Last year's robo-signing scandals delayed tens of thousands of foreclosures in the 23 states where the process is handled in court. A new controversy could complicate foreclosures in the other 27 states.

At issue is the notice of default, the first letter that a mortgage lender or servicer sends to a homeowner who has fallen behind on payments. The notice typically starts the formal foreclosure process in nonjudicial states such as California, Arizona and Nevada.

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