The Ohio Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that lenders cannot file foreclosure cases unless they have the proper paperwork in hand, a ruling hailed as a safeguard for homeowners in trouble. The ruling is expected to curb the practice of granting foreclosures by lenders that lack vital documentation.

Common pleas courts cannot hear foreclosure cases unless they are filed by the lender holding the mortgage interest in the property, the justices said in a unanimous ruling.

The ruling reversed the 2nd District Court of Appeals in a decision in a Greene County (Ohio) case that conflicted with two other appellate rulings on the need for the “real party of interest” to be part of foreclosure filings. In the case, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. filed a foreclosure against a couple who had defaulted on their loan. The filing occurred before a bank had signed over the mortgage loan to “Freddie Mac.”

The couple sued, in part, because they had arranged a short sale of their home with the bank and had found a buyer before the filing of the foreclosure action.

Columbus, Ohio lawyer Troy Doucet praised the ruling. It still is common, particularly in rural areas, for foreclosures to be granted without banks producing promissory notes and mortgage assignments,

Doucet told The Columbus Dispatch. Doucet now plans to file motions to dismiss 20 to 25 percent of the foreclosure cases he is defending on behalf of homeowners.

A lawyer for the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. did not respond to messages seeking comment.

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