If you’re looking to buy a home in Washington State, there’s a recent court decision out of the state Supreme Court you need to know about.

No one likes to think that the worst might happen or that they might fall on hard times. However, it’s important to know that due to this ruling, your mortgage servicer cannot lock you out of your house in the event of missed mortgage payments without going through the lengthy foreclosure process.

Supreme Court Ruling

The Washington Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in the case of Jordan v. Nationstar Mortg., LLC, finding that provisions in a security instrument that allow a mortgage servicer to enter a home after missed payments without providing any notice to the homeowner conflict with state law.

Laura Jordan, the listed plaintiff in the case’s title, is the representative of a certified class of 3,600 Washington state homeowners who were locked out of their homes by Nationstar after failing to make mortgage payments but before Nationstar obtained an order of foreclosure through a court. Nationstar entered the homes and locked the homeowners out pursuant to specific provisions in their mortgage instruments (deeds of trust).

Because the case at issue involved both state law issues and federal law issues, the federal court hearing the case (the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington) certified the question “Can a borrower and lender enter into a contractual agreement prior to default that allows the lender to enter, maintain, and secure the encumbered property prior to foreclosure?” to the Washington Supreme Court.

The Court noted that generally, a contract which is contrary to the terms and policy of an express legislative enactment is illegal and unenforceable. Washington law clearly prohibits a lender from taking possession of property before foreclosure of a borrower’s house. The court concluded that the contract at issue, which expressly allows the lender to “secure” the house after a missed payment by entering and rekeying the property, gives the lender the right to take possession prior to foreclosure and thus, conflicts with state law.

Washington appears to be the first state in the country to invalidate the provisions. The ruling may inspire other lawsuits.

We are here to help

An experienced real estate attorney can guide you through the process of purchasing a home. Contact or call (425) 227-8700, our office in Renton, to reach attorney Dan Kellogg.