a summary judgment order is de novo, using the same standard employed by the trial court. Gray v. Caldwell Wood Prods., Inc., 425 N.J.Super. 496, 499-500, 42 A.3d 192 (App.Div. 2012). Having reviewed the record, we find there were [439 N.J.Super. 276] no material facts in dispute, and we agree with the trial judge that defendant was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Brill v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 142 N.J. 520, 540, 666 A.2d 146 (1995). However, we arrive at that conclusion by a slightly different route than the trial court.

I

Before reviewing the record and setting forth our own legal analysis, we briefly discuss the most pertinent case law on which the parties rely. In Wigod v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 673 F.3d 547 (7th Cir. 2012), the court cogently explained the federal HAMP program, which was designed to address the residential mortgage foreclosure crisis by encouraging lenders to extend loan modifications to qualified mortgagors. Id. at 556-57; see Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, 12 U.S.C.A. ยง 5219(a)(1). The court concluded that, even though there is no private cause of action under HAMP, a mortgagor may ...


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