Monday, February 19, 2024

Foreclosure: Substitute Trustees

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, February 12, 2024

Real Estate: The Virginia Property Owners’ Association Act – General Provisions

In the last issue of Creditor News I began a review of the Virginia Property Owners’ Act. Under the Act, sellers are required to disclose in their sales contract that the property is located within a development subject to the Act. The Act also requires the seller to retrieve the Disclosure Packet in the Act and provide it to the purchaser. The Disclosure Packet includes the following information: association documents, the name of the association, state of incorporation, register agent’s name and address, any other entity/facility to which the owner may owe fees or charges, budget or summary, income/expenses statement or balance sheet for last fiscal year, statement of balance due of outstanding loans, nature/status of pending lawsuits, unpaid judgments (with material impact on association or members or relating to lot being purchased), insurance coverage provided for lot owners including fidelity bond maintained by association, and much more.

The purchaser may cancel the contract within three days if delivered by hand or email, or six days if sent by mail, after receiving the Disclosure Packet or being notified that it is “not available” (meaning: a current annual report has not been filed by the Association with either the SCC or the CICB; or the seller has requested in writing that the packet be provided and it is not received within 14 days; or the association has provided written notice that the Disclosure Packet is not available). Additionally, if the Disclosure Packet is not delivered or the association does not indicate that it is not available, the purchaser may cancel the sale any time prior to closing. If the purchaser received the Disclosure Packet, the owner also has the right to request an update. However, the rights to receive and cancel the contract are waived conclusively if not exercised before settlement.

Failure to provide a Disclosure Packet after a written request for it has been made results in a waiver of any claim to delinquent assessments or violations of association documents up to that point, and the association will be liable to the seller for actual damages sustained up to $1,000 if the association is managed by a CIC Manager or up to $500 if it is self-managed.

In the next two issues of Creditor News, I will discuss the provisions of the Virginia Property Owners’ Association Act that provide a memorandum of lien and foreclosure in the event of an owner’s default.  

Monday, February 5, 2024

Bankruptcy: The Automatic Stay

Federal Bankruptcy law provides for an automatic stay (injunction) to take effect immediately upon filing for bankruptcy. The stay prevents creditors from taking any further action against debtors without court approval. The stay can stop a foreclosure or vehicle auction, even if notice of the filing is given moments before the sale is to occur. The automatic stay, unless lifted by the Bankruptcy Judge, or in some cases the trustee, remains in effect until it is terminated at the time of discharge, at which time it is replaced by a permanent injunction.
Violation of the automatic stay is a serious offense. A willful violation can result in a finding of contempt of court. Sanctions for violating the stay can be awarded as well. These sanctions can include a fine and/or an assessment of attorney’s fees. A finding of contempt of court is also punishable by a jail sentence. Attorney consultation is always recommended when action against bankrupt debtors is contemplated.
The automatic stay may be lifted upon proper motion and argument by creditor's counsel. Reasons for making such a motion include, among others, lack of insurance on the property, or other similar reasons resulting in the creditor being unprotected while his rights are being determined.