The order discharging a bankruptcy debtor will allow a creditor holding a pre-petition claim secured by a security interest in property belonging to the debtor to pursue his or her interest in the collateral without the need to file pleadings or to further consult the Bankruptcy Court, as long as the property is not property of the estate. More secured creditors are simply waiting until the bankruptcy case is closed before acting to liquidate property because motions for relief from the stay are expensive. In a no asset consumer case, the wait involved is usually not exceptionally long.
Monday, September 24, 2018
Monday, September 17, 2018
In the case of Guidry v. Clare, a United States District Court in Northern Virginia granted an award of $16,000.00 in sanctions against a debtor who was a plaintiff in a Fair Debt Practices Collection Act (FDCPA). The Court held that the debtor’s case, which also included state law claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, malicious prosecution and false imprisonment, was filed wholly without merit.
The Court found that the dispute arose when the debtor wrote the plaintiff, a company that provided cheerleading training, a check for $62.50 for the debtor’s daughter’s class. The check was returned for insufficient funds. The company’s office manager (Clare) contacted the debtor to make the check good. The debtor did not respond. Over the next several months the company made several other efforts to collect on the check, including a letter from the company’s attorney and from a collection agency. The company’s office manager also advised the debtor that the company would seek a warrant for the debtor’s arrest if the debt was not paid within seventy two hours. When the debtor did not respond, the company filed a criminal complaint for misdemeanor larceny by check. A few days later, a policeman served the warrant on the debtor at the same time he served a warrant from another creditor for felony larceny by check. The debtor was arrested and released on her own recognizance on both charges. She paid the face amount of the company’s check, plus a $30.00 bank service charge. As a result of this, the prosecutor withdrew the bad check charge.
A few months later the debtor filed her FDCPA action. After much litigation, the case was dismissed, without prejudice, because the case was not served within 120 days. The complaint was refiled. The company’s attorneys sought dismissal and sanctions for filing a frivolous lawsuit. The Court dismissed the case, scheduled a hearing on sanctions, and ordered the parties to prepare briefs. After reviewing the briefs the Court concluded that the debtor’s case was “meritless, indeed flatly frivolous”. The meritless claims included allegations that the company’s manager had failed to make a meaningful disclosure of her identity and debt collection purpose in her telephone calls to the debtor, that a debt collector was barred from filing a criminal complaint, that the company’s manager had made false representations to authorities in order to disgrace the debtor, and that the collection letters failed to disclose their debt collection purpose. The Court ruled that the letters contained the required disclosures and the purpose of the phone calls were clear. The Court further ruled that the law prohibits only the threat of criminal action if there is no intent to follow through on the threat. In this case the intent to follow through was evident from the fact that a warrant was issued, and there was no evidence that the representations to authorities were false or made with an intent to disgrace the debtor. The Court found that there was also no basis for the state law claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, malicious prosecution and false imprisonment. The Court wrote that “it cannot be forgotten or overlooked” that the case “was spawned by Guidry’s failure to pay a $62.50 debt, or rather by her attempt to pay it with a bad check”.
Creditors take heart - there is still some common sense in this world!
Monday, September 10, 2018
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, September 3, 2018
In a previous blog, I began discussing the Virginia Property Owners’ Association Act.
The Act specifically provides for remedies outside of the more common remedy of filing suit for the amount owed and receiving a judgment. A memorandum of lien to a holder of a credit line deed of trust under the Act is given in the same fashion as if the association’s lien were a judgment. Under the Act, the association can file for and perfect a lien against the homeowner that is prior to all other subsequent liens and encumbrances except real estate tax liens, liens and encumbrances recorded prior to the recordation of the declaration, and sums unpaid on and owing under any mortgage or deed of trust recorded prior to perfection of this lien.
To perfect the memorandum of lien, the association must file with the clerk of the circuit court in the county or city in which the development is situated a memorandum verified by the oath of the principal officer of the association or another officer provided for in the declaration. The memorandum must be filed within 12 months from the first assessment became due and payable. Additionally, prior to filing a memorandum of lien, a written notice must be sent to the property owner by certified mail, at the owner’s last known address, informing the owner that the lien will be filed in the circuit court clerk’s office at least 10 days before the actual filing date of the lien. The memorandum must name the development, describe the lot, name the person(s) constituting the owners of the lot, list the amount of unpaid assessments currently due or past due relative to such lot together with the date when each fell due, list the date of issuance of the memorandum, name the association with a name and address of the contact for the person to contact to arrange for payment or release of the lien, and state that the association is obtaining a lien in accordance with the provisions of the Virginia Property Owners’ Association act as set forth in Chapter 26 (section 55-508 et seq.) of Title 55.
The Act provides that a judgment or decree in this action must include, without limitation, reimbursement for costs and reasonable attorney’s fees for the prevailing party. Also, if the association prevails, it may also recover interest at the legal rate for the sums secured by the lien from the time each sum became due and payable. If the owner then satisfies the debt, the lien must be released, and failure to release the lien results in a penalty.
Once a lien has been perfected, the association must enforce the lien within 36 months from the time when the memorandum of lien was recorded. This time period cannot be extended.
In a future blog, I will discuss foreclosure on a lien.