Monday, November 30, 2020

Foreclosure: Foreclosure Sale Deficiency Actions

     Frequently there will be a deficiency balance after the sale is completed and the accounting is done. The account of sale will set forth the distribution of the sale proceeds and also establish any amounts remaining due on the indebtedness following application of the net proceeds from the foreclosure sale. This deficiency amount is usually recovered by a personal judgment against the maker of the promissory note or other obligors on the indebtedness that was secured by the deed of trust. An action to recover the deficiency balance remaining after a foreclosure sale need not be brought on the chancery side of the court, and may properly be brought as an action at law. A plaintiff’s action to recover on an assumed promissory note may be maintained as an action at law even though the plaintiff is not named in the deed of trust. 

Monday, November 23, 2020

Real Estate: Using Mechanic's Liens to Secure an Interest in Real Estate

     In prior 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 begin a review of the benefits of using mechanic’s liens to aid in the collection of your debt. 
     Virginia Code §43-3 et. seq. provides for special procedures for the collection of unpaid bills related to work performed on, or products supplied for, real estate. §43-3 A states: 
     “All persons performing labor or furnishing materials of the value of $150 or more … for the construction, removal, repair or improvement of any building or structure permanently annexed to the freehold … shall have a lien, if perfected as hereinafter provided, upon such building or structure, and so much land therewith as shall be necessary for the convenient use and enjoyment thereof … subject to the provisions of § 43-20. But when the claim is for repairs or improvements to existing structures only, no lien shall attach to the property repaired or improved unless such repairs or improvements were ordered or authorized by the owner, or his agent.” 
  Virginia Code §43-3 B provides for special rules regarding condominiums. 
     Virginia Code §§43-4, 43-7 and 43-9 provide for the perfection of the lien by general contractors, subcontractors, and laborers and suppliers. We will explore this more in next month’s edition. 
     We have experienced attorneys and staff who can examine title, file mechanic’s liens, and litigate to enforce the same. 

Monday, November 16, 2020

Bankruptcy: Fraudulent Real Estate Conveyances in a Chapter 7 Case

     In the case of Gold v. Laines, the United States Bankruptcy Court in Alexandria ruled that a Chapter 7 Trustee may recover two properties – the debtor’s home and a rental townhouse – as voluntary and fraudulent conveyances under Virginia law and federal bankruptcy law. The Court further denied the debtor a discharge for having fraudulently transferred the property within one year of the filing of his case. 
     The Court found as facts in Laines that the debtor bought his home and took title solely in his name. Fifteen weeks later, he married his wife, and three days later, he transferred his home to his wife and himself as tenants by the entirety with the common law right of survivorship by “Deed of Gift”. Two years later the debtor and his wife conveyed the home to the wife and a third party by deed of gift. As a result of this, husband and wife owned the home as joint tenants with the common law right of survivorship. 
     The townhouse was also solely owned by the debtor prior to his marriage. Soon after marriage he conveyed it to himself and his wife as tenants by the entirety. A little over a year later the debtor and his wife conveyed the townhouse to themselves and a different third party as tenants in common. This deed also was captioned “Deed of Gift.” The debtor filed for bankruptcy two years later. 
     The Court noted that by law the Bankruptcy Trustee could avoid the last transfer of the house and the last transfer of the townhouse if he proved his case that the transfers were fraudulent conveyances under the Virginia fraudulent conveyance statute, Va. Code Section 55-80. The Bankruptcy Trustee pointed to multiple badges of fraud. He argued that the transfers were to the debtor’s wife and himself as tenants by the entirety. The Debtor retained an interest in the transferred properties and possession of them. There was no consideration. They were made when his start-up venture, a telecommunications company, was heavily in debt, on a debt he had guaranteed. 
     The Court stated that the burden shifted to the wife to come forward and show that the transactions were bona fides and not merely contrivances to place the debtor’s property beyond the reach of creditors. She did not testify. The Court held that the debtor’s actions, in absence of satisfactory evidence of the bona fide nature of the transactions, reflected that the transactions were not undertaken for stated reasons, but were undertaken with the intent to hinder, delay or defraud his creditors. The Court found that neither of the third parties took the property in good faith. They had sufficient knowledge of the debtor’s circumstances and the unusual nature of the transactions to put a reasonable person on notice and cause them to inquire further. The Court held that the Bankruptcy Trustee could recover the house and the townhouse from the two third parties under Virginia Code Section 550 (a).
     The Court also found that the debtor’s intent to hinder, delay or defraud his creditors by the last conveyance of the home was clear. That intent was sufficient even though the transfer itself was not necessary to protect the asset from his creditors.
     The tenants by the entireties transfers of the house and the townhouse were avoided under Virginia Code Section 55-80, as implemented by Bankruptcy Code Section 544(b), and both properties were recoverable by the Bankruptcy Trustee. The debtor was also denied a discharge under Bankruptcy Code Section 727(a)(2) as a result of his last fraudulent transfer of the home.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Collections: Promissory Note - Acceleration of Balance

     The case of Atlas Rooter Co. v Atlas Enterprise, Inc., decided by the City of Richmond Circuit Court, serves as an excellent review of creditor's acceleration rights upon late payment on a promissory note. 
     In Atlas the undisputed facts were that the debtors mailed their loan payment within the ten-day grace period provided for in the promissory note (as they routinely did), but the payment was received after the ten-day grace period. The creditor moved to accelerate the balance due on the note. The debtors argued that the usual course of dealing between the parties authorized the use of the mails for payment. The debtors claimed that because payment by mail was permitted in the past, payment was made when the letter containing the payment was deposited in the mail, and that the risk of late payment was assumed by the note holders. The note, however, did not specify this. 
     The Court ruled that under Virginia law, payment of a debt is made upon receipt by the creditor, rather than by mailing by the debtor. The Court further reasoned that Virginia Code §8.3A - 602 provides that tender of payment of a negotiable instrument must be made "to a person" entitled to enforce the instrument. Payment or satisfaction discharges the liability of a party only if made to the holder of the instrument. The Court stated that to allow the mailing of an installment as timely payment would act to qualify the U.S. Postal Service as an agent of the note holder. 
     There is a lesson for creditors in Atlas even though the creditor prevailed. Keep detailed records of payments, do not waive payment due dates, and create a "paper trail" regarding late payment reminders. Creditors prevail best when they do not have to pay the cost for enforcing their rights. 

Monday, November 2, 2020

Foreclosure: Deposits

     Virginia Code §55-59.4(A)(2) permits the trustee to require of any bidder at any sale a deposit of as much as ten percent of the sales price, unless the deed of trust specifies a higher or lower amount. However, because the statute is not mandatory, the trustee is given the right to waive the deposit if he deems it appropriate, unless the deed of trust requires a specific deposit. The trustee should also consider using a fixed amount as the deposit rather than a percentage of the sales price. Using a percentage of the sales price as the method of determining the required deposit often results in confusion, and the successful bidder has either too much or too little money to deposit. A fixed deposit avoids the confusion and allows all potential buyers to know exactly how much money to bring to the sale to deposit. The fixed deposit should not be excessive, but should be of a sufficient amount to ensure that the successful bidder completes the closing of the sale.