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Foreclosure Litigation Levels Off For Now

The pace of foreclosure-related lawsuits slowed in the first quarter of 2012, but the reprieve may only be temporary, according to the latest edition of the Mortgage Litigation Index.

Despite a 10-percent decline in from the fourth quarter of 2011, foreclosure-related litigation remained the number one category in the index, which is compiled each quarter by Mortgage Daily and the law firm Ballard Spahr LLP. Overall, the index declined nearly 11.5 percent.

However, the first quarter 2012 numbers are 43 percent higher than the same period a year ago. The index tracks mortgage-related lawsuits in a variety of categories, including foreclosure, servicing, investor complaints, criminal fraud, and title issues.

Complaints about mortgage servicing occupied the second spot, dropping just seven percent from the previous quarter.

The decline in foreclosure lawsuits came as a result of the servicing mandates of the National Mortgage Settlement as well as other measures put into place prior to the settlement that slowed the number of foreclosures and allow more options for homeowners, according to Ballard Spahr Partner Christopher Willis. However, the number of homes facing foreclosure remains high, and that could spark more legal battles.

Willis does not expect to see any significant reduction in the index for the remainder of the year because of “the continued presence of very strong drivers for more litigation.”

Mortgage-related legal issues, especially those related to foreclosures, are still receiving a great deal of publicity through both civil and criminal cases brought against lenders by the nation’s attorneys general. The new servicing standards mandated by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are also generating interest in the media, which may spur even more lawsuits.

Michael Lewis is Managing Editor at the National Notary Association.

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