Monday, July 29, 2013

Collections: Confessed Judgment, Power of Attorney, and Required Signatures

     The Fairfax County Circuit Court, in the case of Cardinal Concrete Co. v. White, ruled that where the debtor signed a power of attorney appointing an agent selected by the creditor to confess judgment on a note in the event of default, and the attorney-in-fact did not sign the instrument, the confession of judgment would not be set aside because the debtor ratified the creditor's selection of the agent, and the attorney-in-fact was not required to sign.
     The facts of In Re: White were that the debtor executed a promissory note in favor of the creditor. The note contained a power of attorney stating that the creditor appointed an agent to confess judgment on behalf of the debtor. Only the debtor signed the power of attorney. After the entry of a default judgment, the debtor moved to set aside the confessed judgment on the ground that the creditor selected the attorney-in-fact, and that the attorney-in-fact did not sign the power of attorney.
     The motion to set aside was denied. The Court ruled that even if the creditor had no authority to designate the attorney-in-fact, the debtor ratified the appointment by executing the power of attorney. Also, the court found that Virginia Code §8.01-435 did not require the attorney-in-fact to execute the instrument.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Foreclosure: Right to Cure a Default

     Question: Once a borrower is in default, can he “reinstate the loan”, or, “cure the default” and stop the foreclosure sale? Answer: yes. In general, most deeds of trust contain language that allows a borrower the opportunity to reinstate, or cure, the loan after the due date set out in the note. If the deed of trust contains this language, the note cannot be placed into default and accelerated until the cure period has expired. Government loans such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have very specific requirements. In fact, a borrower can always cure a monetary default and stop a foreclosure up to the time of sale by paying in full, in good funds, the deficient amount, including all costs of the sale.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Real Estate: Perfecting Mechanic's Liens

     In recent editions of Creditor News we have been discussing the benefits of using real estate to improve creditors’ positions. Last month we began a discussion of the benefits of using mechanic’s liens to aid in the collection of your debt.
     Virginia Code §§43-4, 43-7 and 43-9 provide for the perfection of the lien by general contractors, subcontractors, and laborers and suppliers. In each section the creditor must file a memorandum of lien at any time after the work is commenced or material furnished, but not later than 90 days from the last day of the month in which he last performs labor or furnishes material, and in no event later than 90 days from the time such building, structure, etc., is completed, or the work thereon otherwise terminated. The memorandum must contain specific information as set forth in the code (and there are forms in the code), and must be filed in the clerk's office in the county or city in which the building, structure etc., or any part thereof is located. The memorandum shall show the names of the owner of the property sought to be charged, and of the claimant of the lien, the amount and consideration of his claim, and the time or times when the same is or will be due and payable, verified by the oath of the claimant, or his agent, including a statement declaring his intention to claim the benefit of the lien, and giving a brief description of the property on which he claims a lien.
     We have experienced attorneys and staff who can examine title, file mechanic’s liens, and litigate to enforce the same.


Monday, July 8, 2013

Bankruptcy: Bankruptcy Filings: Chapter 7 and 13

     Although there are other Chapters under which debtors may seek relief, Chapters 7 and 13 are the most frequently encountered.
Chapter 7
     Chapter 7 involves a discharge of debt by court order. While secured debts may be routinely "reaffirmed", unsecured debts normally are not. Traditionally, debts have been reaffirmed through a Reaffirmation Agreement. The Courts of the Eastern District of Virginia have held, however, that creditors cannot force debtors to execute reaffirmation agreements if they were not in default at the time of the bankruptcy filing.
     Why would a debtor want to pay a debt when he has filed for Chapter 7 relief? The answer is future credit. The possibility of future credit can be sufficient incentive to encourage voluntary repayment for at least two (2) reasons:
     1. Debtors want and need future credit after bankruptcy discharge, and
     2. Reasonable credit after bankruptcy is very difficult to obtain as bankruptcy carries a stigma. Absent special circumstances, the only credit card a debtor may obtain after bankruptcy is a "secured" credit card. These cards are tantamount to a line of credit drawn upon account deposits pledged as security. There are also user fees and high interest rates.
     How do you encourage debtors to voluntarily pay their pre-bankruptcy petition debts? Consider adopting the following written policies:
     1. Post-bankruptcy credit may be extended to debtors who voluntarily pay their dischargeable debts ("the carrot").
     2. No future credit or services, other than those required by law, will be extended to debtors who have caused you a loss by bankruptcy or otherwise, unless the debt is voluntarily repaid (“the stick").
     How do creditors inform their debtors of this policy once a petition of bankruptcy is filed? Consider sending a letter directly to the debtors’ counsel asking that counsel advise their client of the policy.
Chapter 13
     Chapter 13 involves a "reorganization" of the debtor's finances. The debtor is required to devise a plan for repayment: 100% for secured debts and a court-approved percentage for unsecured debts. Creditors are paid in the order of priority - preferred (taxes), secured, and finally, unsecured. Creditors are required to file proofs of claim with the Bankruptcy Court to protect their place in the plan. Plans can take up to five (5) years to complete.
     When can you proceed against co-makers? In Chapter 7 you can proceed immediately. In Chapter 13, you have to either wait until the plan pays out, or petition the Bankruptcy Court to lift the automatic stay against the co-maker. Once this is granted you can proceed against the co-maker for the percentage not paid by the plan. Although you are required to file the motion to lift the stay, the court is required to grant your relief.
Planning Summary
     Regardless of the Chapter, the best way to minimize your bankruptcy loss is to be secured. In Chapter 13 cases, security can mean the difference between payment at 100% rather than at a nominal percentage. In Chapter 7 cases, security can mean the difference between reaffirmation or no payment at all. In either Chapter, collateral is the key.
     The second best protection from bankruptcy loss is having a solvent co-signer. The old saying "two heads are better than one" can mean much in bankruptcy, especially when your co-signer is not a spouse. Generally, spouses do not make good co-signers because they can file a joint petition for bankruptcy and, in fact, often do because family finances are inter-related. It should be noted, however, that in a case of jointly owned real estate, a spouse's signature is necessary in order to perfect a lien against any real property.


Monday, July 1, 2013

Collections: Garnishing Joint Accounts

     Can a creditor with a judgment against one party to a joint bank account garnish the account? Yes, but the judgment creditor is entitled only to that portion of the account which is attributable to the deposits of the judgment debtor. Virginia Code §6.1-125.3 holds that if the joint account holders are married, then the judgment creditor is entitled to half of the funds in the account, unless one of the married parties proves a different intent by clear and convincing evidence. Upon learning that the bank account is jointly held, the creditor must serve notice to the non-judgment account holder, as well as to the judgment debtor. The Spotsylvania Circuit Court recently ruled, however, that married account holders could attempt to protect bank accounts by asserting that the accounts were exempt from execution if they were held as tenants by the entireties.