Oral arguments in our Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS) case took place on June 25, 2015 in the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
MERS allows banks and mortgage owners to transfer ownership of mortgages without paying the recording fees charged by county recorders. This class action lawsuit was initially brought by the Montgomery County Recorder of Deeds against MERS for lost recording fees that should have been paid to Montgomery County, claiming that every time a mortgage transferred ownership, it should have been recorded by the county, and not only in the private MERS database.
The Public Interest Law Center supports the Montgomery County Recorder of Deeds in their complaint against MERSCORP, Inc. by representing and advising legal and affordable housing services in the suit.
Staff attorney Ben Geffen authored and submitted an amicus brief in March, urging the court to rule against MERSCORP, Inc. In the amicus brief, the Law Center argued that it is beneficial for homeowners, as well as interested third parties, to be able to access accurate land records from the County. It was also argued that the failure of the mortgagers to record with the County strips millions of dollars in funding from legal services and affordable housing programs, which are legally mandated to receive funding from the recording fees.
The main discussion at the oral argument was whether a Pennsylvania statute creates a requirement for all mortgages to be recorded by its use of the phrase, “shall be recorded.” The attorneys for MERSCORP, Inc. argued that the purpose of the statute was not to create a public land record, but to make the mortgages public and valid, so they can be collected on.
The plaintiff argued that it is essential to the public well being that the mortgages and ownership of land be recorded in a public and accessible manner. The plaintiff’s claims echo the sentiments of the Public Interest Law Center’s amicus brief.