Monday, January 25, 2016

Foreclosure: Default

     Question: When is a loan in default? Answer: Under one or more of several circumstances. The most common way that a borrower is in default is monetary – e.g., the borrower fails to make a required payment. However, default can be for a non-monetary reason as well, such as:
     1. Failure to pay taxes.
     2. Failure to pay insurance.
     3. Failure to remove or bond over mechanic’s liens.
     4. Failure to perform requirements unique to the loan.
     If you have questions about default, please call me.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Real Estate: Using Real Estate as a Collection Tool

     Collecting money owed can be a job. Having more tools to do the work is good! Securing your debt with real estate is a great tool. In future blogs, we will explore ways that use this tool. Blogs will include such topics as: Deeds of Trust, Foreclosure, Docketing Judgments, Lis Pendens, Recording Mechanic’s Liens, Suits to Enforce Mechanic’s Liens, Foreclosing on Mechanic’s Liens, Recording Homeowners Association Liens, Foreclosing on Homeowners Association Liens and more.
     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. Please call me so that we can discuss how we can help you.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Bankruptcy: Objection to Discharge - Willful and Malicious Injury by Depriving Access to Secured Collateral

     A few years ago I tried a case in the United States Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division, Judge Huennekins, that will be of interest to many lenders who hold a security for their loan. My client was Dominion Credit Union. At the request of the debtor, and, as part of a settlement where the debtor agreed to pay on the judgment rendered, I agreed not to state the debtor’s name.
     The factual scenario is as follows: the Credit Union had made a $30,000.00 loan to the debtor in March, 2006 to purchase a pickup truck from Chambers Auto. The loan was secured by this pickup truck. There was no co-signer for the loan, nor was the debtor married. The debtor’s loan application made no reference for the purpose for which the loan was sought. The debtor listed no other owner or user. Within two months the debtor became delinquent. The Credit Union ordered repossession of the truck. The repossession company could not find the truck, and the debtor offered minimal cooperation, claiming only that another person had the vehicle and took it out of state. The debtor referenced the name of the person, Michael Chambers (this name became important years later, but note that the name of the company from which she purchased the vehicle was Chambers Auto). The debtor did provide a telephone number for Michael Chambers. The repossession company made several attempts to repossess the truck, checking at the debtor’s residence on various days and at various times, but to no avail. Calls were also made to Michael Chambers. On one occasion Mr. Chambers said that he was out of state, and, that he was also in the repossession business. With no luck at repossession, the Credit Union retained me to obtain judgment against the debtor and try collection. While judgment was obtained for over $29,000.00 plus costs, interest and attorney’s fees, collection was difficult, as the debtor was constantly in school and working only part-time. Finally in early 2010 I found the debtor working a sufficient number of hours to garnish, and issued the garnishment. As a result of the garnishment, the debtor filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case in March, 2010, seeking discharge of all of her financial obligations – at this point in her life the debtor had accumulated some other debt as well, and was finally about to complete her schooling and become a full time nurse. I advised the debtor’s attorney that I would be objecting to the discharge of this debt based upon the fact that we had been unable to obtain the truck since May, 2006, and that we had obviously lost money due to the debtor’s willful and malicious injury to the Credit Union by depriving it access to and repossession of the collateral securing its loan pursuant to Bankruptcy Code Section 523(a)(6). The debtor’s attorney responded by stating that the truck would be surrendered. Weeks passed without the debtor surrendering the truck, so I filed an objection to the dischargeability of the debt. Subsequently the truck was returned, but in horrible condition, having limited value, resulting in a substantial loss to the Credit Union.
     To prepare for the trial of the case I conducted written discovery and scheduled depositions of the debtor and Michael Chambers. Depositions were scheduled on several dates. On the first date both parties appeared (although almost an hour late), even though I had only subpoenaed the debtor. I excluded Mr. Chambers from the debtor’s deposition – important because Mr. Chambers tried to “control” the proceedings. At the debtor’s deposition she stated, for the first time, that the truck was purchased as a business deal with her brother (although not an actual blood brother, but someone just like a brother, named “John Jones”). She and Mr. Jones had a “falling out” and he left with the truck, never to have contact with him again, and not knowing where either he or the truck was. The debtor denied telling the Credit Union or the repossession company that Michael Chambers had it. The debtor admitted that she and Mr. Chambers were now boyfriend and girlfriend, although she was not sure when this relationship commenced, although probably within six months of the loan. The debtor admitted that Chambers Auto was a family business, but that Michael Chambers’ father ran it. The debtor stated that when it became apparent that she would not be able to get a bankruptcy discharge without surrendering the vehicle to the Credit Union, Mr. Chambers (who had a “questionable” past and had “questionable” connections) “put the word out on the street”, and magically the vehicle was returned to Mr. Chambers. The debtor also stated that they tried their best to put the vehicle back in decent shape, but ran out of time. Following the debtor’s deposition, I tried to immediately take Mr. Chambers’ deposition, but he and the debtor said that they had no time and had a child care problem. A new date was set for Mr. Chambers’ deposition. However, he failed to show on that date. I advised the Court of this lack of cooperation, asked for a continuance to obtain the necessary evidence to prove my case. The Court granted the continuance and set a new trial date. I then set a new deposition date for Mr. Chambers, who, this time did show up, although about an hour late again. Mr. Chambers’ testimony was similar, but somewhat inconsistent with that of the debtor in some key areas.
     On the trial date Mr. Chambers’ failed to appear in Court despite subpoena. His deposition was submitted into evidence, and the Court issued a Show Cause summons against him for his non-appearance. After hearing all of the evidence, the Court ruled that the debtor did willfully and maliciously injure the Credit Union by depriving it access to and repossession of the collateral securing its loan pursuant to Bankruptcy Code Section 523(a)(6), and awarded non-dischargeability to the extent of the Credit Union’s reasonable loss based upon the debtor’s conduct.
     The lesson of this case: be diligent about repossession efforts, document all events, and if the debtor deprives you of the security and attempts to discharge the debt in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, object!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Collections: Fifth Amendment Claim Denied in Civil Action

     The Hanover County Circuit Court, in the case of EVB v. Strum, denied a defendant’s motion to quash a summons for debtor’s interrogatories and subpoena duces tecum, in which the debtor asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
     The court ruled that there is no blanket Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer questions in noncriminal proceedings. The privilege must be specifically claimed on a particular question in the debtor’s interrogatories, and the matter submitted to the court for its determination of the validity of the claim. Further, a defendant must assert his Fifth Amendment right in regard to each specific document in regard to a subpoena duces tecum, and the court must assess the claim as to each individual document.