Florida District Court Finds for Mortgage Provider in RESPA Claim

The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, recently found for a mortgage provider in a dispute over whether the mortgage provider properly applied a customer’s mortgage payments. See Munoz v. CitiMortgage, Inc., 2021 WL 4133748 (M.D. Fla. 2021). Sheila and Raymond Munoz (“Plaintiffs”) executed a note and mortgage on their property in 2006, and CitiMortgage (“Citi”) serviced the mortgage from 2008 to 2019, at which time Cenlar began servicing the mortgage. In 2010, Plaintiffs modified their loan under the Home Affordable Modification Program, and in 2017, began arguing that Citi misapplied payments. Plaintiffs also began making partial payments in June 2018. Plaintiffs sent a letter to Citi on May 7, 2019, making thirteen requests for information and alleged five notices of error, and Citi acknowledged receipt of the letter on May 15, 2019. Citi replied, providing Plaintiffs with information in response to the requests for information and a reply to each notice of error, which included requests for more information from Plaintiffs, and provided Plaintiffs with contact information at Citi. Plaintiffs alleged that their letter was a Qualified Written Request (“QWR”) under Section 2605(e) of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”), and that Citi provided an untimely and inadequate response to their QWR, which caused them actual and statutory damages. Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, and both parties moved for summary judgment.

The court found for Citi. First, the court rejected Citi’s contention that the May 2019 letter was not a QWR as defined by RESPA, as it identified Plaintiffs as the borrowers, disclosed their account number, and the notices of error included in the letter clearly stated a reason that Plaintiffs believed their account was in error. The court found further that the letter related to servicing of the loan, as required by RESPA, as it asked for information about the mortgage, informed Citi of alleged errors related to the mortgage, and asked for information about their payments. However, the court found that Citi provided an adequate response to the letter. The court found that Citi was one day late in acknowledging receipt of the letter, but that Plaintiffs were unable to show any harm caused by this delay. The court further found that Citi replied to the letter within 30 days, in compliance with RESPA. As to the adequacy of Citi’s responses, the court found that Citi’s responses to the request for information, which provided an explanation as to why it would not turn over requested information when it explained that the information was “confidential, proprietary, or privileged” was adequate. As to the notices of error, Plaintiffs had taken issue with Citi’s responses that there either was no error, or that Citi required additional information from Plaintiffs to investigate further. The court disagreed with Plaintiffs, finding that Plaintiffs’ contention that Citi failed to conduct a reasonable investigation – premised solely on Plaintiff’s disagreement with the findings – was meritless, and that servicers may request clarifying information when a QWR fails to sufficiently identify the alleged error. In addition to finding that Citi’s responses were adequate, the court found that Plaintiffs had not pled adequate facts to support any of the four categories of actual damages that they claimed to have suffered. As such, the court granted summary judgment for Citi.

For a copy of the decision, please contact Michael O’Donnell at modonnell@riker.com, Michael Crowley at mcrowley@riker.com, Desiree McDonald at dmcdonald@riker.com, or Kevin Hakansson at khakansson@riker.com.