On June 30, 2020, Delaware Governor, John Carney, issued a Twenty-Third Modification (the “Order”) to the Declaration of a State of Emergency (the “State of Emergency”), initially issued on March 12, 2020. The Order became fully effective July 1, 2020. The Order addresses a number of issues that impact residential mortgage loan servicers, including restrictions on residential foreclosure and evictions and certain fees or charges, which modifies guidance issued under the Sixth Modification of the State of Emergency (the “Sixth Modification”), which we previously discussed.
Restrictions on Late Fees and Excess Interest for Missed Payments
Under the Sixth Modification, with respect to any missed payment on a residential mortgage occurring during the State of Emergency, no late fee or excess interest could be charged or accrued on the account for such residential mortgage during the State of Emergency. Under the Order, these provisions have been removed in their entirety.
The Order continues to impose restrictions on a mortgage servicer’s ability to initiate or complete a foreclosure action or sale, however, the Order replaces Paragraph C of the Sixth Modification and makes certain other significant changes thereto.
Notably, the Order lifts the stay of deadlines in any action pursuant to paragraphs C.2, C.3, and C.4 of the Sixth Modification. Paragraph C.2 of the Sixth Modification had extended all deadlines in residential mortgage foreclosure actions, including those related to the Automatic Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program established pursuant to § 5062C of Title 10 of the Delaware Code. Paragraph C.3 prohibited residential properties subject to a residential mortgage foreclosure action, for which a judgment of foreclosure was issued prior to the State of Emergency, from proceeding to a sheriff’s sale until 31 days after the State of Emergency. Paragraph C.4 prohibited any residential property that was the subject of a residential mortgage foreclosure action, and which was sold at sheriff’s sale, from being subject to an action of ejectment or write of possession until 31 days following the termination of the State of Emergency. The Order lifts these restrictions, unless a court determines that a longer period is needed in the interest of justice.
With the lift of the stay of deadlines, the Order allows a party to act to remove individuals from residential properties, subject to a residential mortgage foreclosure action, where a judgment of foreclosure was issued prior to the declaration of the State of Emergency. However, individuals still cannot act to, and sheriffs, constables, and their agents, cannot remove individuals from their homes unless a judgment of foreclosure was obtained before March 13, 2020. All other provisions of Chapter 49 of Title 10 of the Delaware Code remain in effect in accordance with their terms.
Restrictions on Evictions
Similarly, with respect to evictions, the Order replaces paragraph B of the Sixth Modification and makes significant additional changes thereto.
The Order now provides that actions for summary possession may be filed with respect to any residential unit located within Delaware, but must be stayed to permit the Justice of the Peace Court to determine whether the parties would benefit from court supervised dispute resolution. Previously, no party could bring an action for summary possession for any residential rental unit located in Delaware. Actions that were brought before the State of Emergency, for which no final judgment had been entered, are further stayed.
Sheriffs, constables, and their agents continue to be prohibited from removing individuals from residential properties during the time the Order is in effect, unless a court determines on its own motion, or upon the motion of the parties, that it is necessary in the interest of justice. Additionally, the Order continues to prohibit the charging late fees or interest with respect to any past due balance for any residential unit during the State of Emergency.
The Order makes significant changes to the Sixth Modification to the Declaration of the State of Emergency, which significantly impacts mortgage servicing in Delaware. Servicers should carefully review the Order to fully determine their rights and obligations with respect to Delaware borrowers.