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Woods v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

January 28, 2014

DARLENE WOODS, Plaintiff,
v.
WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A., Defendant.

Tamara Powell, Albertazzi Law Firm, Bend, OR, Attorney for Plaintiff

Robert J. Bocko, Daniel J. Park, Keesal, Young, & Logan, Seattle, Washington, Attorneys for Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

ANN AIKEN, Chief District Judge.

Plaintiff Darlene Woods filed suit against Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. ("Wells Fargo"), alleging violations of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), 12 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq., and breach of contract. Plaintiff seeks damages, declaratory relief, and attorney fees. Defendant moves for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 on all of plaintiff's claims, arguing that RESPA does not apply to plaintiff's loan and that plaintiff's RESPA and breach of contract claims fail as a matter of law. Plaintiff opposes defendant's motion.

Defendant's motion is granted as to the RESPA claims and denied as to the breach of contract claims.

I. BACKGROUND

In 2006, plaintiff purchased property (the "property") in Bend, Oregon. Woods Dep. 47:4-6 (attached as Ex. A to Park Decl.). Plaintiff purchased the property for the use of House of Hope Ministries ("HOHM"), a nonprofit organization, Woods Dep. 47:13-17, and has never resided at the property. Id. at 61:5-14.

On March 28, 2007, plaintiff obtained an adjustable-rate refinance loan (the "loan") for the property from World Savings Bank, F.S.B. Woods Dep. Ex. 5 at 72-77. After plaintiff obtained the loan, World Savings Bank, F.S.B. changed its name to Wachovia Mortgage, F.S.B. Dolan Decl. ¶ 4. On November 1, 2009, Wachovia Mortgage converted to Wells Fargo Bank Southwest, N.A., which immediately merged into Wells Fargo. Dolan Decl. ¶ 5. Accordingly, defendant is the successor to World Savings with respect to plaintiff's loan. Park Decl. Ex. C at 8:9-18.

On October 21, 2010, plaintiff filed for bankruptcy in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Oregon. Park Decl. Ex. J. In August 2011, plaintiff and defendant agreed to a stipulation (the "stipulation"), which modified some terms of the loan. Woods Compl. Ex. A. The stipulation was incorporated into plaintiff's Bankruptcy Plan. Park Decl. Ex. L. On August 29, 2011, the Bankruptcy Court issued an order confirming plaintiffs' Bankruptcy Plan, including the stipulation. Id.

Under the stipulation, plaintiff was required to make monthly principal and interest payments of $1533.03, beginning on September 1, 2011. Woods Compl. Ex. A at 3:10-13. The stipulation also required plaintiff to make monthly escrow payments for advances paid by defendant on property taxes and hazard insurance. Id. at 3:14-16. Plaintiff owed $2645.82 in taxes on the property for the 2011-2012 tax year ending on June 30, 2012. Woods Dep. Ex. 12 at 113. On October 26, 2011, defendant paid the property taxes and charged the amount to escrow. Id. at 115.

Defendant received plaintiff's first post-stipulation payment on October 5, 2011 for $1533.03. Dolan Decl. ¶ 11. Defendant claims that this payment was late and insufficient, as the first payment under the stipulation was due on September 1, 2011 in the amount of $1986.33, including the escrow payment. Id. at ¶ 10. Following the October 5, 2011 payment, plaintiff made 11 additional monthly payments, each for $1533.03. Id. at ¶ 11. However, defendant claims that escrow payments were due for each month of the 2011-2012 tax year, ending on June 1, 2012, to account for the property taxes paid by defendant. As a result, defendant deemed plaintiff's payments insufficient, and applied a portion of each payment to the payment for the previous month. Id. at ¶ 12-13. This caused plaintiff's unpaid balance to increase each month after September 2011. Id. at ¶ 14. Defendant notified plaintiff of these past due payments. Woods Compl. 11. However, defendant did not provide plaintiff's attorney with notice of plaintiff's defaults. Hemphill Decl. ¶ 8.

Plaintiff wrote a letter dated November 14, 2011 to defendant, stating that the correct monthly payment for her loan was set at $1533.03 and requesting that defendant correct her account to reflect this amount. Woods Dep. Ex. 15 at 119. Plaintiff's attorney sent defendant a second letter dated March 19, 2012, requesting explanations and corrective actions by defendant with respect to the loan. Woods Dep. Ex. 16 at 120-123. Defendant responded in a letter dated June 8, 2012, providing some of the requested explanations and informing plaintiff's attorney that none of the requested corrective actions would be taken. Woods Dep. Ex. 17 at 124-126. Plaintiff's attorney then sent another letter to defendant, dated November 28, 2012, again requesting that corrective actions be taken. Woods Dep. Ex. 18 at 127-128.

On September 6, 2012, plaintiff obtained a property tax exemption for the 2012-2013 tax year on the basis that the property was used for charitable purposes. Woods Dep. Ex. 19 at 129. The exception did not cover the 2011-2012 tax year. Id . Defendant claims that it did not charge escrow for taxes after October 2012 due to the exception. Def.'s Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. 14.

In a letter dated January 10, 2013, defendant informed plaintiff's attorney that plaintiff's loan was "in foreclosure." Woods Dep. Ex. 14 at 115. ...


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