Monday, November 27, 2023
Monday, November 20, 2023
Monday, November 13, 2023
Monday, November 6, 2023
Monday, October 30, 2023
Monday, October 23, 2023
Jurisdiction to enforce the lien of a judgment shall be in equity. If itappears to the court that the rents and profits of all real estate subjectto the lien will not satisfy the judgment in five years, the court maydecree such real estate, any part thereof, to be sold, and the proceedsapplied to the discharge of the judgment.
Monday, October 16, 2023
Monday, October 9, 2023
Monday, October 2, 2023
Monday, September 25, 2023
Monday, September 18, 2023
Monday, September 11, 2023
The guarantor in Mahoney argued that the creditor acted in bad faith. The guarantor asked the Court to imply in the note and guarantee agreement additional terms from the commercial good faith provision of Virginia Code §8.1-203. The Court, however, found that the note and guarantee agreement's provisions were "within the preview of the Uniform Commercial Code as adopted in Virginia", and that each alleged act of bad faith was expressly authorized in the terms of the note and guarantee agreement. The Court ruled that it could not imply the terms requested because the result would be to negate or materially alter the explicit terms freely agreed upon by the parties.
The lesson from Mahoney is that properly prepared notes are the key to collection should the loan become sour. Legal review of loan documents prior to execution can be more cost effective than legal representation after default.
Monday, September 4, 2023
Monday, August 28, 2023
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, August 21, 2023
Monday, August 14, 2023
Monday, August 7, 2023
Monday, July 31, 2023
Monday, July 24, 2023
Monday, July 17, 2023
Monday, July 10, 2023
Monday, July 3, 2023
Monday, June 26, 2023
Monday, June 19, 2023
Monday, June 12, 2023
The Code of Virginia provides specific guidance as to advertisements for foreclosure sales. The sale must be properly advertised or it will be void upon order of the court.
Virginia Code §55-59.2 states that if the deed of trust provides for the number of publications of the advertisements, no other or different advertisement shall be necessary, provided that: if the advertisement is inserted on a weekly basis, it shall be published not less than once a week for two weeks, and, if such advertisement is inserted on a daily basis, it shall be published not less than once a day for three days, which may be consecutive days. If the deed of trust provides for advertising on other than a weekly or daily basis, either of these statutory provisions must be complied with in addition to the provisions of the deed of trust. If the deed of trust does not provide for the number of publications for the advertisement, the trustee shall advertise once a week for four consecutive weeks; however, if the property, or a portion of the property, lies in a city or county immediately contiguous to a city, publication of the advertisement may appear five different days, which may be consecutive. In either case, the sale cannot be held on any day which is earlier than eight days following the first advertisement or more than thirty days following the last advertisement.
Advertisements must be placed in the section of the newspaper where legal notices appear, or, where the type of property being sold is generally advertised for sale. The trustee must comply with any additional advertisements required by the deed of trust.
Virginia Code §55-59.3 requires advertisements to describe the property to be sold at foreclosure; however, the description does not have to be as extensive as in the deed of trust – substantial compliance is sufficient so long as the rights of the parties are not affected in any material way. The statute does require the property to be described by street address, and, if none, the general location of the property with reference to streets, routes, or known landmarks. A tax map number may be used, but is not required
Virginia Code §55-59.2 requires the advertisement to state the time, place and terms of the sale. If the deed of trust provides for the sale to be conducted at a specific place, the trustee must comply with this term. If there is no mention in the deed of trust, §55-59(7) provides that the auction may take place at the premises, or, in front of the circuit court building, or, such other place in the city or county in which the property or the greater part of the property lies. In addition, the sale could be held within the city limits of a city surrounded by, or contiguous to, such county. If the land is annexed land, the sale could be held in the county of which the land was formerly a part.
The statute provides that the advertisement shall give the name or names of the trustee or trustees. In addition to naming the trustee, the advertisement must give the name, address and telephone number of the person who may be contacted with inquiries about the sale. The contact person can be the trustee, the secured party, or his agent or attorney.
Monday, June 5, 2023
Cases involving HOA powers are frequently fact specific and governing document specific. Recently, the Frederick County Circuit Court decided a case in which a homeowners association was held in violation of the homeowners association’s restrictive covenants and liable for compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees because it removed a wall on a homeowner’s property. The homeowner spent a considerable amount of time and effort improving a portion of a shared roadway that was on his property. He cleared the land, widened the pathway, and built an eight foot retention wall along the pathway. The HOA notified the homeowner that the wall was encroaching on the right of way and told the homeowner that it must be removed at the homeowner’s expense. There was no board of directors hearing or meeting before the decision was made. Without further notice, the wall was removed but the homeowner refused to pay. In addition to tearing down the wall, the HOA installed drainage culverts in the right of way which resulted in silt flowing into the property’s septic system. The HOA filed suit and obtained a General District Court judgment for the expense of removing the wall. The homeowner then appealed the judgment to the Frederick County Circuit Court and filed a complaint against the HOA. The homeowner claimed that the HOA acted outside its authority under the restrictive covenants, which constituted trespass. The HOA filed a counterclaim, alleging breach of contract and violation of the Property Owners’ Association Act (Va. Code Section 55-508). The court held in favor of the homeowner and found that the HOA exceeded its authority under the restrictive covenants. The HOA did not have authority to remove the wall or to install the drainage culverts. In addition, the HOA did not have the ability to charge the homeowner for either the removal of the wall or the installment of the drainage culverts. The court awarded the homeowner compensatory damages of $28,500 (the value of the wall and cost of returning the property to its prior condition) and attorneys’ fees of $48,844.
It is important to ensure that HOA covenants provide for the powers necessary to take self-help to effect repairs and remove violations. It is also important for HOAs to work through the proper channels and act within its authority granted by restrictive covenants. Failing to do so can be costly for an HOA. 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, May 29, 2023
In the last issues I began a multi-issue review of cases that address the dischargeability of debts regarding property damage-malice. The relevant bankruptcy code provision is §523(a)(6). I briefly established the standard used by courts to determine dischargeability of debts involving property damage. The standard is very fact specific so reviewing cases will shed light on how the standard is applied.
In Appalachian Equipment & Supply Co. v. McDaniel, the United States Bankruptcy Court at Harrisonburg, Virginia, determined that the creditor/plaintiff, a rental company, had satisfied all of the elements necessary to prove its case under Bankruptcy Code §523(a)(6), and thus, its claim for damages from the improper use of the forklift was declared exempt from discharge.
The Court in McDaniel ruled that the physical evidence was the most reliable evidence offered. That evidence showed that the forklift was delivered to the debtor in normal operable condition. It also showed that when the creditor picked up the forklift, it was damaged and displayed light blue paint on the bottom of the carriage. The debtor's evidence showed that one of the vehicles which was placed on the tractor trailer was a light-blue car. To the Court, it appeared more likely than not that the bottom portion of the carriage of the forklift was used in conjunction with attempting to crush the light-blue car such that paint flecks from the car attached themselves to the underside of the carriage. The Court indicated that it was satisfied that the expert testimony of the witness for the creditor established that more likely than not that the carriage of the forklift was used to apply hydraulic pressure in a downward direction with such force that the carriage boon and forks of the forklift were damaged. In conclusion, the Court found that the debtor used the carriage to accomplish his intent to crush cars, such use was inconsistent with the normal usage of the forklift, and such usage led to the damage of the forklift. The Court further found that the creditor proved by a preponderance of the evidence that the debtor's actions in using the forklift were intentional.
The Court in McDaniel found that the debtor knew that a forklift should not be used to crush cars. The physical evidence and the expert evidence offered by the creditor were more persuasive than the debtor's attempts to deflect blame to another person. It showed that the debtor applied the boon portion of the forklift to employ downward hydraulic pressure to the crush the cars. The Court ruled that it was satisfied that the debtor used the forklift in an improper manner to crush the cars in order to load them onto his flatbed trailer. The Court found that the debtor was an experienced forklift operator. He brought equipment to the site which could have been used to safely crush the cars. He used the forklift in a manner inconsistent with the generally accepted practice for the usage of this type of forklift. In light of these surrounding circumstances, the Court ruled that the debtor knew, or should have known, that his acts would cause damage to the forklift and resulting harm to the creditor. Thus, the Court ruled that the debtor's actions fit the definition of malice as set forth in the case of St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Vaughn, the standard for denial of discharge.
Monday, May 22, 2023
Monday, May 15, 2023
In certain cases it may be more practical for the lender to seek or accept from the borrower a deed in lieu of foreclosure rather than incur the expense of foreclosure – this is at the lender’s discretion. If the lender agrees, in return for voluntarily surrendering the property, the borrower will seek either partial or complete satisfaction of the debt.
Considerations. Before accepting the deed in lieu of foreclosure, the lender must consider many matters:
- Value of the property vs. the amount of the debt.
- Other debts on the property. A deed in lieu of foreclosure does not extinguish prior or junior liens or encumbrances. Thus the lender, in accepting the deed, accepts the property with the liens. It is possible for the lender to structure the deed in lieu of foreclosure so that it does not release the deed of trust so as to preserve a future foreclosure to extinguish subordinate liens.
Monday, May 8, 2023
In the Fairfax Circuit Court case of Cornwell v. Ruggieri, the trial judge and jury found that the plaintiff homeowner was defamed by four emails written and published by a former association president and awarded $9,000.00 in damages. These emails alleged that the homeowner had stolen association funds five years earlier. The former association president tried to defend the case on the basis that the statements were simply a matter “of opinion”, not a matter of fact (as required under Virginia case law to recover damages), but the trial judge disagreed.
The trial judge instructed the jury that under Virginia law the defendant, in his role as association president, had a “limited privilege” to make defamatory statements without being liable for damages. However, if it was proved by “clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant had “abused” the privilege, the defamatory statements were not protected. The trial judge instructed the jury that there were six possible ways (outlined below) that the homeowner could prove that the former association president abused the limited privilege.
The homeowner presented evidence that the defendant made statements (1) with reckless disregard; (2) that were unnecessarily insulting; (3) that the language was stronger than was necessary; (4) were made because of hatred, ill will, or a desire to hurt the homeowner rather than a fair comment on the subject; and (5) were made because of personal spite, or ill will, independent of the occasion on which the communications were made.
The jury was given a specific interrogatory with regard to each of the four defamatory statements:
(1) Did the defendant make the following statements?
(2) Were they about the plaintiff?
(3) Were they heard by someone other than the plaintiff?
(4) Are the statements false?
(5) Did the defendant make the statements knowing them to be false, or, believing them to be true, did he lack reasonable grounds for such belief or act negligently in failing to ascertain the facts on which the statements were based?
(6) Did the defendant abuse a limited privilege to make the statement?
For each question as to all four emails, the jury answered “yes”. After a three-day trial, the verdict was rendered in favor of the plaintiff -- $9,000.00 in damages.
This case gives a good reminder that homeowner association board members must be knowledgeable, professional and well-advised when serving their communities.
Monday, May 1, 2023
Several cases illustrate well the dischargeability of debts involving property damage. In all cases, the trial and appellate courts are required to adhere to Bankruptcy Code §523(a)(6), which states that a debt causing willful and malicious injury to another entity is not exempt from discharge.
The standard established by the courts to prove willful and malicious injury is described by the court in St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Vaughn. In Vaughn, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit stated that the debtor must be shows by contradicted and unimpeached evidence to have committed a willful and malicious injury to the creditor’s property. There is no requirement of specific malice on the part of the debtor, however. The court held that “willful and malicious” injury means injury that is wrongful and without cause or excuse, but the debtor does not necessarily need to have ill will.
However, this is a very general definition. Courts have applied this standard to many different situations and it is clear that this standard is very fact specific.
Monday, April 24, 2023
The Richmond Circuit Court case of Va. Builder's Supply, Inc. v. Brooks & Co. Gen Contractors Inc. serves as a good example of judicial recognition of the rights of judgment creditors in arbitration proceedings.
In Va. Builders, the creditor, a building supply company, issued a garnishment summons upon a general contractor for sums due from the general contractor to the judgment debtor, a subcontractor. The contracts between the contractor and the subcontractor, under which the judgment creditor sought to garnish the sums due the subcontractor, included clauses for mandatory arbitration. The garnishee sought arbitration after being served with the garnishment. The garnishee refused to allow the judgment creditor to participate. The garnishee received a garnishment award indicating that it owed the subcontractor no sums. The garnishee answered the garnishment that no sums were due. The Richmond General District Court agreed. The Richmond Circuit Court disagreed and sent the case back for further review. The Richmond Circuit Court reasoned that the garnishee should not be able to affect the potential funds due the judgment creditor while prohibiting the judgment creditor from participating in the proceedings.
Monday, April 17, 2023
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, April 10, 2023
The Virginia Condominium Act, specifically Virginia Code Section 55-79.71(C), provides for a statute of limitations in regard to challenging amendments to governing documents. The section provides, in part:
“An action to challenge the validity of an amendment adopted by the unit owners’ association pursuant to this section may not be brought more than one year after the amendment is recorded.”
In the case of Godwin v. Bay Point Association Board of Directors, a Norfolk Circuit Court was faced with a homeowner challenge to bylaw amendments. The homeowner, Godwin, had sued the association alleging that it breached its governing documents by taking actions four years earlier and three years earlier that increased her assessment for insurance premiums. The association filed a motion to dismiss Godwin’s complaint on the ground that it was time-barred pursuant to Virginia Code Section 55-79.71(C).
Four years earlier the association’s board of directors signed a resolution regarding physical damage and flood insurance. Three years earlier it drafted and signed a bylaw amendment relating to insurance premiums. The association argued that challenging either of these actions was time-barred under the statute of limitations.
The court ruled that the resolution was not an amendment to the condominium governing documents within the meaning of the act. The court found that, at most, the resolution represented a statement of the board’s opinion that the bylaws should be amended to revise the way insurance premiums were assessed against the unit owners. In the resolution, the board acknowledged the need to amend the bylaws and stated that the amendment process was lengthy and inconsistent with the budget preparation schedule for the upcoming fiscal year. Because the resolution was not an amendment adopted by the unit owners pursuant to the act, the court found that the act’s statute of limitations did not apply. However, the court ruled that the bylaws amendment was an amendment to the governing documents within the definition contemplated by the act. Accordingly, the one-year statute of limitations applied.
Godwin argued that because the association violated mandatory procedures for amending the bylaws, the amendment was null and void, and thus, the statute of limitations did not apply. The court, however, in examining the statute, noted that nothing in the statute suggested that only valid bylaw amendments are subject to the one-year statute of limitations. The court noted that any amendment, not just valid ones, may be challenged within one year. Accordingly, Godwin’s claim was barred by the statute of limitations.
Godwin then tried to argue that there was a breach of fiduciary duty (the legal duty of the board to act in the best interests of the residents). Godwin and the association agreed that an action for such breach must be filed within two years from the date of breach. Godwin argued that, although the association initially breached its fiduciary duty four and three years earlier “when in bad faith it knowingly and willfully” adopted the resolution and the bylaws amendment, there were renewed breaches when the annual budgets were adopted in the last two years, which reflected the change made to assessments for insurance premiums. The court disagreed, finding that any breach of fiduciary duty relating to the change in the insurance premium assessment took place when the association acted four and three years ago to adopt the resolution and bylaw amendment. The latest of these actions occurred over two years prior to Godwin’s filing suit. Therefore, the claim was time-barred.
Monday, April 3, 2023
Several cases illustrate well the dischargeability of debts involving property damage. In all cases, the trial and appellate courts are required to adhere to Bankruptcy Code §523(a)(6) which states that a debt causing willful and malicious injury to another entity is not exempt from discharge.
If you have cases involving property damage that may fall within this code section, please let me know.
Monday, March 27, 2023
The United States District Court at Alexandria reviewed a liability question regarding a bank's treatment of a check marked "for deposit only". In the case of Qatar v. First Am. Bank of Va., the Court ruled that a depositary bank violated a restrictive endorsement stating "for deposit only" when it deposited a check into an account other than the account belonging to the named payee of the check. In Qatar, a foreign embassy employee defrauded the embassy over a six-year period by various methods, including depositing checks written to other parties into his own personal accounts with defendant banks. After the embassy discovered this fraudulent scheme, it sued the depositary bank for conversion. The bank succeeded on summary judgment in establishing that it was not liable as a matter of law with respect to two categories of checks in dispute, and it prevailed on a factual issue at trial that relieved it from liability for yet another category of checks.
Only one category of checks remained in dispute. These checks all bore the forged endorsement of the payee named on the face of the check, followed by a stamped "for deposit only" restriction. At trial, the depositary bank raised no defenses, but instead challenged for the first time the Court's assumption that the phrase "for deposit only," without further specification, directs a depositary bank to deposit the funds only into the account of the named payee. The Court reasoned that the question then presented was whether the bank complied with the restrictive endorsement "for deposit only" when it deposited the check bearing that restriction into any person's account, or whether that restriction requires the bank to deposit the check's proceeds only into the account of the named payee. The Court held that the unqualified language "for deposit only" following an endorsement on the back of a check required the bank to place the check's proceeds into the payee's account, and the bank violated that restrictive endorsement when it credited the check to another account. In this cases, specifically, the bank violated the restrictive endorsement in depositing into the employees account checks made payable to others and restrictively endorsed "for deposit only", and thus was liable to the plaintiff for the money converted.
Monday, March 20, 2023
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:
- Failure to pay taxes.
- Failure to pay insurance.
- Failure to remove or bond over mechanic’s liens.
- Failure to perform requirements unique to the loan.
Monday, March 13, 2023
Virginia Code §43-17 provides that no suit to enforce a mechanic’s lien can be brought:
“…after six months from the time when the memorandum of lien was recorded or after sixty days from the time the building, structure or railroad was completed or the work thereon otherwise terminated, whichever time shall last occur; provided, however, that the filing of a petition to enforce any such lien in any suit wherein such petition may be properly filed shall be regarded as the institution of a suit under this section; and, provided further, that nothing herein shall extend the time within which such lien may be perfected.”
Virginia Code §43-17.1 provides that:
“Any party, having an interest in real property against which a lien has been filed, may, upon a showing of good cause, petition the court of equity having jurisdiction wherein the building, structure, other property, or railroad is located to hold a hearing to determine the validity of any perfected lien on the property. After reasonable notice to the lien claimant and any party to whom the benefit of the lien would inure and who has given notice as provided in §43-18 of the Code of Virginia, the court shall hold a hearing and determine the validity of the lien. If the court finds that the lien is invalid, it shall forthwith order that the memorandum or notice of lien be released from record.”
Virginia Code §43-18 provides:
“The perfected lien of a general contractor on any building or structure shall inure to the benefit of any subcontractor, and of any person performing labor or furnishing materials to a subcontractor who has not perfected a lien on such building or structure, provided such subcontractor, or person performing labor or furnishing materials shall give written notice of his claim against the general contractor, or subcontractor, as the case may be, to the owner or his agent before the amount of such lien is actually paid off or discharged.”
We have experienced attorneys and staff who can examine title, file mechanic’s liens, and litigate to enforce the same.
Monday, March 6, 2023
In the case of Butler v. Southern O Corp the United States Bankruptcy Court at Roanoke, Virginia ruled that a debtor who received a Chapter 7 discharge could avoid a judicial lien filed in the previous year against the debtor's real estate in which he had no equity because of outstanding deeds of trust and for which he had filed a homestead exemption. In Butler the Court found as fact that the amount of the judicial lien (at least $115,000), plus the amount of other liens ($76,934), plus any exemption to which debtor might be entitled, exceeded the value of the property of $72,000.00. The Court held that the lien was entirely avoidable pursuant to Bankruptcy Code §522 (f). The Bankruptcy Court ruled that it was Congress's intention to protect any further equity the debtor may accumulate, by the reduction of the principal amount of the mortgage, from payments hereafter made by the debtors. Accordingly, the Bankruptcy Court ruled that any future increase in value accrued to the benefit of the debtor as after-acquired property was likewise exempt.