Monday, January 26, 2015

Foreclosure: Notice of Sale

     The Code of Virginia provides specific guidance as to giving notice of a foreclosure sale.
     §55-59.1 requires that the written notice of sale contain the time, date and place of the proposed sale, as well as either (i) the instrument number, or, deed book and page number, of the instrument of appointment filed pursuant to §55-59-59 (appointment of substitute trustee), or, (ii) a copy of the executed and notarized appointment of substitute trustee. Personal delivery or mailing a copy of the advertisement by certified or registered mail is sufficient.
     §55-59.1 requires the trustee to send written notice of the time, date and place of the sale to (i) the present owner of the property … (ii) any subordinate lienholder … (iii) any assignee of such note … (iv) any condominium unit owner’s association that has filed a lien … (v) any property owner’s association that has filed a lien … (vi) any proprietary lessees’ association that has filed a lien.
     It is important to know that in addition to the notice required by statute, the note or the deed of trust may contain additional notice requirements. Accordingly, the trustee should examine both of these documents.
     §55-59 provides that the notice can be sent by either the trustee or the lender.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Real Estate: The Virginia Property Owners' Association Act - Foreclosing on Memorandum of Lien

     In the last issues of Creditor News, I discussed the provisions related to filing a memorandum of lien under the Virginia Property Owners’ Association Act.
     The Act provides: “At any time after perfecting the lien pursuant to this section, the property owners' association may sell the lot at public sale, subject to prior liens.” In order to conduct a nonjudicial foreclosure, the association must comply with the statutory requirements.
     The association must give notice to the lot owner prior to advertising the sale. The notice must include notice of: “(i) the debt secured by the perfected lien; (ii) the action required to satisfy the debt secured by the perfected lien; (iii) the date, not less than 60 days from the date the notice is given to the lot owner, by which the debt secured by the lien must be satisfied; and (iv) that failure to satisfy the debt secured by the lien on or before the date specified in the notice may result in the sale of the lot.” The notice must also inform the lot owner of the right to bring a court action in the circuit court of the county or city where the lot is located to assert the nonexistence of a debt or any other defense of the lot owner to the sale.
     If the lot owner (i) satisfies the debt secured by lien that is the subject of the nonjudicial foreclosure sale and (ii) pays all expenses and costs incurred in perfecting and enforcing the lien, including but not limited to advertising costs and reasonable attorneys' fees, then the sale is discontinued. However, if after 60 days and the lot owner has not made those payments, the association may appoint a trustee for the sale and advertise the sale. In addition to advertising the sale, the association must give written notice of the time, date and place of any proposed sale in execution of the lien, and including the name, address and telephone number of the trustee. That notice must be at least given to the owner, lienholders and their assigns by certified or registered mail 14 days prior to the sale.
     The association must advertise the sale in a newspaper in the city or county where the property will be sold. The advertisement must be in a section with legal notices or where the property being sold is generally advertised for sale. The advertisement must describe the property by address and general location and have information for the representative or an attorney who can respond to inquiries about the property with their name, address, and telephone number. The advertisement must be in the newspaper for four successive weeks, but if the lot is located in a city or county immediately contiguous to a city, publication of the advertisement for five different days is sufficient. The sale then must be held on any day after the last advertisement but not earlier than 8 days after the first advertisement and not more than 30 days after the last advertisement.
     Failure to comply with these and other requirements in the statute will render the sale of the property voidable by the court. The law firm of Lafayette, Ayers & Whitlock, PLC, represents homeowner’s associations and can handle memorandums of lien and foreclosure procedures.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Bankruptcy: Award of Attorney's Fees Against Creditors

     A debtor sought to recover attorney's fees from a creditor who unsuccessfully challenged the debtor's dischargeability. The creditor had alleged that the items listed on the debtor's statement of financial affairs were materially false, but was unable to convince the Bankruptcy Court. The Bankruptcy Court, however, denied the debtor's request for attorney's fees because there was not evidence that the creditor pursued the complaint frivolously or without substantial justification. The case was In Re: Louise Reynolds Freeman, decided by Judge Tice for the United States Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of Virginia, at Alexandria.
     The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia also held that debtor's counsel are not entitled to recover attorney's fees from a creditor where the creditor loses a suit objecting to debtor's discharge unless it is proven that the suit was filed vexatiously, wantonly, in bad faith, or for oppressive reasons in the case of In Re Gecowetts. In Gecowetts the debtor's estranged wife filed an action objecting to the debtor's dischargeability of a debt. After a full trial on this issue, the Court allowed the debtor a discharge of all debts. Relying on the "American Rule," the Court found that although the creditor was unsuccessful in the dischargeability proceeding, the action was not filed vexatiously, wantonly, in bad faith, or for oppressive reasons. Therefore, no fees were awarded.


Monday, January 5, 2015

Collection: Bank Deposits - for Deposit Only

     The United States District Court at Alexandria reviewed a liability question regarding a bank's treatment of a check marked "for deposit only". In the case of Qatar v. First Am. Bank of Va., the Court ruled that a depositary bank violated a restrictive endorsement stating "for deposit only" when it deposited a check into an account other than the account belonging to the named payee of the check. In Qatar, a foreign embassy employee defrauded the embassy over a six-year period by various methods, including depositing checks written to other parties into his own personal accounts with defendant banks. After the embassy discovered this fraudulent scheme, it sued the depositary bank for conversion. The bank succeeded on summary judgment in establishing that it was not liable as a matter of law with respect to two categories of checks in dispute, and it prevailed on a factual issue at trial that relieved it from liability for yet another category of checks.
     Only one category of checks remained in dispute. These checks all bore the forged endorsement of the payee named on the face of the check, followed by a stamped "for deposit only" restriction. At trial, the depositary bank raised no defenses, but instead challenged for the first time the Court's assumption that the phrase "for deposit only," without further specification, directs a depositary bank to deposit the funds only into the account of the named payee. The Court reasoned that the question then presented was whether the bank complied with the restrictive endorsement "for deposit only" when it deposited the check bearing that restriction into any person's account, or whether that restriction requires the bank to deposit the check's proceeds only into the account of the named payee. The Court held that the unqualified language "for deposit only" following an endorsement on the back of a check required the bank to place the check's proceeds into the payee's account, and the bank violated that restrictive endorsement when it credited the check to another account. In this cases, specifically, the bank violated the restrictive endorsement in depositing into the employees account checks made payable to others and restrictively endorsed "for deposit only", and thus was liable to the plaintiff for the money converted.