The Next Foreclosure Fight – CNBC.com

A short clip on the ever-expanding number of community associations that are choosing to foreclose on unit owners in debt:

The Next Foreclosure Fight – CNBC.com.

Like most of these clips, it fails to cover the subject very thoroughly.  The foreclosing association’s attorney implies there are no options other than foreclosures for associations facing debt; CAI‘s CEO Tom Skiba is a participant and defends the need for non-judicials as a “tool in the toolbox;” the attorney guest asserts that HOAs are not community associations, but rather corporations, that create assessments for the benefit of their vendors.  (Principally attorneys and vendors.)

Abandoned…


Monday’s New York Times had an article on the continued (and apparently increasing) tendency of lenders to walk from properties, rather than foreclose on them.

This article, however, reveals a new twist to the problem: the owners, who think their homes have been foreclosed, are being charged by municipalities for the clean up, and sometimes the demolition of, these residences. So it’s not just community associations that are facing non-responsive lenders, but also the owners of those units. Previous posts on this blog have advocated vigilance in the monitoring of units in this day and age; this gives another reason. And just because a lender threatens foreclosure, don’t assume it will be completed.

What’s a Short Sale?

I’m live blogging today from the UCCAI Manager’s Munch; the topic of the day is — you guessed it — the economy. More specifically, “The Effects of Short Sales and Foreclosures on Homeowners’ Associations”.

The speaker is Paul Newton, Backman Title Services.

Paul’s beginning with an explanation of “race notice” — the concept that the first to record their property interest will have priority.

Utah’s Condominium Act provides priority to mortgage holders over association liens in condominiums; in the HOA setting, there was no law prior to 2004. Nonetheless, most declarations (in HOAs and condominiums) provide similar protections to lenders.

Backman’s office was opening 150 foreclosure files a month in 2007; now it’s a thousand per month.

Paul appropriately points out that the language of a declaration is critical respecting the association’s rights; some declarations give priority to first mortgages; others give priority to all mortgages. Needless to say, at least for a while, that’s a significant issue.

Another good point arises with respect to the “due date” of assessments in non-condominium associations. Most declarations have assessments on an annual basis. If assessments become due on the first of the year, but are billed monthly thereafter, the association may have priority relating back to January 1. Careful lenders avoid this predicament by receiving a payoff, and assuring that assessments are current at the time of transfer.

Paul says that their company appreciates the filing of a new lien, even post-foreclosure, so that the title companies know whom to contact. John Morris questions whether the filing of a lien against lenders may create a “selective enforcment” issue. That’s a good point; a solution to that may be an amendment to the association’s debt collection policy; a policy distinction which is reasonable should eliminate that argument.

John Richards inquired about how to pursue lenders who don’t take care of their property; Paul recommends contacting the lender at the address on the deed, and the trustee who conducted the sale. (There are a lot of very busy foreclosure lawyers who will really enjoy that additional mail.)

A short sale, as defined by Paul, involves a proposal for a sale where not all lienholders will be made whole; the first lienholder will dictate who gets what, and the title company must close within those parameters. Obviously, the frequency of these short sales is increasing.

No More Non-Judicial Foreclosures?

Those who know me, and those who follow this blog, are aware that I’ve never been an advocate of non-judicial foreclosures of community association assessment liens. And at the the CCAL Law Conference last month, the pundits were agreeing.

I’ve had a number of reasons to dislike nonjudicial foreclosures; I think they usually take longer than a letter followed (when necessary) by a complaint; I think they are unduly aggressive in a number of situations; I think they unduly impose excessive costs on the association and ultimately the unit owner, and I’ve always questioned their legality under Utah statutes. And now, there’s published evidence that confirms that a Utah trial court has found them problematic, and an appelate court won’t review that decision, at least for now.

The case, McQueen v. Jordan Pines Townhomes Owners Association, Inc., involved challenges on a number of grounds to the legitimacy of a condominium non-judicial foreclosure; the trial court essentially held that ambiguities and omissions in the Utah Condominium Act would not justify the absence of a “trustee” in a nonjudicial foreclosure, and hence the attempted sale by the association’s counsel was set aside. The association’s counsel appealed, but that appeal was very quickly rejected by the Utah Court of Appeals, based upon the absence of a “final ruling” from which the association was appealing. Remaining controversies between the parties preclude consideration of the appeal at this time; I strongly suspect that the costs of further litigation will preclude further litigation and the eventual appeal.

I think it’s a very important case; we’ll be exploring it in more depth in connection with an upcoming CAALRS collection seminar. Keep an eye on this blog, and/or Utahcondolaw.com for information on the date, time and other subjects to be covered.

CAALRS, Utahcondolaw.com and this blog are all sponsored by the law firm of Hobbs & Olson, L.C.

"It’s the Economy, Stupid"

I’m at the College of Community Association Lawyers’ law conference, and the big subject of the day is – yeah, you guessed it – the economy.

Speakers are covering a number of topics associated with the economy, and its consequences. Numerous suggestions are being made – few things are strikingly new to me, but the speakers’ repeated affirmation of Hobbs & Olson’s collection practices are reassuring. One of the early afternoon speakers suggested that firms should be considering the pursuit of personal judgments – a practice that we’ve been advocating for years. Another speaker suggested that associations should be including a budget line item for bad debt –I’ve only been recommending that for a year.

A big issue of discussion – and one that we are seeing more of – deals with lenders who foreclose and don’t thereafter pay their assessments, and other lenders who, either by virtue of mandated or voluntary policies, are not foreclosing on their units. It seems to be the consensus that those deadbeat lenders should be pursued aggressively. I agree.

Ellen Hirsch De Haan, President of the Foundation for Community Association Research, is suggesting that associations might want to consider relaxing some rules that might otherwise make sense. Do you want to rigidly enforce anti-rent restrictions, if that rental income might help the owner to pay their mortgage and/or their assessments? Are you going to rigidly enforce your single family restrictions if the children who lost their jobs (or the parents who lost their 401(k)) move in?

“Good guys”, who pay their assessments, are being penalized if the association does not pursue their neighbors, because the neighbors end up paying more. For this reason, associations should be actively pursuing their collections equally, but equitably.

And here’s a scary tale from Florida – abandoned homes there are being stripped of appliances, cabinets, copper wiring and everything else of value. In high-end communities, the strippers are apparently watching the public foreclosure records, and visiting the foreclosed, and thus vacant, homes. So, if you are aware of foreclosed and vacant units in your association, keep an eye on them.