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.