Monday, December 28, 2015

Foreclosure: Substitute Trustees

     Question: What happens if the trustee under your deed of trust is either unavailable, or, is no longer the person you desire to serve as trustee? Answer: You can appoint a substitute trustee. Under Virginia Code Section 55-59(9), the noteholder, or, the holders of greater than fifty percent of the monetary obligation secured by the deed of trust, have the right and the power to appoint a substitute trustee or trustees for any reason, regardless of whether such right is expressly granted in the deed of trust. The timing of your action is important. The trustee must be empowered before taking action – this occurs when the instrument of appointment has been executed. You do not have to wait for recording. However, as Virginia Code Section 55-59(9) states that the appointment of a substitute trustee shall be recorded before, or at the time of, the recording of the deed conveying the property (such as after a foreclosure).
     Question: Can a lender appoint their counsel as trustee? Answer: Yes. Virginia Code Section 26-58 holds that a trustee is not disqualified merely because he is a stockholder, member, employee, officer or director or counsel to the lender.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Real Estate: Homeowner Associations - Easements

     Cases involving HOA powers are frequently fact specific and governing document specific. Recently, the Frederick County Circuit Court decided a case in which a homeowners association was held in violation of the homeowners association’s restrictive covenants and liable for compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees because it removed a wall on a homeowner’s property. The homeowner spent a considerable amount of time and effort improving a portion of a shared roadway that was on his property. He cleared the land, widened the pathway, and built an eight foot retention wall along the pathway. The HOA notified the homeowner that the wall was encroaching on the right of way and told the homeowner that it must be removed at the homeowner’s expense. There was no board of directors hearing or meeting before the decision was made. Without further notice, the wall was removed but the homeowner refused to pay. In addition to tearing down the wall, the HOA installed drainage culverts in the right of way which resulted in silt flowing into the property’s septic system. The HOA filed suit and obtained a General District Court judgment for the expense of removing the wall. The homeowner then appealed the judgment to the Frederick County Circuit Court and filed a complaint against the HOA. The homeowner claimed that the HOA acted outside its authority under the restrictive covenants, which constituted trespass. The HOA filed a counterclaim, alleging breach of contract and violation of the Property Owners’ Association Act (Va. Code Section 55-508). The court held in favor of the homeowner and found that the HOA exceeded its authority under the restrictive covenants. The HOA did not have authority to remove the wall or to install the drainage culverts. In addition, the HOA did not have the ability to charge the homeowner for either the removal of the wall or the installment of the drainage culverts. The court awarded the homeowner compensatory damages of $28,500 (the value of the wall and cost of returning the property to its prior condition) and attorneys’ fees of $48,844.
     It is important to ensure that HOA covenants provide for the powers necessary to take self-help to effect repairs and remove violations. It is also important for HOAs to work through the proper channels and act within its authority granted by restrictive covenants. Failing to do so can be costly for an HOA. The law firm of Lafayette, Ayers & Whitlock, PLC has experience in drafting, reviewing, and amending HOA documents, as well as, representing HOAs in court.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Bankruptcy: Reaffirmation Required for Certain Abandoned Collateral

     In the case of American National Bank & Trust Co. v. DeJournette, the United States District Court in Danville ruled that where the debtors defaulted on their debt secured by a car and a tractor prior to filing for bankruptcy, the Bankruptcy Court erred in not requiring the debtors to reaffirm their obligation or redeem the underlying debt in order to retain the secured property.
     The District Court ruled that whether by means of abandonment or claimed exemption, the property at issue was no longer part of the estate. Therefore, the termination of the automatic stay is governed by Bankruptcy Code §362(c)(2), as opposed to Bankruptcy Code §362(c)(1). Pursuant to §362(c)(2), the automatic stay was lifted upon the earlier of the closing of the case and the discharge. Since the automatic stay had already been terminated by operation of §362(c), the District Court ruled that it was incapable of granting the bank's motion to modify the stay. Nevertheless, the District Court determined that it was capable of providing the bank other "effectual" relief. Underlying the bank's request for modification pursuant to §362(d)(1) was a claim that the Bankruptcy Court misapplied Bankruptcy Code §521(2) by not requiring the defaulting debtor to either reaffirm of redeem their obligation in order to retain the secured property. The District Court ruled that the Bankruptcy Court erred in ruling that the debtors did not either have to redeem or reaffirm. In making its decision, the District Court noted that the various circuit courts are split on the issue on whether a non-defaulting debtor must reaffirm or redeem his obligation when he seeks to retain secured collateral, or whether following a Chapter 7 filing, a non-defaulting debtor may simply hold on to the collateral securing the loan and continue making payments under the original loan agreement.
     The District Court concluded that where debtors have defaulted on a secured debt prior to filing a bankruptcy petition, they must reaffirm their obligation or redeem the underlying debt in order to retain the secured property. The District Court noted that one bankruptcy court in this District, in In Re Doss, disagreed with its conclusion and has extended the holding in In Re Belanger, to a situation involving a defaulting debtor. The District Court found that in a situation where the debtor had defaulted on a secured debt prior to filing for bankruptcy, the most efficient and fair remedy is to require the debtor to either surrender the collateral, or, if he desires to retain the collateral, redeem or reaffirm the obligation. Therefore, despite the ruling in Doss, the District Court found that other relevant case law supported its position.
     In conclusion, the District Court found that the appropriate relief in this case was to compel the debtors to either surrender the collateral, or, if they chose to retain the collateral, compel them to either redeem the debt or reaffirm their obligation. Accordingly, the debtors were ordered to file a new statement of intention either to surrender or retain the secured property. If they chose to retain the secured property, the debtors would likewise be ordered to state an intention to either redeem the debt pursuant to Bankruptcy Code §722 or reaffirm their obligation pursuant to Bankruptcy Code §524(c).

Monday, December 7, 2015

Collection: Secured Transaction Proceeds

     In the case of Orix Credit Alliance Inc. v. Sovran Bank, N.A., the United States District Court at Baltimore, Maryland, reviewed a case where Sovran Bank, which had provided the debtor with a line of credit and several bank accounts.  One of which account was a depository "cash collateral" account routinely applied against draws on the line of credit, signed an agreement with Orix, a finance company, to subordinate the bank's security interest in a crane (purchased by the debtor with funds from the finance company) to the finance company's interest in the crane. The Court ruled, however, that the bank was entitled to use the proceeds from the sale of the crane to reduce the debtor's obligation under the line of credit. The Court's decision was based upon a finding that the bank's transfer of the proceeds occurred in the debtor's ordinary course of business under Virginia Code §8.9-306, comment 2(c), which extinguished the finance company's interest in the proceeds from the sale of the crane.
     This case serves as another example as to why competent legal advice should be sought before relying upon a recorded security interest.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Foreclosure: Trustees in Foreclosure

     Trustee under a deed of trust are agents for both the lender and the borrowers. Accordingly, a trustee must act fairly and impartially. The lender must not let either the lender or the borrower influence the manner in which a trustee carries out the terms of the deed of trust, especially if this would be detrimental to either party. If any question arises as to the existence of the default or the amount in default, a trustee should seek the aid and direction of the court. The powers and duties of a trustee are governed by the deed of trust and Virginia Code Section 55-59.1 et seq. The code provides when the deed of trust does not. A trustee has no right to exercise the power of sale or to obtain possession until such time as the borrower defaults under the note or deed of trust, and, then, only for the purpose of selling the property at foreclosure or preserving the property until sale. When a default occurs, there is no change in title – the property merely becomes eligible to be sold under the powers originally conferred to the trustee by the owner. Thus, the noteholder has the right to have the property sold and the proceeds of the sale applied to the debt.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Real Estate: Statute of Limitations Enforced on Challege to Bylaws Admendment

     The Virginia Condominium Act, specifically Virginia Code Section 55-79.71(C), provides for a statute of limitations in regard to challenging amendments to governing documents. The section provides, in part:
     “An action to challenge the validity of an amendment adopted by the unit owners’ association pursuant to this section may not be brought more than one year after the amendment is recorded.”
     In the case of Godwin v. Bay Point Association Board of Directors, a Norfolk Circuit Court was faced with a homeowner challenge to bylaw amendments. The homeowner, Godwin, had sued the association alleging that it breached its governing documents by taking actions four years earlier and three years earlier that increased her assessment for insurance premiums. The association filed a motion to dismiss Godwin’s complaint on the ground that it was time-barred pursuant to Virginia Code Section 55-79.71(C).
     Four years earlier the association’s board of directors signed a resolution regarding physical damage and flood insurance. Three years earlier it drafted and signed a bylaw amendment relating to insurance premiums. The association argued that challenging either of these actions was time-barred under the statute of limitations.
     The court ruled that the resolution was not an amendment to the condominium governing documents within the meaning of the act. The court found that, at most, the resolution represented a statement of the board’s opinion that the bylaws should be amended to revise the way insurance premiums were assessed against the unit owners. In the resolution, the board acknowledged the need to amend the bylaws and stated that the amendment process was lengthy and inconsistent with the budget preparation schedule for the upcoming fiscal year. Because the resolution was not an amendment adopted by the unit owners pursuant to the act, the court found that the act’s statute of limitations did not apply. However, the court ruled that the bylaws amendment was an amendment to the governing documents within the definition contemplated by the act. Accordingly, the one-year statute of limitations applied.
     Godwin argued that because the association violated mandatory procedures for amending the bylaws, the amendment was null and void, and thus, the statute of limitations did not apply. The court, however, in examining the statute, noted that nothing in the statute suggested that only valid bylaw amendments are subject to the one-year statute of limitations. The court noted that any amendment, not just valid ones, may be challenged within one year. Accordingly, Godwin’s claim was barred by the statute of limitations.
     Godwin then tried to argue that there was a breach of fiduciary duty (the legal duty of the board to act in the best interests of the residents). Godwin and the association agreed that an action for such breach must be filed within two years from the date of breach. Godwin argued that, although the association initially breached its fiduciary duty four and three years earlier “when in bad faith it knowingly and willfully” adopted the resolution and the bylaws amendment, there were renewed breaches when the annual budgets were adopted in the last two years, which reflected the change made to assessments for insurance premiums. The court disagreed, finding that any breach of fiduciary duty relating to the change in the insurance premium assessment took place when the association acted four and three years ago to adopt the resolution and bylaw amendment. The latest of these actions occurred over two years prior to Godwin’s filing suit. Therefore, the claim was time-barred.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Bankruptcy: Preferential Transfer - Purchase Contract

     In the case of Sigmon, Trustee v. Royal Cake Co. the United States District Court at Charlotte, North Carolina, reviewed a Bankruptcy Court ruling granting a trustee's objection to the return of a down payment on a purchase contract as an improper preferential transfer.
     The District Court found as fact that the debtor was the seller of certain machines who returned to a buyer corporation that corporation's down payment on a contract for the purchase of machines.
     The buyer corporation claimed that the down payment was collateral held in trust by the debtor on the buyer's behalf, and that, under North Carolina property law and federal bankruptcy law, the seller of the goods does not hold a property interest in such collateral.
     The District Court concluded that the Bankruptcy Court made a proper finding that the debtor did have a property interest in the down payment, and that the return of the payment was made on account of an antecedent debt for the benefit of the creditor. The District Court further concluded that the buyer corporation's claim that the payment was mere collateral or a deposit was flawed because the payment was actually the first payment for the machines purchased. By sending the payment check, the buyer was fulfilling its obligation under the sales contract, not merely guaranteeing future performance of its payment obligations. Once the debtor deposited the buyer's check into its own bank account, commingling the money with its other funds, the debtor had a right to withdraw, transfer or otherwise use the payment funds in any way it wanted. The debtor's ability to exercise complete dominion and control over the funds was sufficient to demonstrate an interest in property under the preferential transfer provision. Therefore, the Court concluded, the return of the down payment was a transfer of an interest of the debtor in the property.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Collection: Bank Denied Lawyer Fees Due to Problem in the Guaranty

     In the case of Jefferson National Bank v. Estate of Frogale, a Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge denied the award of attorney's fees to a bank because the guaranty agreement did not have a provision for attorney's fees even though the promissory note clearly provided for 25% attorney's fees. The Loudoun Court found that the guaranty referred only to collection of "charges or costs" upon default. The Court ruled that this language was ambiguous, and as such, construed the ambiguity against the bank because they drafted the documents.
     In Frogale a corporation defaulted in the payment of a note and the bank sued the note's guarantor. The guarantor filed a motion for summary judgment regarding the question of the guarantor's liability for attorney's fees. The Loudoun Court reviewed the Virginia Supreme Court case of Mahoney v. Nationsbank. In Mahoney the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that a note and guaranty are two separate agreements, but each must be construed in the light of the other. In doing so, the Loudoun Court stated that it was "crucial that the bank chose to distinguish in the Note between 'all other applicable fees, costs and charges' and attorney's fees; and that it chose not to place a specific attorney fee obligation in the guaranty." The Loudoun Court pointed out that the bank could have placed an attorney's fee provision in the guaranty just as it had done in the note.
     The lesson of Frogale is that you should be careful that when you have guaranties you ensure that the language in the guaranty "mirrors" the language in the promissory note - without mirror language, there can be a problem, with mirror language, ambiguity should not be an issue.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Foreclosure: Deeds of Trust

     It all starts with the deed of trust. The deed of trust is the primary method of acquiring a lien against real estate in Virginia. With a deed of trust, the owner of the real estate conveys legal title to a trustee, in trust, to secure the noteholder’s indebtedness. A deed of trust establishes a lien on the subject real estate upon execution by the grantor and recordation in the land records of the Circuit Court for the jurisdiction (County or City) in which the property is located. While recording the deed of trust is not essential to the validity of the deed of trust between the parties, an unrecorded deed of trust does not establish a lien on the subject real estate as to other creditors and purchasers of the grantor. An unrecorded deed of trust will not provide the beneficiary of the deed of trust with a priority position against other creditors with recorded liens, even if they are subsequent in time.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Real Estate: Former Homeowners' Association President's Emails were Defamatory

     In the Fairfax Circuit Court case of Cornwell v. Ruggieri, the trial judge and jury found that the plaintiff homeowner was defamed by four emails written and published by a former association president and awarded $9,000.00 in damages. These emails alleged that the homeowner had stolen association funds five years earlier. The former association president tried to defend the case on the basis that the statements were simply a matter “of opinion”, not a matter of fact (as required under Virginia case law to recover damages), but the trial judge disagreed.
     The trial judge instructed the jury that under Virginia law the defendant, in his role as association president, had a “limited privilege” to make defamatory statements without being liable for damages. However, if it was proved by “clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant had “abused” the privilege, the defamatory statements were not protected. The trial judge instructed the jury that there were six possible ways (outlined below) that the homeowner could prove that the former association president abused the limited privilege.
     The homeowner presented evidence that the defendant made statements (1) with reckless disregard; (2) that were unnecessarily insulting; (3) that the language was stronger than was necessary; (4) were made because of hatred, ill will, or a desire to hurt the homeowner rather than a fair comment on the subject; and (5) were made because of personal spite, or ill will, independent of the occasion on which the communications were made.
      -The jury was given a specific interrogatory with regard to each of the four defamatory statements:
       -Did the defendant make the following statements?
       -Were they about the plaintiff?
       -Were they heard by someone other than the plaintiff?
       -Are the statements false?
       -Did the defendant make the statements knowing them to be false, or, believing them to be true, did he lack reasonable grounds for such belief or act negligently in failing to ascertain the facts on which the statements were based?
      -Did the defendant abuse a limited privilege to make the statement?
     For each question as to all four emails, the jury answered “yes”. After a three-day trial, the verdict was rendered in favor of the plaintiff -- $9,000.00 in damages.
    This case gives a good reminder that homeowner association board members must be knowledgeable, professional and well-advised when serving their communities.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Bankruptcy: Homeowners' Association Assessments and the Chapter 13 Automatic Stay

  The United States Bankruptcy Court in Alexandria, Virginia, in the case of Montclair Property Owner’s Association, Inc. v. Reynard, ruled that a homeowner’s association may collect post-petition assessments from a Chapter 13 debtor’s property that is not property of the bankruptcy estate.

     In making its decision, the bankruptcy court noted that courts have taken different approaches with respect to the extent of the bankruptcy estate after confirmation of a Chapter 13 plan and, indeed, whether there is an estate after confirmation.  The bankruptcy court ruled, however, that Bankruptcy Code §1306(a) includes in the Chapter 13 estate all property acquired by the debtor after confirmation, including future earnings.  If the Chapter 13 estate did not have these assets, it could not pay pursuant to the plan.

     In this case, no relief from the automatic stay was necessary, as there was no judgment yet obtained to execute upon.  However, the court did rule that no relief from the automatic stay is necessary to collect post-petition homeowner’s assessments from property that is not property of the estate.  Collection activities may only be directed to property of the debtors, not property of the estate.  All post-confirmation earnings are property of the estate.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Collections: Post Judgment Collection

     Various methods are available to collect judgment debts. Every collector is aware of the option of garnishment of wages and bank accounts. Most collectors are aware of sheriff's levies on personal property. However fewer collectors are aware of perfecting judgment liens against real estate owned by the debtor.
     When judgment is entered in the General District Court, unless appealed, it becomes final in ten days; Circuit Court judgments become final after thirty days. Once final, judgment creditors can request abstracts of the judgment from that Court (free for some counties and cities, $.50 cents per abstract in others). These abstracts can then be recorded (for $10.00 per abstract) in the Circuit Court in any county or city in which the debtor may own real estate. District Court judgments are good for ten years; Circuit Court judgments are good for twenty years. Each, upon motion to the court, can be renewed for an identical period of time. Since docketed judgment liens are good for twenty years, this docketing can provide a long-term hope for recovery. Once such a lien attaches, creditors may be able to bring suit to enforce the lien, or simply wait until such lien is paid at the sale of the property.
     These liens can sometimes survive bankruptcy as well. If the lien is docketed for at least ninety days prior to a filing for bankruptcy, the lien should survive, and may eventually be paid. Note, however, that the real estate must be owned by the identical parties against whom judgment was taken. Thus, judgment against one of the tenants by the entirety does not entitle the creditor to the benefits described.
     What can be done when there is no information about your debtor from which to devise a post judgment collection plan? Virginia law provides for a good start -- Debtor's Interrogatories. For the price of a summons (usually $41.00) an attorney can Summons the debtor to appear before a Commissioner in Chancery (a lawyer appointed by the court) to answer questions about income, assets and the debtor's general ability to pay. This Summons is enforceable by a Capias (arrest warrant) which is issued through the court. This statute does allow debtors to request that the interrogatories be held at a court most convenient for the debtor. Therefore, if the debtor moves far from the creditor's area, it may not be cost effective to pursue the interrogatories.
     The law firm of Lafayette, Ayers & Whitlock, PLC aggressively pursues all collection cases from initial demand through final payment. We account to our clients with monthly statements and reports, and immediate responses to client questions. We are willing to assist in client collection matters piecemeal as well. If our assistance is needed just to proceed with interrogatories, an hourly fee can be arranged.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Foreclosure: Foreclosure Basics

     Foreclosure law is a creature of state statute. Accordingly, each state’s laws are different. Because the statute controls, courts will enforce strict adherence to the exact words and requirements. Failing to fully comply with statutory mandates will likely result in defective foreclosures and costly work.
     In upcoming blogs we will explore foreclosures from beginning to end. From the preparation of the deed of trust, to final accounting after sale.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Real Estate: Using Real Estate to Secure Your Debt

     Many fail to recognize the benefit of using real estate to improve their position as creditors. Properly securing debts through real estate could make the difference between collecting the funds and incurring a loss.
     Securing debt with real estate can occur in several ways: deeds of trust, judgment liens, homeowner association liens, mechanic’s liens and lis pendens in litigation cases, just to name a few. In upcoming blogs we will explore these, as well as the ways that I can assist you.
     We have experienced attorneys and staff who can examine title, do real estate closings, seek judgment and docket and enforce the same, and prepare and enforce statutory liens, such as those for litigation, homeowner’s associations and mechanic lien situations.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Bankruptcy: Unperfected Purchase Money Lien

     In the case of In re Johnson the United States Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of Virginia, at Richmond, ruled that a Chapter 7 debtor's claim of homestead and poor debtor's exemptions in her automobile should be denied because the debtor had not paid the purchase price of the car, and thus the car was subject to a debt to the credit union that made the loan for the purchase price. Had the car been non-purchase money security interest, the result would have been different.
     In determining the facts the Court found that the debtor purchased the car using credit union loan proceeds, that the debtor intended to grant a security interest in the vehicle to the credit union, and that the credit union's lien was not recorded on the vehicle's certificate of title.
     The debtor claimed a $5,500 homestead exemption under Virginia Code §34-4, and a $2,000 poor debtor's exemption under Virginia Code § 34-26. The credit union that loaned the debtor the money to buy the car had a purchase money security interest pursuant to Virginia Code §8.9-107(b).
     Although a purchase money security interest had attached to the vehicle, a second step of perfection is required for the interest to be enforceable as to third parties -- a notation must appear on the vehicle's certificate of title. Testimony was given that no notation of a security interest appeared upon the title to the car. The credit union, therefore, held an unperfected purchase money security interest in the vehicle.
     The Court ruled the credit union's unperfected interest was subordinate to the rights of a lien creditor, and that the statutory definition of "lien creditor" under the Virginia Code included a trustee in bankruptcy.
     The Court was left with the question whether the debtor could exempt property in which the credit union held an unperfected purchase money security interest, and in which the value of the property was exceeded by the debt owed on the property. Exemptions under both Virginia Code §§ 34-4 and 34-26 cannot be claimed against debts for the purchase price of the property, or for any part of the purchase price.
     The debt created in Johnson was for the purchase price of the car, as the loan application, note and security agreement clearly illustrated. Many of the cases in which Virginia Code §34-5 have been applied have involved a merchant creditor, or an actual seller of the goods for which the purchase price was not paid, rather than a third-party creditor.
     The Court held that the debtor's claimed exemptions were improper because they were for property, the purchase price of which had not been paid, and the property was subject to a debt for the purchase price. The Court further held that a third-party creditor could prevail under Virginia Code §34-5 if the creditor successfully showed that its loan proceeds were used to acquire the collateral, and that it had a valid purchase money security interest.
     As an alternative basis for its holding that the debtor's claimed exemption of $4,500 was improper, the Court looked to the language of Virginia Code §34-4, which allows an exemption of personal property up to $5,000 "in value", plus personal property of $500 "in value", for each dependent. Even if the exemption were properly claimed, the debtor in Johnson had no equity in the car. The credit union held a purchase money security interest, which was valid between it and the debtor. The value of the car was stated by the debtor to be $18,000 and the loan balance was approximately $19,000. The Court has held on prior occasions, as it did in this instance, that where the debtor has no equity in the exempted property, no exemption exists.
     Further, the Court held that because the debt on the car exceeded its claimed value, there was no amount to be claimed exempt under Virginia Code §34-26(8). Finally, the Court noted that if it were to allow the claimed exemptions, the debtor would retain the property exempted, subject to the security interest of the credit union. This would result in the improper outcome in which a creditor holding an unperfected security interest would be placed ahead of the trustee.
     The lesson in Johnson - perfect your liens. Remember that had this been a non-purchase money security interest case, the result would have been different there would have been no lien. Set up systems to ensure lien protection.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Collections: Motion to Set Aside Judgment - Timely Filing

     Timing can be everything. A prime example of this is the case of Trimark Partners v. HST L.L.C. In Trimark the Fairfax Circuit Court ruled that a debtor cannot move to set aside a confessed judgment because he failed to file a motion within twenty one days of learning of the judgment.
     In Trimark the Court initially entered a judgment against three defendants based on a confession-of-judgment provision in a note. Two of the defendants had executed the note containing the confession-of-judgment terms. A third defendant later had signed an allonge, or attachment to the note, by which he consented to the note obligations. All three defendants later moved to set aside the judgment.
     Under Virginia Code §8.01-433, a defendant must move to set aside a confessed judgment within twenty one days following notice to him that the judgment has been entered. The judgment can be set aside "on any ground which would have been an adequate defense or set off in an action at law...".
     The Court found as a matter of fact that on a certain date the debtors were advised by the creditor of the entry of a judgment. A couple weeks later the judgment order was actually served on the debtors. More than twenty one days from the date on which the creditor advised the debtors of the entry of judgment, but not more than twenty one days from the date the judgment order was served on the defendants, the defendants filed a motion to set aside the judgment. The judgment creditor objected to the motion because it was not made within twenty one days of notice.
     The Court ruled in favor of the creditor, ruling that notice was proven by the creditor's evidence of notice (advising by letter); the Court found that notice was not proven only by the serving of the judgment on the defendants.

Monday, September 7, 2015

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, August 31, 2015

Real Estate: Making Owners and General Contractors Personally Liable to Subcontractor, Laborer or Materialman

     Virginia Code §43-11 provides a way for owners or general contractors to be made personally liable to subcontractor, laborer or materialman if notice is appropriately given, and if the payer makes payment to the owing party without paying the notifying creditor. Specifically, §43-11 (2) states that:
     “…if such subcontractor, or person furnishing labor or material shall at any time after the work is done or material furnished by him and before the expiration of thirty days from the time such building or structure is completed or the work thereon otherwise terminated furnish the owner thereof or his agent and also the general contractor, or the general contractor alone in case he is the only one notified, with a second notice stating a correct account, verified by affidavit, of his actual claim against the general contractor or subcontractor, for work done or materials furnished and of the amount due, then the owner, or the general contractor, if he alone was notified, shall be personally liable to the claimant for the actual amount due to the subcontractor or persons furnishing labor or material by the general contractor or subcontractor, provided the same does not exceed the sum in which the owner is indebted to the general contractor at the time the second notice is given or may thereafter become indebted by virtue of his contract with the general contractor, or in case the general contractor alone is notified the sum in which he is indebted to the subcontractor at the time the second notice is given or may thereafter become indebted by virtue of his contract with the general contractor. But the amount which a person supplying labor or material to a subcontractor can claim shall not exceed the amount for which such subcontractor could file his claim.”
     The notices referred to in this code section are commonly referred to in the industry as “42-11 letters”. We have experienced attorneys and staff who can examine title, file mechanic’s liens, and litigate to enforce the same. If you have a need, please call us.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Bankruptcy: Cross Collateralization Prevails

     In In Re: Martin, an important precedent was set in regard to the enforceability of cross collateralization.
     In Martin the debtors filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case. At the time of the filing the debtors were obligated on three loans to the credit union:
     $1,200.00 open end credit agreement (initial loan);
     $3,401.01 open end credit agreement for a truck loan (truck loan); and,
     $1,386.94 Visa card credit account (Visa loan).
     The initial loan documents and the truck loan documents had cross collateralization language stating that collateral given as security for these loans, or for any other loan, would secure all amounts owed to the credit union now or in the future. The Visa application did not contain cross collateralization language. The debtor argued that because the Visa application did not have cross collateralization language and did not refer to the truck, that the truck should not stand as collateral for the Visa loan. The credit union argued that the truck should stand for all three loans.
     The Court found the cross collateralization language to be enforceable and effective as to all three loans. The Court held that confirmatory language was not required in the Visa application so long as the original agreement contained cross collateralization language.
     One would have to wonder, however, if the result would have been different if the Visa loan had been executed first.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Collection: Garnishment of Domain Name

     The Fairfax County Circuit Court ruled in favor of a creditor in a unique garnishment action. The case was Umbro International, Inc. v. 3263851 Canada Inc. and Network Solutions, Inc. The Court in Umbro ruled that Umbro, an international sporting goods company that won a judgment against a “cybersquatter” who had staked a claim to the Internet domain name “”, could garnish other domain names owned by the judgment debtor.
     The issue in this case was whether the domain names registered by the judgment debtor with Network Solutions, Inc. (“NSI”) are the kind of property that is subject to garnishment. The court noted that Virginia Code §8.01-501 clearly states that a writ of fieri facias is a lien on all the intangible property of the judgment debtor. The lien, however, only attaches to the extent that the judgment debtor has a possessory interest in the intangible property subject to the writ. The Court, as a result, noted that it was required to determine if the judgment debtor had a possessory interest in the domain names it registered with NSI.
     NSI argued that a writ of fieri facias could not extend to domain names because the contract rights set forth in the registration agreement were dependent on unperformed conditions. These conditions included NSI’s rights to indemnification and the registrant’s continuing obligation to maintain an accurate registration record. The Court found that this argument failed on several grounds. First, in the dispute policy NSI undertook to abide by any court order. Such orders have included mandatory injunctions that a registrant takes all actions necessary to transfer a disputed domain name to a third party. Thus in the dispute policy NSI had agreed to subject to other liens that affect the value of the property. There was no unperformed condition under the registration agreement that could prevent a registrant from the full use of the domain name registration.
     NSI also argued that the contract right to the performance of a service was not garnishable because, among other things, it would force NSI to perform services for those with whom it may not desire to do business. The Court found that this assertion was entitled to little weight, as in the short time of its existence, NSI had registered some 3.5 million domain names, and registration applications were made by e-mail without human intervention in 90 percent of registration transactions.
     The Court noted that until Umbro, domain names apparently had not been subjected to garnishment. Nevertheless, the court ruled that there was no reason to conclude that this new form of intellectual property was thus immune. The Court found no reason why a judgment creditor should be precluded from satisfying a valid judgment just because its creditor had a possessory interest in intangible intellectual property resulting from technology of recent vintage.
     The lesson of Umbro - sometimes you have to be inventive and think outside the box in order to collect on judgments.

Monday, August 10, 2015

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, August 3, 2015

Real Estate: Suit to Enforce Mechanic's Liens

     In recent blogs we have been discussing the benefits of using real estate to improve creditors’ positions. Recently we discussed perfection of liens. In this blog we will discuss suit to enforce mechanic’s liens.
     Virginia Code §43-17 provides that no suit to enforce a mechanic’s lien can be brought:
“…after six months from the time when the memorandum of lien was recorded or after sixty days from the time the building, structure or railroad was completed or the work thereon otherwise terminated, whichever time shall last occur; provided, however, that the filing of a petition to enforce any such lien in any suit wherein such petition may be properly filed shall be regarded as the institution of a suit under this section; and, provided further, that nothing herein shall extend the time within which such lien may be perfected.”
     Virginia Code §43-17.1 provides that:
“Any party, having an interest in real property against which a lien has been filed, may, upon a showing of good cause, petition the court of equity having jurisdiction wherein the building, structure, other property, or railroad is located to hold a hearing to determine the validity of any perfected lien on the property. After reasonable notice to the lien claimant and any party to whom the benefit of the lien would inure and who has given notice as provided in § 43-18 of the Code of Virginia, the court shall hold a hearing and determine the validity of the lien. If the court finds that the lien is invalid, it shall forthwith order that the memorandum or notice of lien be released from record.”
     Virginia Code §43-18 provides:
“The perfected lien of a general contractor on any building or structure shall inure to the benefit of any subcontractor, and of any person performing labor or furnishing materials to a subcontractor who has not perfected a lien on such building or structure, provided such subcontractor, or person performing labor or furnishing materials shall give written notice of his claim against the general contractor, or subcontractor, as the case may be, to the owner or his agent before the amount of such lien is actually paid off or discharged.”
     We have experienced attorneys and staff who can examine title, file mechanic’s liens, and litigate to enforce the same.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Bankruptcy: Dischargeability of Debts - False Pretenses

      In the case of Slonim v. Marineau, the United States District Court confirmed a Bankruptcy Code ruling that a debt was non-dischargeable pursuant to Bankruptcy Code §523(a)(2)(A), as it was obtained by false pretenses. The Bankruptcy Court had made a factual finding that the debtor's loan agreement with the creditor, who was an individual investor, provided that the $90,000.00 loaned by the creditor would be used to construct pre-sold homes in Albermarle and Greene Counties, but instead the debtor had used the loan to pay personal expenses.
     The debtor had argued that his statements did not "qualify" as misrepresentations under Bankruptcy Code §523(a)(2)(A) because the statements concerned future performance. Most courts, however, have held that when such statements are accompanied by the present intention not to perform as promised. The statement of present intention at issue in this case involved the use to which the debtor would put the money. The Court ruled that where money is entrusted to a debtor for a specific purpose, the debtor impliedly represents that it will be used for that specific purpose constitutes a misrepresentation of the debtor's intention.
     The debtor's own testimony established that he never intended to use the funds for that purpose. He testified at trial that he always intended to use the loan to reimburse himself and his partner for expenses incurred in building the house for the partner. Thus, the debtor's representation that the money would be used for a specific purpose was knowingly false when he made it. Furthermore, his intent to deceive could be inferred from his immediate depletion of the funds and statements aimed at making the investor believe that there was less risk involved than which truly existed. Accordingly, the debt was ruled non-dischargeable pursuant to Bankruptcy Code §523(a)(2)(A).

Monday, July 20, 2015

Collection: Perfection of Vehicle Liens

     In almost all circumstances, courts will recognize a lien as being valid only when it has been "perfected". Perfected means registered with the appropriate governmental agency - DMV, Board of Inland Game and Fisheries, etc.; language on a promissory note that the loan is secured by the vehicle is not enough. Although the result of failed perfection could be harsh (a lost lien), it makes sense; without a registration, no one could ever know who has liens. Understanding this, it is important to have someone in your creditor organization be designated to follow-up on lien perfection to ensure that it is done, to ensure that it is done promptly, and to ensure that it is done right.
     What happens when your debtor moves to another state? As long as the creditor holds the original certificate of title reflecting the lien, the creditor will usually be protected. If the vehicle is taken to another state but is never re-registered or re-titled, the original secured creditor who is listed as lienholder on the original certificate of title maintains its perfection. The original secured creditor also maintains its lien if the debtor moves and obtains a new certificate of title with the creditor's name on it. However, what happens if the debtor moves, obtains a new certificate without the lien recorded? There could be a problem. To avoid the possible problem, follow up on your transient debtors like you do your new liens.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Foreclosure: Foreclosure Sale Deficiency Actions

     Frequently there will be a deficiency balance after the sale is completed and the accounting is done. The account of sale will set forth the distribution of the sale proceeds and also establish any amounts remaining due on the indebtedness following application of the net proceeds from the foreclosure sale. This deficiency amount is usually recovered by a personal judgment against the maker of the promissory note or other obligors on the indebtedness that was secured by the deed of trust. An action to recover the deficiency balance remaining after a foreclosure sale need not be brought on the chancery side of the court, and may properly be brought as an action at law. A plaintiff’s action to recover on an assumed promissory note may be maintained as an action at law even though the plaintiff is not named in the deed of trust.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Real Estate: Criminal Liability for Misuse of Construction Funds

     Virginia Code §43-13 provides that funds paid to a general contractor or subcontractor must be used to pay persons performing labor or furnishing material. Any contractor or subcontractor or any officer, director or employee of such contractor or subcontractor who, with intent to defraud, retain or use the funds, or any part thereof, paid by the owner or his agent, shall be guilty of larceny in appropriating such funds for any other use while any amount for which the contractor or subcontractor may be liable or become liable under his contract for such labor or materials remains unpaid, and may be prosecuted upon complaint of any person or persons who have not been fully paid any amount due them.
     The use by any such contractor or subcontractor or any officer, director or employee of such contractor or subcontractor of any moneys paid under the contract, before paying all amounts due or to become due for labor performed or material furnished for such building or structure, for any other purpose than paying such amounts, shall be prima facie evidence of intent to defraud.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Bankruptcy: Dischargeability - Money Judgment

     In the case of In Re: James H. Harris the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia showed a willingness to assist creditors in clear abuse cases. In Harris Judge Tice determined that a debt which resulted from the debtor's conversion of a stolen Mack Truck was exempt from discharge pursuant to the Bankruptcy Code, and determined that the amount of damages excepted from discharge was $11,620.47. The Bankruptcy Court also entered a money judgment for the creditor in that excepted amount, even though at least one Federal District Court has held that a Bankruptcy Court does not have jurisdiction to enter a money judgment in a Bankruptcy Code §523 proceeding.
     Judge Tice stated that every determination by a Bankruptcy Court of the validity of a claim is a determination of whether a creditor is entitled to monetary damages from the debtor. The issues raised regarding the validity or existence or amount of a debt are inextricably interwoven with the determination of dischargeability, and are therefore within the equitable jurisdiction of the Bankruptcy Court.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Collection: Debt Collections: You Need a Plan, From the Beginning

     Any business or lending institution that extends credit to its customers or members will inevitably be faced with bad debts. To insure maximum collection results, creditors should establish credit and collection policies before a problem occurs.
     Before you extend credit, there are several things that you can do to reduce your risk.
     1. Obtain full names, addresses, telephone numbers, places of work, social security numbers and dates of birth.
     2. Obtain the name of the customer's bank, branch, and account number.
     3. Review a credit report.
     4. Ensure that all credit terms are clear.
     5. Have personal guarantees for small businesses.
     6. Perfect security interest in events of large credit.
     When accepting personal checks, take the following precautions:
     1. Insist on two pieces of identification, at least one of which has the customer's photo. A driver's license and a credit card are ideal.
     2. Require checks to be made out in your presence.
     3. Compare the signature on the check with that on the ID.
     4. Limit checks to the exact amount of the sale.
     5. Accept only checks drawn on local banks.
     6. Verify the customer's address and phone number on the check. Also note the customer's social security number and/or driver's license number.
     7. Be cautious when accepting checks with low numbers (indicating that the account was recently opened).
     8. Consider subscribing to a check verifying service. For a modest fee, such a service allows you to call a toll-free number and learn immediately if you can safely accept the check. If a check bounces after being verified using this procedure, the service will cover your loss.
     When the debt is in default, act promptly! The longer you wait, the harder collection will probably be. The firm of Lafayette, Ayers & Whitlock, PLC usually recommends immediate telephone calls, followed by a series of two or three letters. In the final letter, give a definite and short deadline with the promise of attorney action.
     The decision as to when a creditor should deliver its accounts to counsel for collection is not always an easy one. Some creditors deliver collections accounts to counsel after the initial demand has failed to produce results. Some creditors desire to have their credit/collection manager take their judgment and attempt collection by payment plan, garnishment, or even sometimes, sheriff's levy.
     The problem frequently encountered by creditors who pursue their own judgments, however, is that in most cases the ability to collect without the assistance of counsel ends prior to the receipt of payment in full. When this occurs, counsel must normally assume collection activities after the trail is cold. Further, since the creditor was not represented by counsel at the time of judgment, the judgment order does not include attorney's fees; nevertheless, attorney fees will now be charged to the creditor. In addition, if the creditor's credit/collection manager failed to properly docket the judgment, collection could be forever impaired.
     The firm recommends that creditors immediately deliver accounts to counsel upon the failure of the demand for payment. Creditors should ensure that provisions for attorney fees and interest are included in all loan, contract and/or account documents so that counsel can assess these costs upon delivery. The firm further recommends that all accounts be delivered while the "trail" is still warm--no more then sixty days from default.
     The firm has aggressive collection counsel and staff who represent numerous Credit Unions, Homeowner Associations, property management companies, loan companies, businesses, doctor's offices, and private citizens. The firm is willing to pursue accounts from start to finish, or even finish accounts already in progress. Please call me at 545-6251 for more information. Eddie.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Foreclosure: Foreclosure Sale Accounting

     The Code of Virginia requires that the trustee’s accounting be filed with the appropriate commissioner of accounts “within six months after the date of a sale.” The Manual for Commissioners of Accounts states that “although the Commissioner does not have specific statutory authority to extend the six month filing date, some courts allow the Commissioner to extend the deadline for good cause shown in advance of the filing date.”

Monday, June 8, 2015

Real Estate: Perfecting Mechanic's Liens

     In recent blogs we have been discussing the benefits of using real estate to improve creditors’ positions. On a previous blog 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, June 1, 2015

Bankruptcy: Chapter 7 Case Dismissed Due to Substantial Abuse

     In the case of In Re Norris, Judge Tice of the United States Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division, ruled that although the debtors, a married couple, did not lead a lavish lifestyle and saw their financial woes mount over a ten year period before they filed their Chapter 7 petition, which was filed in good faith, their petition was nevertheless dismissed for "substantial abuse" under Bankruptcy Code §707(b).
     Judge Tice found as fact that the debtors did not lead an extravagant or excessive lifestyle, at least not in the terms of acquiring large amounts of personal property. The debtors did, however, remain in a large and expensive home which they have managed to retain, rejecting the prospect of moving to a smaller abode that would have been less costly to keep. Also, the debtors testified that some credit card debt resulted from dining out. Significantly, Judge Tice found that the debtors used their 401(k) plans to create a reserve for future expenses, thus diverting funds that could have otherwise been used to pay to creditors.
     In evaluating all the factors for determining substantial abuse pursuant to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals case Green v. Staples, Judge Tice stated that the Court must consider more than just the debtor's ability to fund a Chapter 13 plan. In evaluating all of the Green factors together, Judge Tice stated that he was left with a rather close decision. The debtors certainly had the ability to repay a substantial portion of their debts, and this is the primary factor to be considered. Their ability to repay, however, was mitigated in part by the debtors' good faith and forthrightness, the relative accuracy of their bankruptcy schedules, and their lack of intent to deceive the Court. Judge Tice stated, on the other hand, that the debtors clearly took on debts while being unable to repay them, were not forced into bankruptcy due to a sudden, unexpected turn of events, and have included unreasonable expenses in their budget (including the deduction for income for deposit in their respective 401(k) plans, totaling nearly $500 per month) in order to make funds unavailable to their creditors. Judge Tice found that the debtors lived far beyond their means and could easily fund a significant Chapter 13 plan to discharge their debts and provide their creditors with some payout. Instead, the debtors propose by filing Chapter 7 to maintain their more-than-adequate lifestyle at the expense of their creditors. In addition, the debtors continue to try to retain money for future expenses to their creditors' detriment. The debtors' actions smack of the "unfair advantage" over creditors sought to be proscribed by Bankruptcy Code §707(b). Judge Tice stated that while the Court was sympathetic to the debtors' plight, and even taking into account the prescription of granting the debtors the relief they seek, the Court found that the debtors' Chapter 7 case should be dismissed for substantial abuse.
     The lesson in Green - look closely at a debtor’s available assets in a Chapter 7 case, especially retirement benefits.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Collection: Pre Default Waiver of Notice of Sale is Void

    In the case Woodward v. Resource Bank, from the Circuit Court, City of Virginia Beach, the Virginia Supreme Court reviewed provisions in a promissory note that provided for the debtors' waiver of notice of the default sale of the collateral securing the loan. In Woodward, a married couple operated a gas station and convenience store in Portsmouth and desired to expand. The couple obtained the financing necessary to purchase a store in Virginia Beach (the Pavilion Store) from a bank. In doing so the couple executed a note for $80,000.00 which was secured by a second deed of trust on their home, as well as with security interests in the inventory and equipment at the Pavilion Store. Later the couple decided to purchase a third store in Virginia Beach. They obtained financing from the same bank by executing a note in the amount of $90,900.00, and by signing a security agreement which granted the bank a security interest in the equipment and inventory of all three stores. The bank required the principal shareholders of the corporation to sign a guaranty for $45,000.00 of the $90,900.00 note. The guarantee agreement stated that the liability of the guarantors would not be affected by "any failure to ... give any required notices" by the bank.
     The couple defaulted on the note and the bank demanded that the guarantors honor their respective guaranties. Thereafter, the bank sold the collateral securing the notes without formal notice. The collateral was sold at prices far below the stated value. The shareholders argued that they were entitled to notice of the sale, notwithstanding that they had signed pre-default waivers of notice, because they were "debtors" within the meaning of Virginia Code §8.9-105(1)(d) and §8.9-504(3). The Virginia Beach Circuit Court agreed with the bank that the waivers precluded the necessity of giving notice, but the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that since the shareholders were "debtors" within the meaning of the statutes, they were entitled to notice of the disposition of the collateral. Applying the plain language of Virginia Code §8.9-504(3), the Virginia Supreme Court held that the notice provision contained therein may not be waived before the occurrence of a default.
     The Virginia Supreme Court further ruled that a rebuttable presumption arose that the value of the collateral that the bank sold equaled the amount of the debt because the bank failed to give notice to the guarantors, and because the sale was thus "commercially-unreasonable". Virginia Code §8.9-504(3) requires that every aspect of the disposition of collateral, including "the method, manner, time, place and terms must be commercially reasonable". Because the bank failed to rebut this presumption by putting on evidence to the contrary, the Court ruled that the indebtedness was extinguished, and the creditor was precluded from further collection.
     The lesson of Woodward is simple: always obtain a legal opinion regarding sales of reclaimed security, and always follow the requirements of the applicable statutes.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Foreclosure: Sale Price and Delays in Sale

     The trustee is under a duty to “use all reasonable diligence to obtain the best price.”
     If the trustee determines that in order to fulfill his fiduciary duty to realize the highest price for the property, a recess is necessary, he or she should recess the sale. Arguably, the recess is within the scope of the discretion afforded trustees in the conduct of the foreclosure sale. For example, if a bidder who previously advised the trustee of his interest in bidding on the property is delayed, the trustee, in his discretion, may recess the sale to a later hour on the same day to allow the bidder to attend the sale. If the trustee fails to accommodate the bidder and the property is sold for a price less than the bidder was willing to pay, the trustee may have breached his duty to “use all reasonable diligence to obtain the best price.” A decision by the trustee to recess the sale, however, should not impair the sale by making it impossible or impracticable for the bidders to appear and bid at the recessed sale.
     The postponement of a foreclosure sale to a different day is not a recess and is governed by statute. Virginia Code §55-59.1(D) provides that the trustee, in his discretion, may postpone the sale to a different day, and no new or additional “notice” must be given. Presumably, the “notice” referred to in this section is notice of the postponement. The trustee needs only to announce at the sale that it has been postponed. §55-59.2(D) provides that if the sale is postponed, the trustee must advertise the “new” sale in the same manner as the original advertisement. Read in conjunction, these sections require the trustee who postpones the foreclosure to re-advertise the sale in the same manner as the original sale was advertised. Although the secured obligation will not need to be accelerated again, all other aspects of the foreclosure must be completed. Effectively, a postponed sale is a new sale in which the trustee must complete all acts that he or she completed in the first sale.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Real Estate: Using Mechanic's Liens to Secure an Interest in Real Estate

     In prior editions of Creditor News (you can view these at we have been discussing the benefits of using real estate to improve creditors’ positions. As I have emphasized, properly securing debts through real estate could make the difference between collecting the funds and incurring a loss. In this blog, we will begin a review of the benefits of using mechanic’s liens to aid in the collection of your debt.
     Virginia Code §43-3 et. seq. provides for special procedures for the collection of unpaid bills related to work performed on, or products supplied for, real estate. §43-3 A states:
      “All persons performing labor or furnishing materials of the value of $150 or more … for the construction, removal, repair or improvement of any building or structure permanently annexed to the freehold … shall have a lien, if perfected as hereinafter provided, upon such building or structure, and so much land therewith as shall be necessary for the convenient use and enjoyment thereof … subject to the provisions of § 43-20. But when the claim is for repairs or improvements to existing structures only, no lien shall attach to the property repaired or improved unless such repairs or improvements were ordered or authorized by the owner, or his agent.”
     Virginia Code §43-3 B provides for special rules regarding condominiums.
     Virginia Code §§43-4, 43-7 and 43-9 provide for the perfection of the lien by general contractors, subcontractors, and laborers and suppliers. We will explore this more in another blog.
     We have experienced attorneys and staff who can examine title, file mechanic’s liens, and litigate to enforce the same.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Bankruptcy: Dischargeability of Debt - False Financial Statement in Chapter 7 Case

     Judge Tice, United States Bankruptcy Court in Richmond, denied discharge of a debt in a Chapter 7 case. The case was Global Express Money Orders, Inc. v. Davis. In Davis, the debtor previously had a convenience store that sold the creditor’s money orders through the store. The debtor still owed the creditor ($71,168.55) for some of these money orders. At issue was the debtor’s financial statement provided to the creditor at the commencement of the business between them. 
     The Court found that the debtor’s financial statement was materially false. In fact, at trial the debtor did not seriously question the inaccuracy of the statement. Rather, he tried to distance himself from its preparation and delivery to the creditor. In the financial statement the debtor provided false information as to cash in a checking account, the value of his personal residence and a beach condominium, the value of his equity in certain investments, value of mutual funds and an expected federal tax refund.
     The Court further found that the creditor required the personal financial statement of debtors as a condition precedent of the business arrangement; that the debtor, with intent to deceive, published the materially false financial statement and caused it to be delivered to the creditor; and that in contracting with the creditor and allowing the entity to incur substantial indebtedness, the creditor reasonably relied upon materially false asset entries in the financial statement, which debt was indemnified by the debtor personally.
     The Court rejected the debtor’s argument that the creditor failed to prove that he prepared the financial statement and authorized its delivery, i.e., publication with intent to deceive, to the creditor. The Court determined that the evidence showed that in the debtor’s presence and with his knowledge, the financial statement was delivered to the creditor by an (unknown) employee of the debtor’s business. The Court ruled that this evidence was sufficient to require some better explanation from the debtor than he provided. The Court stated that it did not believe the debtor’s evasive testimony that he was too busy to be bothered, and knew nothing about the contents of the financial statement or the circumstances surrounding its delivery to the creditor. The Court determined that at the very least, the debtor recklessly allowed his financial statement to be used by the creditor for its consideration of the business transaction, and his reckless indifference was sufficient to satisfy the publication with intent to deceive element of Bankruptcy Code §523(a)(2)(B).
     As to damages, the debtor argued that the loss of payment of the trust balance due was not damage or loss resulting from his publication of the false financial statement, as required by the statute. Rather, the debtor stated that the loss resulted from the failure of store employees to separate money order sales. Moreover, according to the debtor, his stores were not generating enough revenue to pay the current liabilities, and there was no evidence that he personally took funds or caused the shortage. However, the Court found it ironic that the debtor could argue that it was his employees who failed to comply with the trust agreement requirement for segregating trust fund receipts of the creditor. The debtor agreed to indemnify the creditor for his business’s indebtedness under the trust agreement, and his inability to make good on the indemnity was a direct result of his financial problems and ensuing bankruptcy. Although the Court stated that causation was not a necessary or proper element of the false financial statement issue, the Court simply found that the debtor’s false financial statement was a proximate cause of the loss.