A Deed in lieu of foreclosure is a deed instrument in which a mortgagor (i.e. the borrower) conveys all interest in a real property to the mortgagee (i.e. the lender) to satisfy a loan that is in default and avoid foreclosure proceedings.
The deed in lieu of foreclosure offers several advantages to both the borrower and the lender. The principal advantage to the borrower is that it immediately releases him/her from most or all of the personal indebtedness associated with the defaulted loan. The borrower also avoids the public notoriety of a foreclosure proceeding and may receive more generous terms than he/she would in a formal foreclosure. Advantages to a lender include a reduction in the time and cost of a repossession, and additional advantages if the borrower subsequently files for bankruptcy.
In order to be considered a deed in lieu of foreclosure, the indebtedness must be secured by the real estate being transferred. Both sides must enter into the transaction voluntarily and in good faith. The settlement agreement must have total consideration that is at least equal to the fair market value of the property being conveyed. Generally, the lender will not proceed with a deed in lieu of foreclosure if the outstanding indebtedness of the borrower exceeds the current fair market value of the property.
Because of the requirement that the instrument be voluntary, lenders will often not act upon a deed in lieu of foreclosure unless they receive a written offer of such a conveyance from the borrower that specifically states that the offer to enter into negotiations is being made voluntarily. This will enact the parol evidence rule and protect the lender from a possible subsequent claim that the lender acted in bad faith or pressured the borrower into the settlement. Both sides may then proceed with settlement negotiations.
Neither the borrower nor the lender is obliged to proceed with the deed in lieu of foreclosure until a final agreement is reached.
In New York, the Home Equity Theft Prevention Act has created some confusion regarding this frequently-used method of settlement. It is unclear whether HETPA applies to deeds in lieu of foreclosure since there is no clear exclusion as there is for a referee’s deed, for example. The 2-year right of recission is not a risk that banks or title insurers are comfortable with, especially given the complexities of compliance, so many banks and title insurers in New York are not willing to work with deeds in lieu.