The Third Department noted that the referee’s failure to hold a hearing in a foreclosure action does not require reversal of a judgment of foreclosure if the defendant had an opportunity the challenge the referee’s report by submitting evidence directly to Supreme Court:
“CPLR 4313 requires a referee to notify the parties of the date and place for a hearing. However, hearings may be performed either on paper or by the taking of in-court evidence” … . Generally, “‘[a]s long as a defendant is not prejudiced by the inability to submit evidence directly to the referee, a referee’s failure to notify a defendant and hold a hearing is not, by itself, a basis to reverse a judgment of foreclosure and sale and remit the matter for a hearing and a new determination of amounts owed'” … . This is because “the referee’s findings and recommendations are advisory only; they have no binding effect and the court remains the ultimate arbiter of the dispute [as] CPLR 4403 expressly authorizes a court not only to reject the report but to make its own findings, to take or retake testimony or to order a new trial or hearing” … .
Here, defendants were provided with “an opportunity to challenge the referee’s report by submitting evidence directly to Supreme Court” upon plaintiff’s motion to confirm the referee’s report — an opportunity of which they did not avail themselves … .Carrington Mtge. Servs., LLC v Fiore, 2022 NY Slip Op 03951, Third Dept 6-16-22
Practice Point: Although the CPLR requires the referee in a foreclosure action to hold a hearing, the failure to hold the hearing is not reversible error as long as the defendant had the opportunity to challenge the referee’s report by submitting evidence directly to Supreme Court.