Ruling by state’s highest court could provide boost for those fighting eviction
The state’s highest court has ruled that people fighting eviction from homes they lost to foreclosure can challenge the validity of a property seizure in housing court after the fact, a decision advocates for homeowners’ rights are calling a major victory.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s unanimous ruling, released today, involved KC Bailey, a Mattapan man whose home was taken back by the lender through foreclosure. In 2009, Bailey contested his eviction during a housing court proceeding, saying the foreclosure process itself was flawed.
In land court, Bailey claimed he only learned of the 2007 foreclosure when he found an eviction notice taped to a fence surrounding his property. He refused to leave the house on the grounds he was not given proper notice of the sale.
Bank of New York, which wanted to evict Bailey, argued that the housing court didn’t have the authority to consider a challenge to a foreclosure that had already been finalized, and the judge agreed. Bailey appealed and the Supreme Judicial Court decided to take the case. As a result of its ruling, the case now goes back to housing court.
“We conclude that the housing court has jurisdiction to consider the validity of the plaintiff’s title as a defense to a summary process action after a foreclosure sale,’’ the court ruled in a decision written by Justice Fernande R.V. Duffly.
Local housing advocates said the ruling provides a boost for troubled homeowners because it means lenders must prove they have a clear title to a home before evicting its occupants.
“It’s a big win because the banks have been saying once they foreclose they can evict people and there is no right to challenge the underlying foreclosure,’’ said Nadine Cohen, a managing attorney with Greater Boston Legal Services, which submitted to the court a brief in support of Bailey.
The attorney representing Bank of New York could not immediately be reached for comment.
Jenifer B. McKim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org