Monday, January 29, 2024

Collections: Notice of Sale of Security Interest

The case of The State Bank of the Alleghenies v. Hundall, decided by the United States District Court at Roanoke, Virginia, serves as a good example of what happens where a creditor sells items pledged as security for a loan without making proper notice to all parties

In Hundall, the defendant guaranteed the bank's loan to his brother for a dry-cleaning business, but the defendant guarantor never received notice of how, when and by what manner of sale the bank intended to sell motor vehicles belonging to the brother's business. The evidence taken clearly proved that the bank failed to send notice of the sale of the motor vehicles, which had a fair wholesale value of approximately $8,500.00 in the aggregate. The District Court ruled that this violated the provisions of Virginia Code §8.9-504(3); however, the Code does not provide a remedy for the failure to comply with the statutory provisions for resale, and the appropriate remedy had not been ruled upon by the Virginia Supreme Court. The District Court, in its ruling, cited that courts which have addressed this appropriate remedy for failure to provide notice have adopted one (1) of the following three (3) rules:

1.        The debtor must prove that he has suffered an injury in order to obtain any recovery against the secured party;

2.        The secured party is absolutely barred from recovering a deficiency, even if the debtor suffered no injury; and

3.        A rebuttable presumption is that the collateral was worth the amount of the debt which requires the secured party to prove that the debtor suffered no injury.

Virginia Code §8.9-507(1) entitles the debtor, or any person entitled to notification, "to recover from the secured party any loss caused by the failure to comply with the provision of this part".

The Court elected the third of the three remedies listed above, and forced the creditor to prove the fair value of the collateral.

The lesson of Hundall: creditors should send notice to all parties to the transaction -- the principal debtors, guarantors and the owners of the collateral.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Foreclosure: Trustees in Foreclosure

Trustee under a deed of trust are agents for both the lender and the borrowers. Accordingly, a trustee must act fairly and impartially. The lender must not let either the lender or the borrower influence the manner in which a trustee carries out the terms of the deed of trust, especially if this would be detrimental to either party. If any question arises as to the existence of the default or the amount in default, a trustee should seek the aid and direction of the court. The powers and duties of a trustee are governed by the deed of trust and Virginia Code Section 55-59.1 et seq. The code provides when the deed of trust does not. A trustee has no right to exercise the power of sale or to obtain possession until such time as the borrower defaults under the note or deed of trust, and, then, only for the purpose of selling the property at foreclosure or preserving the property until sale. When a default occurs, there is no change in title – the property merely becomes eligible to be sold under the powers originally conferred to the trustee by the owner. Thus, the noteholder has the right to have the property sold and the proceeds of the sale applied to the debt.

Monday, January 15, 2024

Real Estate: The Virginia Property Owners’ Association Act – An Introduction

The Virginia Property Owners’ Association Act provides homeowner’s associations with additional protections when homeowners fail to pay their dues; it also defines responsibilities of the association. Accordingly, homeowner’s associations should be knowledgeable of the Act and its provisions. The Act applies to developments subject to a declaration recorded after January 1, 1959, associations incorporated or otherwise organized after such date, and all subdivisions created under the former Subdivided Land Sales Act. In the next issue of Creditor News, I will briefly introduce this Act and some of the special duties it imposes on homeowner’s associations.  Subsequent issues will address memorandum of liens and foreclosures.

Monday, January 8, 2024

Bankruptcy: Award of Attorneys Fees Against Creditors

A debtor sought to recover attorney's fees from a creditor who unsuccessfully challenged the debtor's dischargeability. The creditor had alleged that the items listed on the debtor's statement of financial affairs were materially false, but was unable to convince the Bankruptcy Court. The Bankruptcy Court, however, denied the debtor's request for attorney's fees because there was not evidence that the creditor pursued the complaint frivolously or without substantial justification. The case was In Re: Louise Reynolds Freeman, decided by Judge Tice for the United States Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of Virginia, at Alexandria.

The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia also held that debtor's counsel are not entitled to recover attorney's fees from a creditor where the creditor loses a suit objecting to debtor's discharge unless it is proven that the suit was filed vexatiously, wantonly, in bad faith, or for oppressive reasons in the case of In Re Gecowetts. In Gecowetts the debtor's estranged wife filed an action objecting to the debtor's dischargeability of a debt. After a full trial on this issue, the Court allowed the debtor a discharge of all debts. Relying on the "American Rule," the Court found that although the creditor was unsuccessful in the dischargeability proceeding, the action was not filed vexatiously, wantonly, in bad faith, or for oppressive reasons. Therefore, no fees were awarded.

Monday, January 1, 2024

Collections: Collection Accounts - What We Can Do For You

We can assist you by handling all seriously delinquent accounts from start to finish - no other collection alternative that you have can do this.

I also want to thank all of you who are clients. You helped make this year our most successful ever. I look forward to an ever better 2024.

For those of you who are not yet clients, please know that I am always ready and willing to meet with you. At Lafayette, Ayers & Whitlock, PLC, we have a diverse general practice of law. We focus on Creditor’s Rights. We are unique amongst Creditor’s Rights law firms as we represent you in all areas: collections, bankruptcy, foreclosure and real estate.

In collection matters, we can assist you by handling all seriously delinquent accounts from start to finish - no other collection alternative that you have can do this.

If you hire an additional staff employee, you are paying salary and benefits for collections. This amount is non-recoverable from your debtors, even though they caused the expenditure. Further, since the employee is not an attorney, they cannot try contested cases, or file Motions for Judgment in Circuit Court, or conduct debtor's interrogatories (without interrogatories many collection cases will sit inactive).

If you employ a collection agency, you may incur a flat fee cost for accounts. This cost is not recoverable under Virginia law, despite the fact that your loan documents say that the debtor will pay all costs of collection. In addition to these nonrecoverable costs, you will also have percentage costs that you cannot recover. A collection agency is frequently your worst option because they can do less for you than you can do for yourself. In reviewing the Collection Alternatives Comparison Charts, you will see that if a debtor does not respond to the collection agency's letters, the agency is sunk. The agency cannot file any court papers on your behalf, and they cannot perform any judgment executions. In the end, all a collection agency does is provide a threatening third party voice.

If you choose Lafayette, Ayers & Whitlock, PLC, we can handle your accounts from beginning to end. We can accept all cases on a one-third contingency fee of all amounts collected. We will assess the court-allowed fee the moment the account is turned over for collection, and this amount is recoverable from the debtor. We have trained and experienced support staff and an aggressive approach to collections. In reviewing the Course of Action Chart (below) you will see that we will aggressively pursue your recovery. Virginia District Court judgments are good for ten years, twenty in the Circuit Court. If the judgment is docketed (we docket all judgments unless the value is very small or you instruct otherwise), the lien is enforceable for twenty years. We provide detailed monthly accounting. At the beginning of each month you will receive a report outlining significant matters, a computer generated financial accounting, by debtor, dollar for dollar. You will also receive a case status report detailing current status and action.

In bankruptcy matters, we can assist you by handling all of your needs. We can review bankruptcy schedules, review and object to chapter 13 plans, file proofs of claim, attend hearings and more.

In foreclosure matters, we can assist you by handling all of your foreclosure cases from demand to final accounting in all counties and cities across the Commonwealth.

In real estate matters, we can assist you by preparing loan documents for first, second, equity line and refinances, as well as conducting closings, recordings and coordinating title examination and title insurance.

Please call me at 545-6251 for a free consultation.