Harrell v. Freedom Mortgage Corp., No. 19-1379 (4th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
After his taxes were paid late from his mortgage escrow account, causing him to incur $895 in penalties, the homeowner-borrower filed a putative class action against the company that serviced his mortgage. Under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act of 1974 (RESPA), 12 U.S.C. 2601, if a mortgage contract requires the borrower to place property tax payments in escrow, “the servicer” must make those tax payments on time. The right to service a mortgage is subject to purchase and sale. The rights to service the plaintiff’s mortgage had been transferred between the time of the plaintiff’s payment into the escrow account and the tax’s due date.
Reversing the district court, the Fourth Circuit concluded that when servicing rights are transferred in the window between the borrower’s payment to escrow and the tax’s due date, RESPA requires taxes to be paid by the entity responsible for servicing the mortgage at the time the tax payment is due. By requiring “the servicer” to make tax payments “as [they] become due,” RESPA connects the servicer’s obligation to a payment’s due date, not the date of payment into escrow by the borrower.