The case of the unknowing spouse and the mortgage

File this one under “nice try.”

The Minnesota Court of Appeals today rejected a Grasston man’s attempt to stop foreclosure proceedings against him because he listed himself as “single” on the mortgage application even though he was married.

Thomas Graikowski of Grasston refinanced his mortgage in 2006, two days after he married a woman who didn’t know about the mortgage, didn’t attend the closing, and didn’t sign the loan application.

He defaulted on the $170,000 loan a year later, the marriage ended a year after that, and two years after the divorce, the mortgage company foreclosed on both of them. He attempted to have the mortgage declared void because his then-wife didn’t sign it.

Under Minnesota law, the Appeals Court said, the Graikowski’s mortgage is void because it lacked his wife’s signature, but it said the law can’t be used by someone who signed a mortgage to avoid repaying it.

Not that it hasn’t been tried before. The court cited a Minnesota Supreme Court case in which a Buhl man, Stanley Bozich, declared himself “single” on a mortgage application even though he was married. His wife died and he remarried, then he attempted to cancel the mortgage on the basis that his new wife didn’t sign it.

The state Supreme Court had a word for that: “fraud.”

In today’s ruling, the Court of Appeals said Mr. Graikowski misrepresented his marital status either intentionally or unintentionally, and can’t walk away from the obligation because of it.

Here’s the full opinion.