Monday, April 28, 2014

Foreclosure: Be Prepared to Conduct Foreclosures

     While foreclosure may not be a topic that debtors (or even creditors) want to discuss, like all other aspects of proper business planning, you should.
     With more creditors engaging in loans secured by real estate (which I strongly advocate), be by first deeds of trust, second or subsequent deeds of trust, refinances or credit lines, a certain amount of default is to be expected. Being prepared to react to default is imperative.
     At the law firm of Lafayette, Ayers & Whitlock, PLC, we represent creditors - from start to finish. We are a full-service creditor’s rights firm. While many attorneys do “collections”, few attorneys have the trained expertise and staff to represent creditors in all four areas of Creditor’s Rights—Collections, Bankruptcy, Real Estate and Foreclosure. WE DO FORECLOSURES. We will handle foreclosure proceedings from demand to final accounting.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Foreclosure: Obtaining Possession after Foreclosure

     Upon purchasing property at a foreclosure sale, it is not uncommon to have a “holdover tenant”. If this occurs, you can obtain possession of the property by filing a Summons for Unlawful Detainer in the appropriate General District Court. The applicable statute requires that the plaintiff prove “a right to the possession of the premises at the time of the commencement of the suit.” The only evidence that is usually required is (a) a copy of the recorded trustee’s deed, since the facts recited therein are prima facie evidence of their truth, and (b) a copy of the notice to vacate sent to the occupant(s).
     On the date of the initial return, if the defendant fails to appear, possession will be granted. If the matter is contested, most courts set a new date for trial. In contested cases, issues are usually related to notice and service, so the trustee should be prepared to present evidence that the foreclosure sale was properly advertised, noticed and conducted.
     The judgment for possession is not final until 10 days after it is entered, and most courts will not issue a writ of possession during that 10-day pendency. If an appeal is noted within the 10-day period, the defendant must perfect the appeal by posting an appeal bond and paying within 30 days of the date of the judgment the applicable writ and service fees for the circuit court. Most judges are sympathetic to require significant appeal bonds equating with the former mortgage payments.
     Eviction is accomplished using a “Request for Writ of Possession.” A writ of possession may be issued on an unlawful detainer for up to one year from the date of judgment. When requesting the writ of possession, provide contact information for both the Sheriff and the person who will supervise the eviction of the new owner; the Sheriff will coordinate a date and time to serve the writ of possession and maintain the peace while the owner physically evicts the personal property of the occupant(s) and secures the property.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Real Estate: Using Deeds of Trust to Secure Your First, Second, Equity Line or Refinance Home Loans

      Properly securing debts through real estate could make the difference between collecting the funds and incurring a loss. In this blog, we will review the benefits of securing your first, second, equity line or refinance home loans with a deed of trust.
      Real estate liens provide important security for your debt. Since real estate is the largest investment and asset for most individuals, they will usually make every effort to pay debts secured by their real estate first. However, you need to know the chain of title in order to make an informed decision about your loan. Specifically, in what position will your lien be? Are there any “clouds” on the title? You will not know the answer to these questions without a proper title search and review.
      Once you know your position you will need to examine the available equity to cover your loan. What is the value? What are the balances due on the liens ahead of your anticipated position? Beyond the business decision of determining when the equity is sufficient for your risk tolerance, in order to take advantage of the “$1.00 rule” in the bankruptcy code for chapter 13 cases (should your debtor decide to later file bankruptcy), you need to ensure that there is at least $1.00 in equity to cover the loan. You should take into consideration that property values may go down (e.g., 2008 to present).
      If the deal is made and the real estate closing occurs, immediate and proper recording of your deed of trust is essential to preserve your position. If the debtor defaults, foreclosure on the property can occur. If the debtor seeks reorganization of his debt in chapter 13, you can seek full payment of the debt.
      We have experienced attorneys and staff who can examine title and properly represent your interests in real estate closings.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Bankruptcy: An Examination of the Dischargeability of Debts Regarding Property Damage-Malice

     In a past blog I began a multi-issue review of cases that address the dischargeability of debts regarding property damage-malice. The relevant bankruptcy code provision is §523(a)(6). I briefly established the standard used by courts to determine dischargeability of debts involving property damage and discussed how the court applied the standard to a case involving rented property.
     In the case of First Nat'l Bank of Md. v. Stanley, the United States Bankruptcy Court at Baltimore, Maryland, ruled that a debtor, whose creditor bank mistakenly extended his line of credit, and who used that windfall to purchase property that he speculated would shortly rise in value, converted the bank's money, despite his "good intentions" toward repayment, and discharge of the debt to the bank was denied as "willful and malicious" injury to the creditor under Bankruptcy Code §523(a)(6).
     The Court ruled that the act or conduct at issue in Stanley was conversion - an unauthorized exercise of dominion or control over property belonging to another that seriously interferes with the owner's rights. Although a person need not know that someone else has superior ownership rights in the property to be technically liable for the tort of conversion, the Court held that the test for malice under Vaughn requires such knowledge on the debtor's part before discharge will be denied - in other words, the debtor must have engaged in a "wrongful" conversion.
     In this case, the Court found that conversion was wrongful. The debtor knew that something was amiss when his credit limit on his line of credit was suddenly increased by a factor of ten. His explanation that he thought the bank had granted him a $73,000 "unsecured" line of credit was wholly irreconcilable with his knowledge that, just three months earlier, he had been approved for $2,000 less than the relatively modest secured line that they had requested. The Court pointed out that the debtor, though not a loan officer, was an accountant with one year of graduate school education; he was, by no means, unsophisticated.
     The proper focus in this case was not on debtor's "good intentions", but simply on his exercise of dominion and control over funds that he knew belonged to another. The debtor's deliberate conversion of the funds is the intentional, wrongful act that prevented the discharge of this debt to the bank.
     The Court found that the debtor inflicted willful and malicious injury on the bank; thus, he was not entitled to be discharged from the resultant debt.
     A future blog will apply the standard used by courts to determine dischargeability of debts involving property damage to another case involving withheld payments.