Dismissal of Foreclosure Action Does Not Stay Statute of Limitations Period to Foreclose

April 8, 2013

In almost any setting, when a borrower fails to pay a mortgage, the lender will issue a letter accelerating the entire amount owed notwithstanding that the terms of the mortgage only require monthly payments. That letter informs the borrower of the default and demands full payment of the amount outstanding. That letter is typically a prerequisite for the lender's filing of a foreclosure action but on the flip side, the lender's six year statute of limitations period begins from the date of that letter.

On August 20, 1992, Dime Savings Bank issued an acceleration letter to the borrowers. In September 1992, Dime commenced a foreclosure action. That action was dismissed but not on the merits of the case. The lender commenced a second lawsuit in April 1999. The court granted the borrowers' motion to dismiss as more than six years had passed from the date of the 1992 acceleration letter. The lender appealed claiming that the dismissal of the first case suspended the running of the statute limitations period.

The Second Department affirmed that dismissal finding that to stop the statute of limitations the lender must affirmatively revoke the acceleration. Because the earlier dismissal was not an affirmative act of revocation, the lender could not now seek payment of that loan.

The court noted that the lender had an opportunity to seek court permission to continue the first action shortly after it was dismissed but never did so. One wonders whether that played any role in the court's decision, as including that fact should not have been relevant to the court's decision.