The Third Department, reversing Supreme Court, in a full-fledged opinion by Justice Fisher, determined plaintiff bank’s 2017 de-acceleration letter was not ambiguous and served to stop the running of the statute of limitations triggered when the mortgage loan was accelerated by initial the 2012 foreclosure action:
… [P]laintiff submitted … a copy of the September 27, 2018 de-acceleration notice sent by the mortgage servicer, indicating that “we hereby revoke any prior acceleration of the loan, withdrawing any prior demand for immediate payment of all sums secured by the security instrument and re-institute the loan as an installment loan” … . The notice advised that defendants could resume making monthly payments, which would now be accepted by plaintiff, and further provided that defendants “also have the right to pay the monthly payments that came due prior to and would have come due during the prior acceleration, which has not been revoked.” …
Supreme Court found, that this … language — “which has not been revoked” — made the entire notice unclear and ambiguous, we disagree. Such statement was advising defendants of their right to satisfy the arrears and their continuing obligation to make monthly payments; the next sentence in the notice warned that, if defendants failed to “cure the payments in arrears,” plaintiff reserved the right “to accelerate the loan anew.” To this end, defendants’ claim that this language is inconsistent with the monthly statements sent before and after the de-acceleration notice is belied by the record, which confirms that such statements sought payment on the total amount of the arrears plus the monthly mortgage payment, and not the total principal of the mortgage. HSBC Bank, USA, N.A. v Bresler, 2022 NY Slip Op 06671, Third Dept 11-23-22
Practice Point: In a foreclosure action, a de-acceleration letter will stop the running of the statute of limitations as long as the letter is clear and unambiguous. Here Supreme Court found the letter ambiguous and, therefore, ineffective; but the Third Department disagreed.