Monday, December 26, 2016

Real Estate: Foreclosing on Homeowner Association Liens to Secure an Interest in Real Estate

     In recent blogs 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 review the benefits of using homeowner association liens to aid in the collection of your debt. Previously we reviewed the special procedures for the collection of homeowners association dues under Virginia Code §55-516. We will now review the procedures for suits to foreclose on the lien.
     Suits must be brought within thirty six months of filing, but after the perfection of the lien. The Homeowner’s Association may sell the lot at a public sale, subject to prior liens. There are detailed requirements in the code, a brief summary of which include the following:
     1. The association shall give notice to the lot owner prior to advertisement as required in the code.
     2. After expiration of the 60-day notice period, the association may appoint a trustee to conduct the sale.
     3. If the lot owner meets the conditions specified in this subdivision prior to the date of the foreclosure sale, the lot owner shall have the right to have enforcement of the perfected lien discontinued prior to the sale of the lot. Those conditions are that the lot owner: (i) satisfy 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.
     4. In addition to the advertisement requirements, the association shall give written notice of the time, date and place of any proposed sale in execution of the lien, and include certain information required in the code.
     5. The advertisement of sale by the association shall be in a newspaper having a general circulation in the city or county wherein the property to be sold, with certain information requirements as set forth in the code.
     6. Failure to comply with the requirements for advertisement contained in this section shall, upon petition, render a sale of the property voidable by the court.
     7. In the event of a sale, the code sets forth bidding and proceeds application procedures.
     8. After sale, the trustee shall deliver to the purchaser a trustee's deed conveying the lot with special warranty of title.
     9. After completion, the trustee shall file an accounting of the sale with the commissioner of accounts.
     We have experienced attorneys and staff who can examine title, file homeowner association liens, and litigate to enforce the same.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Bankruptcy: Debtor can contribute for Retirement in Chapter 13 Case

     In the case of In re: Ricardo Cantu, Jr., the United States Bankruptcy Court at Alexandria ruled that a debtor in a Chapter 13 case can contribute for retirement under 11 U.S.C. Section 541 (b)(7).
     In Cantu the Chapter 13 trustee objected to the debtor making voluntary retirement contributions. The Court, in its review, noted that the issue of voluntary contributions has been the subject of some debate in the case law in recent years. The Court stated that there are essentially three divergent lines of cases. The first line holds that the debtor is not entitled to any deduction for voluntary contributions, whether or not he was making voluntary contributions pre-petition. The second line is that voluntary retirement contributions may be continued as long as they are consistent with the debtor’s pre-petition history of contributions. The third line, which the Court noted was the majority view, concludes that the bankruptcy code allows for the deduction, whether or not the debtor was making voluntary contributions prior to the bankruptcy filing, but subject to a determination of the debtor’s good faith.
     The Court noted that the bankruptcy trustee urged the Court to adopt the second line of cases, but the Court adopted the third, deciding that the bankruptcy code does not limit the debtor’s ability to make contributions post-petition, nor is there any distinction between pre-petition contributions and post-petition contributions. The Court held that the use of the term “any amount”, without limitations, followed by the term “contributions”, compelled the conclusion that Congress meant no such distinction.
     The Court further decided that there was no evidence that the debtor proceeded in anything other than good faith. Accordingly, the Court overruled the Chapter 13 trustee’s objection.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Collections: Arbitration - A Collection Alternative

     Arbitration has become an increasingly popular way of resolving disputes. For those readers unfamiliar with the concept, arbitration is a process in which parties agree to submit the issues in controversy for determination by a party that they choose. The purpose behind the decision to arbitrate is usually to reach a resolution to the dispute in a quicker and cheaper manner than court action. Although most parties to the arbitration retain counsel to represent them, costs are normally less than court action because the rules of evidence are more relaxed, and the proceedings are less formal.
     Virginia law recognizes the arbitration process and provides for the legal enforcement of arbitration awards.
     The American Arbitration Association has developed standard rules, procedures, and panels of trained professionals to serve as arbitrators - the finders of fact.
     The structure of the arbitration hearing is similar to a regular court hearing. A party has the right to representation by an attorney. Both parties also have an opportunity to make an opening statement, discuss the remedy they are seeking, introduce and cross-examine witnesses, and make a closing statement. Unlike a regular court proceeding, neither party in arbitration has the burden of proof because each party must persuade the arbitrator that its position is correct.
     Virginia Code §8.01-577 to §8.01-581.016 establishes Virginia's rule for arbitration. First, both parties must agree in a written agreement to submit a case for arbitration. The parties then select an arbitrator from a list of names. The court also may appoint an arbitrator.
     An arbitrator has several duties. The first and foremost is to preside over the arbitration hearing. An arbitrator in Virginia may issue subpoenas for witnesses to appear. Lastly, the arbitrator issues and signs the award.
     The court then confirms, modifies or vacates the award. The reasons for modification or vacation vary from a mistake in calculation to the arbitrators exceeding their powers (see Virginia Code §8.01-581.010 and §8.01-581.011). The court proceeds to enter a judgment or decree on the award. A party may appeal an award as one would in a civil action.
     The California Court of Appeals has ruled on the enforceability of arbitration clauses. In Bell v. Congress Mortgage Co., Inc., the California Court held that an arbitration clause in a contract must be highlighted in bold type or the consumer needs to initial beside the specific clause. These methods should make the consumer aware of the arbitration clause in the contract, as previously a consumer might waive his right to a jury trial without realizing it because, the California Court stated, an arbitration clause is not within the reasonable expectations of the consumer. There is no such requirement in Virginia law for the arbitration clause to be highlighted.  However, until the issue is litigated in Virginia, initials next to the clause would be a good measure of caution.
     I have litigated several arbitration cases, each to positive results, once to an amount higher than initially requested by the client.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Creditors, Let's Talk about Foreclosures!

     Foreclosures. This is not a topic that most creditors wish to discuss. After all, if you get to this point your loan is delinquent and you are not having success getting your borrower to pay. When to take action and what action to take – these are important matters to discuss. We can help!
     At Lafayette, Ayers & Whitlock PLC we represent holders of deeds of trust and help our clients evaluate their order of priority and equity cushion, as well as explore bankruptcy implications and collection strategies. We do this for first, second and subsequent deeds of trust, as well as equity lines and judgment liens (the last of which can be enforced through a Creditor’s Bill).
     We do foreclosures all across the Commonwealth of Virginia.
     Even if we are not your specified trustee in your deed of trust, we can prepare and record a deed of appointment of substitute trustee and protect your interests.
     I invite you to please call me so that we can discuss your questions.