Monday, December 27, 2021

Acceleration of Demand Notes

    The Twentieth Judicial Circuit examined a debtor's assertion that the note's "detailed enumeration of events consisting default was inconsistent with a demand note", and that since the note was not a demand note, the creditor must demonstrate "good faith" in accelerating repayment of the note.  The case was NationsBank of Virginia, N.A. v Barnes.  The Court examined Virginia Code §8.3A - 108(a), which states that a note is payable "on demand" if it says it is payable on demand or states no time for payment.  The Court found that the note in this case was a form with a box "on demand" checked, with no time set for repayment, only a provision requiring monthly payments of interest.  The Court ruled that the note was unambiguous and clearly a demand note, and that no showing of "good faith" was required before requesting payment on the note.

    Despite the favorable result for the creditor, great care should always be taken to clearly identify payment demand terms.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Right to Cure a Default

    Question:  Once a borrower is in default, can he “reinstate the loan”, or, “cure the default” and stop the foreclosure sale? 

Answer:  yes.  In general, most deeds of trust contain language that allows a borrower the opportunity to reinstate, or cure, the loan after the due date set out in the note.  If the deed of trust contains this language, the note cannot be placed into default and accelerated until the cure period has expired.  Government loans such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have very specific requirements.  In fact, a borrower can always cure a monetary default and stop a foreclosure up to the time of sale by paying in full, in good funds, the deficient amount, including all costs of the sale.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Homeowner Associations – Damages Caused by Common Area Tree

    Townes at Grand Oaks Townhouse Association, Inc. v. Baxter  is case from Richmond Circuit Court that illustrates the importance of carefully drafted HOA agreements. The HOA sought to recover expenses for removing a tree that fell from common area onto a homeowner’s condo. The Richmond Circuit Court held that the HOA agreement did not exempt the HOA from paying removal costs because a portion of the tree remained on the common area. The court noted that there was no Virginia authority for these facts, but stated that the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled that in cases of fallen trees between adjoining properties in the absence of negligence, there is no liability for property damages on the landowner from where the tree fell. However, the HOA agreement is a contract that created the obligation for the HOA. The agreement had a provision requiring the HOA to maintain and replace trees, and another provision exempting the HOA from liability to an owner for repairing or replacing any portion of the lot or the improvements provided the homeowner has insurance as required by the agreement. The HOA relied on the first provision, but the court determined that that reliance was misplaced as it did not cover this situation. The HOA relied on the second provision because the homeowner did not have the required insurance for “the structure of each lot”, but only insurance for the inside of the home. However, the court heard evidence from the homeowner that he understood the language to only require internal insurance. The court noted three primary reasons for holding for the homeowner:

(1) “Removal of the tree from the lot is not a repair or replacement, but merely something necessary before the physical work of restoration of the damaged structure can begin.”

(2) “The exemption from liability applies when the homeowner has "fire and extended coverage insurance" with applicable coverage. Considering the varying types of insurance that the market may provide, there is no evidence that the insurance required under the contract terminology must cover trees removal. Whether such a policy would is left to speculation.”

(3) “The tree removal would necessarily involve removal of a portion of the tree from the common area as well as from Defendant's lot and home. I question whether, in any event, the total removal cost should be assigned to the defendant rather than some prorated amount.”

It is important to ensure that HOA agreements include provisions that would govern a broad spectrum of potential issues and disputes. The law firm of Lafayette, Ayers & Whitlock, PLC has experience in drafting, reviewing, and amending HOA documents, as well as, representing HOAs in court.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Dischargeability - Money Judgment

    In the case of In Re: James H. Harris the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia showed a willingness to assist creditors in clear abuse cases.  In Harris Judge Tice determined that a debt which resulted from the debtor's conversion of a stolen Mack Truck was exempt from discharge pursuant to the Bankruptcy Code, and determined that the amount of damages excepted from discharge was $11,620.47.  The Bankruptcy Court also entered a money judgment for the creditor in that excepted amount, even though at least one Federal District Court has held that a Bankruptcy Court does not have jurisdiction to enter a money judgment in a Bankruptcy Code §523 proceeding.

Judge Tice stated that every determination by a Bankruptcy Court of the validity of a claim is a determination of whether a creditor is entitled to monetary damages from the debtor.  The issues raised regarding the validity or existence or amount of a debt are inextricably interwoven with the determination of dischargeability, and are therefore within the equitable jurisdiction of the Bankruptcy Court.