Eleventh Circuit Affirms District Court’s Dismissal of Complaint for RESPA Violation

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit recently affirmed a lower court’s decision that a servicer did not violate the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”) by signing a certified mail return receipt card in response to a borrower’s request for information (“RFI”).  See Meeks v. Ocwen Loan Servicing LLC, 2017 WL 782285 (11th Cir. Mar. 1, 2017).  There, the borrower, through counsel, sent an RFI to the defendant servicer via certified mail.  The servicer’s agent signed the return receipt card, which was returned to counsel.  The servicer then provided a substantive response to the request nine days later.  Five months later, the borrower’s counsel sent a notice of error letter (“NOE”) to the servicer stating, “[w]e are unsure as to whether you have received our client’s [RFI].”   The borrower then filed a lawsuit, alleging that the servicer had violated RESPA and Regulation X, which require a servicer to acknowledge receipt of an RFI within five days, and that (i) the borrower had suffered actual damages of less than $100 for the mailing of the NOE, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs; and (ii) the borrower was entitled to statutory damages under RESPA. See 12 USC 2605(e); 12 CFR 1026.36(c).  The District Court dismissed the complaint, and the Eleventh Circuit affirmed.

First, the Court acknowledged that the question of whether a return receipt card qualifies as a “written response acknowledging receipt” under Regulation X is an issue of first impression.  However, because the borrower’s counsel “unquestionably received the Certified Receipt in response signed by [the servicer’s] agent,” it found that Regulation X was satisfied.  It further held that “counsel’s NOE appeared to ‘falsely question[ ] the servicer's receipt in order to create a claim for damages.’”  Second, the Court held that the borrower did not suffer a concrete injury and only suffered, at most, “a bare procedural violation” of RESPA.  Thus, the borrower did not have standing to assert the claim under the standard set by the Supreme Court in Spokeo.

For a copy of the decision, please contact Michael O’Donnell at modonnell@riker.com, Michael Crowley at mcrowley@riker.com or Clarissa Gomez at cgomez@riker.com.