Monday, December 29, 2014

Foreclosure: Deed in lieu of Foreclosure

     In certain cases it may be more practical for the lender to seek or accept from the borrower a deed in lieu of foreclosure rather than incur the expense of foreclosure – this is at the lender’s discretion. If the lender agrees, in return for voluntarily surrendering the property, the borrower will seek either partial or complete satisfaction of the debt.

     Considerations. Before accepting the deed in lieu of foreclosure, the lender must consider many matters:

     a. Value of the property vs. the amount of the debt.
     b. Other debts on the property. A deed in lieu of foreclosure does not extinguish prior or junior liens or encumbrances. Thus the lender, in accepting the deed, accepts the property with the liens. It is possible for the lender to structure the deed in lieu of foreclosure so that it does not release the deed of trust so as to preserve a future foreclosure to extinguish subordinate liens.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Real Estate: The Virginia Property Owners’ Association Act – Memorandums of Lien

     Previously I began discussing the Virginia Property Owners’ Association Act.

     The Act specifically provides for remedies outside of the more common remedy of filing suit for the amount owed and receiving a judgment. A memorandum of lien to a holder of a credit line deed of trust under the Act is given in the same fashion as if the association’s lien were a judgment. Under the Act, the association can file for and perfect a lien against the homeowner that is prior to all other subsequent liens and encumbrances except real estate tax liens, liens and encumbrances recorded prior to the recordation of the declaration, and sums unpaid on and owing under any mortgage or deed of trust recorded prior to perfection of this lien.

     To perfect the memorandum of lien, the association must file with the clerk of the circuit court in the county or city in which the development is situated a memorandum verified by the oath of the principal officer of the association or another officer provided for in the declaration. The memorandum must be filed within 12 months from the first assessment became due and payable. Additionally, prior to filing a memorandum of lien, a written notice must be sent to the property owner by certified mail, at the owner’s last known address, informing the owner that the lien will be filed in the circuit court clerk’s office at least 10 days before the actual filing date of the lien. The memorandum must name the development, describe the lot, name the person(s) constituting the owners of the lot, list the amount of unpaid assessments currently due or past due relative to such lot together with the date when each fell due, list the date of issuance of the memorandum, name the association with a name and address of the contact for the person to contact to arrange for payment or release of the lien, and state that the association is obtaining a lien in accordance with the provisions of the Virginia Property Owners’ Association act as set forth in Chapter 26 (section 55-508 et seq.) of Title 55.

     The Act provides that a judgment or decree in this action must include, without limitation, reimbursement for costs and reasonable attorney’s fees for the prevailing party. Also, if the association prevails, it may also recover interest at the legal rate for the sums secured by the lien from the time each sum became due and payable. If the owner then satisfies the debt, the lien must be released, and failure to release the lien results in a penalty.

     Once a lien has been perfected, the association must enforce the lien within 36 months from the time when the memorandum of lien was recorded. This time period cannot be extended.

     In a future blog post I will discuss foreclosure on a lien.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bankruptcy: Dischargeability of Student Loans

     In recent posts I reviewed the first case examining the application of Bankruptcy Code §523(a)(8) concerning the dischargeability of student loans.

     The second case is Jones v. National Payment Center, which was heard by the United States Bankruptcy Court in Richmond. In Jones the Court held that the debtor had the ability to repay $13,000 of her $16,000 in student loans, and $3,000 was thus determined to be dischargeable in bankruptcy under Bankruptcy Code §523(a)(8)(b), because of the “undue hardship” arising from debtor’s medical condition of chronic fatigue. This was the Court’s second decision in this case - the first decision in favor of full discharge was overturned on the creditor’s appeal. In this remanded trial, the creditor argued that all of the debt was non-dischargeable. However, the Court allowed a partial discharge.

     The Court ruled that simply because the debtor earned a higher wage ($5 per hour more than at the time of the Court’s earlier opinion), and had a higher net income than she did when she first came before the Court, did not mean that she was not entitled to a partial hardship discharge. While it was true that she had over $700 left over each month after paying for necessary expenses, the Bankruptcy Court found that this was largely due to the fact that she was dependent at that time upon her parents. In considering whether a debtor could maintain a minimal standard of living based on current income and expenses, courts differ as to how they treat the fact that a debtor relies on parental support. The Court found that it would be inappropriate to treat all of the savings the debtor realized by living with her parents as available to pay her student loan debt. The debtor testified that she planned to move out of her parents’ home sometime in the coming year, at which time her expenses would increase drastically. More of her net income would be needed to maintain a minimal standard of living as her parents would no longer be providing her with shelter and transportation. The Court found that there was no reason not to consider these facts in the minimal standard of living calculus.

     The Court ruled that to hold the debtor’s student loan nondischargeable would penalize her for simply doing the best she could under the circumstances. The debtor’s parents were retired and on a fixed income and they could not support her indefinitely. It was therefore prudent for the debtor to build her savings and prepare for the day when she would no longer be able to live with her parents.

     The Bankruptcy Court allowed the debtor to continue building her savings so that she would become self-sufficient by discharging all but $13,000 of her student loans and giving her approximately six years to repay this amount with interest on the unpaid balance of 8.25 percent.

     The third case is Commonwealth of Va., State Educ. Assistance Auth. v. Gibson. In Gibson the Court ruled that under Bankruptcy Code §523(a)(8)(A), a student loan is not dischargeable in bankruptcy unless the loan became due more than seven years (exclusive of any applicable suspension of the repayment period) before the date of the filing of the petition. Therefore, the seven-year nondischargeability period is calculated by determining the amount of time between the date the loan became due and the date the borrower filed bankruptcy, then subtracting the amount of time during which any "applicable suspension" periods were in effect.

     In Gibson the debtor filed her current Chapter 13, slightly more than seven years after the loan became due. However, during the debtor's previous Chapter 7 bankruptcy, an automatic stay was in effect and prevented the Commonwealth from taking any action to collect the student loan, and the debtor did not make any payments on the loan during the period. The Court held that the previous automatic stay was an "applicable suspension of the repayment period" that tolled the nondischargeability period. Accordingly, upon applying the formula listed above, the debtor did not have the equivalent of seven years payments on her loans, and therefore, the loans were not dischargeable.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Collections: Note Guarantee Upheld

     In the case of NationsBank v. Mahoney, the Fairfax County Circuit Court upheld a note and guarantee agreement, as well as the sale of collateral pursuant to the terms of these documents.

      The guarantor in Mahoney argued that the creditor acted in bad faith. The guarantor asked the Court to imply in the note and guarantee agreement additional terms from the commercial good faith provision of Virginia Code §8.1-203. The Court, however, found that the note and guarantee agreement's provisions were "within the preview of the Uniform Commercial Code as adopted in Virginia", and that each alleged act of bad faith was expressly authorized in the terms of the note and guarantee agreement. The Court ruled that it could not imply the terms requested because the result would be to negate or materially alter the explicit terms freely agreed upon by the parties.
     The lesson from Mahoney is that properly prepared notes are the key to collection should the loan become sour. Legal review of loan documents prior to execution can be more cost effective than legal representation after default.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Creditors, Let's Talk about Foreclosures!

     Foreclosures. This is not a topic that most creditors wish to discuss. After all, if you get to this point your loan is delinquent and you are not having success getting your borrower to pay. When to take action and what action to take – these are important matters to discuss. We can help!

     At Lafayette, Ayers & Whitlock PLC we represent holders of deeds of trust and help our clients evaluate their order of priority and equity cushion, as well as explore bankruptcy implications and collection strategies. We do this for first, second and subsequent deeds of trust, as well as equity lines and judgment liens (the last of which can be enforced through a Creditor’s Bill).
     We do foreclosures all across the Commonwealth of Virginia.

     Even if we are not your specified trustee in your deed of trust, we can prepare and record a deed of appointment of substitute trustee and protect your interests.

     I invite you to please call me so that we can discuss your questions.