Getting the 50,000 or three times the actual damages
(b) After a trustee’s deed upon sale has been recorded, a mortgage
servicer, mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary, or authorized agent shall
be liable to a borrower for actual economic damages pursuant to
Section 3281, resulting from a material violation of Section 2923.55,
2923.6, 2923.7, 2924.9, 2924.10, 2924.11, or 2924.17 by that
mortgage servicer, mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary, or authorized
agent where the violation was not corrected and remedied prior to the
recordation of the trustee’s deed upon sale. If the court finds that
the material violation was intentional or reckless, or resulted from
willful misconduct by a mortgage servicer, mortgagee, trustee,
beneficiary, or authorized agent, the court may award the borrower
the greater of treble actual damages or statutory damages of fifty
thousand dollars ($50,000).
2923.55. (a) A mortgage servicer, mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary,
or authorized agent may not record a notice of default pursuant to
Section 2924 until all of the following:
(1) The mortgage servicer has satisfied the requirements of
paragraph (1) of subdivision (b).
(2) Either 30 days after initial contact is made as required by
paragraph (2) of subdivision (b) or 30 days after satisfying the due
diligence requirements as described in subdivision (f).
(3) The mortgage servicer complies with subdivision (c) of Section
2923.6, if the borrower has provided a complete application as
defined in subdivision (h) of Section 2923.6.
(b) (1) As specified in subdivision (a), a mortgage servicer shall
send the following information in writing to the borrower:
(A) A statement that if the borrower is a servicemember or a
dependent of a servicemember, he or she may be entitled to certain
protections under the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (50
U.S.C. Appen. Sec. 501 et seq.) regarding the servicemember’s
interest rate and the risk of foreclosure, and counseling for covered
servicemembers that is available at agencies such as Military
OneSource and Armed Forces Legal Assistance.
(B) A statement that the borrower may request the following:
(i) A copy of the borrower’s promissory note or other evidence of
(ii) A copy of the borrower’s deed of trust or mortgage.
(iii) A copy of any assignment, if applicable, of the borrower’s
mortgage or deed of trust required to demonstrate the right of the
mortgage servicer to foreclose.
(iv) A copy of the borrower’s payment history since the borrower
was last less than 60 days past due.
(2) A mortgage servicer shall contact the borrower in person or by
telephone in order to assess the borrower’s financial situation and
explore options for the borrower to avoid foreclosure. During the
initial contact, the mortgage servicer shall advise the borrower that
he or she has the right to request a subsequent meeting and, if
requested, the mortgage servicer shall schedule the meeting to occur
within 14 days. The assessment of the borrower’s financial situation
and discussion of options may occur during the first contact, or at
the subsequent meeting scheduled for that purpose. In either case,
the borrower shall be provided the toll-free telephone number made
available by the United States Department of Housing and Urban
Development (HUD) to find a HUD-certified housing counseling agency.
Any meeting may occur telephonically.
(c) A notice of default recorded pursuant to Section 2924 shall
include a declaration that the mortgage servicer has contacted the
borrower, has tried with due diligence to contact the borrower as
required by this section, or that no contact was required because the
individual did not meet the definition of “borrower” pursuant to
subdivision (c) of Section 2920.5.
(d) A mortgage servicer’s loss mitigation personnel may
participate by telephone during any contact required by this section.
(e) A borrower may designate, with consent given in writing, a
HUD-certified housing counseling agency, attorney, or other adviser
to discuss with the mortgage servicer, on the borrower’s behalf, the
borrower’s financial situation and options for the borrower to avoid
foreclosure. That contact made at the direction of the borrower shall
satisfy the contact requirements of paragraph (2) of subdivision
(b). Any foreclosure prevention alternative offered at the meeting by
the mortgage servicer is subject to approval by the borrower.
(f) A notice of default may be recorded pursuant to Section 2924
when a mortgage servicer has not contacted a borrower as required by
paragraph (2) of subdivision (b), provided that the failure to
contact the borrower occurred despite the due diligence of the
mortgage servicer. For purposes of this section, “due diligence”
shall require and mean all of the following:
(1) A mortgage servicer shall first attempt to contact a borrower
by sending a first-class letter that includes the toll-free telephone
number made available by HUD to find a HUD-certified housing
(2) (A) After the letter has been sent, the mortgage servicer
shall attempt to contact the borrower by telephone at least three
times at different hours and on different days. Telephone calls shall
be made to the primary telephone number on file.
(B) A mortgage servicer may attempt to contact a borrower using an
automated system to dial borrowers, provided that, if the telephone
call is answered, the call is connected to a live representative of
the mortgage servicer.
(C) A mortgage servicer satisfies the telephone contact
requirements of this paragraph if it determines, after attempting
contact pursuant to this paragraph, that the borrower’s primary
telephone number and secondary telephone number or numbers on file,
if any, have been disconnected.
(3) If the borrower does not respond within two weeks after the
telephone call requirements of paragraph (2) have been satisfied, the
mortgage servicer shall then send a certified letter, with return
receipt requested, that includes the toll-free telephone number made
available by HUD to find a HUD-certified housing counseling agency.
(4) The mortgage servicer shall provide a means for the borrower
to contact it in a timely manner, including a toll-free telephone
number that will provide access to a live representative during
(5) The mortgage servicer has posted a prominent link on the
homepage of its Internet Web site, if any, to the following
(A) Options that may be available to borrowers who are unable to
afford their mortgage payments and who wish to avoid foreclosure, and
instructions to borrowers advising them on steps to take to explore
(B) A list of financial documents borrowers should collect and be
prepared to present to the mortgage servicer when discussing options
for avoiding foreclosure.
(C) A toll-free telephone number for borrowers who wish to discuss
options for avoiding foreclosure with their mortgage servicer.
(D) The toll-free telephone number made available by HUD to find a
HUD-certified housing counseling agency.
(g) This section shall not apply to entities described in
subdivision (b) of Section 2924.18.
(h) This section shall apply only to mortgages or deeds of trust
described in Section 2924.15.
(i) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1,
2018, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted
statute, that is enacted before January 1, 2018, deletes or extends
2923.6. (a) The Legislature finds and declares that any duty that
mortgage servicers may have to maximize net present value under their
pooling and servicing agreements is owed to all parties in a loan
pool, or to all investors under a pooling and servicing agreement,
not to any particular party in the loan pool or investor under a
pooling and servicing agreement, and that a mortgage servicer acts in
the best interests of all parties to the loan pool or investors in
the pooling and servicing agreement if it agrees to or implements a
loan modification or workout plan for which both of the following
(1) The loan is in payment default, or payment default is
(2) Anticipated recovery under the loan modification or workout
plan exceeds the anticipated recovery through foreclosure on a net
present value basis.
(b) It is the intent of the Legislature that the mortgage servicer
offer the borrower a loan modification or workout plan if such a
modification or plan is consistent with its contractual or other
(c) If a borrower submits a complete application for a first lien
loan modification offered by, or through, the borrower’s mortgage
servicer, a mortgage servicer, mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary, or
authorized agent shall not record a notice of default or notice of
sale, or conduct a trustee’s sale, while the complete first lien loan
modification application is pending. A mortgage servicer, mortgagee,
trustee, beneficiary, or authorized agent shall not record a notice
of default or notice of sale or conduct a trustee’s sale until any of
the following occurs:
(1) The mortgage servicer makes a written determination that the
borrower is not eligible for a first lien loan modification, and any
appeal period pursuant to subdivision (d) has expired.
(2) The borrower does not accept an offered first lien loan
modification within 14 days of the offer.
(3) The borrower accepts a written first lien loan modification,
but defaults on, or otherwise breaches the borrower’s obligations
under, the first lien loan modification.
(d) If the borrower’s application for a first lien loan
modification is denied, the borrower shall have at least 30 days from
the date of the written denial to appeal the denial and to provide
evidence that the mortgage servicer’s determination was in error.
(e) If the borrower’s application for a first lien loan
modification is denied, the mortgage servicer, mortgagee, trustee,
beneficiary, or authorized agent shall not record a notice of default
or, if a notice of default has already been recorded, record a
notice of sale or conduct a trustee’s sale until the later of:
(1) Thirty-one days after the borrower is notified in writing of
(2) If the borrower appeals the denial pursuant to subdivision
(d), the later of 15 days after the denial of the appeal or 14 days
after a first lien loan modification is offered after appeal but
declined by the borrower, or, if a first lien loan modification is
offered and accepted after appeal, the date on which the borrower
fails to timely submit the first payment or otherwise breaches the
terms of the offer.
(f) Following the denial of a first lien loan modification
application, the mortgage servicer shall send a written notice to the
borrower identifying the reasons for denial, including the
(1) The amount of time from the date of the denial letter in which
the borrower may request an appeal of the denial of the first lien
loan modification and instructions regarding how to appeal the
(2) If the denial was based on investor disallowance, the specific
reasons for the investor disallowance.
(3) If the denial is the result of a net present value
calculation, the monthly gross income and property value used to
calculate the net present value and a statement that the borrower may
obtain all of the inputs used in the net present value calculation
upon written request to the mortgage servicer.
(4) If applicable, a finding that the borrower was previously
offered a first lien loan modification and failed to successfully
make payments under the terms of the modified loan.
(5) If applicable, a description of other foreclosure prevention
alternatives for which the borrower may be eligible, and a list of
the steps the borrower must take in order to be considered for those
options. If the mortgage servicer has already approved the borrower
for another foreclosure prevention alternative, information necessary
to complete the foreclosure prevention alternative.
(g) In order to minimize the risk of borrowers submitting multiple
applications for first lien loan modifications for the purpose of
delay, the mortgage servicer shall not be obligated to evaluate
applications from borrowers who have already been evaluated or
afforded a fair opportunity to be evaluated for a first lien loan
modification prior to January 1, 2013, or who have been evaluated or
afforded a fair opportunity to be evaluated consistent with the
requirements of this section, unless there has been a material change
in the borrower’s financial circumstances since the date of the
borrower’s previous application and that change is documented by the
borrower and submitted to the mortgage servicer.
(h) For purposes of this section, an application shall be deemed
“complete” when a borrower has supplied the mortgage servicer with
all documents required by the mortgage servicer within the reasonable
timeframes specified by the mortgage servicer.
(i) Subdivisions (c) to (h), inclusive, shall not apply to
entities described in subdivision (b) of Section 2924.18.
(j) This section shall apply only to mortgages or deeds of trust
described in Section 2924.15.
(k) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1,
2018, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted
statute, that is enacted before January 1, 2018, deletes or extends
2923.7. (a) Upon request from a borrower who requests a foreclosure
prevention alternative, the mortgage servicer shall promptly
establish a single point of contact and provide to the borrower one
or more direct means of communication with the single point of
(b) The single point of contact shall be responsible for doing all
of the following:
(1) Communicating the process by which a borrower may apply for an
available foreclosure prevention alternative and the deadline for
any required submissions to be considered for these options.
(2) Coordinating receipt of all documents associated with
available foreclosure prevention alternatives and notifying the
borrower of any missing documents necessary to complete the
(3) Having access to current information and personnel sufficient
to timely, accurately, and adequately inform the borrower of the
current status of the foreclosure prevention alternative.
(4) Ensuring that a borrower is considered for all foreclosure
prevention alternatives offered by, or through, the mortgage
servicer, if any.
(5) Having access to individuals with the ability and authority to
stop foreclosure proceedings when necessary.
(c) The single point of contact shall remain assigned to the
borrower’s account until the mortgage servicer determines that all
loss mitigation options offered by, or through, the mortgage servicer
have been exhausted or the borrower’s account becomes current.
(d) The mortgage servicer shall ensure that a single point of
contact refers and transfers a borrower to an appropriate supervisor
upon request of the borrower, if the single point of contact has a
(e) For purposes of this section, “single point of contact” means
an individual or team of personnel each of whom has the ability and
authority to perform the responsibilities described in subdivisions
(b) to (d), inclusive. The mortgage servicer shall ensure that each
member of the team is knowledgeable about the borrower’s situation
and current status in the alternatives to foreclosure process.
(f) This section shall apply only to mortgages or deeds of trust
described in Section 2924.15.
(g) (1) This section shall not apply to a depository institution
chartered under state or federal law, a person licensed pursuant to
Division 9 (commencing with Section 22000) or Division 20 (commencing
with Section 50000) of the Financial Code, or a person licensed
pursuant to Part 1 (commencing with Section 10000) of Division 4 of
the Business and Professions Code, that, during its immediately
preceding annual reporting period, as established with its primary
regulator, foreclosed on 175 or fewer residential real properties,
containing no more than four dwelling units, that are located in
(2) Within three months after the close of any calendar year or
annual reporting period as established with its primary regulator
during which an entity or person described in paragraph (1) exceeds
the threshold of 175 specified in paragraph (1), that entity shall
notify its primary regulator, in a manner acceptable to its primary
regulator, and any mortgagor or trustor who is delinquent on a
residential mortgage loan serviced by that entity of the date on
which that entity will be subject to this section, which date shall
be the first day of the first month that is six months after the
close of the calendar year or annual reporting period during which
that entity exceeded the threshold.
2924.9. (a) Unless a borrower has previously exhausted the first
lien loan modification process offered by, or through, his or her
mortgage servicer described in Section 2923.6, within five business
days after recording a notice of default pursuant to Section 2924, a
mortgage servicer that offers one or more foreclosure prevention
alternatives shall send a written communication to the borrower that
includes all of the following information:
(1) That the borrower may be evaluated for a foreclosure
prevention alternative or, if applicable, foreclosure prevention
(2) Whether an application is required to be submitted by the
borrower in order to be considered for a foreclosure prevention
(3) The means and process by which a borrower may obtain an
application for a foreclosure prevention alternative.
(b) This section shall not apply to entities described in
subdivision (b) of Section 2924.18.
(c) This section shall apply only to mortgages or deeds of trust
described in Section 2924.15.
(d) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1,
2018, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted
statute, that is enacted before January 1, 2018, deletes or extends
2924.10. (a) When a borrower submits a complete first lien
modification application or any document in connection with a first
lien modification application, the mortgage servicer shall provide
written acknowledgment of the receipt of the documentation within
five business days of receipt. In its initial acknowledgment of
receipt of the loan modification application, the mortgage servicer
shall include the following information:
(1) A description of the loan modification process, including an
estimate of when a decision on the loan modification will be made
after a complete application has been submitted by the borrower and
the length of time the borrower will have to consider an offer of a
loan modification or other foreclosure prevention alternative.
(2) Any deadlines, including deadlines to submit missing
documentation, that would affect the processing of a first lien loan
(3) Any expiration dates for submitted documents.
(4) Any deficiency in the borrower’s first lien loan modification
(b) For purposes of this section, a borrower’s first lien loan
modification application shall be deemed to be “complete” when a
borrower has supplied the mortgage servicer with all documents
required by the mortgage servicer within the reasonable timeframes
specified by the mortgage servicer.
(c) This section shall not apply to entities described in
subdivision (b) of Section 2924.18.
(d) This section shall apply only to mortgages or deeds of trust
described in Section 2924.15.
(e) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1,
2018, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted
statute, that is enacted before January 1, 2018, deletes or extends
2924.11. (a) If a foreclosure prevention alternative is approved in
writing prior to the recordation of a notice of default, a mortgage
servicer, mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary, or authorized agent shall
not record a notice of default under either of the following
(1) The borrower is in compliance with the terms of a written
trial or permanent loan modification, forbearance, or repayment plan.
(2) A foreclosure prevention alternative has been approved in
writing by all parties, including, for example, the first lien
investor, junior lienholder, and mortgage insurer, as applicable, and
proof of funds or financing has been provided to the servicer.
(b) If a foreclosure prevention alternative is approved in writing
after the recordation of a notice of default, a mortgage servicer,
mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary, or authorized agent shall not record
a notice of sale or conduct a trustee’s sale under either of the
(1) The borrower is in compliance with the terms of a written
trial or permanent loan modification, forbearance, or repayment plan.
(2) A foreclosure prevention alternative has been approved in
writing by all parties, including, for example, the first lien
investor, junior lienholder, and mortgage insurer, as applicable, and
proof of funds or financing has been provided to the servicer.
(c) When a borrower accepts an offered first lien loan
modification or other foreclosure prevention alternative, the
mortgage servicer shall provide the borrower with a copy of the fully
executed loan modification agreement or agreement evidencing the
foreclosure prevention alternative following receipt of the executed
copy from the borrower.
(d) A mortgagee, beneficiary, or authorized agent shall record a
rescission of a notice of default or cancel a pending trustee’s sale,
if applicable, upon the borrower executing a permanent foreclosure
prevention alternative. In the case of a short sale, the rescission
or cancellation of the pending trustee’s sale shall occur when the
short sale has been approved by all parties and proof of funds or
financing has been provided to the mortgagee, beneficiary, or
(e) The mortgage servicer shall not charge any application,
processing, or other fee for a first lien loan modification or other
foreclosure prevention alternative.
(f) The mortgage servicer shall not collect any late fees for
periods during which a complete first lien loan modification
application is under consideration or a denial is being appealed, the
borrower is making timely modification payments, or a foreclosure
prevention alternative is being evaluated or exercised.
(g) If a borrower has been approved in writing for a first lien
loan modification or other foreclosure prevention alternative, and
the servicing of that borrower’s loan is transferred or sold to
another mortgage servicer, the subsequent mortgage servicer shall
continue to honor any previously approved first lien loan
modification or other foreclosure prevention alternative, in
accordance with the provisions of the act that added this section.
(h) This section shall apply only to mortgages or deeds of trust
described in Section 2924.15.
(i) This section shall not apply to entities described in
subdivision (b) of Section 2924.18.
(j) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1,
2018, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted
statute, that is enacted before January 1, 2018, deletes or extends
2924.17. (a) A declaration recorded pursuant to Section 2923.5 or,
until January 1, 2018, pursuant to Section 2923.55, a notice of
default, notice of sale, assignment of a deed of trust, or
substitution of trustee recorded by or on behalf of a mortgage
servicer in connection with a foreclosure subject to the requirements
of Section 2924, or a declaration or affidavit filed in any court
relative to a foreclosure proceeding shall be accurate and complete
and supported by competent and reliable evidence.
(b) Before recording or filing any of the documents described in
subdivision (a), a mortgage servicer shall ensure that it has
reviewed competent and reliable evidence to substantiate the borrower’
s default and the right to foreclose, including the borrower’s loan
status and loan information.
(c) Until January 1, 2018, any mortgage servicer that engages in
multiple and repeated uncorrected violations of subdivision (b) in
recording documents or filing documents in any court relative to a
foreclosure proceeding shall be liable for a civil penalty of up to
seven thousand five hundred dollars ($7,500) per mortgage or deed of
trust in an action brought by a government entity identified in
Section 17204 of the Business and Professions Code, or in an
administrative proceeding brought by the Department of Business
Oversight or the Bureau of Real Estate against a respective licensee,
in addition to any other remedies available to these entities. This
subdivision shall be inoperative on January 1, 2018.
The surprising decision by regulators to scrap a massive and expensive foreclosure review program in favor of a $10 billion settlement with 14 banks — reported by The New York Times Sunday night — came after a year of mounting concerns about the independence and effectiveness of the controversial program.
The program, known as the Independent Foreclosure Review, was supposed to give homeowners who believe that their bank made a mistake in handling their foreclosure an opportunity for a neutral third party to review the claim. It’s not clear what factors led banking regulators to abandon the program in favor of a settlement, but the final straw may have been a pending report by the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, which was investigating the review program.
Rep. Brad Miller, a North Carolina Democrat, told The Huffington Post that the report, which has not been released, was “critical” and that the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which administers the review, was aware of its findings. Miller said that that one problem the GAO was likely to highlight was an “unacceptably high” error rate of 11 percent in a sampling of bank loan files.
The sample files were chosen at random by the banks from their broader pool of foreclosed homeowners, who had not necessarily applied for relief. The data suggests that of the 4 million families who lost their homes to foreclosure since the housing crash, more than 400,000 had some bank-caused problem in their loan file. It also suggests that many thousands of those who could have applied for relief didn’t — because they weren’t aware of the review, or weren’t aware that their bank had made a mistake. Some of these mistakes pushed homeowners into foreclosure who otherwise could have afforded to keep their homes.
Miller said the news that a settlement to replace the review was in the works caught him by surprise, and stressed that he had no way of knowing whether the impending GAO report had triggered the decision.
It’s not clear what will happen to the 250,000 homeowners who have already applied to the Independent Foreclosure Review for relief. The Times, citing people familiar with the negotiations, said that a deal between the banks and banking regulators, led by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, could be reached by the end of the week. It wasn’t clear how that money would be distributed or how many current and former homeowners who lost their homes to foreclosure — or who were hit with an unnecessary fee — might qualify.
Bryan Hubbard, a spokesman for the OCC, which administers the program, declined to comment on the Times’ story. Hubbard told HuffPost, “The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is committed to ensuring the Independent Foreclosure Review proceeds efficiently and to ensuring harmed borrowers are compensated as quickly as possible.”
Since the housing market crashed in 2007, thousands of foreclosed homeowners have complained that their mortgage company made a mistake in the management of their home loan, such as foreclosing on someone making payments on a loan modification plan. The Independent Foreclosure Review emerged from a legal agreement in April 2011 between 14 mortgage companies and bank regulators over these abusive “servicing” practices. It was supposed to give homeowners an opportunity to have an unbiased third party review their foreclosure and determine whether they might qualify for a cash payout of up to $125,000.
The initial response was tepid, at best. Homeowners and advocates complained that the application forms were confusing and that information about what type of compensation they might get was missing. Some told HuffPost that they were so disillusioned by the federal government’s anemic response to widely reported bank errors that they weren’t going to bother to apply.
In one instance, Daniel Casper, an Illinois wedding videographer, applied to the program in January after years of combat with Bank of America over his home loan. As The Huffington Post reported in October, he was initially rejected, because, according to the bank, his mortgage was not in the foreclosure process during the eligible review period. Promontory Financial Group, which Bank of America hired to review his loan, apparently did not double check Bank of America’s analysis against the extensive documentation that Chase submitted. That documentation clearly showed that his loan was eligible for review.
In recent months ProPublica, an investigative nonprofit, has issued a series of damning articles about the Independent Foreclosure Review. The most recent found that supposedly independent third-party reviewers looking over Bank of America loan files were given the “correct” answers in advance by the bank. These reviewers could override the answers, but they weren’t starting from a blank slate.
Banks, if they did not find a “compensable error,” did not have to pay anything, giving them a strong incentive to find no flaws with their own work.
“It was flawed from the start,” Miller said of the review program. “There was an inherent conflict of interest by just about everyone involved.”
Also on HuffPost:
Columbine Shooting Survivor Fighting Foreclosure With Occupy LA’s Help
Mother, Disabled Daughter Forced Out Of Home Even After BofA Modification
Dirma Rodriguez and her disabled daughter<a href=”https://editorial.huffingtonpost.com/entry/?blog_id=2&entry_id=1423883″ target=”_hplink”> were forced to flee their home in minutes</a> after Bank of America sold it to a flipper at a foreclosure auction, even though the bank had already modified her loan. But not all hope is lost; Rodriguez may get her home back after the Occupy Fights Foreclosure movement intervened.
Attorneys representing homeowners in all 50 states must undoubtedly feel that their states do not do enough to protect homeowners from preventable foreclosures. In non-judicial states like California, the lack of oversight in the foreclosure process at all levels has led to rampant abuse, fraud and at the very least, negligence. Our courts have done little to diffuse this trend with cases like Chilton v. Federal Nat. Mortg. Ass’n holding: “(n)on-judicial foreclosure under a deed of trust is governed by California Civil Code Section 2924 which relevant section provides that a “trustee, mortgagee or beneficiary or any of their authorized agents” may conduct the foreclosure process.” California courts have held that the Civil Code provisions “cover every aspect” of the foreclosure process, and are “intended to be exhaustive.” There is no requirement that the party initiating foreclosure be in possession of the original note.
Chilton and many other rulings refuse to acknowledge that homeowners have any rights to challenge wrongful foreclosures including Gomes v Countrywide, Fontenot v Wells Fargo, and a long line of tender cases holding that a plaintiff seeking to set aside a foreclosure sale must first allege tender of the amount of the secured indebtedness. Complicating matters further is the conflict between state, federal and bankruptcy cases regarding Civil Code 2932.5 and the requirement of recording an assignment prior to proceeding to foreclosure.
While the specific terms are still evolving, the http://www.nationalmortgagesettlement.com/ information website has released the Servicing Standards Highlights that set forth the basic changes that the banks and servicers have agreed to as part of the settlement. When the AG Settlement is finalized, it will be reduced to a judgment that can be enforced by federal judges, the special independent monitor Joseph Smith, federal agencies and Attorneys General. This judgment can be used by attorneys to define a standard and therefore allow us to fashion a remedy that will improve our chances of obtaining relief for our clients.
Many have opined about the deficiencies in the AG Settlement, from the lack of investigation to inadequacy of the dollars committed to compensate for wrongful foreclosures, principal reduction or refinancing. The reality is, as tainted as it may be, the AG Settlement leaves us better off than were were for future cases. It does not however, address past wrongs in any meaningful way. The terms make it abundantly clear that this is not the settlement for compensation; if there is any remote possibility of compensation it must be sought in the OCC Independent Foreclosure Review and the homeowner must meet the extreme burden of proving financial harm caused by the wrongful foreclosure. For California, the AG Settlement at best, improves our ability to request crucial documents to challenge wrongful foreclosures which previously were difficult if not impossible to obtain. This will allow us to negotiate better loss mitigation options for clients.
Loan Modification 2008-2011
The homeowner submits an application 10 times, pays on 3 different trial plans, speaks to 24 different representatives who give him various inconsistent versions of status. After two years, and thousands of default fees later, he is advised that the investor won’t approve a modification and foreclosure is imminent. Actually, the truth was that the homeowner was in fact qualified for the modification, the data used for the NPV analysis was incorrect and the investor had in fact approved hundreds of modifications according to guidelines that were known to the servicer from the beginning. How could the AG Settlement not improve on this common scenario?
14 days prior to initiating foreclosure, the servicer must provide the homeowner with notice which must include:
facts supporting the bank’s right to foreclose
a copy of the note with endorsements
the identity of the investor
amount of delinquency and terms to bring loan current
summary of loss mitigation efforts
A prompt review of the 14 Day Pre Foreclosure Notice and investigation regarding the securitization aspects of the case can result in the filing of a lawsuit and request for TRO if all terms have not been complied with or the documents provided do not establish the right to foreclose. There will be no issue of tender, prejudice or show me the note that can be raised in opposition by defendants and this is an opportunity that we have not been afforded under current case law. Additionally, a loan level review will reveal improper fees and charges that can be challenged. Deviation from the AG Settlement Servicing Standards should be aggressively pursued through the proper complaint channels.
Loan Modification Guidelines
Notify the homeowner of all loss mitigation options
Servicer shall offer a loan modification if NPV positive
HAMP trial plans shall promptly be converted to permanent modifications
Servicer must review and make determination within 30 days of receipt of complete package
Homeowner must submit package within 120 days of delinquency to receive answer prior to referral to foreclosure (could be problematic since most homeowners are more than 120 days late)
After the loan has been referred to foreclosure, the homeowner must apply for a loan modification within 15 days before sale. Servicer must expedite review.
Servicer must cease all collection efforts while a complete loan modification package is under review or homeowner is making timely trial modification payments
Other significant terms include the requirement that the servicer maintain loan portals where the homeowner can check status which must be updated every ten days, assign a single point of contact to every loan, restriction on default fees and forced placed insurance, modification denials must state reasons and provide document support and the homeowner has 30 days to appeal a negative decision.
Short Sales Will Now Really Be Short
The rules regarding short sales will greatly increase the chances that short sales will be processed in a timely manner and accordingly, will result in more short sales being closed.
Banks/servicers must make short sale requirements public
Banks/servicers must provide a short sale price evaluation upon request by the homeowner prior to listing the property
Receipt of short sale packages must be confirmed and notification of missing documents must be provided within 30 days
Knowledge of all of the new requirements for processing foreclosures, loan modifications and short sales can greatly increase our chances of obtaining successful outcomes for clients. Resolution is the goal, and now, we may have leverage that did not exist before.
The pretender lender does not have the loan and did not invest any of the servicers money. Yet these frauds are occurring every day. They did not loan you the money yet they are the ones foreclosing, taking the bail out money, the mortgage insurance, and then throwing it back on the investor for the loss. We could stop them if a few plaintiffs where awarded multi million dollar verdicts for wrongful foreclosure.
A wrongful foreclosure action typically occurs when the lender starts a non judicial foreclosure action when it simply has no legal cause. Wrongful foreclosure actions are also brought when the service providers accept partial payments after initiation of the wrongful foreclosure process, and then continue on with the foreclosure process. These predatory lending strategies, as well as other forms of misleading homeowners, are illegal.
The borrower is the one that files a wrongful disclosure action with the court against the service provider, the holder of the note and if it is a non-judicial foreclosure, against the trustee complaining that there was an illegal, fraudulent or willfully oppressive sale of property under a power of sale contained in a mortgage or deed or court judicial proceeding. The borrower can also allege emotional distress and ask for punitive damages in a wrongful foreclosure action.
Causes of Action
Wrongful foreclosure actions may allege that the amount stated in the notice of default as due and owing is incorrect because of the following reasons:
Incorrect interest rate adjustment
Incorrect tax impound accounts
forbearance agreement which was not adhered to by the servicer
Unnecessary forced place insurance,
Improper accounting for a confirmed chapter 11 or chapter 13 bankruptcy plan.
Breach of contract
Intentional infliction of emotional distress
Negligent infliction of emotional distress
Unfair Business Practices
Any time prior to the foreclosure sale, a borrower can apply for an injunction with the intent of stopping the foreclosure sale until issues in the lawsuit are resolved. The wrongful foreclosure lawsuit can take anywhere from ten to twenty-four months. Generally, an injunction will only be issued by the court if the court determines that: (1) the borrower is entitled to the injunction; and (2) that if the injunction is not granted, the borrower will be subject to irreparable harm.
Damages Available to Borrower
Damages available to a borrower in a wrongful foreclosure action include: compensation for the detriment caused, which are measured by the value of the property, emotional distress and punitive damages if there is evidence that the servicer or trustee committed fraud, oppression or malice in its wrongful conduct. If the borrower’s allegations are true and correct and the borrower wins the lawsuit, the servicer will have to undue or cancel the foreclosure sale, and pay the borrower’s legal bills.
Why Do Wrongful Foreclosures Occur?
Wrongful foreclosure cases occur usually because of a miscommunication between the lender and the borrower. This could be as a result of an incorrectly applied payment, an error in interest charges and completely inaccurate information communicated between the lender and borrower. Some borrowers make the situation worse by ignoring their monthly statements and not promptly responding in writing to the lender’s communications. Many borrowers just assume that the lender will correct any inaccuracies or errors. Any one of these actions can quickly turn into a foreclosure action. Once an action is instituted, then the borrower will have to prove that it is wrongful or unwarranted. This is done by the borrower filing a wrongful foreclosure action. Costs are expensive and the action can take time to litigate.
The wrongful foreclosure will appear on the borrower’s credit report as a foreclosure, thereby ruining the borrower’s credit rating. Inaccurate delinquencies may also accompany the foreclosure on the credit report. After the foreclosure is found to be wrongful, the borrower must then petition to get the delinquencies and foreclosure off the credit report. This can take a long time and is emotionally distressing.
Wrongful foreclosure may also lead to the borrower losing their home and other assets if the borrower does not act quickly. This can have a devastating affect on a family that has been displaced out of their home. However, once the borrower’s wrongful foreclosure action is successful in court, the borrower may be entitled to compensation for their attorney fees, court costs, pain, suffering and emotional distress caused by the action. Fortunately, these wrongful foreclosure incidences are rare. The majority of foreclosures occur as a result of the borrower defaulting on their mortgage payments.
Scott Pelley reports how problems with mortgage documents are prompting lawsuits and could slow down the weak housing market
Play CBS Video Video The next housing shockAs more and more Americans face mortgage foreclosure, banks’ crucial ownership documents for the properties are often unclear and are sometimes even bogus, a condition that’s causing lawsuits and hampering an already weak housing market. Scott Pelley reports.
Video Extra: Eviction reprieveFlorida residents AJ and Brenda Boyd spent more than a year trying to renegotiate their mortgage and save their home. At the last moment, questions about who owns their mortgage saved them from eviction.
Video Extra: “Save the Dream” eventsBruce Marks, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America talks to Scott Pelley about his “Save the Dream” events and how foreclosures are causing a crisis in America.
(CBS News)If there was a question about whether we’re headed for a second housing shock, that was settled last week with news that home prices have fallen a sixth consecutive month. Values are nearly back to levels of the Great Recession. One thing weighing on the economy is the huge number of foreclosed houses.Many are stuck on the market for a reason you wouldn’t expect: banks can’t find the ownership documents.Who really owns your mortgage? Scott Pelley explains a bizarre aftershock of the U.S. financial collapse: An epidemic of forged and missing mortgage documents.
It’s bizarre but, it turns out, Wall Street cut corners when it created those mortgage-backed investments that triggered the financial collapse. Now that banks want to evict people, they’re unwinding these exotic investments to find, that often, the legal documents behind the mortgages aren’t there. Caught in a jam of their own making, some companies appear to be resorting to forgery and phony paperwork to throw people – down on their luck – out of their homes.
In the 1930s we had breadlines; venture out before dawn in America today and you’ll find mortgage lines. This past January in Los Angeles, 37,000 homeowners facing foreclosure showed up to an event to beg their bank for lower payments on their mortgage. Some people even slept on the sidewalk to get in line.
So many in the country are desperate now that they have to meet in convention centers coast to coast.
In February in Miami, 12,000 people showed up to a similar event. The line went down the block and doubled back twice.
Dale DeFreitas lost her job and now fears her home is next. “It’s very emotional because I just think about it. I don’t wanna lose my home. I really don’t,” she told “60 Minutes” correspondent Scott Pelley.
“It’s your American dream,” he remarked.
“It was. And still is,” she replied.
These convention center events are put on by the non-profit Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, which helps people figure what they can afford, and then walks them across the hall to bank representatives to ask for lower payments. More than half will get their mortgages adjusted, but the rest discover that they just can’t keep their home.
For many that’s when the real surprise comes in: these same banks have fouled up all of their own paperwork to a historic degree.
“In my mind this is an absolute, intentional fraud,” Lynn Szymoniak, who is fighting foreclosure, told Pelley.
While trying to save her house, she discovered something we did not know: back when Wall Street was using algorithms and computers to engineer those disastrous mortgage-backed securities, it appears they didn’t want old fashioned paperwork slowing down the profits.
“This was back when it was a white hot fevered pitch to move as many of these as possible,” Pelley remarked.
“Exactly. When you could make a whole lotta money through securitization. And every other aspect of it could be done electronically, you know, key strokes. This was the only piece where somebody was supposed to actually go get documents, transfer the documents from one entity to the other. And it looks very much like they just eliminated that stuff all together,” Szymoniak said.
Szymoniak’s mortgage had been bundled with thousands of others into one of those Wall Street securities traded from investor to investor. When the bank took her to court, it first said it had lost her documents, including the critical assignment of mortgage which transfers ownership. But then, there was a courthouse surprise.
“They found all of your paperwork more than a year after they initially said that they had lost it?” Pelley asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
Asked if that seemed suspicious to her, Szymoniak said, “Yes, absolutely. What do you imagine? It fell behind the file cabinet? Where was all of this? ‘We had it, we own it, we lost it.’ And then more recently, everyone is coming in saying, ‘Hey we found it. Isn’t that wonderful?’”
But what the bank may not have known is that Szymoniak is a lawyer and fraud investigator with a specialty in forged documents. She has trained FBI agents.
She told Pelley she asked for copies of those documents.
Asked what she found, Szymoniak told Pelley, “When I looked at the assignment of my mortgage, and this is the assignment: it looked that even the date they put in, which was 10/17/08, was several months after they sued me for foreclosure. So, what they were saying to the court was, ‘We sued her in July of 2008 and we acquired this mortgage in October of 2008.’ It made absolutely no sense.”
Produced by Robert Anderson and Daniel Ruetenik
Now for the pleading
Timothy L. McCandless, Esq. SBN 147715
LAW OFFICES OF TIMOTHY L. MCCANDLESS
1881 Business Center Drive, Ste. 9A
San Bernardino, CA 92392
Attorney for Plaintiffs
SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
COUNTY OF ____________
___________________________________,And ROES 1 through 5,000,
SAND CANYON CORPORATION f/k/a OPTION ONE MORTGAGE CORPORATION; AMERICAN HOME MORTGAGE SERVICES, INC.; WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A., as Trustee for SOUNDVIEW HOME LOAN TRUST 2007-OPT2; DOCX, LLC; and PREMIER TRUST DEED SERVICES and all persons unknown claiming any legal or equitable right, title, estate, lien, or interest in the property described in the complaint adverse to Plaintiff’s title, or any cloud on Plaintiff’s title thereto, Does 1 through 10, Inclusive,
CASE NO:FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT
FOR QUIET TITLE, DECLARATORY RELIEF, TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER, PRELIMINARY INJUNTION AND PERMANENT INJUNCTION, CANCELATION OF INSTRUMENT AND FOR DAMAGES ARISING FROM:
SLANDER OF TITLE; TORTUOUS
VIOLATION OF STATUTE [Penal
Code § 470(b) – (d); NOTARY FRAUD;
Plaintiffs ___________________________ allege herein as follows:
1. Plaintiffs ___________ (hereinafter individually and collectively referred to as “___________”), were and at all times herein mentioned are, residents of the County of _________, State of California and the lawful owner of a parcel of real property commonly known as: _________________, California _______ and the legal description is:
2. At all times herein mentioned, SAND CANYON CORPORATION f/k/a OPTION ONE MORTGAGE CORPORATION (hereinafter SAND CANYON”), is and was, a corporation existing by virtue of the laws of the State of California and claims an interest adverse to the right, title and interests of Plaintiff in the Subject Property.
3. At all times herein mentioned, Defendant AMERICAN HOME MORTGAGE SERVICES, INC. (hereinafter “AMERICAN”), is and was, a corporation existing by virtue of the laws of the State of Delaware, and at all times herein mentioned was conducting ongoing business in the State of California.
4. At all times herein mentioned, Defendant WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A., as Trustee for SOUNDVIEW HOME LOAN TRUST 2007-OPT2 (hereinafter referred to as “WELLS FARGO”), is and was, a member of the National Banking Association and makes an adverse claim to the Plaintiff MADRIDS’ right, title and interest in the Subject Property.
5. At all times herein mentioned, Defendant DOCX, L.L.C. (hereinafter “DOCX”), is and was, a limited liability company existing by virtue of the laws of the State of Georgia, and a subsidiary of Lender Processing Services, Inc., a Delaware corporation.
6. At all times herein mentioned, __________________, was a company existing by virtue of its relationship as a subsidiary of __________________.
7. Plaintiffs are ignorant of the true names and capacities of Defendants sued herein as DOES I through 10, inclusive, and therefore sues these Defendants by such fictitious names and all persons unknown claiming any legal or equitable right, title, estate, lien, or interest in the property described in the complaint adverse to Plaintiffs’ title, or any cloud on Plaintiffs’ title thereto. Plaintiffs will amend this complaint as required to allege said Doe Defendants’ true names and capacities when such have been fully ascertained. Plaintiffs further allege that Plaintiffs designated as ROES 1 through 5,000, are Plaintiffs who share a commonality with the same Defendants, and as the Plaintiffs listed herein.
8. Plaintiffs are informed and believe and thereon allege that at all times herein mentioned, Defendants, and each of them, were the agent and employee of each of the remaining Defendants.
9. Plaintiffs allege that each and every defendants, and each of them, allege herein ratified the conduct of each and every other Defendant.
10. Plaintiffs allege that at all times said Defendants, and each of them, were acting within the purpose and scope of such agency and employment.
11. Plaintiffs are informed and believe and thereupon allege that circa July 2004, DOCX was formed with the specific intent of manufacturing fraudulent documents in order create the false impression that various entities obtained valid, recordable interests in real
properties, when in fact they actually maintained no lawful interest in said properties.
12. Plaintiffs are informed and believe and thereupon allege that as a regular and ongoing part of the business of Defendant DOCX was to have persons sitting around a table signing names as quickly as possible, so that each person executing documents would sign approximately 2,500 documents per day. Although the persons signing the documents claimed to be a vice president of a particular bank of that document, in fact, the party signing the name was not the person named on the document, as such the signature was a forgery, that the name of the person claiming to be a vice president of a particular financial institution was not a “vice president”, did not have any prior training in finance, never worked for the company they allegedly purported to be a vice president of, and were alleged to be a vice president simultaneously with as many as twenty different banks and/or lending institutions.
13. Plaintiffs are informed and believe and thereupon allege that the actual signatories of the instruments set forth in Paragraph 12 herein, were intended to and were fraudulently notarized by a variety of notaries in the offices of DOCX in Alpharetta, GA.
14. Plaintiffs are informed and believe and thereupon allege that for all purposes the intent of Defendant DOCX was to intentionally create fraudulent documents, with forged signatures, so that said documents could be recorded in the Offices of County Recorders through the United States of America, knowing that such documents would forgeries, contained false information, and that the recordation of such documents would affect an interest in real property in violation of law.
15. Plaintiffs allege that on or about, ____________, that they conveyed a first deed of trust (hereinafter “DEED”) in favor of Option One Mortgage, Inc. with an interest of
Robo-signers are mortgage lending company employees who prepared and signed off on foreclosures without reviewing them, as the law requires. Jeffrey Stephan, the GMAC employee who was the first identified as a robo-signer, has acknowledged in sworn deposition that he prepared 400 such foreclosures a day. The discovery of robo-signers could simply be the tip of the iceberg. If so, more revelations could only increase the pressure on large banks. Their potential exposure to losses could skyrocket.
What’s the significance?
The “robo-signing of affidavits and Assignments of Mortgage and all other mortgage foreclosure documents served to cover up the fact that loan servicers cannot demonstrate the facts required to conduct a lawful foreclosure. If it turns out that robo-signers did indeed sign off on loans without review, they committed fraud by claiming knowledge of a financial matter of which they had no personal knowledge. It could also mean that some people are wrongly being evicted from their houses.
From underwriting fraudulent mortgages; to shuffling it through the mortgage securitization chain without following proper legal procedures like the simple act of passing along paperwork; to concealing or doctoring basic facts when securitizing the mortgages and selling them to investors, large lenders and their partners on Wall Street could face hundreds of billions of dollars in losses by being forced to buy back faulty mortgages, some of which have already defaulted, from misled investors.
Investors bought mortgage-linked securities with the promise that the underlying mortgages conformed to basic underwriting standards, and that proper procedures were followed in the chain of securitization and a tax-exempt status. Steep losses on those investments and the discovery of potentially fraudulent activity are pushing investors to force banks to buy them back.
With all of the press robo-signing has gotten, it is a bit surprising that everyone is having such a hard time concluding whether these practices effect non-judicial foreclosures.
The topic has not gotten the treatment it deserves, I will try to help. The following are by no means a complete list, but are the most clear LEGAL reasons (setting aside pure moral questions and the U.S. Constitution) that the Robo-Signer Controversy will entitle hundreds of thousands of homeowners wrongfully foreclosed and evicted to sue in non-judicial foreclosure states.
Briefly, Robo Signers are illegal because fraud cannot be the basis of clear title, trustee’s deeds following Robo Signed sales are void as a matter of law, notarization is a recording requirement for many of the documents, which we also know was often botched, and most importantly because robo signed falsifications ARE meant for use in court, including unlawful detainers and bankruptcy matters.
Numerous authorities have established the rule that an instrument wholly void, such as an undelivered deed, a forged instrument, or a deed in blank, cannot be made the foundation of a good title, even under the equitable doctrine of bona fide purchase. Consequently, the fact that purchaser acted in good faith in dealing with persons who apparently held legal title, is not in itself sufficient basis for relief.
It is the general rule that courts have power to vacate a foreclosure sale where there has been fraud in the procurement of the foreclosure decree or where the sale has been improperly, unfairly or unlawfully conducted, or is tainted by fraud, or where there has been such a mistake that to allow it to stand would be inequitable to purchaser and parties.
Hence, if forged Robo Signed signatures are used to obtain the foreclosure, it CERTAINLY makes a difference in non-judicial foreclosure states as well as judicial states.
Any apparent sale based on Robo Signed documents is void – without any legal effect – like Monopoly Money.
In turn, the law requires that the beneficiary execute and notarize and record a substitution for a valid substitution of trustee to take effect. Thus, if the Assignment of Deed of Trust/ Mortgage is robo-signed, the sale is void. If the substitution of trustee is robo-signed, the sale is void. If the Notice of Default is Robo-Signed, the sale is void.
These documents are not recordable without good notarization.The reason these documents are notarized in the first place is because otherwise they will not be accepted by the County recorder. Moreover, a notary who helps commit real estate fraud is liable.
Once the document is recorded, however, it is entitled to a “presumption of validity”, which is what spurned the falsification trend in the first place. Therefore, the notarization of a false signature not only constitutes fraud, but is every bit intended as part of a larger conspiracy to commit fraud on the court.
The documents are intended for court proceedings. A necessary purpose for these documents, AFTER the non judicial foreclosure, is the eviction of the rightful owners afterward. While the foreclosures are non-judicial, evictions afterwards still are conducted in court, although the process moves quickly and is mostly a “rubber stamping” by skeptical judges. However, as demonstrated below, once these documents make it into court, the bank officers and lawyers become guilty of FELONIES:
The Doctrine of Unclean Hands provides: plaintiff’s misconduct in the matter before the court makes his hands “unclean” and he may not hold with them the pristine remedy of injunctive relief. The unclean hands rule requires that the Plaintiff not cheat, and behave fairly. The plaintiff must come into court with clean hands, and keep them clean, or he or she will be denied relief, regardless of the merits of the claim. Whether the doctrine applies is a question of fact.
Robo Signed Documents Are Intended for Use in Bankruptcy Court Matters. One majorly overlooked facet is the extremely active bankruptcy court proceedings, where, just as in judicial foreclosure states, the banks must prove “standing” to proceed with a foreclosure. If they are not signed by persons with the requisite knowledge, affidavits submitted in bankruptcy court proceedings such as objections to a plan and Relief from Stays are perjured. The documents in support are often falsified evidence. Conclusion
Verified eviction complaints, perjured motions for summary judgment, and all other eviction paperwork after robo signed non judicial foreclosures are illegal and void. The paperwork itself is void. The sale is void. But the only way to clean up the hundreds of thousands of effected titles is through litigation, because even now the banks will simply not do the right thing. And that’s why robo signers count in non-judicial foreclosure states. Victims of robosigners in may seek declaratory relief and damages, an injunction and attorney’s fees for Unfair Business practices, as well as claims for slander of title; abuse of process, civil theft, and variety of other civil remedies.
Final words: the “Robo” actions are just the tip of the iceberg but the “Robo” actions allowed part of the iceberg to be seen.
Any document signed by an officer of MERS. MERS states at www.mersinc.org that: Employees of the servicer will be certifying officers of MERS. This means they are authorized to sign any necessary documents as an officer of MERS. The certifying officer is granted this power by a corporate resolution from MERS. In other words, the same individual that signs the documents for the servicer will continue to sign the documents, but now as an officer of MERS.
The signor of the document states that they are acting “solely as nominee” for some other party.
The document was execute the same day it was filed with the Court
The party who signed the document executed it as “an authorized agent” for the servicer or the Plaintiff.
The party who signed the document executed it as “an attorney in fact” for the servicer or the Plaintiff.
The name of the signing party is stamped on the documents in block letters.
The name of the servicer or Plaintiff is stamped on the document in block letters.
The document appears to be a standard form with “fill-in-the-blanks” for the names of the signors and entities.
The paragraph numbers are not consistent (for example the first page may end with paragraph 7 and the second page may start with paragraph 10)
The party who signed the document and the notary are the same person.
You cannot read the signature of the signor and the name is not printed out on the document. (some people refer to these a “squiggle marks”) The bottom line is you cannot decipher any name or word on the document.
The signature on the document consists of one loop in the shape of an “S” or something that looks like an “8”.
The date of the signature and the date of the notarization are not the same.
The same “officer” or Vice President” of a mortgage company or lender is also the “Vice President” or “officer” of many other entities or lenders in the chain of assignments or endorsements.
The same “officer” or “ Vice President” of a lender signing the documents is located in various cities throughout the United States.
The document includes numerous pre-stamped names and signatures.
The document includes a second page or last page notarization that does not conform in type font, style, format, texture, age, from the primary pages of the document.
Backdating effective dates on assignments.
Signatures of officers are dated years after an entity has been out of business, merged with another company or filed for bankruptcy.
The party who signed the document executed it as a representative of the servicer.
The notary failed to attach a notarial seal.
The notary failed to sign the notarization.
The name of the party appearing before the notary is blank.
The name of the party appearing before the notary is block stamped.
The endorsement is not at the foot of the note, but on a separate page or allonge to the note. (if there is room at the foot of the note, the endorsement must appear there. An allonge may only be used if there is insufficient room at the foot of the note for the endorsement)
The document purports to assign the mortgage or the deed of trust from the originator directly to the trust.
The document that purports to assign the mortgage of deed of trust to the Trust is dated BEFORE the Trust was registered with the SEC.
The document that purports to assign the mortgage of deed of trust to the Trust was signed AFTER the cut-off date for the transfer of all such to the Trust pursuant to the Pooling and Servicing Agreement.
The origination date on the mortgage note is not within the origination and cut-off dates provided for by the terms of the Pooling and Servicing Agreement.
The mortgage note is assigned rather than endorsed from Party “A” to Party “B” or from any party to another party or entity.
The mortgage note is endorsed from the originator to the securitized Trust.
The mortgage note is endorsed from the originator to the current mortgage servicer.
The mortgage note is endorsed from the originator to the depositor for the securitized trust.
The affidavit is a “Lost Note Affidavit” filed by the mortgage servicer.
The affidavit is a “Lost Note Affidavit” filed by the Trustee for the securitized Trust and claims they never received the original Note. ( You can only file a lost note affidavit under the UCC if you possessed the Note before it was lost)
The assignment of mortgage or deed of trust was filed or signed after the filing of the bankruptcy case.
The assignment of mortgage or deed of trust was filed or signed after the foreclosure proceeding began/was filed.
The assignment of mortgage or deed of trust was filed or signed after the filing of the Motion for Relief from Stay in Bankruptcy Court.
The affidavit was signed by an employee MR Default Servicers or has the MR Default Servicers information on the document as an identification number.
The affidavit was signed by an employee Promiss Solutions or has the Promiss Solutions information on the document as an identification number.
The affidavit was signed by an employee NDEx Technologies, LLC or has the NDEx information on the document as an identification number.
The affidavit was signed by the same attorney that signed the foreclosure complaint.
The affidavit was filed by an employee of the attorney that filed the foreclosure complaint.
The documents are clearly two photocopies of the same document with different information filled in regarding the names of the assignor and assignee.
The Note is stamped with the following: “Certified True Copy”.
The signature of the Vice President states that they are a Vice President of Lehman Brother Holding Company, but the printed or stamped name on the document is Lehman Brothers Bank, FSB.
The document is signed by a “Bank Officer” without any designation of the office/position held.
The affidavit is signed by the “designated agent” of any entity or party.
The affidavit includes one or more bar codes. ( Similar to the bar codes you see on items at the grocery store, etc.)
Any document signed by an individual who states that they are the “legal coordinator” for any entity involved in the lawsuit or chain of custody.
The return address on the Assignment or affidavit is to a third party provider, such as Financial Dimensions, Inc, FANDO or FNFS.
The transferor and the transferee have the exact same physical address including the same street and/or P.O. box numbers.
The document bears the image: “This is not a certified copy”
The document refers to a Power of Attorney, but no such document is attached or filed and recorded.
PLEASE NOTE: FOR YOUR CONVIENENCE TO LOCATE A PERSON A “FIND” FEATURE HAS BEEN INSTALLED ON THIS SECTION.
INSTRUCTIONS: PRESS THE CONTROL KEY AND THE “F” KEY AT THE SAME TIME, A BOX WILL APPEAR, TYPE IN THE NAME OR PART OF THE NAME YOU ARE LOOKING FOR AND THE SITE WILL TAKE YOU TO IT.
ALPHABETICAL LISTING OF ALLEGED ROBO-SIGNERS* AND LINKS*
*NOTE: FOR THE NAMES LISTED BELOW, TO FIND SUPPORTING DOCUMENTATION JUST PLACE YOUR MOUSE ON NAME, PRESS THE CONTROL BUTTON AND LEFT CLICK AT THE SAME TIME AND THE WEBSITE WILL LEAD YOU TO A SUPPORTING DOCUMENT OF THAT PERSON
The Wall Street Journalis also reporting that the SEC is about to launch some securities litigation against major banks. Since the statue of limitations has already run out on securities filings more than five years old, this means they’ll clip the banks for some of the very last (and dreckiest) deals they shoved out the door before the subprime market gave up the ghost.
The various news services are touting this pact at the biggest multi-state settlement since the tobacco deal in 1998. While narrowly accurate, this deal is bush league by comparison even though the underlying abuses in both cases have had devastating consequences.
The tobacco agreement was pegged as being worth nearly $250 billion over the first 25 years. Adjust that for inflation, and the disparity is even bigger. That shows you the difference in outcomes between a case where the prosecutors have solid evidence backing their charges, versus one where everyone know a lot of bad stuff happened, but no one has come close to marshaling the evidence.
The mortgage settlement terms have not been released, but more of the details have been leaked:
1. The total for the top five servicers is now touted as $26 billion (annoyingly, the FT is calling it “nearly $40 billion”), but of that, roughly $17 billion is credits for principal modifications, which as we pointed out earlier, can and almost assuredly will come largely from mortgages owned by investors. $3 billion is for refis, and only $5 billion will be in the form of hard cash payments, including $1500 to $2000 per borrower foreclosed on between September 2008 and December 2011.
Banks will be required to modify second liens that sit behind firsts “at least” pari passu, which in practice will mean at most pari passu. So this guarantees banks will also focus on borrowers where they do not have second lien exposure, and this also makes the settlement less helpful to struggling homeowners, since borrowers with both second and first liens default at much higher rates than those without second mortgages. Per the Journal:
“It’s not new money. It’s all soft dollars to the banks,” said Paul Miller, a bank analyst at FBR Capital Markets.
The Times is also subdued:
Despite the billions earmarked in the accord, the aid will help a relatively small portion of the millions of borrowers who are delinquent and facing foreclosure. The success could depend in part on how effectively the program is carried out because earlier efforts by Washington aimed at troubled borrowers helped far fewer than had been expected.
2. Schneiderman’s MERS suit survives, and he can add more banks as defendants. It isn’t clear what became of the Biden and Coakley MERS suits, but Biden sounded pretty adamant in past media presentations on preserving that.
3. Nevada’s and Arizona’s suits against Countrywide for violating its past consent decree on mortgage servicing has, in a new Orwellianism, been “folded into” the settlement.
4. The five big players in the settlement have already set aside reserves sufficient for this deal.
Here are the top twelve reasons why this deal stinks:
1. We’ve now set a price for forgeries and fabricating documents. It’s $2000 per loan. This is a rounding error compared to the chain of title problem these systematic practices were designed to circumvent. The cost is also trivial in comparison to the average loan, which is roughly $180k, so the settlement represents about 1% of loan balances. It is less than the price of the title insurance that banks failed to get when they transferred the loans to the trust. It is a fraction of the cost of the legal expenses when foreclosures are challenged. It’s a great deal for the banks because no one is at any of the servicers going to jail for forgery and the banks have set the upper bound of the cost of riding roughshod over 300 years of real estate law.
2. That $26 billion is actually $5 billion of bank money and the rest is your money. The mortgage principal writedowns are guaranteed to come almost entirely from securitized loans, which means from investors, which in turn means taxpayers via Fannie and Freddie, pension funds, insurers, and 401 (k)s. Refis of performing loans also reduce income to those very same investors.
3. That $5 billion divided among the big banks wouldn’t even represent a significant quarterly hit. Freddie and Fannie putbacks to the major banks have been running at that level each quarter.
4. That $20 billion actually makes bank second liens sounder, so this deal is a stealth bailout that strengthens bank balance sheets at the expense of the broader public.
5. The enforcement is a joke. The first layer of supervision is the banks reporting on themselves. The framework is similar to that of the OCC consent decrees implemented last year, which Adam Levitin and yours truly, among others, decried as regulatory theater.
6. The past history of servicer consent decrees shows the servicers all fail to comply. Why? Servicer records and systems are terrible in the best of times, and their systems and fee structures aren’t set up to handle much in the way of delinquencies. As Tom Adams has pointed out in earlier posts, servicer behavior is predictable when their portfolios are hit with a high level of delinquencies and defaults: they cheat in all sorts of ways to reduce their losses.
7. The cave-in Nevada and Arizona on the Countrywide settlement suit is a special gift for Bank of America, who is by far the worst offender in the chain of title disaster (since, according to sworn testimony of its own employee in Kemp v. Countrywide, Countrywide failed to comply with trust delivery requirements). This move proves that failing to comply with a consent degree has no consequences but will merely be rolled into a new consent degree which will also fail to be enforced. These cases also alleged HAMP violations as consumer fraud violations and could have gotten costly and emboldened other states to file similar suits not just against Countrywide but other servicers, so it was useful to the other banks as well.
8. If the new Federal task force were intended to be serious, this deal would have not have been settled. You never settle before investigating. It’s a bad idea to settle obvious, widespread wrongdoing on the cheap. You use the stuff that is easy to prove to gather information and secure cooperation on the stuff that is harder to prove. In Missouri and Nevada, the robosigning investigation led to criminal charges against agents of the servicers. But even though these companies were acting at the express direction and approval of the services, no individuals or entities higher up the food chain will face any sort of meaningful charges.
9. There is plenty of evidence of widespread abuses that appear not to be on the attorney generals’ or media’s radar, such as servicer driven foreclosures and looting of investors’ funds via impermissible and inflated charges. While no serious probe was undertaken, even the limited or peripheral investigations show massive failures (60% of documents had errors in AGs/Fed’s pathetically small sample). Similarly, the US Trustee’s office found widespread evidence of significant servicer errors in bankruptcy-related filings, such as inflated and bogus fees, and even substantial, completely made up charges. Yet the services and banks will suffer no real consequences for these abuses.
10. A deal on robosiginging serves to cover up the much deeper chain of title problem. And don’t get too excited about the New York, Massachusetts, and Delaware MERS suits. They put pressure on banks to clean up this monstrous mess only if the AGs go through to trial and get tough penalties. The banks will want to settle their way out of that too. And even if these cases do go to trial and produce significant victories for the AGs, they still do not address the problem of failures to transfer notes correctly.
11. Don’t bet on a deus ex machina in terms of the new Federal foreclosure task force to improve this picture much. If you think Schneiderman, as a co-chairman who already has a full time day job in New York, is going to outfox a bunch of DC insiders who are part of the problem, I have a bridge I’d like to sell to you.
12. We’ll now have to listen to banks and their sycophant defenders declaring victory despite being wrong on the law and the facts. They will proceed to marginalize and write off criticisms of the servicing practices that hurt homeowners and investors and are devastating communities. But the problems will fester and the housing market will continue to suffer. Investors in mortgage-backed securities, who know that services have been screwing them for years, will be hung out to dry and will likely never return to a private MBS market, since the problems won’t ever be fixed. This settlement has not only revealed the residential mortgage market to be too big to fail, but puts it on long term, perhaps permanent, government life support.
As we’ve said before, this settlement is yet another raw demonstration of who wields power in America, and it isn’t you and me. It’s bad enough to see these negotiations come to their predictable, sorry outcome. It adds insult to injury to see some try to depict it as a win for long suffering, still abused homeowners.
Freddie Mac, the taxpayer-owned mortgage giant, has placed multibillion-dollar bets that pay off if homeowners stay trapped in expensive mortgages with interest rates well above current rates.
Freddie began increasing these bets dramatically in late 2010, the same time that the company was making it harder for homeowners to get out of such high-interest mortgages.
No evidence has emerged that these decisions were coordinated. The company is a key gatekeeper for home loans but says its traders are “walled off” from the officials who have restricted homeowners from taking advantage of historically low interest rates by imposing higher fees and new rules.
Freddie’s charter calls for the company to make home loans more accessible. Its chief executive, Charles Haldeman Jr., recently told Congress that his company is “helping financially strapped families reduce their mortgage costs through refinancing their mortgages.”
But the trades, uncovered for the first time in an investigation by ProPublica and NPR, give Freddie a powerful incentive to do the opposite, highlighting a conflict of interest at the heart of the company. In addition to being an instrument of government policy dedicated to making home loans more accessible, Freddie also has giant investment portfolios and could lose substantial amounts of money if too many borrowers refinance.
“We were actually shocked they did this,” says Scott Simon, who as the head of the giant bond fund PIMCO’s mortgage-backed securities team is one of the world’s biggest mortgage bond traders. “It seemed so out of line with their mission.”
The trades “put them squarely against the homeowner,” he says.
Those homeowners have a lot at stake, too. Many of them could cut their interest payments by thousands of dollars a year.
Freddie Mac, along with its cousin Fannie Mae, was bailed out in 2008 and is now owned by taxpayers. The companies play a pivotal role in the mortgage business because they insure most home loans in the United States, making banks likelier to lend. The companies’ rules determine whether homeowners can get loans and on what terms.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency effectively serves as Freddie’s board of directors and is ultimately responsible for Freddie’s decisions. It is run by acting director Edward DeMarco, who cannot be fired by the president except in extraordinary circumstances.
Freddie and the FHFA repeatedly declined to comment on the specific transactions.
Freddie’s moves to limit refinancing affect not only individual homeowners but the entire economy. An expansive refinancing program could help millions of homeowners, some economists say. Such an effort would “help the economy and put tens of billions of dollars back in consumers’ pockets, the equivalent of a very long-term tax cut,” says real-estate economist Christopher Mayer of the Columbia Business School. “It also is likely to reduce foreclosures and benefit the U.S. government” because Freddie and Fannie, which guarantee most mortgages in the country, would have lower losses over the long run.
Freddie Mac’s trades, while perfectly legal, came during a period when the company was supposed to be reducing its investment portfolio, according to the terms of its government takeover agreement. But these trades escalate the risk of its portfolio, because the securities Freddie has purchased are volatile and hard to sell, mortgage securities experts say.
The financial crisis in 2008 was made worse when Wall Street traders made bets against their customers and the American public. Now, some see similar behavior, only this time by traders at a government-owned company who are using leverage, which increases the potential profits but also the risk of big losses, and other Wall Street stratagems. “More than three years into the government takeover, we have Freddie Mac pursuing highly levered, complicated transactions seemingly with the purpose of trading against homeowners,” says Mayer. “These are the kinds of things that got us into trouble in the first place.”
Freddie Mac is betting against, among others, Jay and Bonnie Silverstein. The Silversteins live in an unfinished development of cul-de-sacs and yellow stucco houses about 20 miles north of Philadelphia, in a house decorated with Bonnie’s orchids and their Rose Bowl parade pin collection. The developer went bankrupt, leaving orange plastic construction fencing around some empty lots. The community clubhouse isn’t complete.
“We’re in financial Jail”
The Silversteins have a 30-year fixed mortgage with an interest rate of 6.875 percent, much higher than the going rate of less than 4 percent. They have borrowed from family members and are living paycheck to paycheck. If they could refinance, they would save about $500 a month. He says the extra money would help them pay back some of their family members and visit their grandchildren more often.
But brokers have told the Silversteins that they cannot refinance, thanks to a Freddie Mac rule.
The Silversteins used to live in a larger house 15 minutes from their current place, in a more upscale development. They had always planned to downsize as they approached retirement. In 2005, they made the mistake of buying their new house before selling the larger one. As the housing market plummeted, they couldn’t sell their old house, so they carried two mortgages for 2½ years, wiping out their savings and 401(k). “It just drained us,” Jay Silverstein says.
Finally, they were advised to try a short sale, in which the house is sold for less than the value of the underlying mortgage. They stopped making payments on the big house for it to go through. The sale was finally completed in 2009.
Such debacles hurt a borrower’s credit rating. But Bonnie has a solid job at a doctor’s office, and Jay has a pension from working for more than two decades for Johnson & Johnson. They say they haven’t missed a payment on their current mortgage.
But the Silversteins haven’t been able to get their refi. Freddie Mac won’t insure a new loan for people who had a short sale in the last two to four years, depending on their financial condition. While the company’s previous rules prohibited some short sales, in October 2010 the company changed its criteria to include all short sales. It is unclear whether the Silverstein mortgage would have been barred from a short sale under the previous Freddie rules.
Short-term, Freddie’s trades benefit from the high-interest mortgage in which the Silversteins are trapped. But in the long run, Freddie could benefit if the Silversteins refinanced to a more affordable loan. Freddie guarantees the Silversteins’ mortgage, so if the couple defaults, Freddie — and the taxpayers who own the company — are on the hook. Getting the Silversteins into a more affordable mortgage would make a default less likely.
If millions of homeowners like the Silversteins default, the economy would be harmed. But if they switch to loans with lower interest rates, they would have more money to spend, which could boost the economy.
“We’re in financial jail,” says Jay, “and we’ve never been there before.”
How Freddie’s investments work
Here’s how Freddie Mac’s trades profit from the Silversteins staying in “financial jail.” The couple’s mortgage is sitting in a big pile of other mortgages, most of which are also guaranteed by Freddie and have high interest rates. Those mortgages underpin securities that get divided into two basic categories.
Anatomy of a Deal
How Freddie Mac structured a deal in which it profited if homeowners stayed trapped in high-interest mortgages.
One portion is backed mainly by principal, pays a low return, and was sold to investors who wanted a safe place to park their money. The other part, the inverse floater, is backed mainly by the interest payments on the mortgages, such as the high rate that the Silversteins pay. So this portion of the security can pay a much higher return, and this is what Freddie retained.
In 2010 and ’11, Freddie purchased $3.4 billion worth of inverse floater portions — their value based mostly on interest payments on $19.5 billion in mortgage-backed securities, according to prospectuses for the deals. They covered tens of thousands of homeowners. Most of the mortgages backing these transactions have high rates of about 6.5 percent to 7 percent, according to the deal documents.
Between late 2010 and early 2011, Freddie Mac’s purchases of inverse floater securities rose dramatically. Freddie purchased inverse floater portions of 29 deals in 2010 and 2011, with 26 bought between October 2010 and April 2011. That compares with seven for all of 2009 and five in 2008.
In these transactions, Freddie has sold off most of the principal, but it hasn’t reduced its risk.
First, if borrowers default, Freddie pays the entire value of the mortgages underpinning the securities, because it insures the loans.
It’s also a big problem if people like the Silversteins refinance their mortgages. That’s because a refi is a new loan; the borrower pays off the first loan early, stopping the interest payments. Since the security Freddie owns is backed mainly by those interest payments, Freddie loses.
And these inverse floaters burden Freddie with entirely new risks. With these deals, Freddie has taken mortgage-backed securities that are easy to sell and traded them for ones that are harder and possibly more expensive to offload, according to mortgage market experts.
The inverse floaters carry another risk. Freddie gets paid the difference between the high mortgages rates, such as the Silversteins are paying, and a key global interest rate that right now is very low. If that rate rises, Freddie’s profits will fall.
It is unclear what kinds of hedging, if any, Freddie has done to offset its risks.
At the end of 2011, Freddie’s portfolio of mortgages was just over $663 billion, down more than 6 percent from the previous year. But that $43 billion drop in the portfolio overstates the risk reduction, because the company retained risk through the inverse floaters. The company is well below the cap of $729 billion required by its government takeover agreement.
How Freddie tightened credit
Restricting credit for people who have done short sales isn’t the only way that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have tightened their lending criteria in the wake of the financial crisis, making it harder for borrowers to get housing loans.
Some tightening is justified because, in the years leading up to the financial crisis, Freddie and Fannie were too willing to insure mortgages taken out by people who couldn’t afford them.
In a statement, Freddie contends it is “actively supporting efforts for borrowers to realize the benefits of refinancing their mortgages to lower rates.”
The company said in a statement: “During the first three quarters of 2011, we refinanced more than $170 billion in mortgages, helping nearly 835,000 borrowers save an average of $2,500 in interest payments during the next year.” As part of that effort, the company is participating in an Obama administration plan, called the Home Affordable Refinance Program, or HARP. But critics say HARP could be reaching millions more people if Fannie and Freddie implemented the program more effectively.
Indeed, just as it was escalating its inverse floater deals, it was also introducing new fees on borrowers, including those wanting to refinance. During Thanksgiving week in 2010, Freddie quietly announced that it was raising charges, called post-settlement delivery fees.
In a recent white paper on remedies for the stalled housing market, the Federal Reserve criticized Fannie and Freddie for the fees they have charged for refinancing. Such fees are “another possible reason for low rates of refinancing” and are “difficult to justify,” the Fed wrote.
A former Freddie employee, who spoke on condition he not be named, was even blunter: “Generally, it makes no sense whatsoever” for Freddie “to restrict refinancing” from expensive loans to ones borrowers can more easily pay, since the company remains on the hook if homeowners default.
In November, the FHFA announced that Fannie and Freddie were eliminating or reducing some fees. The Fed, however, said that “more might be done.”
The regulator as owner
The trades raise questions about the FHFA’s oversight of Fannie and Freddie. But the FHFA is not just a regulator. With the two companies in government conservatorship, the FHFA now plays the role of their board of directors and shareholders, responsible for the companies’ major decisions.
Under acting director DeMarco, the FHFA has emphasized that its main goal is to limit taxpayer losses by managing the two companies’ giant investment portfolios to make profits. To cover their previous losses and ongoing operations, Fannie and Freddie already had received $169 billion from taxpayers through the third quarter of last year.
The FHFA has frustrated the administration because the agency has made preserving the value of the companies’ investment portfolios a priority over helping homeowners in expensive mortgages. In 2010, President Barack Obama nominated a permanent replacement for acting director DeMarco, but Republicans in Congress blocked him. Obama has not nominated anyone else to replace DeMarco.
Even though Freddie is a ward of the state, top executives are highly compensated. Peter Federico, who’s in charge of the company’s investment portfolio, made $2.5 million in 2010, and he had target compensation of $2.6 million for last year, when most of these leveraged investments were made.
One of Federico’s responsibilities — tied to his bonuses — is to “support and provide liquidity and stability in the mortgage market,” according to Freddie’s annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mortgage experts contend that the inverse floater trades don’t further that goal.
ProPublica and NPR made numerous attempts to reach Federico. A woman who answered his home phone said he declined to comment.
The FHFA knew about the trades before ProPublica and NPR approached the regulatory agency about them, according to an FHFA official. The FHFA has the power to approve and disapprove trades, though it doesn’t involve itself in day-to-day decisions. The official declined to comment on whether the FHFA knew about them as Freddie was conducting them or whether the FHFA had explicitly approved them.
It’s time for me to have an adult conversation with the experienced practicing attorneys in this country. Other grown-ups are welcome to sit in as well, but it’s time for children to be in bed or occupied elsewhere, okay?
If there’s no money to be made solving something… no profit incentive… then for the most part, we don’t quite have a handle on to solving it. For example, we’re not very good at cleaning up our oceans in general, and if there weren’t money to be made cleaning up oceans after oil spills, my guess would be that we wouldn’t be very good at doing that either.
To-date, however, BP has reportedly spent $21 billion cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico since its last mega-disaster, and guess what? The Gulf of Mexico is pretty clean again… just two years later! I remember hearing environmentalists predict that it could take 100 years to clean up the Gulf after the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. I guess they were underestimating just how much solution $21 billion can often buy.
Well, today we have a mammoth size foreclosure problem in this country, and it’s being talked about like it’s damn near an unsolvable problem… as if solving it would require determining the chemical origins of life, or figuring out whether black holes really do exist in space.
The foreclosure crisis, thank goodness, is not a black hole-type problem as many would have us believe. It is a problem that, political constraints notwithstanding, exists at the juncture of economics and the rule of law. In other words… it’s an oil spill… perhaps the worst oil spill of which the world has ever conceived… the Exxon Valdez meets Deepwater Horizon x 100, if you will… but it’s still just an oil spill.
It’s also important to note that as an economics problem alone, the foreclosure crisis is not a particularly challenging one to solve. Some would rush to remind me that any proposed solution would be rife with “moral hazard,” and while that may be true, it doesn’t make the problem insoluble, by any means.
The elephant in the room is that what we’re facing in this country today is not just a foreclosure crisis, what we’re dealing with with is much better described as a FRAUDclosure crisis.
A couple of years ago, many would have said that my use of the word “fraud” before “closure,” is just hyperbole. Today, however, anyone voicing that sort of opinion is selling something. Even a cursory review of last year’s scathing “consent orders,” that federal regulators issued after months spent investigating mortgage servicers… or a quick perusal of the complaints filed against the servicers by attorneys general in Massachusetts, Nevada, Maryland, or Arizona… or by reading any number of published court decisions favoring homeowners… and one can only conclude that use of the word “fraud” is, if anything, understatement.
Additionally, this past year has been a turning point for the general public as far as FRAUDclosures are concerned. Television’s most venerable news magazine, “60 Minutes,” along with newspaper-of-record, “The New York Times,” joined a long list of others documenting the many ways that banks and mortgage servicers are routinely breaking numerous laws in order to take advantage of homeowners in foreclosure. It’s now widely understood to be something that’s occurring all over the country, and even though the banking industry continues to try to dismiss publicized instances as insignificant dalliances or “isolated incidents,” their sheer number has made such attempts laughable. And the levels of wholesale anger and dissatisfaction with government felt among the populace are both palpable and rising fast.
Today, even forecasts from the likes of Goldman Sachs and Amherst Securities peg the number of foreclosures between 10.4 and 14 million by year-end 2014, and those numbers could easily go higher should home prices continue to fall… which they invariably will. Add those numbers to the millions of foreclosures already water under the bridge, and were talking about a crisis that results in ONE IN FOUR Americans with mortgages losing their homes to foreclosure in the next handful of years.
What I’m describing will unquestionably devastate any hope for recovery in our broader economy for any number of reasons. For one thing, as banks are forced to recognize their losses incurred on the mortgage-backed securities and CDOs that capitalize their balance sheets, they will become insolvent… and this time many will be forced to fail. For another, home prices will continue falling pushing more and more homeowners underwater and consumer spending will continue to decline and that will lead to rising unemployment, which will in turn fuel further foreclosures. And those hopelessly underwater will begin walking away en masse, which will further exacerbate the decline in prices and become impossible to combat.
All of these factors and more will combine to reduce future demand for residential real estate dramatically… perhaps by half, but in addition, with no secondary mortgage market… no ability to securitize debt… even those wanting to buy homes going forward will find credit to be tight and tighter, destroying any potential for recovery in the housing market.
And I’m no longer in a small group of people writing about this deteriorating situation as was the case three plus years ago. Every day others are waking up to the fact that what we’ve been told about foreclosures to-date by our government and the financial services and related industries, has proven itself to be at best mistaken… at worst misdirection… or, not to put too fine a point on it, outright folderol.
As conservative columnist, Peggy Noonan, has pointed out recently, it’s simply impossible to imagine this sort of future without also seeing social unrest on a scale not seen in this country since at least the 1930s. Writing recently about the Occupy Wall Street (“OWS”) movement, Noonan echoes my sentiments on the situation to a tee…
“OWS is an expression of American discontent, and others will follow. Protests and social unrest are particularly likely if people feel they are unfairly losing their homes to support irresponsible, law-breaking institutions that have successfully disregarded the fundamental rules of capitalism and good citizenship.”
The harsh truth is that whatever is done in the future at state or federal levels to mitigate the damage caused by foreclosures, it’s simply too late to prevent our FRAUDclosure crisis from pretty much wiping out our nation’s middle class economy for more than a generation. As a practical matter, the only real question we face today is how many are wounded and how many are killed… none of us is getting out unscathed.
There should be no question in anyone’s mind… there are only two paths ahead from which to choose. Both involve fighting a war… but on one path the battle is fought by lawyers in our courts… on the other, by citizens in our streets.
Make no mistake about it… if we are to mitigate any of the damage being caused, uphold the rule of law, and protect the rights of millions of homeowners… it should be obvious to anyone that WE NEED TENS OF THOUSANDS OF LAWYERS trained in foreclosure defense, loss mitigation and bankruptcy. And yet, more than four years into the FRAUDclosure crisis, we don’t have anywhere near the number of trained, ethical attorneys required to meet the demand.
We’re all adults here, so let’s not kid ourselves about why that’s the case.
We all know why we don’t have the lawyers we need to marshall a more effective defense of homeowners engulfed by the FRAUDclosure crisis… it’s because THERE’S NO MONEY IN IT. Or, at least that’s what lawyers have been told they are supposed to believe. Not only that, but the message has been that there shouldn’t be any money in representing homeowners at risk of FRAUDclosure. It’s as if attorneys profiting from representing homeowners at risk of FRAUDclosure is somehow a bad thing.
AND THAT’S JUST 100% BANKER-INSPIRED B.S.
Don’t you see what’s happened here? We’ve allowed the banks, and the government that’s been bailing them out, to essentially criminalize the profit potential in representing homeowners at risk of foreclosure… and wonder of wonders, miracles of miracles… here we sit with what appears to be an unsolvable problem.
Consider this… bankers say that they’ve been overwhelmed by the millions of homeowners unexpectedly seeking loan modifications and that’s why applying for a loan modification has been such a nightmare. But, what about the number of foreclosures occurring in the same time frame? Haven’t there been an unprecedented and unexpected number of foreclosures too? So,why is it that the banks have no problems accommodating the millions of unexpected foreclosures, but the millions of unexpected loan modifications represent an unsolvable problem?
It’s simple… because on the foreclosure side of the equation, banks allow lawyers to be profitably compensated for handling foreclosures, and sure enough those law firms have figured out how to handle any number of foreclosures that come down the pike… in fact, the more the merrier, as they say. On the loan modification side of the house, however, profits are a dirty word… and wouldn’t you know it, the problem is unsolvable. Why am I not surprised?
Over the TWO YEARS following the Deepwater Horizon disaster, BP spent $21 billion to clean up the Gulf of Mexico. In the FOUR YEARS since the tsunami of foreclosures began, we’ve spent roughly ten percent of what BP spent cleaning up the Gulf… $2.4 billion… and the vast majority of that amount paid to mortgage servicers… and we’re wondering why the problem can’t be solved?
A MESSAGE TO OUR NATION’S LAWYERS…
It’s the biggest financial opportunity for the legal profession
SINCE THE REAR END COLLISION.
The fact is… there is a HUGE OPPORTUNITY today to build a very profitable legal practice based on the ethical and effective representation of homeowners caught in the FRAUDclosure crisis.
From the very beginning of the mortgage meltdown, banks have tried to make sure that homeowners were not represented by attorneys when trying to save their homes from FRAUDclosure. The reason is now apparent: Banks knew it was a FRAUDclosure crisis before the rest of us did because they’re the ones who put the FRAUD into FRAUDclosure. From the earliest days of the crisis, the banks and the Obama Administration have been reinforcing TWO LIES:
Homeowners at risk of foreclosure don’t need lawyers… they can just call their bank directly. That’s like the police telling someone under arrest that he or she doesn’t need a lawyer because any questions can be answered by the District Attorney. It’s a damn lie… homeowners DO NEED LAWYERS to help them save their homes because it’s not just a foreclosure crisis, it’s a FRAUDclosure crisis.
A lawyer who charges a homeowner at risk of foreclosure up front… is a “SCAMMER.” That is not only a LIE, but it’s a lie to achieve two key bank objectives. One – It stopped many homeowners from seeking legal representation, thus allowing the banks to do whatever they wanted as related to foreclosing on their homes. Two – It stopped countless attorneys from building a profitable practice based on representing homeowners at risk of foreclosure.
The California Example…
In California, the efforts to stop lawyers from representing homeowners have been more extreme than in any other state. Here the campaign to malign the legal profession has been driven by legislative committees and supported by the California State Bar Association. In October 2009, California’s SB 94 created a law that has effectively prevented lawyers from offering to represent homeowners who are seeking to avoid foreclosure through modification of their loans. Under the guise of “charging up front makes you a scammer,” SB 94 has made it illegal for a lawyer to charge a homeowner an upfront retainer for legal fees.
Quite predictably, the law has made it difficult or even impossible for California homeowners to find quality legal representation related to seeking loan modifications, forcing those at risk of foreclosure who want to be represented by an attorney into either litigation or bankruptcy. Writing for The New York Times in December 2010, David Streitfeld’s article titled, “Homes at Risk, and No Help from Lawyers,” described the situation in California related to SB 94.
In California, where foreclosures are more abundant than in any other state, homeowners trying to win a loan modification have always had a tough time.
Now they face yet another obstacle: hiring a lawyer.
Sharon Bell, a retiree who lives in Laguna Niguel, southeast of Los Angeles, needs a modification to keep her home. She says she is scared of her bank and its plentiful resources, so much so that she cannot even open its certified letters inquiring where her mortgage payments may be. Yet the half-dozen lawyers she has called have refused to represent her.
“They said they couldn’t help,” said Ms. Bell, 63. “But I’ve got to find help, because I’m dying every day.”
Lawyers throughout California say they have no choice but to reject clients like Ms. Bell because of a new state law that sharply restricts how they can be paid. Under the measure, passed overwhelmingly by the State Legislature and backed by the state bar association, lawyers who work on loan modifications cannot receive any money until the work is complete. The bar association says that under the law, clients cannot put retainers in trust accounts.
To make matters worse, SB 94 has recently become controversial. In late September 2011, Suzan Anderson, who is the supervising trial council of the state bar’s special team on loan modifications, made an unscheduled appearance at the bar’s annual conference, presenting what she purported to be the bar’s new interpretation of SB 94. Literally hundreds of attorneys and legal scholars disagree, however, and litigation has recently been filed against the bar seeking declaratory relief, so we’ll soon see the courts decide the issue.
The core issue is about when a lawyer who represents a homeowner trying to get their loan modified can be compensated. The bar claims the law requires an attorney to wait until the very end of the case, however, the actual language contained in SB 94 doesn’t say that… it says lawyers cannot be paid until completing “any and all services (the lawyer) has contracted to perform…” Up until Ms. Anderson’s presentation at the annual meeting, lawyers were dividing services into separate contractual arrangements and accepting payments from homeowners as discreet sets of services were completed.
Regardless of which side of the debate you’re on, the issue highlights how far the banking lobby will push a state legislature and state bar association in an attempt to prevent homeowners from being represented by legal council when trying to to avoid foreclosure, and it should come as absolutely no surprise that SB 94 was born in the state’s Senate Banking Committee, sponsored by Sen. Ron Calderon, who chairs that committee.
Advocates of SB 94 claim that it was needed to stop “scammers” who were preying on homeowners in distress from accepting up-front fees. As quoted from Streitfeld’s article in The New York Times…
A spokesman for the Mortgage Bankers Association said it simply wanted to protect homeowners from fraud. “Be very careful about anyone who wants you to pay them to help you get a loan modification,” said the spokesman, John Mechem.
The evidence of any sort of army of lawyers-turned-scammers ripping off homeowners has always been thin, and by “thin” I mean nonexistant. In the two years since the bill became law, the bar has taken some type of disciplinary action related to the representation of homeowners in foreclosure against two dozen lawyers, give or take a few. In a state with more than 200,000 lawyers and 2 million homeowners in foreclosure, two dozen lawyers disciplined would hardly seem justification for a law that effectively prevents lawyers from helping homeowners get their loans modified.
Last December, Suzan Anderson, who heads up the bar’s task force on loan modifications, told The New York Times…
“I wish the law had worked,” Ms. Anderson said.
It’s also telling that no other state in the country has a law anything like SB 94, in fact, the rest of the states follow the FTC’s Mortgage Assistance Relief Services rule, MARS, which was adopted on January 30, 2011, and it does allow attorneys representing homeowners seeking loan modifications to accept funds in advance into their trust accounts.
The New York Times article also offered the perspective of several California homeowners seeking legal assistance in a post SB 94 world…
Mark Stone, a 56-year-old general contractor in Sierra Madre, feels differently. A few years ago, he got sick with hepatitis C. Unable to work full time, he began to miss mortgage payments. The drugs he was taking left him “a little confused,” he said.
Mr. Stone knew that his condition put him at a disadvantage in negotiations with his bank. So he hired Gregory Royston, a real estate lawyer in Redondo Beach. It took Mr. Royston nearly a year, but he restructured the loan.
Without the lawyer, Mr. Stone said, “I’d be living under a bridge.
”The legal bill, paid in advance, was $3,500. “Worth every penny,” said Mr. Stone, who is now back at work.
“This law,” Mr. Royston said, “took the wrong people out of the game.”
A Bleak Picture in California…
California’s approach to discouraging lawyers from representing homeowners at risk of foreclosure has not served the state or its residents well at all. California is the “hardest hit” of all 50 states, accounting for one of every five foreclosures in the U.S. Almost half of California’s homeowners are either underwater or effectively underwater today. Since 2008, there have been 1.2 million foreclosures statewide, and that number is expected to exceed 2 million by the end of 2012. And, according to the report published by the California Reinvestment Coalition…
The 2 million foreclosures expected by the end of this year are forecasted to cost the state and its residents $650 billion statewide.
Today, in California alone there are roughly TWO MILLION homeowners in foreclosure. I don’t know exactly how many we have nationwide, estimates vary, but are in the 5 million range. I do know that if two million people needed just 10 hours of legal assistance, it would take 20 million man hours. Assuming a six hour work day and a 260 day work year… that’s just under 13,000 years assuming only one lawyer were involved. To help two million people, assuming 10 hours each, at best would require more than 10,000 lawyers trained and working efficiently.
How many attorneys do we have trained and ready to help loans get modified, represent homeowners in foreclosure defense matters and/or in bankruptcy. Nowhere near 13,000 that’s for sure… in fact, we might not find 1300 either… and many would say the number could be closer to 130, and with the proliferating fraudulent documents… the abuses by servicers… the number of people who are foreclosed on illegally… its become easy to see the disease, and trained ethical lawyers would seem the only cure.
We need a literal army of experienced litigators, and Max Gardner’s Bankruptcy Boot Camp has trained close to 900 attorneys to protect the rights of homeowners in foreclosure. I’ve attended Max’s Boot Camp… I could never recommend it strongly enough… and often do. But, there’s more than legal training that’s required here… and if we’re going to attract the number of lawyers we need to fight this war…
The Answer is Money…
What Was Your Question?
Ohio’s former Attorney General Marc Dann is a highly experienced foreclosure defense attorney and a graduate of Max Gardner’s Boot Camp. He’s proven in his own successful practice that lawyers have the opportunity to DO GOOD… and DO WELL at the same time by learning the ins and outs of this, unfortunately, very fast growing and specialized field. And he’s developed a comprehensive training and ongoing support program that allows experienced foreclosure defense attorneys to immediately access new clients and the right clients, improve operations within their firms, and yes… increase their profitability dramatically.
Marc understands our need for an experienced army of foreclosure defense lawyers, but he also understands the reality that lawyers have to make money in order to operate effectively. In a phrase, a lawyer that can provide effective representation for homeowners at risk of foreclosure today, should not be worried about losing his or her own home to foreclosure because that benefits no one.
So, Marc has developed and employed best practices in building his own successful foreclosure defense practice, and now he’s teaching other attorneys how to make money in foreclosure defense so that ultimately he will have provided countless thousands of homeowners all over the country with access to highly capable, ethical and experienced attorneys.
Marc Dann’s LAW PROFITS program will take experienced and effective attorneys committed to foreclosure defense and protecting the rights of homeowners, and help transform them into vibrant, profitable firms or individual legal practices. Some of the innovative solutions Marc will be delivering include:
How to cut through the noise created by scammers, reaching out to homeowners in a very honest and compelling way.
When and how to sue the bad modification company or bad lawyer.
Suing the foreclosure mills for fun and profits.
Using Fair Debt Collection Practices and State Consumer Protection.
Learn about the new practices available under Dodd Frank.
Harnessing TILA and RESPA inside and outside bankruptcy court.
Unconventional approaches stay one step ahead of servicer practices.
Billing structures, methodologies, and practice accounting.
Designing compensation programs that balance the needs of homeowners with the needs of your firm.
Never lose clients – Ongoing communications program that’s turn-key and educates clients so they become fans.
Fee agreements – for contingency and hourly clients.
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Making little or no money in foreclosure defense isn’t doing your clients any favors because you cannot be your best without it. Marc Dann’s LAW PROFITS is not a pot of gold, or a winning lottery ticket, but it is a proven process and suite of best practices that makes a law practice profitable… essentially immediately. It’s work, no question about it, but it’s important and gratifying work.
I wholeheartedly support Mar’c Dann’s LAW PROFITS initiative. And I strongly urge all of the lawyers reading this to take action now by clicking the link below, so you can find out more about what his LAW PROFITS program for foreclosure defense and bankruptcy lawyers can do for you and your firm. The FRAUDclosure crisis and its ancillary topics, I’m sorry to say, are going to be with us for a long time… a decade plus, if we’re lucky. Longer if we’re not. It’s time to settle in and start capitalizing on being one of the best at solving on of the worst case scenarios.
LOS ANGELES (CN) – JPMorgan Chase routinely fabricated documents to deceive bankruptcy judges, going so far as to Photoshop documents to “create the illusion” of standing “in tens of thousands of bankruptcy cases,” according to a federal class action.
Lead plaintiff Ernest Michael Bakenie claims that Chase’s “pattern and practice of playing ‘hide-and-seek’ with debtors, judges and other bankruptcy players” bore rich fruit: that Chase secured motions for relief of stay and proofs of claim in 95 percent of its cases.
“Through the use of fabricated assignments, endorsements and affidavits that purport to transfer deeds of trust, notes and the rights to all monies due under the terms of tens of thousands of non-negotiable promissory notes (the ‘MLNs’); Chase has demonstrated a pattern and practice of playing ‘hide-and-seek’ with debtors, judges and other bankruptcy players,” the complaint states.
“Chase intentionally conceals the identity of the true parties in interest entitled to enforce the tens of tens of thousands of residential non-negotiable promissory notes (the ‘MLNs’) for its own financial benefit, at the expense of the class and to the detriment of the integrity of the bankruptcy system.”
Bakenie says Chase used a network of attorneys to file more than 7,000 motions for relief from automatic stay in bankruptcy cases in the Central District of California, “wherein they falsely claim to be the party entitled to monies due under the terms of MLNs.”
Chase rewards attorneys based on how quickly they can secure the stays, and uses fabricated documents to establish chain of title on loans, according to the complaint.
“Rather than incur the cost of ‘proving up’ its own standing or the standing of its principal Mortgage Backed Security Trust, Chase systemically misrepresents Chase or a designated MBST to be a creditor in tens of thousands of bankruptcy cases by utilizing manufactured documents,” the complaint states.
Bakenie claims: “That said practice is utilized for all mortgage loans originated by Chase, and other loan originators, including insolvent Washington Mutual Bank, whose assets were purchased by Chase.
“That said manufactured documents are fabrications intended to create the illusion of a valid transfers MLNs and support the assertion of standing in tens of thousands of bankruptcy cases. …
“That the aforementioned fabricated evidence is ‘photo-shopped’ and is highly persuasive and authentic in appearance so as to ensure legal victory in the bankruptcy courts.
“That said manufactured evidence is systemically utilized to deceive bankruptcy players and increase the profits of Chase, its agents and its principals through massive cost savings and the imposition of attorney fees upon class borrowers.
“As a direct result of this practice, over 95 percent of Chase’s motions for relief of stay and proofs of claim are granted without objection.
“That the use of the fabricated evidence has a chilling effect on class debtors and their attorneys. Said business practices discourages bankruptcy players from offering objections or from questioning the validity of Chase’s false claims based on standing.”
Bakenie adds: “That said practice allows Chase to dump defaulted loans that were never properly securitized by WAMU and other originators acquired by Chase into private mortgage backed security trusts by creating the illusion of a valid transfer.
“Said practice shifts the liability of defaulted loans not properly securitized by WAMU, from Chase to private mortgage backed security trusts. The practice allows Chase to effectively mitigate the millions of dollars in liability of the WAMU acquisition, where WAMU failed to transfer MLNs of its portfolio before its demise. Said practice shifts losses from WAMU toMBST bond investors.
“That after a non-judicial foreclosure sale, class members remain indebted to the true beneficiary for the unsecured note but without credit for the loss of the collateral to Chase’s designated assignee.
“Most egregiously, the network attorneys utilize the inducing documents to obtain attorney fees awards from by the bankruptcy judges ranging from $600-$1,000 for each successful motion for relief of stay.”
Bakenie concludes that “degradation of the integrity of our bankruptcy court system cannot be justified in the name of Chase’s cost savings and unjust enrichment.”
Bakenie seeks class certification, disgorgement, compensatory, statutory and punitive damages for unfair and deceptive trade, and “an order vacating all bankruptcy orders, claims and awards granted based on Chase’s misrepresentation and deceptive business practices”.
He is represented by Joseph Arthur Roberts of Newport Beach.
Lona v. Citibank Docket
Cal.App. 6th Dist (H036140) 12/21/11TRUSTEE‘S SALES: The court reversed a summary judgment in favor of defendants in an action seeking to set aside a trustee’s sale on the basis that the loan was unconscionable. The court held that summary judgment was improper for two reasons:
1. The homeowner presented sufficient evidence of triable issues of material fact regarding unconscionability. Plaintiff asserted that the loan broker ignored his inability to repay the loan (monthly loan payments were four times his monthly income) and, as a person with limited English fluency, little education, and modest income, he did not understand many of the details of the transaction which was conducted entirely in English.
2. Plaintiff did not tender payment of the debt, which is normally a condition precedent to an action by the borrower to set aside the trustee’s sale, but defendants’ motion for summary judgment did not address the exceptions to this rule that defendant relied upon.
The case contains a good discussion of four exceptions to the tender requirement: 1. If the borrower’s action attacks the validity of the underlying debt, a tender is not required since it would constitute an affirmation of the debt. 2. A tender will not be required when the person who seeks to set aside the trustee’s sale has a counter-claim or set-off against the beneficiary. 3. A tender may not be required where it would be inequitable to impose such a condition on the party challenging the sale. 4. No tender will be required when the trustor is not required to rely on equity to attack the deed because the trustee’s deed is void on its face.Pioneer Construction v. Global Investment Corp. Docket
Cal.App. 2nd Dist. (B225685) 12/21/11MECHANICS LIENS: The court held that:
1. A mechanics lien claimant who provided labor and materials prepetition to a debtor in bankruptcy can record a mechanics lien after the property owner files for bankruptcy without violating the automatic stay. (11 U.S.C. §362(b)(3).)
2. A mechanics lienor must, and defendant did, file a notice of lien in the debtor’s bankruptcy proceedings to inform the debtor and creditors of its intention to enforce the lien. (11 U.S.C. §546(b)(2).)
3. The 90-day period to file an action after recording a mechanics lien is tolled during the pendency of the property owner’s bankruptcy. Accordingly, an action to enforce the lien was timely when filed 79 days after a trustee’s sale by a lender who obtained relief from the automatic stay. (The property ceased to be property of the estate upon completion of the trustee’s sale.)Harbour Vista v. HSBC Mortgage Services Docket
Cal.App. 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G044357) 12/19/11QUIET TITLE: Code of Civil Procedure Section 764.010 states that “[t]he court shall not enter judgment by default. . .” The court held that, while default may be entered, Section 764.010 requires that before issuing a default judgment the trial court must hold an evidentiary hearing in open court, and that a defendant is entitled to participate in the hearing even when it has not yet answered the complaint and is in default. Normally, a defendant has no right to participate in the case after its default has been entered.Park v. First American Title Insurance Company Docket
Cal.App. 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G044118) 11/23/11 (Pub. Order 12/16/11)TRUSTEE’S SALES: A trustee’s sale was delayed due to defendant’s error in preparing the deed of trust. However, the court held that plaintiff could not establish damages because she could not prove that a potential buyer was ready, willing and able to purchase the property when the trustee’s sale was originally scheduled. Such proof would require showing that a prospective buyer made an offer, entered into a contract of sale, obtained a cashier’s check, or took any equivalent step that would have demonstrated she was ready, willing, and able to purchase plaintiff’s property. Also, plaintiff would need to show that the prospective buyer was financially able to purchase the property, such as by showing that the prospective buyer had obtained financing for the sale, preapproval for a loan or had sufficient funds to purchase the property with cash.Bardasian v. Superior Court Docket
Cal.App. 3rd Dist. (C068488) 12/15/11TRUSTEE’S SALES: Civil Code Section 2923.5 requires that before a notice of default can be filed, a lender must attempt to contact the borrower and explore options to prevent foreclosure. Where the trial court ruled on the merits that a lender failed to comply with Section 2923.5, it was proper to enjoin the sale pending compliance with that section, but it was not proper to require plaintiff to post a bond and make rent payments. Also, discussions in connection with a loan modification three years previously did not constitute compliance with the code section.Lang v. Roche Docket
Cal.App. 2nd Dist. (B222885) 11/29/11SHERIFF’S SALES: Plaintiff sought to set aside a Sheriff’s sale arising from the execution on a judgment rendered in another action. Defendant had obtained that judgment by default after service by publication even though plaintiff was defendant’s next door neighbor and could easily be found. The court set the sale aside, holding that even though C.C.P. 701.780 provides that an execution sale is absolute and cannot be set aside, that statute does not eliminate plaintiff’s right of equitable redemption where the judgment is void due to lack of personal jurisdiction.Promenade at Playa Vista HOA v. Western Pacific Housing Docket
Cal.App. 2nd Dist. (B225086) 11/8/11CC&R’S: In a construction defect action brought by a condominium homeowners association, the court held that a developer cannot compel binding arbitration of the litigation pursuant to an arbitration provision in the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions. CC&R’s are not a contract between the developer and the homeowners association. Instead, the provisions in the CC&R’s are equitable servitudes and can be enforced only by the homeowners association or the owner of a condominium, not by a developer who has sold all the units.Alpha and Omega Development v. Whillock Contracting Docket
Cal.App. 4th Dist., Div. 1 (D058445) 11/2/11LIS PENDENS: This is a slander of title and malicious prosecution action brought after defendant’s unsuccessful action to foreclose a mechanics lien. Plaintiff’s slander of title allegation is based on defendant’s recordation of a lis pendens in the prior mechanics lien action. The appellate court upheld the trial court’s granting of defendant’s anti-SLAPP motion and striking the slander of title cause of action, because recording a lis pendens is privileged under Civil Code Section 47(b)(4).Biancalana v. T.D. Service Company Docket Sup.Ct. Docket
Cal.App. 6th Dist. (H035400) 10/31/11 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. filed 12/9/11TRUSTEE’S SALES: Inadequacy of the sale price is not a sufficient ground for setting aside a trustee’s sale of real property in the absence of any procedural errors. The unpaid balance of the loan secured by the subject deed of trust was $219,105. The trustee erroneously told the auctioneer to credit bid the delinquency amount ($21,894.17). Plaintiff was the successful bidder with a bid of $21,896. The court refused to set aside the sale because there were no procedural errors and the mistake was within the discretion and control of the trustee, who was acting as agent for the lender. The court distinguished Millennium Rock Mortgage, Inc. v. T.D. Service Co. because here the mistake was made by defendant in the course and scope of its duty as the beneficiary’s agent, not by the auctioneer as in Millennium Rock.
The case also contains a discussion of the rule that once the trustee’s deed has been delivered, a rebuttable presumption arises that the foreclosure sale has been conducted regularly and properly. But where the deed has not been transferred, the sale may be challenged on the grounds of procedural irregularity.First Bank v. East West Bank Docket
Cal.App. 2nd Dist. (B226061) 10/17/11 Case complete 12/19/11RECORDING: Where two deeds of trust secured by the same real property were simultaneously time-stamped for recording by the County Recorder’s Office but were indexed at different times, the lenders have equal priority. The recording laws protect subsequent purchasers and neither bank was a subsequent purchaser. The court acknowledged that a subsequent purchaser (or lender) who records his interest before the prior interest is indexed has priority, but this rule does not apply when both deeds of trust were recorded simultaneously.Dollinger DeAnza Assoc. v. Chicago Title Insurance CompanyDocket Sup.Ct. Docket
Cal.App. 6th Dist. (H035576) 9/9/11 (Pub. Order 10/6/11 Request for depublication filed 11/4/11TITLE INSURANCE: Plaintiff’s title insurance policy, which was issued in 2004, insured property that originally consisted of seven parcels, but which had been merged into a single parcel pursuant to a Notice of Merger recorded by the City of Cupertino in 1984. The policy did not except the Notice of Merger from coverage. Plaintiff filed this action after Chicago Title denied its claim for damages alleged to result from the inability to sell one of the parcels separately. The court ruled in favor of Chicago, holding:
1. While the notice of merger may impact Plaintiff’s ability to market the separate parcel, it has no affect on Plaintiff’s title to that parcel, so it does not constitute a defect in title. It does not represent a third person’s claim to an interest in the property.
2. Chicago is not barred by principals of waiver or estoppel from denying plaintiff’s claim, after initially accepting the claim, because 1) waiver only applies to insurers that do not reserve rights when accepting a tender of defense and 2) plaintiff failed to show detrimental reliance, which is one of the elements of estoppel.
3. Plaintiff’s claim for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing cannot be maintained where benefits are not due under plaintiff’s insurance policy.
4. Since the court held that the Notice of Merger was not a defect in title, it did not need to consider Chicago’s contention that the Notice of Merger was void because the County Recorder indexed it under the name of the City, rather than the name of the property owner. [Ed. note: This case must have dealt with an ALTA 1992 policy. The ALTA 2006 policy made changes to the Covered Risks.]Sukut Construction v. Rimrock CA Docket Sup.Ct. Docket
Cal.App. 4th Dist., Div. 1 (D057774) 9/30/11 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 12/14/11MECHANICS LIENS: Plaintiff could not establish a mining lien under Civil Code Section 3060 for removing rocks from a quarry because a quarry is not a mine and the rocks were not minerals. The court did not address whether plaintiff could establish a regular mechanics lien because it held that plaintiff was judicially estopped from asserting that position after leading defendant to believe that it was asserting only a mining claim.UNPUBLISHED: First American Title Insurance Company v. Ordin Docket
Cal.App. 2nd Dist. (B226671) 9/14/11 Case complete 11/17/11TITLE INSURANCE: An arbitrator found that defendants did not lose coverage under their title policy when they conveyed title to their wholly owned corporation, then to themselves as trustees of their family trust and finally to a wholly owned limited liability company. This conflicts with the holding in Kwok v. Transnation Title Insurance Company and this could have been an interesting case, except that whether the ruling was right or wrong was not before the court. The court held only that the arbitrator’s award could not be overturned, even if the the law was applied incorrectly, because there was no misconduct by the arbitrator.Calvo v. HSBC Bank Docket Sup.Ct. Docket
199 Cal.App.4th 118 – 2nd Dist. (B226494) 9/13/11 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. filed 10/25/11TRUSTEE’S SALES: Notice of the assignment of a deed of trust appeared only in the substitution of trustee, which was recorded on the same date as the notice of trustee’s sale, and which stated that MERS, as nominee for the assignee lender, was the present beneficiary. Plaintiff sought to set aside the trustee’s sale for an alleged violation of Civil Code section 2932.5, which requires the assignee of a mortgagee to record an assignment before exercising a power to sell real property. The court held that the lender did not violate section 2932.5 because that statute does not apply when the power of sale is conferred in a deed of trust rather than a mortgage.Robinson v. Countrywide Home Loans Docket
199 Cal.App.4th 42 – 4th Dist., Div. 2 (E052011) 9/12/11 Case complete 11/15/11TRUSTEE’S SALES: The trial court properly sustained defendant lender’s demurrer without leave to amend because 1) the statutory scheme does not provide for a preemptive suit challenging MERS authority to initiate a foreclosure and 2) even if such a statutory claim were cognizable, the complaint did not allege facts sufficient to challenge the trustee’s authority to initiate a foreclosure.Hacienda Ranch Homes v. Superior Court (Elissagaray) Docket
198 Cal.App.4th 1122 – 3rd Dist. (C065978) 8/30/11 Case complete 11/1/11ADVERSE POSSESSION: Plaintiffs (real parties in interest) acquired a 24.5% interest in the subject property at a tax sale. The court rejected plaintiffs’ claim of adverse possession under both 1) “color of title” because the tax deed by which they acquired their interest clearly conveyed only a 24.5% interest instead of a 100% interest, and 2) “claim of right” because plaintiffs’ claims of posting for-sale signs and clearing weeds 2 or 3 times a year did not satisfy the requirement of protecting the property with a substantial enclosure or cultivating or improving the property, as required by Code of Civil Procedure Section 325. The court also pointed out that obtaining adverse possession against cotenants requires evidence much stronger than that which would be required against a stranger, and plaintiffs failed to establish such evidence in this case.Gramercy Investment Trust v. Lakemont Homes Nevada, Inc. Docket
198 Cal.App.4th 903 – 4th Dist., Div. 2 (E051384) 8/24/11 Case complete 10/27/11ANTIDEFICIENCY: After a judicial foreclosure, the lender obtained a deficiency judgment against a guarantor. The court held that the choice of law provision designating the law of New York was unenforceable because there were insufficient contacts with New York. California is where the contract was executed, the debt was created and guaranteed, the default occurred and the real property is located. Also, Nevada law does not apply, even though the guarantor was a Nevada corporation, because Nevada had no connection with the transaction. The court also held that the guarantor was not entitled to the protection of California’s antideficiency statutes because the guaranty specifically waived rights under those statutes in accordance with Civil Code Section 2856.Hill v. San Jose Family Housing PartnersDocket
198 Cal.App.4th 764 – 6th Dist. (H034931) 8/23/11 Case complete 10/25/11EASEMENTS: Plaintiff, who had entered into an easement agreement with defendant’s predecessor to maintain a billboard on a portion of defendant’s property, filed an action to prevent defendant from constructing a multi-unit building that would allegedly block the view of the billboard. Defendant asserted that the easement was unenforceable because it violated city and county building codes. The court held:
1. The easement was enforceable because the property’s use for advertising purposes is not illegal in and of itself. Although the instrumentality of that use, i.e., the billboard, may be illegal, that is not a bar to the enforcement of the agreement.
2. The easement agreement did not specifically state that it included the right to view the billboard from the street, but the parties necessarily intended the easement to include that right since viewing the billboard by passing traffic is the purpose of the easement.
3. Nevertheless, the trial court improperly denied a motion for a retrial to re-determine damages based on new evidence that the city had instituted administrative proceedings to have the billboard removed. The award of damages was based on plaintiff’s expected revenue from the billboard until 2037, and such damages will be overstated if the city forces plaintiff to remove the billboard.Fontenot v. Wells Fargo Bank Docket Sup.Ct. Docket
198 Cal.App.4th 256 – 1st Dist. (A130478) 8/11/11 Depublication request DENIED 11/30/11FORECLOSURE / MERS: Plaintiff alleged a foreclosure was unlawful because MERS made an invalid assignment of an interest in the promissory note and because the lender had breached an agreement to forbear from foreclosure. The appellate court held that the trial court properly sustained a demurrer to the fourth amended complaint without leave to amend. The court held that MERS had a right to assign the note even though it was not the beneficiary of the deed of trust because in assigning the note it was acting on behalf of the beneficiary and not on its own behalf. Additionally, Plaintiff failed to allege that the note was not otherwise assigned by an unrecorded document. The court also held that plaintiff failed to properly allege that the lender breached a forbearance agreement because plaintiff did not attach to the complaint a copy of a letter (which the court held was part of the forbearance agreement) that purportedly modified the agreement. Normally, a copy of an agreement does not have to be attached to a complaint, but here the trial court granted a previous demurrer with leave to amend specifically on condition plaintiff attach a copy of the entire forbearance agreement to the amended pleading.Boschma v. Home Loan Center Docket
198 Cal.App.4th 230 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G043716) 8/10/11 Case complete 10/11/11LOAN DISCLOSURE: Borrowers stated a cause of action that survived a demurrer where they alleged fraud and a violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law (B&PC 17200, et seq.) based on disclosures indicating that borrowers’ Option ARM loan may result in negative amortization when, in fact, making the scheduled payments would definitely result in negative amortization. However, the court also pointed out that at trial in order to prove damages plaintiffs will have to present evidence that, because of the structure of the loans, they suffered actual damages beyond their loss of equity. For every dollar by which the loan balances increased, plaintiffs kept a dollar to save or spend as they pleased, so they will not be able to prove damages if their “only injury is the psychological revelation . . . that they were not receiving a free lunch from defendant”.Thorstrom v. Thorstrom Docket
196 Cal.App.4th 1406 – 1st Dist. (A127888) 6/29/11 Case complete 8/30/11EASEMENTS: Plaintiffs were not able to preclude defendants’ use of a well on plaintiffs’ property. The historic use of the well by the common owner (the mother of the current owners) indicated an intent for the well to serve both properties, and an implied easement was created in favor of defendants when the mother died and left one parcel to each of her two sons. However, the evidence did not establish that defendants were entitled to exclusive use of the well, so both properties are entitled to reasonable use of the well consistent with the volume of water available at any given time.Herrera v. Deutsche Bank Docket
196 Cal.App.4th 1366 – 3rd Dist. (C065630) 5/31/11 (Cert. for pub. 6/28/11) Case complete 8/30/11TRUSTEE’S SALES: Plaintiffs sought to set aside a trustee’s sale, claiming that the Bank had not established that it was the assignee of the note, and that the trustee (“CRC”) had not established that it was properly substituted as trustee. To establish that the Bank was the beneficiary and CRC was the trustee, defendants requested that the trial court take judicial notice of the recorded Assignment of Deed of Trust and Substitution of Trustee, and filed a declaration by an employee of CRC referring to the recordation of the assignment and substitution, and stating that they “indicated” that the Bank was the assignee and CRC was the trustee. The trial court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment and the appellate court reversed. The Court acknowledged that California law does not require the original promissory note in order to foreclose. But while a court may take judicial notice of a recorded document, that does not mean it may take judicial notice of factual matters stated therein, so the recorded documents do not prove the truth of their contents. Accordingly, the Bank did not present direct evidence that it held the note.
Ed. notes: 1. It seems that the Bank could have avoided this result if it had its own employee make a declaration directly stating that the Bank is the holder of the note and deed of trust, 2. In the unpublished portion of the opinion, the Court held that if the Bank is successful in asserting its claim to the Property, there is no recognizable legal theory that would require the Bank to pay plaintiffs monies they expended on the property for back taxes, insurance and deferred maintenance.Tashakori v. Lakis Docket Sup.Ct. Docket
196 Cal.App.4th 1003 – 2nd Dist. (B220875) 6/21/11 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 9/21/11EASEMENTS: The court granted plaintiffs an “equitable easement” for driveway purposes. Apparently, plaintiffs did not have grounds to establish a prescriptive easement. But a court can award an equitable easement where the court applies the “relative hardship” test and determines, as the court did here, that 1) the use is innocent, which means it was not willful or negligent, 2) the user will suffer irreparable harm if relief is not granted and 3) there is little harm to the underlying property owner.Conservatorship of Buchenau (Tornel v. Office of the Public Guardian) Docket
196 Cal.App.4th 1031 – 2nd Dist. (B222941) 5/31/11 (Pub. order 6/21/11) Case complete 8/24/11CONTRACTS: A purchaser of real property was held liable for damages for refusing to complete the purchase contract, even though the seller deposited the deed into escrow 19 days after the date set for close of escrow. The escrow instructions did not include a “time is of the essence” clause, so a reasonable time is allowed for performance. The purchaser presented no evidence that seller’s delay of 19 days was unreasonable following a two-month escrow. Diamond Heights Village Assn. v. Financial Freedom Senior Funding Corp. Docket Sup.Ct. Docket
196 Cal.App.4th 290 – 1st Dist. (A126145) 6/7/11 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 9/21/11HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION LIENS:
1. A homeowner’s association recorded a notice of assessment lien, judicially foreclosed and obtained a judgment against the homeowners. However, it did not record an abstract of judgment, which would have created a judgment lien, nor did it record a writ of execution, which would have created an execution lien. The court held that a subsequently recorded deed of trust had priority because when an assessment lien is enforced through judicial action, the debt secured by the lien is merged into the judgment. The association’s previous rights were merged into the judgment, substituting in their place only such rights as attach to the judgment.
2. After defendant lender prevailed on summary judgment as to the single cause of action naming the lender, trial proceeded as to the owners of the property, including a cause of action for fraudulent conveyance of a 1/2 interest in the property pertaining to a transfer from the original owner to himself and his mother. The trial court ruled in favor of the Association on the fraudulent conveyance cause of action AND held that defendant lender’s deed of trust was set aside as to that 1/2 interest. The appellate court held that trial of those remaining claims was proper, including trial of the Association’s cause of action against the homeowners for fraudulent conveyance of their condominium unit. It was not proper, however, to void the lender’s security interest in the property (in whole or part) when the lender had not been joined as a party to the fraudulent conveyance cause of action, and final judgment had already been entered in its favor.Hamilton v. Greenwich Investors XXVIModification Docket
195 Cal.App.4th 1602 – 2nd Dist. (B224896) 6/1/11 Case complete 8/17/11TRUSTEE’S SALES:
1. Plaintiff/borrower’s failure to disclose, in earlier bankruptcy proceedings, the existence of his breach of contract and fraud claims against the lender bars the borrower from litigating those claims now. The court distinguished several cases that permitted a debtor in bankruptcy from subsequently pursuing a cause of action that was not disclosed in the bankruptcy pleadings on the basis that in those cases the defendant was not a creditor in the bankruptcy and because the schedules specifically asked the debtor to disclose any offsets against the debts that were listed. This action against the lender amounts to an offset against the loan, so by listing the loan and failing to list this claim, the borrower’s bankruptcy schedules were inaccurate.
2. The borrower’s causes of action for breach of contract and fraud fail in any event because the borrower did not allege the essential fact of payment of sums due from the borrower (i.e. performance by the borrower) or set forth an excuse for performance.
3. The borrower cannot state a cause of action for violations of Civil Code Section 2923.5, which requires lenders to contact borrowers to explore options to avoid foreclosure, because the only remedy for such violations is postponement of the foreclosure sale, and borrower’s house has been sold.***DECERTIFIED*** Ferguson v. Avelo MortgageModification Docket Sup.Ct. Docket
Cal.App. 2nd Dist. (B223447) 6/1/11 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED & DECERTIFIED 9/14/11FORECLOSURE / MERS:
1. A Notice of Default was defective because it was signed by a trustee before recordation of the substitution of trustee substituting it in place of the original trustee. But the Notice of Sale was properly given because it recorded at the same time as the substitution and included the statutorily required affidavit attesting to the mailing of a copy of the substitution to all persons to whom an NOD must be mailed. Since the NOS was valid, the court held that the sale was merely voidable and not void. Therefore, unlike a void sale (such as where a substitution of trustee is not recorded until after the trustee’s sale is completed), where the sale is merely voidable the plaintiff must tender full payment of the debt in order to bring an action setting aside the sale. The plaintiff did not make such a tender, so the trial court properly refused to set aside the sale.
2. Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS), as nominee of the original lender had the authority to assign the note and deed of trust to defendant, even if MERS does not possess the original note.Creative Ventures, LLC v. Jim Ward & Associates Docket Sup.Ct. Docket
195 Cal.App.4th 1430 – 6th Dist. (H034883) 5/31/11 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 8/10/11USURY:
1. The real estate broker arranged loan exception to the Usury Law does not apply were a corporation was not licensed as a broker, even though the officer who negotiated the loan was licensed, where the officer was acting on behalf of the corporation and not on his own behalf.
2. The payee of the note assigned the note to multiple investors. In order to take free of the borrower’s defenses against the original payee, the assignees would have had to be holders in due course. They were not holders in due course because a) the original payee did not endorse the note and transfer possession of the note to the assignees, both of which are requirements for holder in due course status, and b) each investor was assigned a partial interest and partial assignees cannot be holders in due course.
3. The individual investors did not receive usurious interest because the interest rate itself was not usurious. But since the overall interest was usurious when the payee’s brokerage fee was included, the investors must refund the illegal interest each received.
4. The fact that the investors did not intend to violate the Usury Law is irrelevant because the only intent required is the intent to receive payment of interest.
5. An award of treble damages is within the discretion of the trial court, and the trial court properly exercised its discretion not to award treble damages because the conduct of defendants was not intentional.Ribeiro v. County of El Dorado Docket Sup.Ct. Docket
195 Cal.App.4th 354 – 3rd Dist. (C065505) 5/10/111 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 8/24/11TAX SALES: “Caveat emptor” applies to tax sales. Accordingly, plaintiff/tax sale purchaser could not rescind the tax sale and obtain his deposit back where he was unaware of the amount of 1915 Act bond arrearages and where the County did not mislead him.The Main Street Plaza v. Cartwright & Main, LLC Docket
194 Cal.App.4th 1044 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G043569) 4/27/11 Case complete 6/27/11EASEMENTS: Plaintiff sought to establish a prescriptive easement for parking and access. The trial court granted a motion for summary judgment against plaintiff because it had not paid taxes on the easement. The appellate court reversed because, while payment of property taxes is an element of a cause of action for adverse possession, payment of taxes is not necessary for an easement by prescription, unless the easement has been separately assessed. A railway easement over the same area was separately assessed, but that is irrelevant because the railway easement and the prescriptive easement were not coextensive in use.Liberty National Enterprises v. Chicago Title Insurance Company Docket
194 Cal.App.4th 839 – 2nd Dist. (B222455) 4/6/11 (pub. order 4/26/11) Case complete 6/28/11NOTE: This case is not summarized because it deals with disqualification of a party’s attorney, and not with issues related to title insurance. It is included here only to point out that fact.Barry v. OC Residential Properties Docket Sup.Ct. Docket
194 Cal.App.4th 861 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G043073) 4/26/11 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 7/13/11TRUSTEE’S SALES: Under C.C.P. 729.035 a trustee’s sale to enforce a homeowners association lien is subject to a right of redemption for 90 days after the sale, and under C.C.P. 729.060 the redemption price includes reasonable amounts paid for maintenance, upkeep and repair. Defendant purchased plaintiff’s interest in a common interest development at a foreclosure sale of a homeowners association lien. Plaintiff sought to redeem the property and defendant included certain repair costs in the redemption amount. Plaintiff asserted that the costs were not for reasonable maintenance, upkeep and repair. The court held that the costs were properly included because the person seeking to redeem has the burden of proof, and plaintiff failed to carry that burden in this case. Plaintiff also asserted that she should not have to pay the repair costs because the work was performed by an unlicensed contractor. The court held that the cost of the repair work was properly included because plaintiff would receive a windfall if she did not have to reimburse those costs and because this is not an action in which a contractor is seeking compensation.McMackin v. Ehrheart Docket
194 Cal.App.4th 128 – 2nd Dist. (B224723) 4/8/11 Case complete 6/9/11CONTRACTS / PROBATE: This case involves a “Marvin” agreement, which is an express or implied contract between nonmarital partners. Plaintiff sought to enforce an alleged oral agreement with a decedent to leave plaintiff a life estate in real property. The court held that since the agreement was for distribution from an estate, it is governed by C.C.P. Section 366.3, which requires the action to be commenced within one year after the date of death. But the court further concluded that, depending on the circumstances of each case, the doctrine of equitable estoppel may be applied to preclude a party from asserting the statute of limitations set forth in section 366.3 as a defense to an untimely action where the party’s wrongdoing has induced another to forbear filing suit.Ferwerda v. Bordon Docket
193 Cal. App. 4th 1178 – 3rd Dist. (C062389) 3/25/11 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 6/8/11CC&R’s
In the published portion of the opinion, the court held:
1. The following language in the CC&R’s gave the Homeowners Association the authority to adopt new design standards pertaining to development of lots in the subdivision: “in the event of a conflict between the standards required by [the Planning] Committee and those contained herein, the standards of said Committee shall govern”; and
2. The Planning Committee could not adopt a rule that allowed for attorney’s fees to be awarded to the prevailing party in a lawsuit because such a provision was not contained in the CC&R’s. Adopting the rule was an attempt by the committee to insert a new provision that binds homeowners without their approval.
In the unpublished portion of the opinion, the court held that the Planning Committee acted properly in denying the plaintiff’s building plans. (The details are not summarized here because that part of the opinion is not certified for publication.)Capon v. Monopoly Game LLC Docket
193 Cal. App. 4th 344 – 1st Dist. (A124964) 3/4/11 Case complete 5/5/11HOME EQUITY SALES CONTRACT ACT: In the published portion of the opinion, the court held that plaintiff was entitled to damages under the Home Equity Sales Contract Act because the purchaser was subject to the Act and the purchase contract did not comply with it. There is an exception in the Act for a purchaser who intends to live in the property. The principal member of the LLC purchase asserted that he intended to live in the property, but the court held the exception does not apply because the purchaser was the LLC rather than the member, so his intent was irrelevant.Gomes v. Countrywide Home Loans Docket Cal. Sup.Ct. Docket U.S. Supreme Ct. Docket
192 Cal. App. 4th 1149 – 4th Dist., Div. 1 (D057005) 2/18/11 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 5/18/11, Petition for a writ of certiorari DENIED 10/11/11FORECLOSURE / MERS: A borrower brought an action to restrain a foreclosure of a deed of trust held by MERS as nominee for the original lender. A Notice of Default had been recorded by the trustee, which identified itself as an agent for MERS. The court held that 1) There is no legal basis to bring an action in order to determine whether the person electing to sell the property is duly authorized to do so by the lender, unless the plaintiff can specify a specific factual basis for alleging that the foreclosure was not initiated by the correct party; and 2) MERS has a right to foreclose because the deed of trust specifically provided that MERS as nominee has the right to foreclose.Schuman v. Ignatin Docket
191 Cal. App. 4th 255 – 2nd Dist. (B215059) 12/23/10 Case complete 2/23/11CC&R’s: The applicable CC&R’s would have expired, but an amendment was recorded extending them. Plaintiff filed this action alleging that defendant’s proposed house violated the CC&R’s. The trial court held that the amendment was invalid because it was not signed by all of the lot owners in the subdivision. Since the CC&R’s had expired, it did not determine whether the proposed construction would have violated them. The appellate court reversed and remanded, holding that the defect in the amendment rendered it voidable, not void, and it could no longer be challenged because the four-year statute of limitations contained in C.C.P. 343 had run.Schelb v. Stein Docket
190 Cal. App. 4th 1440 – 2nd Dist. (B213929) 12/17/10 Case complete 2/16/11MARKETABLE RECORD TITLE ACT: In a previous divorce action, in order to equalize a division of community property, the husband was ordered to give the wife a note secured by a deed of trust on property awarded to the husband. In this case (many years later), the court held that under the Marketable Record Title Act, the deed of trust had expired. (Civil Code Section 882.020.) However, under Family Code Section 291, the underlying family law judgment does not expire until paid, so it is enforceable as an unsecured judgment.Vuki v. Superior Court Docket
189 Cal. App. 4th 791 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G043544) 10/29/10 Case complete 1/3/11TRUSTEE’S SALES: Unlike section 2923.5 as construed by this court in Mabry v. Superior Court (2010) 185 Cal.App.4th 208, neither Section 2923.52 or Section 2923.53 provides any private right of action, even a very limited one as this court found in Mabry. Civil Code section 2923.52 imposes a 90-day delay in the normal foreclosure process. But Civil Code section 2923.53 allows for an exemption to that delay if lenders have loan modification programs that meet certain criteria. The only enforcement mechanism is that a violation is deemed to be a violation of lenders license laws. Section 2923.54 provides that a violation of Sections 2923.52 or 2923.53 does not invalidate a trustee’s sale, and plaintiff also argued that a lender is not entitled to a bona fide purchaser protection. The court rejected that argument because any noncompliance is entirely a regulatory matter, and cannot be remedied in a private action.Abers v. RounsavellMod Opinion Docket
189 Cal. App. 4th 348 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G040486) 10/18/10 Case complete 12/20/10LEASES: Leases of residential condominium units required a re-calculation of rent after 30 years based on a percentage of the appraised value of the “leased land”. The term “leased land” was defined to consist of the condominium unit and an undivided interest in the common area of Parcel 1, and did not include the recreational area (Parcel 2), which was leased to the Homeowners Association. The Court held that the language of the leases was clear. The appraisals were to be based only on the value of the lessees’ interest in Parcel 1 and not on the value of the recreational parcel.UNPUBLISHED: Residential Mortgage Capital v. Chicago Title Ins. Company Docket
Cal.App. 1st Dist. (A125695) 9/20/10 Case complete 11/23/10ESCROW: An escrow holder released loan documents to a mortgage broker at the broker’s request in order to have the borrowers sign the documents at home. They were improperly backdated and the broker failed to provide duplicate copies of the notice of right to rescind. Due these discrepancies, the lender complied with the borrower’s demand for a rescission of the loan, and filed this action against the escrow holder for amounts reimbursed to the borrower for finance charges and attorney’s fees. The Court held that the escrow holder did not breach a duty to the lender because it properly followed the escrow instructions, and it is common for escrow to release documents to persons associated with the transaction in order for them to be signed elsewhere.Starr v. Starr Docket
189 Cal. App. 4th 277 – 2nd Dist. (B219539) 9/30/10 Case complete 12/16/10COMMUNITY PROPERTY: In a divorce action the Court ordered the husband to convey title to himself and his former wife. Title had been taken in the husband’s name and the wife executed a quitclaim deed. But Family Code Section 721 creates a presumption that a transaction that benefits one spouse was the result of undue influence. The husband failed to overcome this presumption where the evidence showed that the wife executed the deed in reliance on the husband’s representation that he would subsequently add her to title. The husband was, nevertheless, entitled to reimbursement for his separate property contribution in purchasing the property.Malkoskie v. Option One Mortgage Corp. Docket
188 Cal. App. 4th 968 – 2nd Dist. (B221470) 9/23/10 Case complete 11/23/10TRUSTEE’S SALES: After plaintiff stipulated to a judgment in an unlawful detainer action, she could not challenge the validity of the trustee’s sale in a subsequent action because the subsequent action is barred by collateral estoppel. Because the action was barred, the court did not reach the question of the validity of the trustee’s sale based on the substitution of trustee being recorded after trustee’s sale proceedings had commenced and based on assignments of the deed of trust into the foreclosing beneficiary being recorded after the trustee’s deed.Lee v. Fidelity National Title Ins. Co. Docket Sup.Ct. Docket
188 Cal. App. 4th 583 – 1st Dist. (A124730) 9/16/10 Petition for review and depublication by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 12/1/10TITLE INSURANCE:
1. The insureds could have reasonably expected that they were buying a title insurance policy on APN 22, and not just APN 9, where both the preliminary report and policy included a reference to APN 22, listed exclusions from coverage that were specific to APN 22, and attached an assessor’s parcel map with an arrow pointing to both APN 9 and 22.
2. A preliminary report is merely an offer to issue a title policy, but an insured has the right to expect that the policy will be consistent with the terms of the offer.
3. There was a triable issue of fact as to whether a neighbor’s construction of improvements on APN 22 was sufficient to commence the running of the statute of limitations, where the insureds testified that they did not know the precise location of APN 22 and assumed that the neighbors constructed the improvements on their own property.
4. There was a triable issue of fact as to whether Fidelity National Title Insurance Company acted as escrow holder or whether the escrow was conducted by its affiliate, Fidelity National Title Company (only the insurance company was named as a defendant).Chicago Title Insurance Company v. AMZ Insurance Services Docket Sup.Ct. Docket
188 Cal. App. 4th 401 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G041188) 9/9/10 Petition for review and depublication by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 12/15/10ESCROW: A document entitled “Evidence of Property Insurance” (“EOI”) constitutes a binder under Insurance Code Section 382.5(a). In this case an EOI was effective to obligate the insurer to issue a homeowner’s policy even though the escrow failed to send the premium check. In order to cancel the EOI the insured has to be given notice pursuant to Insurance Code Section 481.1, which the insurer did not do. The escrow holder paid the insured’s loss and obtained an assignment of rights. The court held that the escrow holder did not act as a volunteer in paying the amount of the loss, and is entitled to be reimbursed by the insurance company under the doctrine of equitable subrogation.Vanderkous v. Conley Docket
188 Cal. App. 4th 111 – 1st Dist (A125352) 9/2/10 Case complete 11/3/10QUIET TITLE: 1) In a quiet title action the court has equitable powers to award compensation as necessary to do complete justice, even though neither party’s pleadings specifically requested compensation. 2) Realizing that the court was going to require plaintiff to compensate defendant in exchange for quieting title in plaintiff’s favor, plaintiff dismissed the lawsuit. However, the dismissal was invalid because it was filed following trial after the case had been submitted to the court.Purdum v. Holmes Docket
187 Cal. App. 4th 916 – 2nd Dist. (B216493) 7/29/10 Case complete 10/22/10NOTARIES: A notary was sued for notarizing a forged deed. He admitted that he knew the grantor had not signed the deed, but the lawsuit was filed more than six years after the deed was signed and notarized. The court held that the action was barred by the six-year limitation period in C.C.P. 338(f)(3) even though plaintiff did not discover the wrongful conduct until well within the six year period.Perlas v. GMAC Mortgage Docket
187 Cal. App. 4th 429 – 1st Dist. (A125212) 8/11/10 Case complete 10/10/10DEEDS OF TRUST: Borrowers filed an action against a lender to set aside a deed of trust, setting forth numerous causes of action. Borrowers’ loan application (apparently prepared by a loan broker) falsely inflated the borrowers’ income. In the published portion of the opinion. The court held in favor of the lender, explaining that a lender is not in a fiduciary relationship with borrowers and owes them no duty of care in approving their loan. A lender’s determination that the borrowers qualified for the loan is not a representation that they could afford the loan. One interesting issue in the unpublished portion of the opinion was the court’s rejection of the borrowers’ argument that naming MERS as nominee invalidated the deed of trust because, as borrower argued, the deed of trust was a contract with MERS and the note was a separate contract with the lender.Soifer v. Chicago Title CompanyModification Docket Sup.Ct. Docket
187 Cal. App. 4th 365 – 2nd Dist. (B217956) 8/10/10 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 10/27/10TITLE INSURANCE: A person cannot recover for errors in a title company’s informal communications regarding the condition of title to property in the absence of a policy of title insurance or the purchase of an abstract of title. There are two ways in which an interested party can obtain title information upon which reliance may be placed: an abstract of title or a policy of title insurance. Having purchased neither, plaintiff cannot recover for title company’s incorrect statement that a deed of trust in foreclosure was a first lien.In re: Hastie (Weinkauf v. Florez) Docket Sup.Ct. Docket
186 Cal. App. 4th 1285 – 1st Dist. (A127069) 7/22/10 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. filed late and DENIED 9/21/10DEEDS: An administrator of decedent’s estate sought to set aside two deeds on the basis that the grantees were the grandson and granddaughter of decedent’s caregiver. Defendant did not dispute that the transfers violated Probate Code Section 21350, which prohibits conveyances to a fiduciary, including a caregiver, or the fiduciary’s relatives, unless specified conditions are met. Instead, defendant asserted only that the 3-year statute of limitations had expired. The court held that the action was timely because there was no evidence indicating that the heirs had or should have had knowledge of the transfer, which would have commenced the running of the statute of limitations.Bank of America v. Stonehaven Manor, LLC Docket Sup.Ct. Docket
186 Cal. App. 4th 719 – 3rd Dist. (C060089) 7/12/10 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 10/20/10ATTACHMENT: The property of a guarantor of a debt–a debt which is secured by the real property of the principal debtor and also that of a joint and several co-guarantor–is subject to attachment where the guarantor has contractually waived the benefit of that security (i.e. waived the benefit of Civil Code Section 2849).Jackson v. County of Amador Docket
186 Cal. App. 4th 514 – 3rd Dist. (C060845) 7/7/10 Depublication request DENIED 9/15/10RECORDING LAW: An owner of two rental houses sued the county recorder for recording a durable power of attorney and two quitclaim deeds that were fraudulently executed by the owner’s brother. The superior court sustained the recorder’s demurrer without leave to amend. The court of appeal affirmed, holding that the legal insufficiency of the power of attorney did not provide a basis for the recorder to refuse to record the power of attorney under Government Code Section 27201(a) and the recorder did not owe the owner a duty to determine whether the instruments were fraudulently executed because the instruments were notarized.Luna v. Brownell Docket
185 Cal. App. 4th 668 – 2nd Dist. (B212757) 6/11/10 Case complete 8/17/10DEEDS: A deed transferring property to the trustee of a trust is not void as between the grantor and grantee merely because the trust had not been created at the time the deed was executed, if (1) the deed was executed in anticipation of the creation of the trust and (2) the trust is in fact created thereafter. The deed was deemed legally delivered when the Trust was established.Mabry v. Superior Court Docket Sup.Ct. Docket
185 Cal. App. 4th 208 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G042911) 6/2/10 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 8/18/10TRUSTEE’S SALES: The court answered, and provided thorough explanations for, a laundry list of questions regarding Civil Code Section 2923.5, which requires a lender to explore options for modifying a loan with a borrower prior to commencing foreclosure proceedings.
1. May section 2923.5 be enforced by a private right of action? Yes.
2. Must a borrower tender the full amount of the mortgage indebtedness due as a prerequisite to bringing an action under section 2923.5? No.
3. Is section 2923.5 preempted by federal law? No.
4. What is the extent of a private right of action under section 2923.5? It is limited to obtaining a postponement of a foreclosure to permit the lender to comply with section 2923.5.
5. Must the declaration required of the lender by section 2923.5, subdivision (b) be under penalty of perjury? No.
6. Does a declaration in a notice of default that tracks the language of section 2923.5(b) comply with the statute, even though such language does not on its face delineate precisely which one of three categories applies to the particular case at hand? Yes.
7. If a lender forecloses without complying with section 2923.5, does that noncompliance affect the title acquired by a third party purchaser at the foreclosure sale? No.
8. Did the lender comply with section 2923.5? Remanded to the trial court to determine which of the two sides is telling the truth.
9. Can section 2923.5 be enforced in a class action in this case? Not under these facts, which are highly fact-specific.
10. Does section 2923.5 require a lender to rewrite or modify the loan? No.612 South LLC v. Laconic Limited Partnership Docket
184 Cal. App. 4th 1270 – Cal.App. 4th Dist., Div. 1 (D056646) 5/25/10 Case complete 7/26/10ASSESSMENT BOND FORECLOSURE:
1. Recordation of a Notice of Assessment under the Improvement Act of 1911 imparted constructive notice even though the notice did not name the owner of the subject property and was not indexed under the owner’s name. There is no statutory requirement that the notice of assessment be indexed under the name of the property owner.
2. A Preliminary Report also gave constructive notice where it stated: “The lien of special tax for the following municipal improvement bond, which tax is collected with the county taxes. . .”
3. A property owner is not liable for a deficiency judgment after a bond foreclosure because a property owner does not have personal liability for either delinquent amounts due on the bond or for attorney fees incurred in prosecuting the action.Tarlesson v. Broadway Foreclosure InvestmentsDocket
184 Cal. App. 4th 931 – 1st Dist. (A125445) 5/17/10 Case complete 7/20/10HOMESTEADS: A judgment debtor is entitled to a homestead exemption where she continuously resided in property, even though at one point she conveyed title to her cousin in order to obtain financing and the cousin subsequently conveyed title back to the debtor. The amount of the exemption was $150,000 (later statutorily changed to $175,000) based on debtor’s declaration that she was over 55 years old and earned less than $15,000 per year, because there was no conflicting evidence in the record.UNPUBLISHED: MBK Celamonte v. Lawyers Title Insurance Corporation Docket Sup.Ct. Docket
Cal.App. 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G041605) 4/28/10 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 7/21/10TITLE INSURANCE / ENCUMBRANCES: A recorded authorization for a Mello Roos Assessment constitutes an “encumbrance” covered by a title policy, even where actual assessments are conditioned on the future development of the property.Plaza Home Mortgage v. North American Title Company Docket Sup.Ct. Docket
184 Cal. App. 4th 130 – 4th Dist., Div. 1 (D054685) 4/27/10 Depublication request DENIED 8/11/10ESCROW / LOAN FRAUD: The buyer obtained 100% financing and managed to walk away with cash ($54,000) at close of escrow. (Actually, the buyer’s attorney-in-fact received the money.) The lender sued the title company that acted as escrow holder, asserting that it should have notified the lender when it received the instruction to send the payment to the buyer’s attorney-in-fact after escrow had closed. The court reversed a grant of a motion for summary judgment in favor of the escrow, pointing out that its decision is narrow, and holding only that the trial court erred when it determined the escrow did not breach the closing instructions contract merely because escrow had closed. The case was remanded in order to determine whether the escrow breached the closing instructions contract and if so, whether that breach proximately caused the lender’s damages.Garcia v. World Savings Docket Sup.Ct. Docket
183 Cal. App. 4th 1031 – 2nd (B214822) 4/9/10 Petition for review and depublication by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 6/23/10TRUSTEE’S SALES: A lender told plaintiffs/owners that it would postpone a trustee’s sale by a week to give plaintiffs time to obtain another loan secured by other property in order to bring the subject loan current. Plaintiffs obtained a loan the following week, but the lender had conducted the trustee’s sale on the scheduled date and the property was sold to a third party bidder. Plaintiffs dismissed causes of action pertaining to setting aside the sale and pursued causes of action for breach of contract, wrongful foreclosure and promissory estoppel. The court held that there was no consideration that would support the breach of contract claim because plaintiffs promised nothing more than was due under the original agreement. Plaintiffs also could not prove a cause of action for wrongful foreclosure because that cause of action requires that the borrower tender funds to pay off the loan prior to the trustee’s sale. However, plaintiffs could recover based on promissory estoppel because procuring a high cost, high interest loan by using other property as security is sufficient to constitute detrimental reliance.LEG Investments v. Boxler Docket
183 Cal. App. 4th 484 – 3rd Dist. (C058743) 4/1/10 Certified for Partial Publication Case complete 6/2/10PARTITION: A right of first refusal in a tenancy in common agreement does not absolutely waive the right of partition. Instead, the right of first refusal merely modifies the right of partition to require the selling cotenant to first offer to sell to the nonselling cotenant before seeking partition. [Ed. note: I expect that the result would have been different if the right of partition had been specifically waived in the tenancy in common agreement.]Steiner v. Thexton Docket
48 Cal. 4th 411 – Cal. Supreme Court (S164928) 3/18/10OPTIONS: A contract to sell real property where the buyer’s performance was entirely conditioned on the buyer obtaining regulatory approval to subdivide the property is an option. Although plaintiffs’ promise was initially illusory because no consideration was given at the outset, plaintiffs’ part performance of their bargained-for promise to seek a parcel split cured the initially illusory nature of the promise and thereby constituted sufficient consideration to render the option irrevocable.Grotenhuis v. County of Santa Barbara Docket
182 Cal. App. 4th 1158 – 2nd Dist. (B212264) 3/15/10 Case complete 5/18/10PROPERTY TAXES: Subject to certain conditions, a homeowner over the age of 55 may sell a principle residence, purchase a replacement dwelling of equal or lesser value in the same county, and transfer the property tax basis of the principal residence to the replacement dwelling. The court held that this favorable tax treatment is not available where title to both properties was held by an individual’s wholly owned corporation. The court rejected plaintiffs’ argument that the corporation was their alter ego because that concept is used to pierce the corporate veil of an opponent, and not to enable a person “to weave in and out of corporate status when it suits the business objective of the day.”Clear Lake Riviera Community Assn. v. Cramer Docket
182 Cal.App. 4th 459 – 1st Dist. (A122205) 2/26/10 Case complete 4/29/10HOMEOWNER’S ASSOCIATIONS: Defendant homeowners were ordered to bring their newly built house into compliance with the homeowners association’s guidelines where the house exceed the guidelines’ height restriction by nine feet. Even though the cost to the defendants will be great, they built the house with knowledge of the restriction and their hardship will not be grossly disproportionate to the loss the neighbors would suffer if the violation were not abated, caused by loss in property values and loss of enjoyment of their properties caused by blocked views. The height restriction was contained in the associations guidelines and not in the CC&R’s, and the association did not have records proving the official adoption of the guidelines. Nevertheless, the court held that proper adoption was inferred from the circumstantial evidence of long enforcement of the guidelines by the association.Forsgren Associates v. Pacific Golf Community Development Docket Sup. Ct. Docket
182 Cal.App. 4th 135 – 4th Dist., Div. 2 (E045940) 2/23/10 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 6/17/10MECHANIC’S LIENS: 1. Owners of land are subject to mechanic’s liens where they were aware of the work being done by the lien claimant and where they failed to record a notice of non-responsibility.
2. Civil Code Section 3128 provides that a mechanic’s lien attaches to land on which the improvement is situated “together with a convenient space about the same or so much as may be required for the convenient use and occupation thereof”. Accordingly, defendant’s land adjacent to a golf course on which the lien claimant performed work is subject to a mechanic’s lien, but only as to the limited portions where a tee box was located and where an irrigation system was installed.
3. The fact that adjacent property incidentally benefits from being adjacent to a golf course does not support extending a mechanic’s lien to that property.
4. The owners of the adjacent property were liable for interest, but only as to their proportionate share of the amount of the entire mechanic’s lien.Steinhart v. County of Los Angeles Docket
47 Cal.4th 1298 – Cal. Supreme Court (S158007) 2/4/10PROPERTY TAXES: A “change in ownership”, requiring a property tax reassessment, occurs upon the death of a trust settlor who transferred property to a revocable trust, and which became irrevocable upon the settlor’s death. The fact that one trust beneficiary was entitled to live in the property for her life, and the remaining beneficiaries received the property upon her death, did not alter the fact that a change in ownership of the entire title had occurred.Kuish v. Smith Docket
181 Cal.App.4th 1419 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G040743) 2/3/10 Case complete 4/12/10CONTRACTS: 1. Defendants’ retention of a $600,000 deposit designated as “non-refundable” constituted an invalid forfeiture because a) the contract did not contain a valid liquidated damages clause, and b) plaintiff re-sold the property for a higher price, so there were no out-of-pocket damages. 2. The deposit did not constitute additional consideration for extending the escrow because it was labeled “non-refundable” in the original contract.Kendall v. Walker (Modification attached)Docket
181 Cal.App.4th 584 – 1st Dist. (A105981) 12/30/09 Case complete 3/29/10WATER RIGHTS: An owner of land adjoining a navigable waterway has rights in the foreshore adjacent to his property separate from that of the general public. The court held that the boundary in the waterway between adjacent parcels of land is not fixed by extending the boundary lines into the water in the direction of the last course ending at the shore line. Instead, it is fixed by a line drawn into the water perpendicular to the shore line. Accordingly, the court enjoined defendants from allowing their houseboat from being moored in a manner that crossed onto plaintiffs’ side of that perpendicular boundary line.Junkin v. Golden West Foreclosure Service Docket
180 Cal.App.4th 1150 – 1st Dist. (A124374) 1/5/10 Case complete 3/12/10USURY: The joint venture exception to the Usury Law, which has been developed by case law, provides that where the relationship between the parties is a bona fide joint venture or partnership, an advance by a joint venturer is an investment and not a loan, making the Usury Law inapplicable. The court applied the exception to a loan by one partner to the other because instead of looking at the loan in isolation, it looked at the entire transaction which it determined to be a joint venture. The case contains a good discussion of the various factors that should be weighed in determining whether the transaction is a bona fide joint venture. The presence or absence of any one factor is not, alone, determinative. The factors include whether or not: 1) there is an absolute obligation of repayment, 2) the investor may suffer a loss, 3) the investor has a right to participate in management, 4) the subject property was purchased from a third party and 5) the parties considered themselves to be partners.Banc of America Leasing & Capital v. 3 Arch Trustee Services Docket
180 Cal.App.4th 1090 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G041480) 12/11/09 Case complete 3/8/10TRUSTEE’S SALES: A judgment lien creditor is not entitled to receive a notice of default, notice of trustee’s sale or notice of surplus sale proceeds unless the creditor records a statutory request for notice. The trustee is required to disburse surplus proceeds only to persons who have provided the trustee with a proof of claim. The burden rests with the judgment creditor to keep a careful watch over the debtor, make requests for notice of default and sales, and to submit claims in the event of surplus sale proceeds.Park 100 Investment Group v. Ryan Docket
180 Cal.App.4th 795 – 2nd Dist. (B208189) 12/23/09 Case complete 2/26/10LIS PENDENS: 1. A lis pendens may be filed against a dominant tenement when the litigation involves an easement dispute. Although title to the dominant tenement would not be directly affected if an easement right was shown to exist, the owner’s right to possession clearly is affected
2.A recorded lis pendens is a privileged publication only if it identifies an action previously filed with a court of competent jurisdiction which affects the title or right of possession of real property. If the complaint does not allege a real property claim, or the alleged claim lacks evidentiary merit, the lis pendens, in addition to being subject to expungement, is not privileged.Millennium Rock Mortgage v. T.D. Service CompanyModification Docket
179 Cal.App.4th 804 – 3rd Dist. (C059875) 11/24/09 Case complete 1/26/10TRUSTEE’S SALES: A trustee’s sale auctioneer erroneously read from a script for a different foreclosure, although the correct street address was used. The auctioneer opened the bidding with the credit bid from the other foreclosure that was substantially less than the correct credit bid. The errors were discovered after the close of bidding but prior to the issuance of a trustee’s deed. The court held that the errors constituted an “irregularity” sufficient to give the trustee the right to rescind the sale.
The court distinguished 6 Angels v. Stuart-Wright Mortgage, in which the court held that a beneficiary’s negligent miscalculation of the amount of its credit bid was not sufficient to rescind the sale. In 6 Angelsthe error was totally extrinsic to the proper conduct of the sale itself. Here there was inherent inconsistency in the auctioneer’s description of the property being offered for sale, creating a fatal ambiguity in determining which property was being auctioned.Fidelity National Title Insurance Company v. Schroeder Docket
179 Cal.App.4th 834 – 5th Dist. (F056339) 11/24/09 Case complete 1/25/10JUDGMENTS: A judgment debtor transferred his 1/2 interest in real property to the other cotenant prior to the judgment creditor recording an abstract of judgment. The court held that if the trial court on remand finds that the transfer was intended to shield the debtor’s property from creditors, then the transferee holds the debtor’s 1/2 interest as a resulting trust for the benefit of the debtor, and the creditor’s judgment lien will attach to that interest. The court also held that the transfer cannot be set aside under the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act because no recoverable value remained in the real property after deducting existing encumbrances and Gordon’s homestead exemption.
The case contains a good explanation of the difference between a resulting (“intention enforcing”) and constructive (“fraud-rectifying”) trust. A resulting trust carries out the inferred intent of the parties; a constructive trust defeats or prevents the wrongful act of one of them.Zhang v. Superior Court Docket Sup.Ct. Docket
Cal.App. 4th Dist., Div. 2 (E047207) 10/29/09 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. GRANTED 2/10/10INSURANCE / BAD FAITH: Fraudulent conduct by an insurer does not give rise to a private right of action under the Unfair Insurance Practices Act (Insurance Code section 790.03 et seq.), but it can give rise to a private cause of action under the Unfair Competition Law (Business and Professions Code section 17200 et seq.).Presta v. Tepper Docket
179 Cal.App.4th 909 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G040427) 10/28/09 Case complete 1/25/10TRUSTS: An ordinary express trust is not an entity separate from its trustee, like a corporation is. Instead, a trust is merely a relationship by which one person or entity holds property for the benefit of some other person or entity. Consequently, where two men entered into partnership agreements as trustees of their trusts, the provision of the partnership agreement, which required that upon the death of a partner the partnership shall purchase his interest in the partnership, was triggered by the death of one of the two men.Wells Fargo Bank v. NeilsenModificationDocket Sup.Ct. Docket
178 Cal.App.4th 602 – 1st Dist. (A122626) 10/22/09 (Mod. filed 11/10/09) Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 2/10/10CIRCUITY OF PRIORITY: The Court follows the rule in Bratcher v. Buckner, even though Bratcher involved a judgment lien and two deeds of trust and this case involves three deeds of trust. The situation is that A, B & C have liens on the subject property, and A then subordinates his lien to C’s lien. The problem with this is that C appears to be senior to A, which is senior to B, which is senior to C, so that each lien is senior and junior to one of the other liens.
The Court held that the lien holders have the following priority: (1) C is paid up to the amount of A’s lien, (2) if the amount of A’s lien exceeds C’s lien, A is paid the amount of his lien, less the amount paid so far to C, (3) B is then paid in full, (4) C is then paid any balance still owing to C, (5) A is then paid any balance still owing to A.
This is entirely fair because A loses priority as to the amount of C’s lien, which conforms to the intent of the subordination agreement. B remains in the same position he would be in without the subordination agreement since his lien remains junior only to the amount of A’s lien. C steps into A’s shoes only up to the amount of A’s lien.
NOTE: The odd thing about circuity of priority cases is that they result in surplus proceeds after a foreclosure sale being paid to senior lienholders. Normally, only junior lienholders and the foreclosed out owner are entitled to share in surplus proceeds, and the purchaser takes title subject to the senior liens.Schmidli v. Pearce Docket
178 Cal.App.4th 305 – 3rd Dist. (C058270) 10/13/09 Case complete 12/15/09MARKETABLE RECORD TITLE ACT: This case was decided under the pre-2007 version of Civil Code Section 882.020, which provided that a deed of trust expires after 10 years if the maturity date is “ascertainable from the record”. The court held that this provision was not triggered by a Notice of Default, which set forth the maturity date and which was recorded prior to expiration of the 10-year period. NOTE: In 2007, C.C. Section 882.020 was amended to make it clear that the 10-year period applies only where the maturity date is shown in the deed of trust itself.Nielsen v. Gibson Docket
178 Cal.App.4th 318 – 3rd Dist. (C059291) 10/13/09 Case complete 12/15/09ADVERSE POSSESSION: 1. The “open and notorious” element of adverse possession was satisfied where plaintiff possessed the subject property by actual possession under such circumstances as to constitute reasonable notice to the owner. Defendant was charged with constructive knowledge of plaintiff’s possession, even though defendant was out of the country the entire time and did not have actual knowledge.
2. The 5-year adverse possession period is tolled under C.C.P. Section 328 for up to 20 years if the defendant is “under the age of majority or insane”. In the unpublishedportion of the opinion the court held that although the defendant had been ruled incompetent by a court in Ireland, there was insufficient evidence that defendant’s condition met the legal definition of “insane”.Ricketts v. McCormackDocket Sup.Ct. Docket
177 Cal.App.4th 1324 – 2nd Dist. (B210123) 9/27/09 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 12/17/09RECORDING LAW: Civil Code Section 2941(c) provides in part, “Within two business days from the day of receipt, if received in recordable form together with all required fees, the county recorder shall stamp and record the full reconveyance or certificate of discharge.” In this class action lawsuit against the County recorder, the court held that indexing is a distinct function, separate from recording a document, and is not part of section 2941(c)’s stamp-and-record requirement.
The court distinguished indexing, stamping and recording: Stamping: The “stamping” requirement of Section 2941(c) is satisfied when the Recorder endorses on a reconveyance the order of receipt, the day and time of receipt and the amount of fees paid. Recording: The reconveyance is “recorded” once the Recorder has confirmed the document meets all recording requirements, created an entry for the document in the “Enterprise Recording Archive” system, calculated the required fees and confirmed payment of the correct amount and, finally, generated a lead sheet containing, among other things, a bar code, a permanent recording number and the words “Recorded/Filed in Official Records.” Indexing: Government Code Section 27324 requires all instruments “presented for recordation” to “have a title or titles indicating the kind or kinds of documents contained therein,” and the recorder is “required to index only that title or titles captioned on the first page of a document.Starlight Ridge South Homeowner’s Assn. v. Hunter-BloorDocket
177 Cal.App.4th 440 – 4th Dist., Div. 2 (E046457) 8/14/09 (Pub. Order 9/3/09) Case complete 10/19/09CC&R’s: Under Code Civ. Proc. Section 1859, where two provisions appear to cover the same matter, and are inconsistent, the more specific provision controls over the general provision. Here the provision of CC&R’s requiring each homeowner to maintain a drainage ditch where it crossed the homeowners’ properties was a specific provision that controlled over a general provision requiring the homeowner’s association to maintain landscape maintenance areas.First American Title Insurance Co. v. XWarehouse Lending Corp.Docket
177 Cal.App.4th 106 – 1st Dist. (A119931) 8/28/09 Case complete 10/30/09TITLE INSURANCE: A loan policy provides that “the owner of the indebtedness secured by the insured mortgage” becomes an insured under the loan policy. Normally, this means that an assignee becomes an insured. However, where the insured lender failed to disburse loan proceeds for the benefit of the named borrower, an indebtedness never existed, and the warehouse lender/assignee who disbursed money to the lender did not become an insured. The court pointed out that the policy insures against defects in the mortgage itself, but not against problems related to the underlying debt.
NOTE: In Footnote 8 the court distinguishes cases upholding the right of a named insured or its assignee to recover from a title insurer for a loss due to a forged note or forged mortgage because in those cases, and unlike this case, moneys had been actually disbursed or credited to the named borrower by either the lender or its assignee.Wells Fargo v. D & M CabinetsDocket
177 Cal.App.4th 59 – 3rd Dist. (C058486) 8/28/09 Case complete 10/28/09JUDGMENTS: A judgment creditor, seeking to sell an occupied dwelling to collect on a money judgment, may not bypass the stringent requirements of C.C.P. Section 704.740 et seq. when the sale is conducted by a receiver appointed under C.C.P Section 708.620. The judgment creditor must comply with Section 704.740, regardless of whether the property is to be sold by a sheriff or a receiver.Sequoia Park Associates v. County of SonomaDocketSup.Ct. Docket
176 Cal.App.4th 1270 – 1st Dist. (A120049) 8/21/09 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 12/2/09PREEMPTION: A County ordinance professing to implement the state mobilehome conversion statutes was preempted for the following reasons: (1) Gov. Code Section 66427.5 expressly preempts the power of local authorities to inject other factors when considering an application to convert an existing mobilehome park from a rental to a resident-owner basis, (2) the ordinance is impliedly preempted because the Legislature has established a dominant role for the state in regulating mobilehomes, and has indicated its intent to forestall local intrusion into the particular terrain of mobilehome conversions and (3) the County’s ordinance duplicates several features of state law, a redundancy that is an established litmus test for preemption.Citizens for Planning Responsibly v. County of San Luis ObispoDocketSup.Ct. Docket
176 Cal.App.4th 357 – 2nd Dist (B206957) 8/4/09 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 10/14/09PREEMPTION: The court held that the State Aeronautics Act, which regulates the development and expansion of airports, did not preempt an initiative measure adopted by the voters because none of the following three factors necessary to establish preemption was present: (1) The Legislature may so completely occupy the field in a matter of statewide concern that all, or conflicting, local legislation is precluded, (2) the Legislature may delegate exclusive authority to a city council or board of supervisors to exercise a particular power over matters of statewide concern, or (3) the exercise of the initiative power would impermissibly interfere with an essential governmental function.Delgado v. Interinsurance Exchange of the Auto Club of So. Cal.Docket
47 Cal.4th 302 – Cal. Supreme Court (S155129) 8/3/09INSURANCE / BAD FAITH: The case is not as relevant to title insurance as the lower court case, which held that an insurance company acted in bad faith as a matter of law where a potential for coverage was apparent from the face of the complaint. The Supreme Court reversed, basing its decision on the meaning of “accident” in a homeowner’s policy, and holding that an insured’s unreasonable belief in the need for self-defense does not turn the resulting intentional act of assault and battery into “an accident” within the policy’s coverage clause. Therefore, the insurance company had no duty to defend its insured in the lawsuit brought against him by the injured party.1538 Cahuenga Partners v. Turmeko PropertiesDocket
176 Cal.App.4th 139 – 2nd Dist. (B209548) 7/31/09 Case complete 10/7/09RECONVEYANCE: [This is actually a civil procedure case that it not of much interest to title insurance business, but it is included here because the underlying action sought to cancel a reconveyance.] The court ordered that a reconveyance of a deed of trust be cancelled pursuant to a settlement agreement. The main holding was that a trial court may enforce a settlement agreement against a party to the settlement that has interest in the subject matter of the action even if the party is not named in the action, where the non-party appears in court and consents to the settlement.Lee v. LeeDocket
175 Cal.App.4th 1553 – 5th Dist. (F056107) 7/29/09 Case complete 9/28/09DEEDS / STATUTE OF FRAUDS:
1. The Statute of Frauds does not apply to an executed contract, and a deed that is executed by the grantor and delivered to the grantee is an executed contract. The court rejected defendants’ argument that the deed did not reflect the terms of sale under a verbal agreement.
2. While the alteration of an undelivered deed renders the conveyance void, the alteration of a deed after it has been delivered to the grantee does not invalidate the instrument as to the grantee. The deed is void only as to the individuals who were added as grantees after delivery.White v. CridlebaughDocket
178 Cal.App.4th 506 – 5th Dist. (F053843) 7/29/09 (Mod. 10/20/09) Case complete 12/21/09MECHANIC’S LIENS: Under Business and Professions Code Section 7031, a property owner may recover all compensation paid to an unlicensed contractor, in addition to not being liable for unpaid amounts. Furthermore, this recovery may not be offset or reduced by the unlicensed contractor’s claim for materials or other services.Linthicum v. ButterfieldDocketSup.Ct. Docket
175 Cal.App.4th 259 – 2nd Dist. (B199645) 6/24/09 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 9/9/09NOTE: This is a new opinion following a rehearing. The only significant changes from the original opinion filed 4/2/09 (modified 4/8/09) involve the issue of a C.C.P. 998 offer, which is not a significant title insurance or escrow issue.
EASEMENTS: The court quieted title to an easement for access based on the doctrine of “balancing conveniences ” or “relative hardship”. Prohibiting the continued use of the roadway would cause catastrophic loss to the defendants and insignificant loss to the plaintiffs. However, the court remanded the case for the trial court to determine the width of the easement, which should be the minimal width necessary. The court reversed the judgment insofar as it awarded a utility easement to the defendants because they did not seek to quiet title to an easement for utilities, even though they denied the material allegations of that cause of action.United Rentals Northwest v. United Lumber ProductsDocket
174 Cal.App.4th 1479 – 5th Dist. (F055855) 6/18/09 Case complete 8/18/09MECHANIC’S LIENS: Under Civil Code Section 3106, a “work of improvement” includes the demolition and/or removal of buildings. The court held that lumber drying kilns are “buildings” so the contractor who dismantled and removed them was entitled to a mechanic’s lien.People v. ShettyDocketSup.Ct. Docket
174 Cal.App.4th 1488 – 2nd Dist. (B205061) 6/18/09 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 9/30/09HOME EQUITY SALES CONTRACT ACT: This case is not significant from a title insurance standpoint, but it is interesting because it is an example of a successful prosecution under the Home Equity Sales Contract Act (Civil Code Section 1695 et seq.).Strauss v. HortonModification Docket
46 Cal.4th 364 – Cal. Supreme Court (S168047) 5/26/09SAME SEX MARRIAGE: The California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, which amended the California State Constitution to provide that: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Proposition 8 thereby overrode portions of the ruling of In re Marriage Cases, which allowed same-sex marriages. But the Court upheld the marriages that were performed in the brief time same-sex marriage was legal between June 17, 2008 (In re Marriage Cases) through November 5, 2008 (Proposition 8).In re Marriage of LundDocket
174 Cal.App.4th 40 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G040863) 5/21/09 Case complete 7/27/09COMMUNITY PROPERTY: An agreement accomplished a transmutation of separate property to community property even though it stated that the transfer was “for estate planning purposes”. A transmutation either occurs for all purposes or it doesn’t occur at all.St. Marie v. Riverside County Regional Park, etc.Docket
46 Cal.4th 282 – Cal. Supreme Court (S159319) 5/14/09OPEN SPACE DEDICATION: Property granted to a Regional Park District is not “actually dedicated” under Public Resources Code Section 5540 for open space purposes until the district’s Board of Directors adopts a resolution dedicating the property for park or open space purposes. Therefore, until the Board of Directors adopts such a resolution, the property may be sold by the District without voter or legislative approval.Manhattan Loft v. Mercury LiquorsDocketSup.Ct. Docket
173 Cal.App.4th 1040 – 2nd Dist. (B211070) 5/6/09 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 8/12/09LIS PENDENS: An arbitration proceeding is not an “action” that supports the recordation of a notice of pendency of action. The proper procedure is for a party to an arbitration agreement to file an action in court to support the recording of a lis pendens, and simultaneously file an application to stay the litigation pending arbitration.Murphy v. BurchDocket
46 Cal.4th 157 – Cal. Supreme Court (S159489) 4/27/09EASEMENT BY NECESSITY: This case contains a good discussion of the law of easements by necessity, which the court held did not apply in this case to provide access to plaintiff’s property. This means plaintiff’s property is completely landlocked because the parties had already stipulated that a prescriptive easement could not be established.
An easement by necessity arises by operation of law when 1) there is a strict necessity as when a property is landlocked and 2) the dominant and servient tenements were under the same ownership at the time of the conveyance giving rise to the necessity. The second requirement, while not categorically barred when the federal government is the common grantor, requires a high burden of proof to show 1) the intent of Congress to establish the easement under federal statutes authorizing the patent and 2) the government’s lack of power to condemn the easement. Normally, a reservation of an easement in favor of the government would not be necessary because the government can obtain the easement by condemnation.
The court pointed out that there is a distinction between an implied grant and implied reservation, and favorably quotes a treatise that observes: “an easement of necessity may be created against the government, but the government agency cannot establish an easement by necessity over land it has conveyed because its power of eminent domain removes the strict necessity required for the creation of an easement by necessity.”Abernathy Valley, Inc. v. County of SolanoDocket
173 Cal.App.4th 42 – 1st Dist. (A121817) 4/17/09 Case complete 6/22/09SUBDIVISION MAP ACT: This case contains a very good history of California’s Subdivision Map Act statutes. The court held that parcels shown on a 1909 map recorded pursuant to the 1907 subdivision map law are not entitled to recognition under the Subdivision Map Act’s grandfather clause (Government Code Section 66499.30) because the 1907 act did not regulate the “design and improvement of subdivisions”. The court also held that a local agency may deny an application for a certificate of compliance that seeks a determination that a particular subdivision lot complies with the Act, where the effect of issuing a certificate would be to effectively subdivide the property without complying with the Act.Linthicum v. ButterfieldModificationDocketSup.Ct. Docket
172 Cal.App.4th 1112 – 2nd Dist. (B199645) 4/2/09 SEE NEW OPINION FILED 6/24/09
EASEMENTS: The court quieted title to an easement for access based on the doctrine of “balancing conveniences ” or “relative hardship”. Prohibiting the continued use of the roadway would cause catastrophic loss to the defendants and insignificant loss to the plaintiffs. However, the court remanded the case for the trial court to determine the width of the easement, which should be the minimal width necessary. The court reversed the judgment insofar as it awarded a utility easement to the defendants because they did not seek to quiet title to an easement for utilities, even though they denied the material allegations of that cause of action.McAvoy v. HilbertDocket
172 Cal.App.4th 707 – 4th Dist., Div 1 (D052802) 3/24/09 Case complete 5/27/09ARBITRATION: C.C.P. Section 1298 requires that an arbitration provision in a real estate contract be accompanied by a statutory notice and that the parties indicate their assent by placing their initials on an adjacent space or line. The court held that a listing agreement that is part of a larger transaction for the sale of both a business and real estate is still subject to Section 1298, and refused to enforce an arbitration clause that did not comply with that statute.Peak-Las Positas Partners v. BollagModificationDocket
172 Cal.App.4th 101 – 2nd Dist. (B205091) 3/16/09 Case complete 5/27/09ESCROW: Amended escrow instructions provided for extending the escrow upon mutual consent which “shall not be unreasonably withheld or delayed”. The court held that substantial evidence supported the trial court’s determination that the seller’s refusal to extend escrow was unreasonable. The court pointed out the rule that equity abhors a forfeiture and that plaintiff had paid a non-refundable deposit of $465,000 and spent $5 million in project costs to obtain a lot line adjustment that was necessary in order for the property to be sold.Alfaro v. Community Housing Improvement System & Planning AssnModificationDocketSup.Ct. Docket
171 Cal.App.4th 1356 6th Dist. (H031127) 2/19/09 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 5/13/09CC&R’s: The court upheld the validity of recorded CC&R’s containing an affordable housing restriction that required property to remain affordable to buyers with low to moderate income. The court reached several conclusions:
1. Constructive notice of recorded CC&R’s is imparted even if they are not referenced in a subsequent deed,
2. CC&R’s may describe an entire tract, and do not need to describe individual lots in the tract,
3. An affordable housing restriction is a reasonable restraint on alienation even if it is of indefinite duration,
4. Defendants had a duty as sellers to disclose the existence of the CC&R’s. Such disclosure was made if plaintiffs were given, prior to close of escrow, preliminary reports that disclosed the CC&R’s.
5. The fact that a victim had constructive notice of a matter from public records is no defense to fraud. The existence of such public records may be relevant to whether the victim’s reliance was justifiable, but it is not, by itself, conclusive.
6. In the absence of a claim that defendants somehow prevented plaintiffs from reading the preliminary reports or deeds, or misled them about their contents, plaintiffs cannot blame defendants for their own neglect in reading the reports or deeds. Therefore, the date of discovery of alleged fraud for failing to disclose the affordable housing restriction would be the date plaintiffs received their preliminary reports or if they did not receive a preliminary report, the date they received their deeds.Kwok v. Transnation Title Insurance Company DocketSup.Ct. Docket
170 Cal.App.4th 1562 – 2nd Dist. (B207421) 2/10/09 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 4/29/09TITLE INSURANCE: Plaintiffs did not succeed as insureds “by operation of law” under the terms of the title insurance policy after transfer of the property from a wholly owned limited liability company, of which appellants were the only members, to appellants as trustees of a revocable family trust. This case highlights the importance of obtaining a 107.9 endorsement, which adds the grantee as an additional insured under the policy.Pro Value Properties v. Quality Loan Service Corp.Docket
170 Cal.App.4th 579 – 2nd Dist. (B204853) 1/23/09 Case complete 3/27/09TRUSTEE’S SALES: A Trustee’s Deed was void because the trustee failed to record a substitution of trustee. The purchaser at the sale was entitled to a return of the money paid plus interest. The interest rate is the prejudgment interest rate of seven percent set forth in Cal. Const., Art. XV, Section 1. A trustee’s obligations to a purchaser are based on statute and not on a contract. Therefore, Civil Code Section 3289 does not apply, since it only applies to a breach of a contract that does not stipulate an interest rate.Sixells v. Cannery Business ParkDocketSup.Ct. Docket
170 Cal.App.4th 648 – 3rd Dist. (C056267) 12/29/08 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 3/25/09CONTRACTS: The Subdivision Map Act (Gov. Code, Section 66410 et seq.) prohibits the sale of a parcel of real property until a final subdivision map or parcel map has been filed unless the contract to sell the property is “expressly conditioned” upon the approval and filing of a final map (66499.30(e)). Here, the contract satisfied neither requirement because it allowed the purchaser to complete the purchase if, at its election, the subject property was made into a legal parcel by recording a final map or if the purchaser “waived” the recording of a final map. Therefore the contract was void.Patel v. LiebermenschDocket 45 Cal.4th 344 – Cal. Supreme Court (S156797) 12/22/08SPECIFIC PERFORMANCE: The material factors required for a written contract are the seller, the buyer, the price to be paid, the time and manner of payment, and the property to be transferred, describing it so it may be identified. Here, specific performance of an option was granted even though it was not precise as to the time and manner of payment because where a contract for the sale of real property specifies no time of payment, a reasonable time is allowed. The manner of payment is also a term that may be supplied by implication.In re Marriage of Brooks and RobinsonDocketSup.Ct. Docket
169 Cal.App.4th 176 – 4th Dist., Div. 2 (E043770) 12/16/08 Request for review and depublication by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 3/25/09COMMUNITY PROPERTY: The act of taking title to property in the name of one spouse during marriage with the consent of the other spouse effectively removes that property from the general presumption that the property is community property. Instead, there is a presumption that the parties intended title to be held as stated in the deed. This presumption can only be overcome by clear and convincing evidence of a contrary agreement, and not solely by tracing the funds used to purchase the property or by testimony of an intention not disclosed at the time of the execution of the conveyance. Because the court found that there was no agreement to hold title other than as the separate property of the spouse who acquired title in her own name, it did not reach the issue of whether a purchaser from that spouse was a BFP or would be charged with knowledge of that the seller’s spouse had a community property interest in the property.The Formula, Inc. v. Superior CourtDocket
168 Cal.App.4th 1455 – 3rd Dist. (C058894) 12/10/09 Case complete 2/10/09LIS PENDENS: A notice of litigation filed in another state is not authorized for recording under California’s lis pendens statutes. An improperly filed notice of an action in another state is subject to expungement by a California court, but not under the authority of C.C.P. Section 405.30, and an order of expungement is given effect by being recorded in the chain of title to overcome the effect of the earlier filing.Ekstrom v. Marquesa at Monarch Beach HOADocketSup.Ct. Docket
168 Cal.App.4th 1111 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G038537) 12/1/08 Depublication request DENIED 3/11/09CC&R’s: A provision in CC&R’s requiring all trees on a lot to be trimmed so as to not exceed the roof of the house on the lot, unless the tree does not obstruct views from other lots, applies to palm trees even though topping a palm tree will kill it. All trees means “all trees”, so palm trees are not exempt from the requirement that offending trees be trimmed, topped, or removed.Spencer v. MarshallDocket
168 Cal.App.4th 783 – 1st Dist. (A119437) 11/24/08 Case complete 1/26/09HOME EQUITY SALES: The Home Equity Sales Contract Act applies even where the seller is in bankruptcy and even where the seller’s Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan allows the seller to sell or refinance the subject property without further order of the court.Kachlon v. MarkowitzDocket
168 Cal.App.4th 316 – 2nd Dist. (B182816) 11/17/08 Case complete 1/27/09TRUSTEE’S SALES:
1. The statutorily required mailing, publication, and delivery of notices in nonjudicial foreclosure, and the performance of statutory nonjudicial foreclosure procedures, are privileged communications under the qualified, common-interest privilege, which means that the privilege applies as long as there is no malice. The absolute privilege for communications made in a judicial proceeding (the “litigation privilege”) does not apply.
2. Actions seeking to enjoin nonjudicial foreclosure and clear title based on the provisions of a deed of trust are actions on a contract, so an award of attorney fees under Civil Code Section 1717 and provisions in the deed of trust is proper.
3. An owner is entitled to attorney fees against the trustee who conducted trustee’s sale proceedings where the trustee did not merely act as a neutral stakeholder but rather aligned itself with the lender by denying that the trustor was entitled to relief.Hines v. LukesDocket
167 Cal.App.4th 1174 – 2nd Dist. (B199971) 10/27/08 Case complete 12/31/08EASEMENTS: [Not significant from a title insurance standpoint]. The underlying dispute concerns an easement but the case involves only civil procedure issues pertaining to the enforcement of a settlement agreement.Satchmed Plaza Owners Association v. UWMC Hospital Corp.Docket
167 Cal.App.4th 1034 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G038119) 10/23/08 Case complete 12/23/08RIGHT OF FIRST REFUSAL: [Not significant from a title insurance standpoint]. The underlying dispute concerns a right of first refusal but the case involves only civil procedure issues pertaining to a party’s waiver of its right to appeal where it has accepted the benefits of the favorable portion of judgment.Gray v. McCormickDocketSup.Ct. Docket
167 Cal.App.4th 1019 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G039738) 10/23/08 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 1/14/09EASEMENTS: Exclusive easements are permitted under California law, but the use by the owner of the dominant tenement is limited to the purposes specified in the grant of easement, not all conceivable uses of the property.In re Estate of FelderDocket
167 Cal.App.4th 518 – 2nd Dist. (B205027) 10/9/08 Case complete 12/11/08CONTRACTS: [Not significant from a title insurance standpoint]. The case held that an estate had the right to retain the entire deposit upon a purchaser’s breach of a sales contract even though the estate had only a 1/2 interest in the subject property.Secrest v. Security National Mortgage Loan TrustOrder Modifying Opinion DocketSup.Ct. Docket
167 Cal.App.4th 544 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G039065) 10/9/08, Modified 11/3/08 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 12/17/08LOAN MODIFICATION: Because a note and deed of trust come within the statute of frauds, a Forbearance Agreement also comes within the statute of frauds pursuant to Civil Code section 1698. Making the downpayment required by the Forbearance Agreement was not sufficient part performance to estop Defendants from asserting the statute of frauds because payment of money alone is not enough as a matter of law to take an agreement out of the statute, and the Plaintiffs have legal means to recover the downpayment if they are entitled to its return. In addition to part performance, the party seeking to enforce the contract must have changed position in reliance on the oral contract to such an extent that application of the statute of frauds would result in an unjust or unconscionable loss, amounting in effect to a fraud.FDIC v. DintinoDocket
167 Cal.App.4th 333 – 4th Dist., Div. 1 (D051447) 9/9/08 (Pub. Order 10/2/08) Case complete 12/2/08TRUST DEEDS: A lender who mistakenly reconveyed a deed of trust could not sue under the note because it would violate the one action rule. However, the lender prevailed on its unjust enrichment cause of action. The applicable statute of limitations was the 3-year statute for actions based on fraud or mistake, and not the 4-year statute for actions based on contract. Nevertheless, the action was timely because the statute did not begin to run until the lender reasonably discovered its mistake, and not from the date of recordation of the reconveyance. Finally, the court awarded defendant attorney’s fees attributable to defending the contract cause of action because defendant prevailed on that particular cause of action even though he lost the lawsuit.California Coastal Commission v. AllenDocketSup.Ct. Docket
167 Cal.App.4th 322 – 2nd Dist. (B197974) 10/1/08 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 1/14/09HOMESTEADS:
1. The assignees of a judgment properly established their rights as assignees by filing with the clerk of the court an acknowledgement of assignment of judgment.
2. The subject property was not subject to a homestead exemption because the debtor transferred the property to a corporation of which he was the sole shareholder. The homestead exemption only applies to the interest of a natural person in a dwelling.
3. The debtor could not claim that he was only temporarily absent from a dwelling in order to establish it as his homestead where he leased it for two years. This is true even though the debtor retained the right to occupy a single car section of the garage and the attic.In re Marriage of HoltemannDocketSup.Ct. Docket
162 Cal.App.4th 1175 – 2nd Dist. (B203089) 9/15/08 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 12/10/08COMMUNITY PROPERTY: Transmutation of separate property to community property requires language which expressly states that the characterization or ownership of the property is being changed. Here, an effective transmutation occurred because the transmutation agreement clearly specified that a transmutation was occurring and was not negated by arguably confusing language in a trust regarding the parties’ rights to terminate the trust. The court also stated that it was not aware of any authority for the proposition that a transmutation can be conditional or temporary. However, while questioning whether a transmutation can be conditional or temporary, the court did not specifically make that holding because the language used by the parties was not conditional.Mission Shores Association v. PheilDocket
166 Cal.App.4th 789 – 4th Dist., Div. 2 (E043932) 9/5/08 Case complete 11/7/08CC&R’s: Civil Code Section 1356 allows a court to reduce a super-majority voting requirement to amend CC&R’s where the court finds that the amendment is reasonable. Here the court reduced the 2/3 majority requirement to a simple majority for an amendment to limit rentals of homes to 30 days or more.Zanelli v. McGrath Docket
166 Cal.App.4th 615 – 1st Dist. (A117111) 9/2/08 Case complete 11/4/08EASEMENTS:
1. The doctrine of merger codified in Civil Code Sections 805 and 811 applies when “the right to the servitude,” and “the right to the servient tenement” are not vested in a single individual, but in the same persons;
2. The doctrine of merger applies regardless of whether the owners held title as joint tenants or tenants in common. Also, the fact that one owner held his interest in one of the properties as trustee for his inter vivos revocable trust does not preclude merger because California law recognizes that when property is held in this type of trust the settlor has the equivalent of full ownership of the property. (If he had held title only in a representative capacity as a trustee for other beneficiaries under the terms of an irrevocable trust, then his ownership might not result in extinguishment by merger because he would only hold the legal title for the benefit of others.) The court cites Galdjie v. Darwish (2003) 113 Cal.App.4th 1331, stating that a revocable inter vivos trust is recognized as simply a probate avoidance device, but does not prevent creditors of the settlers from reaching trust property.
(3) After being extinguished by merger, an easement is not revived upon severance of the formerly dominant and servient parcels unless it is validly created once again.Ritter & Ritter v. The Churchill Condominium Assn. Docket
166 Cal.App.4th 103 – 2nd Dist. (B187840) 7/22/08 (pub. order 8/21/08) Case complete 10/21/08HOMEOWNERS’ ASSOCIATIONS: A member of a condominium homeowners’ association can recover damages from the association which result from a dangerous condition negligently maintained by the association in the common area. However, the court found in favor of the individual directors because a greater degree of fault is necessary to hold unpaid individual board members liable, and such greater degree of fault was not present here.Kempton v. City of Los AngelesDocketSup.Ct. Docket
165 Cal.App.4th 1344 – 2nd Dist. (B201128) 8/13/08 Request for Depublication by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 11/12/08NUISANCE: A private individual may bring an action against a municipality to abate a public nuisance when the individual suffers harm that is specially injurious to himself, or where the nuisance is a public nuisance per se, such as blocking a public sidewalk or road. The court held that plaintiff’s assertions that neighbors’ fences were erected upon city property, prevent access to plaintiff’s sidewalk area, and block the sightlines upon entering and exiting their garage were sufficient to support both a public nuisance per se and specific injury.Claudino v. PereiraDocketSup.Ct. Docket
165 Cal.App.4th 1282 – 3rd Dist. (C054808) 8/12/08 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 11/12//08SURVEYS: Determining the location of a boundary line shown on a plat recorded pursuant to the 1867 Townsite Acts requires an examination of both the plat and the surveyor’s field notes. Here, the plat showed the boundary as a straight line, but the court held that the boundary followed the center line of a gulch because the field notes stated that the boundary was “down said gulch”.Zack’s, Inc. v. City of SausalitoDocket
165 Cal.App.4th 1163 – 1st Dist. (A118244) 8/11/08 Case complete 10/14/08TIDELANDS / PUBLIC STREETS: A statute authorizing the City’s lease of tidelands does not supersede other state laws establishing procedures for the abandonment of public streets. Because the City failed to follow the normal procedure for abandonment of the portion of the street upon which it granted a lease, the leasehold was not authorized and can therefore be deemed a nuisance.Gehr v. Baker Hughes Oil Field OperationsDocketSup.Ct. Docket
165 Cal.App.4th 660 – 2nd Dist. (B201195) 7/30/08 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 10/16/08NUISANCE: Plaintiff purchased from Defendant real property that was contaminated, and Defendant had begun the remediation process. The 3-year statute of limitations for suing under a permanent nuisance theory had expired. So Plaintiff sued for nuisance damages under a continuing nuisance theory, seeking interest rate differential damages based on the difference in the interest rate between an existing loan and a loan that plaintiff could have obtained if not for the contamination.
The court held that plaintiff’s claim for interest rate differential damages is actually a claim for diminution in value, which may not be recovered under a continuing nuisance theory. Damages for diminution in value may only be recovered for permanent, not continuing, nuisances. When suing for a continuing nuisance, future or prospective damages are not allowed, such as damages for diminution in the value of the subject property. A nuisance can only be considered “continuing” if it can be abated, and therefore a plaintiff suing under this theory may only recover the costs of abating the nuisance.
If the nuisance has inflicted a permanent injury on the land, the plaintiff generally must bring a single lawsuit for all past, present, and future damages within three years of the creation of the nuisance. But if the nuisance is one which may be discontinued at any time, it is considered continuing in character and persons harmed by it may bring successive actions for damages until the nuisance is abated. Recovery is limited, however, to actual injury suffered prior to commencement of each action.Witt Home Ranch v. County of SonomaDocketSup.Ct. Docket
165 Cal.App.4th 543 – 1st Dist. (A118911) 7/29/08 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 5/28/08SUBDIVISION MAP ACT: This case contains a good history of California’s Subdivision Map Act statutes. The court held that the laws governing subdivision maps in 1915 did not regulate the “design and improvement of subdivisions,” as required by the grandfather clause of Government Code Section 66499.30. The subdivision map in this case was recorded in 1915 and no lots were subsequently conveyed, so the map does not create a valid subdivision.T.O. IX v. Superior CourtDocketSup.Ct. Docket
165 Cal.App.4th 140 – 2nd Dist. (B203794) 7/24/08 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 9/10/08MECHANIC’S LIENS: A mechanic’s lien claimant recorded a mechanic’s lien against each of the nine parcels in a project, each lien for the full amount due under the contract. The court held that defendant could record a single release bond under Civil Code Section 3143 to release all of the liens.Kassir v. Zahabi Docket
164 Cal.App.4th 1352 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G038449) 3/5/08 (Pub. Order 4/3/08, Received 7/16/08) Case complete 5/9/08SPECIFIC PERFORMANCE: The trial court ordered Defendant to specifically perform his contract to sell real property to Plaintiff, and further issued a judgment ordering Defendant to pay Plaintiff for rents accruing during the time Defendant was able to perform the agreement but refused to do so. The court held that because the property was overencumbered, Defendant would have received nothing under the agreement and no offset was required.
The court explained that because execution of the judgment in a specific performance action will occur later than the date of performance provided by the contract, financial adjustments must be made to relate their performance back to the contract date, namely: 1) when a buyer is deprived of possession of the property pending resolution of the dispute and the seller receives rents and profits, the buyer is entitled to a credit against the purchase price for the rents and profits from the time the property should have been conveyed to him, 2) a seller also must be treated as if he had performed in a timely fashion and is entitled to receive the value of his lost use of the purchase money during the period performance was delayed, 3) if any part of the purchase price has been set aside by the buyer with notice to the seller, the seller may not receive credit for his lost use of those funds and 4) any award to the seller representing the value of his lost use of the purchase money cannot exceed the rents and profits awarded to the buyer, for otherwise the breaching seller would profit from his wrong.Grant v. RatliffDocketSup.Ct. Docket
164 Cal.App.4th 1304 – 2nd Dist. (B194368) 7/16/08 Request for depublication by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 10/1/08PRESCRIPTIVE EASEMENTS: The plaintiff/owner of Parcel A sought to establish a prescriptive easement to a road over Parcel B. In order to establish the requisite 5-year period of open and notorious possession, the plaintiff needed to include the time that the son of the owner of Parcel B spent living in a mobile home on Parcel A. The court held that the son’s use of Parcel A was not adverse but was instead a matter of “family accommodation” and, therefore, a prescriptive easement was not established. The court also discussed: 1) a party seeking to establish a prescriptive easement has the burden of proof by clear and convincing evidence and 2) once the owner of the dominant tenement shows that use of an easement has been continuous over a long period of time, the burden shifts to the owner of the servient tenement to show that the use was permissive, but the servient tenement owner’s burden is a burden of producing evidence, and not a burden of proof.SBAM Partners v. WangDocket
164 Cal.App.4th 903 – 2nd Dist. (B204191) 7/9/08 Case complete 9/10/08HOMESTEADS: Under C.C.P. Section 704.710, a homestead exemption is not allowed on property acquired by the debtor after the judgment has been recorded unless it was purchased with exempt proceeds from the sale, damage or destruction of a homestead within the six-month safe harbor period.Christian v. FloraDocket
164 Cal.App.4th 539 – 3rd Dist. (C054523) 6/30/08 Case complete 9/2/08EASEMENTS: Where parcels in a subdivision are resubdivided by a subsequent parcel map, the new parcel map amends the provisions of any previously recorded parcel map made in compliance with the Map Act. Here, although the deeds to plaintiffs referred to the original parcel map, since the intent of the parties was that the easement shown on the amended parcel map would be conveyed, the grantees acquired title to the easement shown on the amended map.Lange v. SchillingDocket
163 Cal.App.4th 1412 – 3rd Dist. (C055471) 5/28/08; pub. order 6/16/08 Case Complete 8/18/08REAL ESTATE AGENTS: The clear language of the standard California real estate purchase agreement precludes an award of attorney’s fees if a party does not attempt mediation before commencing litigation. Because plaintiff filed his lawsuit before offering mediation, there was no basis to award attorney’s fees.Talbott v. HustwitDocketSup.Ct. Docket
164 Cal.App.4th 148 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G037424) 6/20/08 Petition for review and depublication DENIED by Cal Supreme Ct. 9/24/08GUARANTEES:
1. C.C.P. 580a, which requires an appraisal of the real property security before the court may issue a deficiency judgment, does not apply to an action against a guarantor.
2. A lender cannot recover under a guaranty where there the debtor and guarantor already have identical liability, such as with general partners or trustees of a revocable trust in which the debtor is the settlor, trustee and primary beneficiary. Here, however, a guarantee signed by the trustees of the debtors’ trust is enforceable as a “true guarantee” because, although the debtors were the settlors, they were a) secondary, not primary, beneficiaries and b) were not the trustees.Mayer v. L & B Real EstateSup.Ct. Docket
43 Cal.4th 1231 – Cal. Supreme Court (S142211) 6/16/08TAX SALES: The one-year statute of limitations for attacking a tax sale does not begin to run against a property owner who is in “undisturbed possession” of the subject property until that owner has actual notice of the tax sale. Ordinarily, a property owner who has failed to pay property taxes has sufficient knowledge to put him on notice that a tax sale might result. However, in this case the property owners did not have notice because they purchased a single piece of commercial property and received a single yearly tax bill. They had no reason to suspect that due to errors committed by the tax assessor, a small portion of their property was being assessed separately and the tax bills were being sent to a previous owner.
NOTE: This creates a hazard for title companies insuring after a tax sale in reliance on the one-year statute of limitations in Revenue and Taxation Code Section 3725.California Golf v. CooperDocketSup.Ct. Docket
163 Cal.App.4th 1053 – 2nd Dist. (B195211) 6/9/08 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 9/17/08TRUSTEE’S SALES:
1. A bidder at a trustee’s sale may not challenge the sale on the basis that the lender previously obtained a decree of judicial foreclosure because the doctrine of election of remedies benefits only the trustor or debtor.
2. A lender’s remedies against a bidder who causes a bank to stop payment on cashier’s checks based on a false affidavit asserting that the checks were lost is not limited to the remedies set forth in CC Section 2924h, and may pursue a cause of action for fraud against the bidder.
(The case contains a good discussion (at pp. 25 – 26) of the procedure for stopping payment on a cashier’s check by submitting an affidavit to the issuing bank.)Biagini v. BeckhamDocket
163 Cal.App.4th 1000 – 3rd Dist. (C054915) 6/9/08 Case complete 8/11/08DEDICATION:
1. Acceptance of a dedication may be actual or implied. It is actual when formal acceptance is made by the proper authorities, and implied when a use has been made of the property by the public 1) of an intensity that is reasonable for the nature of the road and 2) for such a length of time as will evidence an intention to accept the dedication. BUT the use in this case was not sufficient because the use was by neighbors whose use did not exceed what was permitted pursuant to a private easement over the same area.
2. A statutory offer of dedication can be revoked as to the public at large by use of the area that is inconsistent with the dedication, but the offer remains open for formal acceptance by the public entity to which the offer was made. Steiner v. ThextonDocketSup.Ct. Docket
Cal.App. 3rd Dist. (C054605) 5/28/08 REVERSED by Cal. Supreme Ct.OPTIONS: A contract to sell real property where the buyer’s performance was entirely conditioned on the buyer obtaining regulatory approval to subdivide the property is an option. An option must be supported by consideration, but was not here, where the buyer could back out at any time. Buyer’s promise to deliver to seller copies “of all information, reports, tests, studies and other documentation” was not sufficient consideration to support the option.In re Marriage CasesDocket
43 Cal.4th 757 – Cal. Supreme Court (S147999) 5/15/08MARRIAGE: The language of Family Code Section 300 limiting the designation of marriage to a union “between a man and a woman” is unconstitutional and must be stricken from the statute, and the remaining statutory language must be understood as making the designation of marriage available both to opposite-sex and same-sex couples.Harvey v. The Landing Homeowners AssociationDocket
162 Cal.App.4th 809 – 4th Dist., Div. 1 (D050263) 4/4/08 (Cert. for Pub. 4/30/08) Case complete 6/30/08HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATIONS: The Board of Directors of an HOA has the authority to allow owners to exclusively use common area accessible only to those owners where the following provision of the CC&R’s applied: “The Board shall have the right to allow an Owner to exclusively use portions of the otherwise nonexclusive Common Area, provided that such portions . . . are nominal in area and adjacent to the Owner’s Exclusive Use Area(s) or Living Unit, and, provided further, that such use does not unreasonably interfere with any other Owner’s use . . .” Also, this is allowed under Civil Code Section 1363.07(a)(3)(E).Salma v. CaponDocket
161 Cal.App.4th 1275 – 1st Dist. (A115057) 4/9/08 Case complete 6/11/08HOME EQUITY SALES: A seller claimed he sold his house for far less than it was worth “due to the duress of an impending trustee’s sale and the deceit of the purchasers”. The case involves procedural issues that are not relevant to this web site. However, it is included here because it demonstrates the kind of mess that can occur when you are dealing with property that is in foreclosure. Be careful, folks.Aviel v. NgDocket
161 Cal.App.4th 809 – 1st Dist. (A114930) 2/28/08; pub. order 4/1/08 Case complete 5/6/08LEASES / SUBORDINATION: A lease provision subordinating the lease to “mortgages” also applied to deeds of trust because the two instruments are functionally and legally the same. Therefore a foreclosure of a deed of trust wiped out the lease.People v. MartinezDocket
161 Cal.App.4th 754 – 4th Dist., Div. 2 (E042427) 4/1/08 Case complete 6/2/08FORGERY: This criminal case involves a conviction for forgery of a deed of trust. [NOTE: The crime of forgery can occur even if the owner actually signed the deed of trust. The court pointed out that “forgery is committed when a defendant, by fraud or trickery, causes another to execute a document where the signer is unaware, by reason of such trickery, that he is executing a document of that nature.”Pacific Hills Homeowners Association v. PrunDocket
160 Cal.App.4th 1557 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G038244) 3/20/08 Case complete 5/27/08CC&R’s: Defendants built a gate and fence within the setback required by the CC&R’s. 1) The court held that the 5-year statute of limitations of C.C.P. 336(b) applies to unrecorded as well as recorded restrictions, so that the shorter 4-year statute of limitations of C.C.P. 337 is inapplicable. 2) The court upheld the trial court’s equitable remedy of requiring the HOA to pay 2/3 of the cost of relocation defendant’s gate based upon the HOA’s sloppiness in not pursuing its case more promptly.Nicoll v. RudnickDocket
160 Cal.App.4th 550 – 5th Dist. (F052948) 2/27/08 Case complete 4/28/08WATER RIGHTS: An appropriative water right established in a 1902 judgment applied to the entire 300 acre parcel so that when part of the parcel was foreclosed and subsequently re-sold, the water rights must be apportioned according to the acreage of each parcel, not according to the prior actual water usage attributable to each parcel. NOTE: This case contains a good explanation of California water rights law.Real Estate Analytics v. VallasDocket
160 Cal.App.4th 463 – 4th Dist., Div. 1 (D049161) 2/26/08 Case complete 5/29/08SPECIFIC PERFORMANCE: Specific performance is appropriate even where the buyer’s sole purpose and entire intent in buying the property was to earn money for its investors and turn a profit as quickly as possible. The fact that plaintiff was motivated solely to make a profit from the purchase of the property does not overcome the strong statutory presumption that all land is unique and therefore damages were inadequate to make plaintiff whole for the defendant’s breach.Fourth La Costa Condominium Owners Assn. v. SeithDocket
159 Cal.App.4th 563 – 4th Dist., Div. 1 (D049276) 1/30/08 Case complete 4/1/08CC&R’s/HOMEOWNER’S ASSOCIATIONS: The court applied CC 1356(c)(2) and Corp. Code 7515, which allow a court to reduce the supermajority vote requirement for amending CC&R’s and bylaw because the amendments were reasonable and the balloting requirements of the statutes were met.02 Development, LLC v. 607 South Park, LLCDocket
159 Cal.App.4th 609 – 2nd Dist. (B200226) 1/30/08 Case complete 4/3/08SPECIFIC PERFORMANCE: 1) An assignment of a purchaser’s rights under a purchase agreement prior to creation of the assignee as an LLC is valid because an organization can enforce pre-organization contracts if the organization adopts or ratifies them. 2) A purchaser does not need to prove that it already had the necessary funds, or already had binding commitments from third parties to provide the funds, when the other party anticipatorily repudiates the contract. All that plaintiff needed to prove was that it would have been able to obtain the necessary funding (or funding commitments) in order to close the transaction on time.Richeson v. HelalDocketSup.Ct. Docket
158 Cal.App.4th 268 – 2nd Dist. (B187273) 11/29/07; Pub. & mod. order 12/21/07 (see end of opinion)Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 2/20/08CC&R’s / MUNICIPALITIES: An Agreement Imposing Restrictions (“AIR”) and CC&R’s did not properly lend themselves to an interpretation that would prohibit the City from changing the permitted use or zoning and, were they so construed, the AIR and CC&R’s would be invalid as an attempt by the City to surrender its future right to exercise its police power respecting the property. Here, the AIR and CC&R’s did not prohibit the City from issuing a new conditional use permit allowing the continued use of the subject property as a neighborhood market.Bill Signs Trucking v. Signs Family Ltd. PartnershipDocketSup.Ct. Docket
157 Cal.App.4th 1515 – 4th Dist., Div. 1 (D047861) 12/18/07 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 4/9/08LEASES / RIGHT OF FIRST REFUSAL: A tenant’s right of first refusal under a commercial lease is not triggered by the conveyance of an interest in the property between co-partners in a family limited partnership that owns the property and is the landlord.Schweitzer v. Westminster InvestmentsDocketSup.Ct. Docket
157 Cal.App.4th 1195 – 4th Dist., Div. 1 (D049589) 12/13/07 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 3/26/08EQUITY PURCHASERS:
1) The bonding requirement of the Home Equity Sales Contracts Act (Civil Code Section 1695.17) is void for vagueness under the due process clause and may not be enforced. Section 1695.17 is vague because it provides no guidance on the amount, the obligee, the beneficiaries, the terms or conditions of the bond, the delivery and acceptance requirements, or the enforcement mechanisms of the required bond.
2) Although the bond requirement may not be enforced, the remainder of the statutory scheme remains valid because the bond provisions are severable from the balance of the enactment.
3) The court refused to set aside the deed in favor of the equity purchaser because, first, the notice requirements of Civil Code Section 1695.5 appear to have been met and, second, the seller’s right to rescind applies before the deed is recorded but the statute “does not specify that a violation of section 1695.5 provides grounds for rescinding a transaction after recordation of the deed”.Crestmar Owners Association v. StapakisDocket
157 Cal.App.4th 1223 – 2nd Dist. (B191049) 12/13/07 Case complete 2/15/07CC&R’s: Where a developer failed to convey title to two parking spaces as required by the CC&R’s, the homeowner’s association was able to quiet title even though more than 20 years had passed since the parking spaces should have been conveyed. The statute of limitations does not run against someone, such as the homeowner’s association here, who is in exclusive and undisputed possession of the property.Washington Mutual Bank v. BlechmanDocketSup.Ct. Docket
157 Cal.App.4th 662 – 2nd Dist. (B191125) 12/4/07 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 3/19/08TRUSTEE’S SALES: The foreclosing lender and trustee are indispensable parties to a lawsuit which seeks to set aside a trustee’s sale. Therefore, a default judgment against only the purchaser at the trustee’s sale is subject to collateral attack.Garretson v. PostDocketSup.Ct. Docket
156 Cal.App.4th 1508 – 4th Dist., Div.2 (E041858) 11/20/07 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 2/27/08TRUSTEE’S SALES: A cause of action for wrongful foreclosure does not fall within the protection of Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, commonly referred to as the anti-SLAPP statute (strategic lawsuit against public participation).Murphy v. BurchDocketSup.Ct. Docket
Cal.App. 1st Dist. (A117051) 11/19/07 AFFIRMED by Cal Supreme Ct. 4/27/09EASEMENT BY NECESSITY: An easement by necessity arises by operation of law when 1) there is a strict necessity as when a property is landlocked and 2) the dominant and servient tenements were under the same ownership at the time of the conveyance giving rise to the necessity. However, the second requirement is not met when the properties were owned by the federal government because the Government has the power of eminent domain, rendering it unnecessary to resort to the easement by necessity doctrine in order to acquire easements.
The court attempts to distinguish Kellogg v. Garcia, 102 Cal.App.4th 796, by pointing out that in that case the issue of eminent domain did not arise because the dominant tenement was owned by a private party and the servient tenements by the federal government. [Ed. Note: the court does not adequately address the fact that the government does not always have the power of eminent domain. It only has that power if a public purpose is involved. Also, I do not think the court adequately distinguishes Kellogg, which seems to hold that common ownership by the federal government satisfies the requirement of common ownership.]Elias Real Estate v. TsengDocketSup.Ct. Docket
156 Cal.App.4th 425 – 2nd Dist. (B192857) 10/25/07 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 2/13/08SPECIFIC PERFORMANCE: Acts of a partner falling within Corp. Code 16301(1) (acts in ordinary course of business) are not subject to the statute of frauds. Acts of a partner falling within Corp. Code 16301(2) (acts not in the ordinary course of business) are subject to the statute of frauds. In this case, a sale of the partnership’s real property was not in the ordinary course of business, so it fell within Corp. Code 16301(2) and plaintiff could not enforce a contract of sale signed by only one partner.Strong v. State Board of EqualizationDocketSup.Ct. Docket
155 Cal.App.4th 1182 – 3rd Dist. (C052818) 10/2/07 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 1/3/08CHANGE OF OWNERSHIP: The statute that excludes transfers between domestic partners from property tax reassessment is constitutional.County of Solano v. HandleryDocketSup.Ct. Docket
155 Cal.App.4th 566 – 1st Dist. (A114120) 9/21/07 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 12/12/07DEEDS: The County brought an action against grantors’ heirs to invalidate restrictions in a deed limiting the subject property to use as a county fair or similar public purposes. The court refused to apply the Marketable Record Title Act to eliminate the power of termination in favor of the grantors because the restrictions are enforceable under the public trust doctrine.Baccouche v. BlankenshipDocket
154 Cal.App.4th 1551 – 2nd Dist (B192291) 9/11/07 Case complete 11/16/07EASEMENTS: An easement that permits a use that is prohibited by a zoning ordinance is not void. It is a valid easement, but cannot be enforced unless the dominant owner obtains a variance. As is true with virtually all land use, whether a grantee can actually use the property for the purposes stated in the easement is subject to compliance with any applicable laws and ordinances, including zoning restrictions.WRI Opportunity Loans II LLC v. CooperDocket
154 Cal.App.4th 525 – 2nd Dist. (B191590) 8/23/07 Case complete 10/26/07USURY: The trial court improperly granted a motion for summary judgment on the basis that the loan was exempt from the usury law.
1. The common law exception to the usury law known as the “interest contingency rule” provides that interest that exceeds the legal maximum is not usurious when its payment is subject to a contingency so that the lender’s profit is wholly or partially put in hazard. The hazard in question must be something over and above the risk which exists with all loans – that the borrower will be unable to pay.
2. The court held that the interest contingency rule did not apply to additional interest based on a percentage of the sale price of completed condominium units because the lender was guaranteed additional interest regardless of whether the project generated rents or profits.
3. The loan did not qualify as a shared appreciation loan, permitted under Civil Code Sections 1917-1917.006, because the note guaranteed the additional interest regardless of whether the property appreciated in value or whether the project generated profits.
4. The usury defense may not be waived by guarantor of a loan. (No other published case has addressed this issue.)Archdale v. American International Specialty Lines Ins. Co.Docket
154 Cal.App.4th 449 – 2nd Dist. (B188432) 8/22/07 Case complete 10/26/07INSURANCE: The case contains good discussions of 1) an insurer’s liability for a judgment in excess of policy limits where it fails to accept a reasonable settlement offer within policy limits and 2) the applicable statutes of limitation.REVERSED by Cal. Supreme Court 12/22/08
Patel v. LiebermenschDocketSup.Ct. Docket
154 Cal.App.4th 373 – 4th, Div. 1 (D048582) 8/21/07REVERSED: SPECIFIC PERFORMANCE: Specific performance of an option was denied where the parties never reached agreement on the amount of the deposit, the length of time of the escrow or payment of escrow expenses if there were a delay. One judge dissented on the basis that the option contract was sufficiently clear to be specifically enforced and the court should insert reasonable terms in place of the uncertain terms.In Re Marriage of RuelasDocket
154 Cal.App.4th 339 – 2nd Dist. (B191655) 8/20/07 Case complete 10/26/07RESULTING TRUST: A resulting trust was created where a daughter acquired property in her own name and the evidence showed that she was acquiring the property for her parents who had poor credit.Stoneridge Parkway Partners v. MW Housing PartnersDocketSup.Ct. Docket
153 Cal.App.4th 1373 – 3rd Dist. (C052082) 8/3/07 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 11/14/07USURY: The exemption to the usury law for loans made or arranged by real estate brokers applies to a loan in which the broker who negotiated the loan was an employee of an affiliate of the lender, but nevertheless acted as a third party intermediary in negotiating the loan. Kinney v. OvertonDocketSup.Ct. Docket
153 Cal.App.4th 482 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G037146) 7/18/07 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 10/10/07EASEMENTS: Former Civil Code Section 812 provided that
“[t]he vacation . . . of streets and highways shall extinguish all private easements therein claimed by reason of the purchase of any lot by reference to a map or plat upon which such streets or highways are shown, other than a private easement necessary for the purpose of ingress and egress to any such lot from or to a public street or highway, except as to any person claiming such easement who, within two years from the effective date of such vacation or abandonment . . . shall have recorded in the office of the recorder of the county in which such vacated or abandoned streets or highways are located a verified notice of his claim to such easement . . .” [Emphasis added.]
The court held that cross-complainant could not maintain an action against the person occupying the disputed abandoned parcel because it was not necessary for access and he did not record the notice required by C.C. Section 812. The court specifically did not address the state of title to the disputed parcel or what interest, if any, cross-defendant may have in the parcel.Hartzheim v. Valley Land & Cattle CompanyDocketSup.Ct. Docket
153 Cal.App.4th 383 – 6th Dist. (H030053) 7/17/07 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 10/10/07LEASES / RIGHT OF FIRST REFUSAL: A right of first refusal in a lease was not triggered by a partnership’s conveyance of property to the children and grandchildren of its partners for tax and estate planning purposes because it did not constitute a bona fide offer from any third party. The court considered three factors: 1) the contract terms must be reviewed closely to determine the conditions necessary to invoke the right, 2) where a right of first refusal is conditioned upon receipt of a bona fide third party offer to purchase the property, the right is not triggered by the mere conveyance of that property to a third party and 3) the formalities of the transaction must be reviewed to determine its true nature.Berryman v. Merit Property Mgmt.DocketSup.Ct. Docket
152 Cal.App.4th 1544 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G037156) 5/31/07 Petition for review by Cal Supreme DENIED 10/10/07HOMEOWNER’S ASSOCIATIONS: Fees charged by a homeowner’s association upon a transfer of title by a homeowner are limited by Civil Code Section 1368 to the association’s actual costs. The court held that this limitation does not apply to fees charged by a management company hired by the association.Cal-Western Reconveyance Corp. v. ReedDocket
152 Cal.App.4th 1308 – 2nd Dist. (B193014) 6/29/07 Case complete 8/29/07TRUSTEE’S SALES: After a trustee’s sale, the trustee deposited the surplus proceeds into court under CC 2924j in order to determine who was entitled to the excess proceeds. The court held that:
(1) The distribution of surplus proceeds to satisfy child and spousal support arrearages was proper because the County had properly recorded an abstract of support judgment,
(2) The trial court erred in distributing proceeds to the debtor’s former wife to satisfy her claims for a community property equalization payment and for attorney fees ordered in the dissolution proceeding, because no recorded lien or encumbrance secured those claims, which in any event were discharged in the debtor’s bankruptcy proceeding (because child and spousal support obligations are not dischargeable, but property settlement payments are dischargeable), and
(3) The trial court erred in distributing proceeds to the debtor’s former lawyer, who was retained to assist the debtor in the collection of proceeds from the trustee’s sale, because an attorney’s lien on the prospective recovery of a client must be enforced in a separate action.
(4) The debtor failed to produce sufficient evidence to support his claim that he was entitled to the $150,000 homestead exemption applicable when a debtor is physically disabled and unable to engage in substantial gainful employment (so he was entitled to only the standard $50,000 homestead exemption).Poseidon Development v. Woodland Lane EstatesOrder Modifying OpinionDocket
152 Cal.App.4th 1106 – 3rd Dist. (C052573) 6/28/07 Case complete 8/31/07PROMISSORY NOTES: A penalty that applied to late payments of installments did not apply to a late payment of the final balloon payment of principal. The penalty was 10% of the amount due, which made sense for regular installments, but bore no reasonable relationship to actual damages if applied to the balloon payment.Carr v. KaminsDocket
151 Cal.App.4th 929 – 2nd Dist. (B191247) 5/31/07 Case complete 8/1/07QUIET TITLE: A quiet title judgment was set aside by defendant’s heir four years after being entered because the heir was not named and served. The plaintiff believed the defendant to be deceased, but made no effort to locate and serve the defendant’s heirs. [Even though this case contains some unique facts, the fact that a default judgment can be set aside four years after being entered demonstrates the danger of relying on default judgments and the need to closely examine the court file and surrounding circumstances before doing so.]Estate of YoolDocket
151 Cal.App.4th 867 – 1st Dist. (A114787) 5/31/07 Case complete 7/31/07RESULTING TRUST: A decedent held title with her daughter for the purpose of facilitating financing and did not intend to acquire beneficial title. A probate court properly ordered the Special Administrator to convey title to the daughter based on the Resulting Trust Doctrine. It held that the four-year statute of limitations under C.C.P. 343 applied and not C.C.P. 366.2, which limits actions to collect on debts of the decedent to one year after the date of death.Kalway v. City of BerkeleyDocket
151 Cal.App.4th 827 – 1st Dist. (A112569) 5/31/07 Case complete 8/1/07SUBDIVISION MAP ACT: Plaintiff husband transferred title of a parcel to his wife in order to avoid merger under the Subdivision Map Act of a substandard parcel into their adjoining lot. The court held that plaintiffs could not evade the Map Act in this manner. It also held that the City had no authority to obtain an order canceling the deed, but that the wife also had no right to further transfer title to the substandard lot except back to her husband.Delgado v. Interinsurance Exchange of the Auto Club of So. Cal.DocketSup.Ct. Docket
Cal.App. 2nd Dist. (B191272) 6/25/07 REVERSED BY CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURTBAD FAITH: An insurance company acted in bad faith as a matter of law where a potential for coverage was apparent from the face of the complaint. The insured allegedly assaulted plaintiff and there was a potential for coverage because the insured may have acted in self defense. The case contains a thorough analysis of the duties of defense and indemnity.Blackmore v. PowellDocketSup.Ct. Docket
150 Cal.App.4th 1593 – 2nd Dist. (B185326) 5/22/07 Request for depublication DENIED 8/29/07EASEMENTS: An easement “for parking and garage purposes” includes the exclusive right to build and use a garage. Granting an exclusive easement may constitute a violation under the Subdivision Map act, but here there is no violation because the exclusive use of the garage covers only a small portion of the easement and is restricted to the uses described in the easement deed. Amalgamated Bank v. Superior CourtDocketSup.Ct. Docket
149 Cal.App.4th 1003 – 3rd Dist. (C052156, C052395) 4/16/07 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 8/8/07LIS PENDENS:
1. In deciding a writ petition from an order granting or denying a motion to expunge a lis pendens after judgment and pending appeal, an appellate court must assess whether the underlying real property claim has “probable validity”. This is the same test that is used before judgment. “Probable validity” post-judgment means that it is more likely than not the real property claim will prevail at the end of the appellate process.
2. A judicial foreclosure sale to a third party is absolute, subject only to the right of redemption, and may not be set aside, except that under C.C.P. Section 701.680(c)(1) the judgment debtor may commence an action to set aside the sale within 90 days only if the purchaser at the sale was the judgment creditor. Here, a potential bidder who was stuck in traffic and arrived too late to the sale could not set it aside because only the judgment debtor can do that and because a third party purchased at the sale. L&B Real Estate v. Housing Authority of Los AngelesDocket
149 Cal.App.4th 950 – 2nd Dist. (B189740) 4/13/07 Case complete 6/13/07TAX DEEDS: Because public property is exempt from taxation, tax deeds purporting to convey such property for nonpayment of taxes are void. Two parcels were inadvertently not included in a deed to the State (subsequently conveyed to the Housing Authority of Los Angeles). Accordingly, the tax collector thought that those parcels were still owned by the seller and sold them at a tax sale after real estate taxes were not paid on them. The court also points out that plaintiff was not a good faith purchaser because it had constructive and actual knowledge of the fact that the Housing Authority’s low income housing was partially located on the two parcels sold at the tax sale.Ulloa v. McMillin Real EstateDocket
149 Cal.App.4th 333 – 4th Dist., Div. 1 (D048066) 3/7/07 (Cert. for pub. 4/4/07) Case complete 6/4/07STATUTE OF FRAUDS: The Statute of Frauds requires the authority of an agent who signs a sales agreement to be in writing if the agent signs on behalf of the party to be charged. However, a plaintiff purchaser whose agent signed her name with only verbal authorization is not precluded by the Statute of Frauds from bringing the action because the defendant is the party to be charged.Jordan v. Allstate Insurance CompanyDocketSup.Ct. Docket
148 Cal.App.4th 1062 – 2nd Dist. (B187706) 3/22/07 Petition for review and depublication DENIED 6/27/07BAD FAITH: Where there is a genuine issue as to the insurer’s liability under the policy, there can be no bad faith liability imposed on the insurer for advancing its side of that dispute. However, there can be bad faith liability where an insurer denies coverage but a reasonable investigation would have disclosed facts showing the claim was covered under other provisions of the policy. The court clarified that an insurer’s failure to investigate can result in bad faith liability only if there is coverage. If there is no coverage, then any failure to properly investigate cannot cause the insured any damage.Shah v. McMcMahonDocket
148 Cal.App.4th 526 – 2nd Dist. (B188972) 3/12/07 Case complete 5/16/07LIS PENDENS: Plaintiffs could not appeal an order for attorney’s fees awarded in a hearing of a motion to expunge a lis pendens. The only remedy is to challenge the award by way of a petition for writ of mandate.Sterling v. TaylorDocket
40 Cal.4th 757 – Cal. Supreme Court (S121676) 3/1/07STATUTE OF FRAUDS: If a memorandum signed by the seller includes the essential terms of the parties’ agreement (i.e. the buyer, seller, price, property and the time and manner of payment), but the meaning of those terms is unclear, the memorandum is sufficient under the statute of frauds if extrinsic evidence clarifies the terms with reasonable certainty. Because the memorandum itself must include the essential contractual terms, extrinsic evidence cannot supply those required terms, however, it can be used to explain essential terms that were understood by the parties but would otherwise be unintelligible to others. In this case, the memorandum did not set forth the price with sufficient clarity because it was uncertain whether it was to be determined by a multiplier applied to the actual rent role or whether the price specified was the agreed price even though it was based on the parties’ incorrect estimate of the rent role.Jet Source Charter v. DohertyDocket
148 Cal.App.4th 1 – 4th Dist., Div. 1 (D044779) 1/30/07 (Pub. order and modification filed 2/28/07 – see end of opinion) Case complete 5/1/07PUNITIVE DAMAGES: Parts I, II, III and IV NOT certified for publication: Where the defendant’s conduct only involves economic damage to a single plaintiff who is not particularly vulnerable, an award which exceeds the compensatory damages awarded is not consistent with due process.Dyer v. MartinezDocketSup.Ct. Docket
147 Cal.App.4th 1240 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G037423) 2/23/07 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 6/13/07RECORDING: A lis pendens that was recorded but not indexed does not impart constructive notice, so a bona fide purchaser for value takes free of the lis pendens. The party seeking recordation must ensure that all the statutory requirements are met and the recorder is deemed to be an agent of the recording party for this purpose.Behniwal v. MixDocket
147 Cal.App.4th 621 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G037200) 2/7/07 Case complete 4/13/07SPECIFIC PERFORMANCE: In a specific performance action, a judgment for plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees cannot be offset against the purchase price that the successful plaintiff must pay defendant for the property. A judgment for attorneys’ fees is not an incidental cost that can be included as part of the specific performance judgment, and it is not a lien that relates back to the filing of the lis pendens. Instead, it is an ordinary money judgment that does not relate back to the lis pendens. So, while plaintiff’s title will be superior to defendant’s liens that recorded subsequent to the lis pendens, those liens are nevertheless entitled to be paid to the extent of available proceeds from the full purchase price.Castillo v. Express EscrowDocket
146 Cal.App.4th 1301 – 2nd Dist. (B186306) 1/18/07 Case complete 3/20/07MOBILEHOME ESCROWS:
1) Health and Safety Code Section 18035(f) requires the escrow agent for a mobile home sale to hold funds in escrow upon receiving written notice of a dispute between the parties, even though the statute specifically states “unless otherwise specified in the escrow instructions” and even though the escrow instructions provided that escrow was to close unless “a written demand shall have been made upon you not to complete it”.
2) Section 18035(f) does not require the written notice of dispute to cite the code section, or to be in any particular form, or that the notice be addressed directly to the escrow holder, or that the notice contain an express request not to close escrow. The subdivision requires nothing more than that the escrow agent receive notice in writing of a dispute between the parties. So receiving a copy of the buyer’s attorney’s letter to the seller was sufficient to notify the escrow agent that a dispute existed.Rappaport-Scott v. Interinsurance ExchangeDocket
146 Cal.App.4th 831 – 2nd Dist (B184917) 1/11/07 Case complete 3/14/07INSURANCE: An insurer’s duty to accept reasonable settlement offers within policy limits applies only to third party actions and not to settlement offers from an insured. An insurer has a duty not to unreasonable withhold payments due under a policy. But withholding benefits under a policy is not unreasonable if there is a genuine dispute between the insurer and the insured as to coverage or the amount of payment due, which is what occurred in this case.In re: Rabin
BAP 9th Circuit 12/8/06BANKRUPTCY/HOMESTEADS: Under California law, the homestead exemption rights of registered domestic partners are identical to those of people who are married. Therefore, domestic partners are limited to a single combined exemption, in the same manner as people who are married. In the absence of a domestic partnership or marriage, each cotenant is entitled to the full homestead exemption.Wachovia Bank v. Lifetime IndustriesDocket
145 Cal.App.4th 1039 – 4th Dist., Div. 2 (E037560) 12/15/06 Case complete 2/16/07OPTIONS:
1. When the holder of an option to purchase real property exercises the option and thereby obtains title to the property, the optionee’s title relates back to the date the option was given, as long as the optionee has the right to compel specific performance of the option. But where the optionee acquires title in a transaction unconnected with the option, such as where there has been a breach of the option agreement so that the optionee did not have the right to specific performance, the optionee takes subject to intervening interests just like any other purchaser.
2. Civil Code Section 2906 provides a safe harbor for a lender to avoid the rule against “clogging” the equity of redemption as long as the option is not dependent on the borrower’s default. But even if the lender falls outside the safe harbor because the exercise of the option is dependent upon borrower’s default, it does not automatically follow that the option is void. Instead, the court will analyze the circumstances surrounding the transaction and the intent of the parties to determine whether the option is either void or a disguised mortgage. Also, even if the transaction is a disguised mortgage the optionee (now mortgagee) has a right to judicially foreclose, which will wipe out intervening interests.Wright v. City of Morro BayDocketSup.Ct. Docket
144 Cal.App.4th 767, 145 Cal.App.4th 309a – 2nd Dist (B176929) 11/7/06 Modification of Opinion 12/6/06Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 2/21/07DEDICATION/ABANDONMENT: C.C.P. 771.010, which provides for termination of an offer of dedication if not accepted within 25 years, did not apply because 1) the statute cannot be applied retroactively to the City’s acceptance occurring more than 25 years after the offer of dedication and 2) the area covered by the dedicated road has never been used by anyone, so the requirement that the property be “used as if free of the dedication” was not met.State Farm General Insurance Co. v. Wells Fargo BankDocket
143 Cal.App.4th 1098 – 1st Dist. (A111643) 10/10/06 Case complete 12/11/06The “superior equities rule” prevents an insurer, who is subrogated to the rights of the insured after paying a claim, from recovering against a party whose equities are equal or superior to those of the insurer. Thus, an insurer may not recover from an alleged tortfeasor where the tortfeasor’s alleged negligence did not directly cause the insured’s loss. The court questioned the continued vitality of the superior equities rule in California, but felt compelled to follow a 1938 Supreme Court case that applied the rule. The court suggests that the Supreme Court should re-address the issue in light of modern day fault principles.Corona Fruits & Veggies v. Frozsun FoodsDocketSup.Ct. Docket
143 Cal.App.4th 319 – 2nd Dist. (B184507) 9/25/06 Petition for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 12/20/06UCC: A UCC-1 financing statement filed in the name of Armando Munoz is not effective where the debtor’s true name was Armando Munoz Juarez.Warren v. MerrillDocket
143 Cal.App.4th 96 – 2nd Dist. (B186698) 9/21/06 Case complete 11/21/06QUIET TITLE: The Court quieted title in plaintiff where title was taken in the real estate agent’s daughter’s name as part of a fraudulent scheme perpetrated by the agent. This is not a significant title insurance case, but I posted it for reference since it involves quiet title.McKell v. Washington MutualDocketSup.Ct. Docket
142 Cal.App.4th 1457 – 2nd Dist. (B176377) 9/18/06 Request for depublication DENIED 1/17/07RESPA: Washington Mutual (i) charged hundreds of dollars in “underwriting fees” when the underwriting fee charged by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to WAMU was only $20 and (ii) marked up the charges for real estate tax verifications and wire transfer fees. The court followed Kruse v. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage (2d Cir. 2004) 383 F.3d 49, holding that marking up costs, for which no additional services are performed, is a violation of RESPA. Such a violation of federal law constitutes an unlawful business practice under California’s Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”) and a breach of contract. Plaintiffs also stated a cause of action for an unfair business practice under the UCL based on the allegation that WAMU led them to believe they were being charged the actual cost of third-party services.Reilly v. City and County of San FranciscoDocketSup.Ct. Docket
142 Cal.App.4th 480 – 1st Dist. (A109062) 8/29/06 Request for depublication DENIED 12/13/06PROPERTY TAX: A change in ownership of real property held by a testamentary trust occurs when an income beneficiary of the trust dies and is succeeded by another income beneficiary. Also, for purposes of determining change in ownership, a life estate either in income from the property or in the property itself is an interest equivalent in value to the fee interest.Markowitz v. FidelityDocketSup.Ct. Docket
142 Cal.App.4th 508 – 2nd Dist. (B179923) 5/31/06 Publication ordered by Cal. Supreme Court 8/30/06ESCROW: Civil Code Section 2941, which permits a title insurance company to record a release of a deed of trust if the lender fails to do so, does not impose an obligation on an escrow holder/title company to record the reconveyance on behalf of the trustee. Citing other authority, the Court states that an escrow holder has no general duty to police the affairs of its depositors; rather, an escrow holder’s obligations are limited to faithful compliance with the parties’ instructions, and absent clear evidence of fraud, an escrow holder’s obligations are limited to compliance with the parties’ instructions. The fact that the borrower had an interest in the loan escrow does not mean that he was a party to the escrow, or to the escrow instructions.Cebular v. Cooper Arms Homeowners AssociationDocketSup.Ct. Docket
142 Cal.App.4th 106 – 2nd Dist. (B182555) 8/21/06 Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 11/15/06; Request to publish Part III, Sec. B filed 10/24/06COVENANTS, CONDITIONS AND RESTRICTIONS: It is not unreasonable for CC&R’s to allocate dues obligations differently for each unit, along with the same allocation of voting rights, even though each unit uses the common areas equally. Although the allocation does not make much sense, courts are disinclined to question the wisdom of agreed-to restrictions.Bernard v. FoleyDocket
39 Cal.4th 794 – Cal. Supreme Court (S136070) (8/21/06)TESTAMENTARY TRANSFERS: Under Probate Code Section 21350, “care custodians” are presumptively disqualified from receiving testamentary transfers from dependent adults to whom they provide personal care, including health services. The Court held that the term “care custodian” includes unrelated persons, even where the service relationship arises out of a preexisting personal friendship rather than a professional or occupational connection. Accordingly, the Court set aside amendments to decedent’s will that were made shortly before decedent’s death, which would have given most of the estate to the care providers.Regency Outdoor Advertising v. City of Los AngelesDocket
39 Cal.4th 507 – Cal. Supreme Court (S132619) 8/7/06 Modification of Opinion 10/11/06ABUTTER’S RIGHTS: There is no right to be seen from a public way, so the city is not liable for damages resulting from the view of plaintiff’s billboard caused by planting trees along a city street. The court pointed out that a private party who blocks the view of someone’s property by obstructing a public way would be liable to someone in plaintiff’s position.Kleveland v. Chicago Title Insurance CompanyDocketSup.Ct. Docket
141 Cal.App.4th 761 – 2nd Dist. (B187427) 7/24/06 Case complete 10/5/06 Request for depublication DENIED 10/25/06TITLE INSURANCE: An arbitration clause in a title policy is not enforceable where the preliminary report did not contain an arbitration clause and did not incorporate by reference the arbitration clause in the CLTA policy actually issued. (The preliminary report incorporated by reference the provisions of a Homeowner’s Policy of Title Insurance with a somewhat different arbitration clause, but a CLTA policy was actually issued.)Essex Insurance Company v. Five Star Dye HouseDocket
38 Cal.4th 1252 – Cal. Supreme Court (S131992) 7/6/06INSURANCE: When an insured assigns a claim for bad faith against the insurer, the assignee may recover Brandt (attorney) fees. Although purely personal causes of action are not assignable, such as claims for emotional distress or punitive damages, Brandt fees constitute an economic loss and are not personal in nature.Peak Investments v. South Peak Homeowners AssociationDocket
140 Cal.App.4th 1363 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G035851) 6/28/06 Case complete 8/31/06HOMEOWNER’S ASSOCIATIONS: Where CC&R’s require approval by more than 50 percent of owners in order to amend the Declaration, Civil Code Section 1356(a) allows a court, if certain conditions are met, to reduce the percentage of votes required, if it was approved by “owners having more than 50 percent of the votes in the association”. The Court held that the quoted phrase means a majority of the total votes in the HOA, not merely a majority of those votes that are cast.CTC Real Estate Services v. LepeDocket
140 Cal.App.4th 856 – 2nd Dist. (B185320) 6/21/06 Case complete 8/23/06TRUSTEE’S SALES: The victim of an identity theft, whose name was used to obtain a loan secured by a purchase money deed of trust to acquire real property, may, as the only claimant, recover undistributed surplus proceeds that remained after a trustee sale of the property and the satisfaction of creditors. The Court pointed out that a victim of theft is entitled to recover the assets stolen or anything acquired with the stolen assets, even if the value of those assets exceeds the value of that which was stolen.Slintak v. Buckeye Retirement Co.DocketSup.Ct. Docket
139 Cal.App.4th 575 – 2nd Dist. (B182875) 5/16/06 Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 9/13/06MARKETABLE RECORD TITLE ACT
1) Under Civil Code Section 882.020(a)(1), a deed of trust expires after 10 years where “the final maturity date or the last date fixed for payment of the debt or performance of the obligation is ascertainable from the record”. Here, the October 1992 Notice of Default was recorded and contained the due date of the subject note; thus, the due date is “ascertainable from the record” and the 10-year limitations period of section 882.020(a)(1) applies.
2) Under C.C. Section 880.260, if an action is commenced and a lis pendens filed by the owner to quiet or clear title, the running of the 10-year limitations period is reset and a new 10-year limitations period commences on the date of the recording of the lis pendens. After the expiration of the recommenced 10-year period, the power of sale in the trust deed expires. Preciado v. WildeDocketSup.Ct. Docket
139 Cal.App.4th 321 – 2nd Dist. (B182257) 5/9/06 Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 8/16/06ADVERSE POSSESSION: Plaintiffs failed to establish adverse possession against defendant, with whom they held title as tenants in common. Before title may be acquired by adverse possession as between cotenants, the occupying tenant must impart notice to the tenant out of possession, by acts of ownership of the most open, notorious and unequivocal character, that he intends to oust the latter of his interest in the common property. Such evidence must be stronger than that which would be required to establish title by adverse possession in a stranger.UNPUBLISHEDHarbor Pipe v. Stevens
Cal.App. 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G035530) 4/4/06 Case complete 6/6/06JUDGMENTS: A judgment lien against the settlor of a revocable trust attached to trust property where the identity of the settlor is reflected in the chain of title, so a purchaser takes subject to the judgment lien. NOTE: In other words, title companies need to check the names of the settlors in the General Index when title is held in trust.Aaron v. DunhamDocketSup.Ct. Docket
137 Cal.App.4th 1244 – 1st Dist. (A109488) 3/15/06 Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 6/21/06PRESCRIPTIVE EASEMENTS: 1) Permission granted to an owner does not constitute permission to a successor. 2) Under Civil Code Section 1008, signs preventing prescriptive rights must be posted by an owner or his agent, so signs posted by a lessee without the knowledge of the owner, do not qualify.***DECERTIFIED*** Newmyer v. Parklands RanchDocketSup.Ct. Docket
Cal.App. 2nd Dist. (B180461) 3/23/06 Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED; CA opinion DECERTIFIED 6/14/06EASEMENTS: The owner of the dominant tenement possessing over the servient tenement an access easement that includes the right to grant other easements for “like purposes” may convey to an owner of property adjoining the dominant tenement an enforceable easement for access over the servient tenement.Marion Drive LLC v. SaladinoDocketSup.Ct. Docket
136 Cal.App.4th 1432 – 2nd Dist. (B182727) 2/27/06 Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 5/24/06ASSESSMENT LIEN: After a tax sale, the holder of a bond secured by a 1911 Act assessment lien has priority as to surplus tax sale proceeds over a subsequently recorded deed of trust. This is true even though the bond holder purchased the property from the tax sale purchaser. The Court rejected defendant’s argument that fee title had merged with the assessment lien.Barnes v. HussaDocket
136 Cal.App.4th 1358 – 3rd Dist. (C049163) 2/24/06 Case complete 4/26/06LICENSES / WATER RIGHTS: The Plaintiff did not overburden a license to run water in a pipeline across defendant’s property where he extended the pipeline to other property he owned because there was no increase in the burden on the servient tenement and no harm to defendants. A couple of interesting things pointed out by the Court are: 1) A person entitled to use water may use it elsewhere as long as others are not injured by the change, and 2) “An irrevocable license . . . is for all intents and purposes the equivalent of an easement.”***REVERSED***
Mayer v. L & B Real EstateDocketSup.Ct. Docket
Cal.App. 2nd Dist. (B180540) 2/14/06 REVERSED by Cal Supreme Ct. 6/16/08TAX SALES: The one-year statute of limitations for attacking a tax sale applies to preclude an action by a property owner who had actual notice of the tax sale, even where the tax collector’s conduct was egregious. The Court did not reach the question of whether the tax collector satisfied its due process obligations, but refers to a Supreme Court case which held that the limitations period is enforceable even if the defect is constitutional in nature. That case recognized a limited exception where an owner is in “undisturbed possession” such that the owner lacked any reasonable means of alerting himself to the tax sale proceedings.Wright Construction Co. v. BBIC InvestorsDocketSup.Ct. Docket
136 Cal.App.4th 228 – 1st Dist. (A109876) 1/31/06 Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 4/26/06MECHANICS’ LIENS: A mechanic’s lien is premature and invalid under Civil Code Section 3115 if it is recorded before the contractor “completes his contract”. A contract is complete for purposes of commencing the recordation period under section 3115 when all work under the contract has been performed, excused, or otherwise discharged. Here, because of the tenant’s anticipatory breach of the contract, plaintiff had “complete[d] [its] contract” within the meaning of section 3115 the day before the claim of lien was recorded, so the claim of lien was not premature. In a previous writ proceeding, the Court held that the landlord’s notice of nonresponsibility was invalid under the “participating owner doctrine” because the landlord caused the work of improvement to be performed by requiring the lessee to make improvements.Torres v. TorresDocketSup.Ct. Docket
135 Cal.App.4th 870 – 2nd Dist. (B179146) 1/17/06 Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 4/12/06POWER OF ATTORNEY: 1) A statutory form power of attorney is not properly completed where the principal marks the lines specifying the powers with an “X” instead of initials, as required by the form. However, the form is not the exclusive means of creating a power of attorney, so even though it is not valid as a statutory form, it is valid as regular power of attorney. 2) Under Probate Code Section 4264, an attorney in fact may not make a gift of the principal’s property unless specifically authorized to do so in the power of attorney. Here, the principal quitclaimed the property to himself, the other attorney in fact and the principal as joint tenants. However, the court refused to invalidate the conveyance because the plaintiff failed to produce any evidence that the conveyance was not supported by consideration.Ung v. KoehlerOrder Modifying OpinionDocketSup.Ct. Docket
135 Cal.App.4th 186 – 1st Dist. (A109532) 12/28/05 Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 4/12/06TRUSTEE’S SALES:
1. Expiration of the underlying obligation does not preclude enforcement of the power of sale under a deed of trust.
2. A power of sale expires after 60 years or, if the last date fixed for payment of the debt is ascertainable from the record, 10 years after that date.
3. In order to avoid a statutory absurdity, a notice of default that is recorded more than 10 years after “the last date fixed for payment of the debt” does not constitute a part of the “record” for purposes of Civil Code Section 882.020(a).Trust One Mortgage v. Invest America MortgageDocket
134 Cal.App.4th 1302 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G035111) 12/15/05 Case complete 2/21/06TRUSTEE’S SALES/ANTI-DEFICIENCY: An indemnification agreement is enforceable after a non-judicial foreclosure where the indemnitor is not the same person as the obligor. If the indemnitor and obligor were the same, the indemnity would be void as an attempt to circumvent antideficiency protections.UNPUBLISHED OPINION Citifinancial Mortgage Company v. Missionary FoundationDocket
Cal.App. 2nd (B178664) 12/14/05 Case complete 2/16/06MARKETABLE RECORD TITLE ACT: (UNPUBLISHED OPINION) Under Civil Code Section 882.020(a)(1), a deed of trust becomes unenforceable 10 years after the final maturity date, or the last date fixed for payment of the debt or performance of the obligation, if that date is ascertainable from the record. Here, the record showed via an Order Confirming Sale of Real Property that the obligation was due five years after close of escrow. The Court held that since “close of escrow” is an event, and not a date certain, Section 882.020(a)(1) did not apply in spite of the fact that escrow must have closed in order for the deed of trust to have been recorded.McElroy v. Chase Manhattan Mortgage Corp.Docket
134 Cal.App. 4th 388 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G034588) 11/1/05 Case complete 2/1/06TRUSTEE’S SALES: The Court refused to set aside a trustee’s sale where the lender foreclosed after the trustors tendered payment in the form of a “Bonded Bill of Exchange Order”. The Court determined that “the Bill is a worthless piece of paper, consisting of nothing more than a string of words that sound as though they belong in a legal document, but which, in reality, are incomprehensible, signifying nothing.”***DECERTIFIED*** The Santa Anita Companies v. Westfield CorporationDocketSup.Ct. Docket
134 Cal.App.4th 77 – 2nd Dist. (B175820) 11/17/05 Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED and DECERTIFIED 01/25/06DEEDS: The 3-year statute of limitations under C.C.P. 338(d) to seek relief on the ground of mistake does not begin to run until discovery of the mistake or receiving facts that would put a reasonable person on notice of the mistake. The fact that carefully reading the deed would have revealed the mistake is not sufficient to charge the plaintiff with notice, so the statute of limitations did not begin to run until plaintiff actually became aware of the error, and this action was therefore timely.Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians v. Superior CourtDocket
133 Cal.App.4th 1185 – 1st Dist. (A108615) 11/1/05 Case complete 1/4/06INDIANS: An employment agreement with an Indian tribe contained the following clause: “Any claim or controversy arising out of or relating to any provisions of this Agreement, or breach thereof, shall . . . be resolved by arbitration under the rules of the American Arbitration Association in San Francisco, California, and judgment on any award by the arbitrators may be entered in any court having such jurisdiction”. The court held that the effect of the arbitration clause as limited to a consent to arbitrate and enforce any award in state court. But this clause was insufficient to waive the tribe’s immunity from a breach of contract action brought in state court. So plaintiffs are apparently free to bring the same breach of contract claims in an arbitration proceeding.Behniwal v. MixDocket
133 Cal.App.4th 1027 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G034074) 9/30/05 Case complete 1/3/06STATUTE OF FRAUDS: A sales contract signed on the sellers’ behalf by their real estate agent did not satisfy the Statute of Frauds because the agent did not have written authority to sign for the sellers. However, a contract which must be in writing can be ratified if the ratification is also in writing. Here the sellers ratified the contract by a sufficient written ratification where they subsequently signed disclosure documents that specifically referred to the contract signed by the real estate agent.Behniwal v. Superior Court Docket
133 Cal.App.4th 1048 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G035299) 9/30/05 Case complete 1/3/06LIS PENDENS: (Related to Mix v. Superior Court, several cases below.) Having determined that the plaintiffs have at least a “probably valid” real property claim, the Court issued a peremptory writ of mandate directing the Superior Court to vacate its order expunging the lis pendens. The lis pendens will therefore protect plaintiff’s claim until the time for appeal to the Supreme Court expires or unless the Supreme Court issues its own writ directing that the lis pendens be expunged.Zipperer v. County of Santa ClaraDocket
133 Cal.App.4th 1013 – 6th Dist. (H028455) 9/30/05 (Mod. 10/28/05) Case complete 12/28/05EASEMENTS:
PUBLISHED PORTION: The Solar Shade Control Act provides that “. . . no person owning, or in control of a property shall allow a tree or shrub to be placed, or, if placed, to grow on such property, subsequent to the installation of a solar collector on the property of another so as to cast a shadow greater than 10 percent of the collector absorption area”. The County is exempt from the Act because it adopted an ordinance pursuant to a statute allowing cities and counties to exempt themselves from the Act. The Court did not address the issue of whether the act applies where a tree is not “placed” by a property owner.
UNPUBLISHED PORTION: A common law easement for light and air generally may be created only by express written instrument. A statutory “solar easement” under Civil Code Section 801.5 may be created only by an instrument containing specified terms. The Court held that the County did not have an obligation to trim trees to avoid shading plaintiff’s solar panels, rejecting several theories asserted by plaintiff.Fishback v. County of VenturaDocket
133 Cal.App.4th 896 – 2nd Dist. (B177462) 10/26/05 Case complete 1/9/06SUBDIVISION MAP ACT: Under the 1937 and 1943 Subdivision Map Acts, “subdivision” was defined as “any land or portion thereof shown on the last preceding tax roll as a unit or as contiguous units which is divided for the purpose of sale . . . into five or more parcels within any one year period.” The Court makes numerous points interpreting those statutes, some of the most significant being: 1) Once the fifth parcel is created within a one-year period, all the parcels created within that year constitute a subdivision; 2) Even though a unit of land is defined as a unit as shown on the last tax roll preceding the division, that does not mean the unit shown on the last preceding tax roll is a legal parcel, and legal parcels cannot be created by dividing that illegal parcel; and 3) If land is divided for the purpose of sale, it is irrelevant that the retained parcel is not held for the purpose of sale. Thus, for example, if the owner of a unit of land divides it in half, the unit is divided for the purpose of sale even if the owner intends to sell only one half and keep the other.Attorney General Opinion No. 04-1105
10/3/05ASSESSOR’S RECORDS: County Assessors maintain parcel boundary map data, which is detailed geographic information used to describe and define the precise geographic boundaries of assessor’s parcels. When maintained in electronic format, Assessors must make copies in electronic format available to the public. The fee charged for producing the copy is limited to the direct cost of producing the copy in electronic format, and may not include expenses associated with the county’s initial gathering of the information, with initial conversion of the information into electronic format, or with maintaining the information.Villacreses v. MolinariDocketSup.Ct. Docket
132 Cal.App.4th 1223 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G034719) 9/26/05 Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 12/14/05ARBITRATION: Section 1298 requires that an arbitration provision in a real estate contract be accompanied by a statutory notice and that the parties indicate their assent by placing their initials on an adjacent space or line. The arbitration notice, standing alone, does not constitute an arbitration provision. So the Defendants could not compel arbitration where the contract contained only the notice, but did not contain a separate arbitration provision.
The Court has a good sense of humor. The opinion contains the following memorable quotes:
1. “If the first rule of medicine is ‘Do no harm,’ the first rule of contracting should be ‘Read the documents’.”
2. “. . . to paraphrase the immortal words of a former President of the United States, the applicability of this purported arbitration agreement to the instant dispute ‘depends upon what the meaning of the word “it” is.'”Campbell v. Superior Court (La Barrie)DocketSup.Ct. Docket
132 Cal.App.4th 904 – 4th Dist., Div. 1 (D046064) 9/14/05 Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 12/14/05LIS PENDENS: A cause of action for a constructive trust or an equitable lien does not support a lis pendens where it is merely for the purpose of securing a judgment for money damages. [Ed. Note: The Court in this and similar cases make the absolute statement that “an equitable lien does not support a lis pendens”, and explain that the lien is sought merely to secure a money judgment. But it is unclear whether the Court would reach the same conclusion in a pure equitable lien case. For example, where a loan is paid off with the proceeds of a new loan, but the new mortgage accidentally fails to be recorded, an action to impose an equitable lien seeks more than a mere money judgment. It seeks to allow the new lender to step into the shoes of the old lender and, in my opinion, a lis pendens should be allowed.]Fripp v. Walters DocketDocketSup.Ct. Docket
132 Cal.App.4th 656 – 3rd Dist. (C046733) 9/7/05 (ONLY PART I CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION)Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 11/16/05BOUNDARIES / SURVEYS: A conveyance referring to a parcel map cannot convey more property than the creator of the parcel map owned. The Court rejected Defendant’s claim that the recorded parcel map was a “government sanctioned survey” which precludes a showing that the boundaries established by the parcel map are erroneous. The court explained that the rule cited by Defendants applies only to official survey maps that create boundaries. Boundary lines cannot be questioned after the conveyance of public land to a private party, even if they are inaccurate.Title Trust Deed Service Co. v. PearsonDocket
132 Cal.App.4th 168 – 2nd Dist (B175067) 8/25/05 Case complete 10/28/05HOMESTEADS: A declared homestead exemption applies to surplus proceeds from a trustee’s sale. [Comment: Applying the declared homestead exemption to trustee’s sales is fine. But the Court also seems to want to pay surplus proceeds to the debtor up to the amount of the exemption before paying the holder of a junior trust deed. This should be wrong since the homestead exemption does not apply to voluntary liens. I think the Court does not adequately address what appears to me to be a circuity of priority problem: The homestead exemption is senior to the judgment lien, which in this case happens to be senior to a junior TD, which is senior to the homestead exemption.]In re Marriage of BensonDocket
36 Cal.4th 1096 – Cal. Supreme Court (S122254) 8/11/05COMMUNITY PROPERTY: The doctrine of partial performance, which is an exception to the Statute of Frauds, is not an exception to the requirement of Family Code Section 852 that an agreement to transmute property be in writing. The concurring opinion points out that the Court does not decide what statutory or equitable remedy would be available to make whole a spouse who has been disadvantaged by an illusory oral promise to transmute property, or what sanction may be employed against a spouse who has used section 852(a) as a means of breaching his or her fiduciary duty and gaining unjust enrichment.First Federal Bank v. FegenDocket
131 Cal.App.4th 798 – 2nd Dist. (B174252) 7/29/05 Case complete 9/29/05JUDGMENTS: The Court dismissed an appeal as being moot where the debtor did not post a bond after a sheriff’s sale of real property. C.C.P. Section 917.4 provides that an appeal of an order directing the sale of real property does not stay enforcement of the order. A sheriff’s sale is final, except that the debtor can commence an action within 90 days to set aside the sale if the judgment creditor is the successful bidder. Here, the debtor failed to file an action within 90 days so the sale is final.Bear Creek Master Association v. EdwardsDocketSup.Ct. Docket
130 Cal.App.4th 1470 – 4th Dist. Div. 2 (E034859) 7/13/05 Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 10/19/05CONDOMINIUMS: The definition of “condominium” in Civil Code Section 1351(f) does not require that an actual structure has been built; rather it only requires that it be described in a recorded condominium plan. (Note, however, that under CC 1352 the condominium does not come into existence until a condominium unit has been conveyed.) The case also contains an extensive discussion of the procedural requirements for foreclosing on an assessment lien recorded by the homeowner’s association.Woodridge Escondido Property Owners Assn. v. NielsenDocketSup.Ct. Docket
130 Cal.App.4th 559 – 4th Dist. Div. 1 (D044294) 5/25/05 (pub. order 6/16/05) Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 8/31/05CC&R’s: A provision in CC&R’s that prohibited construction of a permanent structure in an easement area applied to a deck because it was attached to the house and had supporting posts that were buried in the ground, such that it was designed to continue indefinitely without change and was constructed to last or endure.Beyer v. Tahoe Sands ResortDocket
129 Cal.App.4th 1458 – 3rd Dist. (C045691) 6/8/05 Case complete 8/8/05EASEMENTS: California Civil Code Section 805 provides that a servitude cannot be held by the owner of the servient tenement. The Court held that the term “owner” under Section 805 means the owner of the full fee title, both legal and equitable, such that a property owner who owns less than full title may validly create easements in his own favor on his land. Here, the Court held that the grantor could reserve an easement over property conveyed to a time-share trustee where the grantor held all beneficial interest in the trust and the grantee held just bare legal title.Bank of America v. La Jolla GroupDocketSup.Ct. Docket
129 Cal.App.4th 706 – 5th Dist. (F045318) 5/19/05 Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 9/7/05TRUSTEE’S SALES: A trustee’s sale, which was accidentally held after the owner and lender agreed to reinstate the loan, is invalid. The conclusive presumptions in Civil Code Section 2924 pertain only to notice requirements, not to every defect or inadequacy. The Court points out that the advantages of being a bona fide purchaser are not limited to the presumptions set forth in Section 2924, but does not discuss it further because the defendant did not argue that its bona fide purchaser status supports its position in any way other than the statutory presumptions.Zabrucky v. McAdamsDocket
129 Cal.App.4th 618 – 2nd Dist. (B167590) 5/18/05 Case complete 7/20/05COVENANTS, CONDITIONS & RESTRICTIONS: The Court interpreted a provision in CC&R’s to prohibit an addition to a house which would unreasonably obstruct a neighbor’s view. The Court painstakingly nit-picked through the provisions of the CC&R’s and compared the provisions and the facts to other cases where courts have done the same. The main conclusion I draw is that these cases are each unique and it is very difficult to determine in advance what a court will do. In fact, one judge dissented in this case. This means it can be very dangerous to issue endorsements such as CLTA Endorsement No. 100.6 or 100.28, insuring against this kind of provision in CC&R’s.Anolik v. EMC Mortgage Corp.DocketSup.Ct. Docket
Cal.App. 3rd Dist. (C044201) 4/29/05 (Mod. 5/26/05) Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED and DECERTIFIED 8/10/05***DECERTIFIED*** TRUSTEE’S SALES:
1. To be valid, a notice of default must contain at least one correct statement of a breach, and it must be substantial enough to authorize use of the drastic remedy of nonjudicial foreclosure.
2. An assertion in a notice of default of one or more breaches qualified with the words “if any” does not satisfy the requirements of section 2924 because it indicates that the lender has no clue as to the truth or falsity of the assertion.
3. It is not proper to declare a payment in default when the time for imposing a late fee on that payment has not expired because the default is not sufficiently substantial at that point.
4. Under Civil Code Section 2954, a lender cannot force impound payments for property taxes until the borrower has failed to pay two consecutive tax installments.Kangarlou v. Progressive Title CompanyDocket
128 Cal.App.4th 1174 – 2nd Dist. (B177400) 4/28/05 Case complete 6/29/05ESCROW: 1. Under Civil Code Section 1717, plaintiff can recover attorney’s fees after prevailing in an action against the escrow holder, even though the escrow instructions limited attorney’s fees to actions to collect escrow fees.
2. Under Business and Professions Code Section 10138, an escrow holder has a duty to obtain evidence that a real estate broker was regularly licensed before delivering compensation.Paul v. SchoellkopfDocketSup.Ct. Docket
128 Cal.App.4th 147 – 2nd Dist. (B170379) 4/5/05 Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 6/15/05ESCROW: A provision for attorneys’ fees in escrow instructions limited to fees incurred by the escrow company in collecting for escrow services does not apply to other disputes between the buyer and seller.Knight v. Superior CourtDocketSup.Ct. Docket
128 Cal.App.4th 14 – 3rd Dist. (C048378) 4/4/05 Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 6/29/05DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIPS: Family Code Section 308.5, enacted by Proposition 22, 3/7/00, states: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” This statute did not prohibit the legislature from enacting California’s Domestic Partnership Law, Family Code Section 297, et seq., because Section 308.5 pertains only to marriages, not to other relationships.Estate of SeifertDocketSup.Ct. Docket
128 Cal.App.4th 64 – 3rd Dist. (C046456) 4/4/05 Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 6/22/05ADVERSE POSSESSION: A fiduciary, including an executor, may not acquire title by adverse possession against the heirs. Once the executor was appointed, the statutory period for his adverse possession of the subject property ceased to run.Melendrez v. D & I InvestmentDocketSup.Ct. Docket
127 Cal.App.4th 1238 – 6th Dist. (H027098) 3/29/05 Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 6/22/05 TRUSTEE’S SALES: A trustee’s sale cannot be set aside where the purchaser at the sale is a bona fide purchaser (“BFP”). The elements of being a BFP are that the buyer 1) purchase the property in good faith for value, and 2) have no knowledge or notice of the asserted rights of another. The value paid may be substantially below fair market value. Also, the buyer’s sophistication and experience in purchasing at trustee’s sales does not disqualify him from being a BFP, although in evaluating whether the buyer is a BFP, the buyer’s foreclosure sale experience may be considered in making the factual determination of whether he had knowledge or notice of the conflicting claim.Radian Guaranty v. GaramendiDocketSup.Ct. Docket
127 Cal.App.4th 1280 – 1st Dist. (A105789) 3/29/05 Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 7/20/05TITLE INSURANCE: Radian’s Lien Protection Policy constitutes title insurance pursuant to Insurance Code Section 12340.1. Because Radian does not possess a certificate of authority to transact title insurance, it is not authorized to sell the policy in California or anywhere else in the United States, pursuant to California’s monoline statutes: Ins. Code Section 12360 (title insurance) and Ins. Code Section 12640.10 (mortgage guaranty insurance).Gardenhire v. Superior CourtDocketSup.Ct. Docket
128 Cal.App.4th 426a – 6th Dist. (H026601) 3/22/05 Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 6/8/05TRUSTS: A trust can be revoked by a will where the trust provided for revocation by “any writing” and the will expressed a present intent to revoke the trust. The Court pointed out that a will, which is inoperative during the testator’s life, can nevertheless have a present and immediate effect upon delivery, such as notice of intent to revoke.Jones v. Union Bank of CaliforniaDocketSup.Ct. Docket
127 Cal.App.4th 542 – 2nd Dist. (B173302) 3/11/05 Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 6/8/05When a lender successfully defends an action to set aside or enjoin a foreclosure sale, the antideficiency provisions of C.C.P. Section 580d do not prohibit an award of attorney fees. In addition, Civil Code sections 2924c and 2924d do not limit the amount of fees the court may award.O’Toole Company v. Kingsbury Court HOADocket
126 Cal.App.4th 549 – 2nd Dist. (B172607) 2/3/05 Case complete 4/8/05HOMEOWNER’S ASSOCIATIONS: In a suit to enforce a judgment, the trial court properly appointed a receiver and levied a special emergency assessment when defendant-homeowners association failed to pay. The Court pointed out that regular assessments are exempt from execution, but not special assessments.State of California ex rel. Bowen v. Bank of AmericaDocketSup.Ct. Docket
126 Cal.App.4th 225 – 2nd Dist. (B172190) 1/31/05 Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 5/18/05ESCHEAT: This is a qui tam action filed on behalf of the State Controller. The court held that unused reconveyance fees do not need to be escheated because the obligation to return a specific sum of money is neither certain nor liquidated under Civil Code Section 2941 or under the provisions of the deeds of trust. This case was against lenders and I believe it would not apply in the context of escrow and title insurance.Van Klompenburg v. BergholdDocketSup.Ct. Docket
126 Cal.App.4th 345 – 3rd Dist. (C045417) 1/31/05 Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 5/11/05EASEMENTS: Where the grant of easement states that the right of way shall be “kept open” and “wholly unobstructed”, the normal rule does not apply, which would otherwise allow the owner of the servient estate to erect a locked gate as long as the owner of the dominant estate is given a key and the gate does not unreasonably interfere with the use of the easement.State of California v. Old Republic Title CompanyDocketSup.Ct. Docket
125 Cal.App.4th 1219 – 1st Dist. (A095918) 1/20/05 NOTE: request for order directing republication of court of appeal opinion DENIED 8/16/06.
Overruled in part on issue not significant to title insurance – SEE BELOW.TITLE INSURANCE: Old Republic was found liable for 1) failing to escheat unclaimed funds in escrow accounts, 2) failing to return fees collected for reconveyances which were not used and 3) failing to pay interest collected on escrow funds to the depositing party.
Of particular interest, the Court stated:
“Insurance Code Section 12413.5 provides that interest on escrow funds must be paid to the depositing party ‘unless the escrow is otherwise instructed by the depositing party . . . .’ Any title company is free to draft escrow instructions that, with full disclosure to and agreement from the depositing party, direct that the arbitrage interest differential be paid to the company. It is a matter of disclosing the pertinent costs and benefits to the customer.”
FALSE CLAIMS ACT: A political subdivision may not bring an action under Government Code section 12652, subdivision (c), to recover funds on behalf of the state or another political subdivision.Frei v. DaveyDocket
124 Cal.App.4th 1506 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 (G033682) 12/17/04 Case complete 2/22/05CONTRACTS: Under the most recent version of the CAR purchase contract, the prevailing party is barred from recovering attorney fees if he refused a request to mediate.Mix v. Superior Court DocketSup.Ct. Docket
124 Cal.App.4th 987 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 12/7/04 (G033875) Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 2/16/05LIS PENDENS: (Related to Behniwal v. Superior Court, several cases above.) After the claimant loses at trial, the trial court must expunge a lis pendens pending appeal unless claimant can establish by a preponderance of the evidence the probable validity of the real property claim. Claimants will rarely be able to do this because it requires a trial court to determine that its own decision will probably be reversed on appeal. The court points out that this strict result is tempered by claimant’s ability to petition the appellate court for a writ of mandate, so that the appellate court can make its own determination of the probability of the trial court’s decision being reversed on appeal.D’Orsay International Partners v. Superior CourtDocketSup.Ct. Docket
123 Cal.App.4th 836 – 2nd Dist. 10/29/04 (B174411) Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 1/26/05MECHANIC’S LIENS: The court ordered the release of a mechanic’s lien because there was no actual visible work on the land or the delivery of construction materials. The criteria applicable to a design professional’s lien do not apply where the claimant filed a mechanic’s lien. The court specifically did not address the question of whether a contractor performing design services or employing design professionals may assert a design professionals’ lien.Gibbo v. BergerDocketSup.Ct. Docket
123 Cal.App.4th 396 – 4th Dist., Div. 2 10/22/04 (E035201) Case complete 12/27/04 Req. for Depublication by Cal. Supreme Ct. DENIED 2/16/05USURY: The usury exemption for loans arranged by real estate brokers does not apply where the broker functioned as an escrow whose involvement was limited to preparing loan documents on the terms provided by the parties, ordering title insurance, and dispersing funds, all in accordance with the parties’ instructions. In order to “arrange a loan” the broker must act as a third party intermediary who causes a loan to be obtained or procured. Such conduct includes structuring the loan as the agent for the lender, setting the interest rate and points to be paid, drafting the terms of the loan, reviewing the loan documents, or conducting a title search.Knapp v. DohertyDocket
123 Cal.App.4th 76 – 6th Dist. 9/20/04 (H026670) Case complete 12/21/04TRUSTEE’S SALES:
1. Civil Code Section 2924 requires the trustee to give notice of sale only “after the lapse of the three months” following recordation of the notice of default. The Notice of Sale technically violated this requirement because it was served by mail on the property owner several days prior to the end of three months. However, this did not invalidate the sale because the owner did not suffer prejudice from the early notice.
2. Incorrectly stating the date of the default in the Notice of Default did not invalidate the sale because the discrepancy was not material.Royal Thrift and Loan v. County EscrowDocket
123 Cal.App.4th 24 – 2nd Dist. 10/15/04 (B165006) Case complete 12/16/04TRUSTEE’S SALES:
1. Postponements of a trustee’s sale during an appeal were reasonable, so they do not count toward the 3-postponement limit of Civil Code Section 2924g(c)(1). The postponements fall under the “stayed by operation of law” exception. However, the Court recognized that the better course would have been to re-notice the trustee’s sale after the appeal.
2. The court indicated that an appeal from an action to quiet title against a deed of trust should stay the trustee’s sale proceedings under Code of Civil Procedure Section 916 pending the appeal. However, the court did not formally make that holding because the owner did not appeal and the issues involving the appellants (escrow holder and bonding company) did not require a holding on that issue.Tesco Controls v. Monterey Mechanical Co.Docket
124 Cal.App.4th 780 – 3rd Dist. 12/6/04 (C042184) (Opinion on rehearing) Case complete 2/7/05MECHANIC’S LIENS: A mechanic’s lien release that waives lien rights up to the date stated in the release is effective to waive lien rights up to that date, even if the progress payments did not fully compensate the lien claimant.Gale v. Superior CourtDocket
122 Cal.App.4th 1388 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 10/6/04 (G033968) (Mod. 10/22/04) Rehearing Denied 10/22/04; Case Complete 12/10/04LIS PENDENS / DIVORCE
1. The automatic stay contained in a divorce summons does not apply to the sale by the husband, as managing member of a family-owned management company, of real property vested in the management company.
2. A petition for dissolution of marriage which does not allege a community interest in specific real property does not support the filing of a lis pendens.Nwosu v. UbaDocket
122 Cal.App.4th 1229 – 6th Dist. 10/1/04 (H026182) Case complete 12/01/04The court held that a transaction was a bona fide sale and not an equitable mortgage. The complicated facts provide little of interest to the title insurance business, other than to note the fact that a deed can be held to be a mortgage if the deed was given to secure a debt. The case contains a good discussion of the distinction between legal claims, for which there is a right to a jury trial, and equitable claims, for which there is no right to a jury trial.Moores v. County of MendocinoDocket
122 Cal.App.4th 883 – 1st Dist. 9/24/04 (A105446) Case complete 11/24/04SUBDIVISION MAP ACT: The enactment of an ordinance requiring the County to record notices of merger did not result in the unmerger of parcels that had previously merged under the County’s previous automatic merger ordinance. The County properly sent a subsequent notice under Gov. Code Section 66451.302 notifying property owners of the possibility of a merger. Accordingly, plaintiff’s parcels remain merged.Larsson v. GrabachDocketSup.Ct. Docket
121 Cal.App.4th 1147 – 5th Dist. 8/25/04 (F042675) Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 12/15/04EASEMENTS: An easement by implication can be created when an owner of real property dies intestate and the property is then divided and distributed to the intestate’s heirs by court decree.Felgenhauer v. SoniDocket
121 Cal.App.4th 445 – 2nd Dist. 8/5/04 (B157490) Case complete 10/8/04PRESCRIPTIVE EASEMENTS: To establish a claim of right, which is one of the elements necessary to establish a prescriptive easement, the claimant does not need to believe he is entitled to use of the easement. The phrase “claim of right” has caused confusion because it suggests the need for an intent or state of mind. But it does not require a belief that the use is legally justified; it simply means that the property was used without permission of the owner of the land.Jonathan Neil & Assoc. v. JonesDocket
33 Cal.4th 917 – Cal. Supreme Court (S107855) 8/5/04 (Mod. 10/20/04)INSURANCE: A tort action for breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing exists only in regard to the issues of bad faith payment of claims and unreasonable failure to settle. It does not pertain to the general administration of an insurance policy or to other contract settings. In this case, a tort cause of action does not lie for the insurer’s bad faith conduct in setting an unfairly high insurance premium.Bello v. ABA Energy CorporationDocket
121 Cal.App.4th 301 – 1st Dist. 8/2/04 (A102287) Case complete 10/6/04RIGHTS OF WAY: A grant of a public right of way includes uses made possible by future development or technology, which are not in existence at the time of the grant. Here, the Court held that a right of way included the right to install a pipeline to transport natural gas.California National Bank v. HavisDocket
120 Cal.App.4th 1122 – 2nd Dist. 7/23/04 (B167152) Case complete 9/22/04DEEDS OF TRUST: A bank holding a deed of trust holder was paid outside of escrow with a check. The bank sent a letter to escrow stating that it had “received payoff funds . . . it is our policy to issue the Full Reconveyance 10 days after receipt of the payoff check. Therefore, a Full Reconveyance will be sent to the County Recorder on or about August 5, 2002”. The escrow relied on the letter and closed escrow without paying off the lender. The check bounced and the lender began foreclosure.
The Court reversed a summary judgment in favor of defendants, holding that the letter did not constitute a payoff demand statement binding on the bank under CC 2943. The Court determined that there was a triable issue of fact as to whether the parties could reasonably have relied on the letter. [Ed. note: The Court exhibited a scary lack of understanding of real estate transactions, and could not come to grips with the fact that reconveyances from institutional lenders never record at close of escrow.]Kirkeby v. Sup. Ct. (Fascenelli)Docket
33 Cal.4th 642 – Cal. Supreme Court 7/22/04 (S117640)LIS PENDENS: An action to set aside a fraudulent conveyance supports the recording of a lis pendens. The court stated that “[b]y definition, the voiding of a transfer of real property will affect title to or possession of real property”. (Ed. note: Several appellate court decisions have held that actions to impose equitable liens and constructive trusts do not support a lis pendens. The Supreme Court did not deal with those issues but it seems that, using the court’s language, it could similarly be said that “by definition imposing an equitable lien or constructive trust will affect title to or possession of real property.”)Tom v. City and County of San FranciscoDocketSup.Ct. Docket
120 Cal.App.4th 674 – 1st Dist. 6/22/04 (A101950) Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 10/13/04TENANCY IN COMMON AGREEMENTS: In order to evade burdensome regulations for converting apartments to condominiums, it has become a common practice in San Francisco for a group of people to acquire a multi-unit residential building and enter into a tenancy in common agreement establishing an exclusive right of occupancy for each dwelling unit. Seeking to end this practice, the People’s Republic of San Francisco enacted an ordinance prohibiting exclusive right of occupancy agreements. The Court held that the ordinance is unconstitutional because it violates the right of privacy set forth in Article I, section I of the California Constitution.California Attorney General Opinion No. 03-1108
6/9/04RECORDING: A memorandum of lease is a recordable instrument.Yeung v. SoosDocket
119 Cal.App.4th 576 – 2nd Dist. 6/16/04 (B165939) (Mod. 7/2/04) Case complete 9/10/04QUIET TITLE: A default judgment after service by publication is permissible in a quiet title action. However, the judgment may not be entered by the normal default prove-up methods; the court must require evidence of the plaintiff’s title, including live witnesses and complete authentication of the underlying real property records. Nevertheless, the judgment is not rendered void because the default prove-up method was used rather than an evidentiary hearing.Villa de Las Palmas HOA v. TerifajDocket
33 Cal.4th 73 – Cal. Supreme Court 6/14/04 (S109123)RESTRICTIONS: Use restrictions in amended declarations are binding on owners who purchased prior to recordation of the amendment. They are also subject to the same presumption of validity as the original declaration.In re Marriage of GioiaDocket
119 Cal.App.4th 272 – 2nd Dist. 6/9/04 (B166803) Case complete 8/11/04BANKRUPTCY: A bankruptcy trustee’s notice of abandonment of property was effective even though it was ambiguous because it did not specifically state that the trustee will be deemed to have abandoned the property 15 days from the date of mailing of the notice. The court also states that an abandonment is irrevocable even if the property later becomes more valuable.Dieckmeyer v. Redevelopment Agency of Huntington BeachDocketSup.Ct. Docket
127 Cal.App.4th 248 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 2/28/05 (G031869) (2nd Opinion) Case complete 5/5/05DEEDS OF TRUST: Where a deed of trust secures both payment of a promissory note and performance of contractual obligations (CC&R’s in this case), the trustor is not entitled to reconveyance of the deed of trust after the note is paid off, but before the contractual obligations are satisfied.Textron Financial v. National Union Fire Insurance Co.DocketSup.Ct. Docket
118 Cal.App.4th 1061 – 4th Dist., Div. 3 5/20/04 (G020323) (Mod. 6/18/04) Req. for rev. and depub. by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 9/15/04INSURANCE / PUNITIVE DAMAGES:
1. The amount of attorney’s fees incurred by an insured in obtaining policy benefits and recoverable under Brandt v. Sup. Ct. are limited to the fees under the contingency fee agreement between the insured and its counsel, and not a higher figure based on the reasonable value of the attorney’s services.
2. Punitive damages must be based on compensatory damages awarded for tortious conduct, including breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, excluding the sum recovered on the breach of contract claim.
3. When compensatory damages are neither exceptionally high nor low, and the defendant’s conduct is neither exceptionally extreme nor trivial, the outer constitutional limit on the amount of punitive damages is approximately four times the amount of compensatory damages.
4. The wealth of a defendant cannot justify an otherwise unconstitutional punitive damages award.Blackburn v. CharnleyDocketSup.Ct. Docket
117 Cal.App.4th 758 – 2nd Dist. 4/8/04 (B166080) Request for review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 7/21/04SPECIFIC PERFORMANCE: Specific performance is available even though the contract referred to lots which had not yet been subdivided. This violation of the Subdivision Map Act made the contract voidable at the option of the buyer, who chose to enforce the contract instead. The requirement in the standard CAR contract to mediate in order to collect attorney’s fees does not apply where an action is filed in order to record a lis pendens and where mediation was conducted pursuant to the court’s own practices.Hedges v. CarriganDocket
117 Cal.App.4th 578 – 2nd Dist. 4/6/04 (B166248) Case complete 6/11/04ARBITRATION: The Federal Arbitration Act preempts C.C.P. Section 1298, which requires that an arbitration clause in a real estate contract contain a specified notice and be in a specified type size. Preemption requires that the transaction affect interstate commerce, which the court found existed because the anticipated financing involved an FHA loan, and the purchase agreement was on a copyrighted form that stated it could only be used by members of the National Association of Realtors. [Ed. note: the form does not say that!] However, in the unpublished portion of the opinion, the court held that the arbitration clause could not be enforced because it required that the parties initial it in order to acknowledge their agreement to arbitration, and they did not all do so. [Ed. note: the concurring opinion makes much more sense than the majority opinion!]Kapner v. Meadowlark Ranch Assn.Docket
116 Cal.App.4th 1182 – 2nd Dist. 3/17/04 (B163525) Case complete 5/25/04ADVERSE POSSESSION / PRESCRIPTIVE EASEMENTS: A prescriptive easement cannot be established where the encroacher’s use is exclusive. The Court affirmed the trial court’s order requiring the property owner to sign an encroachment agreement or remove the encroachment.Harrison v. WelchDocketSup.Ct. Docket
116 Cal.App.4th 1084 – 3rd Dist. 3/12/04 (C044320) Request for depublication DENIED 6/23/04ADVERSE POSSESSION / PRESCRIPTIVE EASEMENTS:
1) In the uncertified Part I of the opinion, the court rejected Defendant’s claim of adverse possession because real property taxes were not paid on any area outside of Defendant’s lot. The court rejected defendant’s creative argument that real property taxes were paid on all land within the setback area where defendant’s house was 3-1/2 feet from the property line, and a zoning ordinance required a 5-foot setback.
2) A prescriptive easement cannot be established where the encroacher’s use is exclusive. The opinion contains an excellent discussion of the case law on this issue.
3) The 5-year statute of limitations in C.C.P. Sections 318 and 321, within which a plaintiff must bring an action to recover real property, does not commence until the encroacher’s use of the property has ripened into adverse possession.Brizuela v. CalFarm Insurance CompanyDocketSup.Ct. Docket
116 Cal.App.4th 578 – 2nd Dist. 3/3/04 (B160875) Review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 6/9/04INSURANCE: Where an insurance policy requires an insured who has filed a claim to submit to an examination under oath, that obligation is a condition precedent to obtaining benefits under the policy. The insurer is entitled to deny the claim without showing it was prejudiced by the insured’s refusal.Hanshaw v. Long Valley Road Assn.DocketSup.Ct. Docket
116 Cal.App.4th 471 – 3rd Dist. 3/2/04 (C041796) Review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 5/19/04PUBLIC STREETS: An offer of dedication of a public street that is not formally accepted may, nevertheless, be accepted by subsequent public use. This is known as common law dedication. However, counties have a duty to maintain only those roads that are “county roads”, and a public road does not become a county road unless specifically accepted as such by the appropriate resolution of the Board of Supervisors.Miner v. Tustin Avenue InvestorsDocket
116 Cal.App.4th 264 – 4th Dist., Div.3 2/27/04 (G031703) Case complete 5/4/04LEASES / ESTOPPEL CERTIFICATES: A lease contained an option to renew for 5 years, but the tenant signed an estoppel certificate stating that the lease was in full force and effect, and that the tenant had no options except the following: (blank lines that followed were left blank). The Court held that the tenant was not bound by the estoppel certificate because it was ambiguous as to whether it referred only to options outside of the lease or whether the tenant had somehow given up his option rights.Tremper v. QuinonesDocket
115 Cal.App.4th 944 – 2nd Dist. 2/17/04 (B165218) Case complete 5/3/04GOOD FAITH IMPROVER: Attorney’s fees and costs may be included in the calculation of damages awarded against a person bringing an action as a good faith improver under C.C.P. Section 871.3, regardless of whether the costs and fees were incurred in prosecuting a complaint or defending against a cross complaint, and even where the good faith improver issues are part of a quiet title action which would not ordinarily support an award of attorney’s fees and costs.Kertesz v. OstrovskyDocket
115 Cal.App.4th 369 – 4th Dist., Div.3 1/28/04 (G030640) Case complete 4/2/04JUDGMENTS / BANKRUPTCY: The time for renewing a judgment was 10 years from entry of the judgment, plus the amount of time between the debtor’s filing of a bankruptcy petition and the date of the Bankruptcy Court’s order of nondischargeability, plus an additional 30 days under Bankruptcy Code Section 108(c). The court reached this conclusion even though the judgment was entered before the bankruptcy petition was filed, and the 10-year period for renewing the judgment expired long after the bankruptcy was closed.
NOTE: I believe the judge misunderstood the automatic stay and Bankruptcy Code Section 108(c). I do not believe the automatic stay applies when a period of time for taking an action commences prior to bankruptcy, and expires after the bankruptcy case is closed.Rancho Santa Fe Association v. Dolan-KingDocketSup.Ct. Docket
115 Cal.App.4th 28 – 4th Dist., Div.1 1/7/04 (D040637/D041486) Pet. for Review by Cal Supreme Ct. DENIED 4/28/04HOMEOWNER’S ASSOCIATIONS: Regulations adopted and interpreted by a Homeowner’s Association must be reasonable from the perspective of the entire development, not by determining on a case-by-case basis the effect on individual homeowners.Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich v. Vigilant Insurance Co.Docket
114 Cal.App.4th 1185 – 4th Dist., Div.1 1/12/04 (D041811) Case complete 3/15/04INSURANCE: Civil Code Section 2860(c) provides for the arbitration of disputes over the amount of legal fees or the hourly billing rate of Cumis counsel, but does not apply to other defense expenses.
Bank of America, N.A. v. La Jolla Group II, 129 Cal. App. 4th 706, 15 710,717 (5th Dist. 2005) (void foreclosure sale required rescission of trustee’s deed returning title to the status quo prior to the foreclosure sale); Dimock v. Emerald Properties, 81 Cal. App. 4th 868, 874 (4th Dist. 2000) (sale under deed of trust by former trustee void, and tender of the amount due is unnecessary).
THE COURT MUST STRICTLY ENFORCE
THE TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS FOR A FORECLOSURE.
The harshness of non-judicial foreclosure has been recognized. “The exercise of the power of sale is a harsh method of foreclosing the rights of the grantor.” Anderson v. Heart Federal Savings (1989) 208 Cal.App.3d 202, 6 215, citing to System Inv. Corporation v. Union Bank (1971) 21 Cal.App.3d 137, 153. The statutory requirements are intended to protect the trustor from a wrongful or unfair loss of his property Moeller v. Lien (1994) 25 Cal.App.4th 822, 830; accord, Hicks v. E.T. Legg & Associates (2001) 89 Cal.App.4th 496, 503; Lo Nguyen v. Calhoun (6th District 2003) 105 Cal.App.4th 428, 440, and a valid foreclosure by the private power of sale requires strict compliance with the requirements of the statute. Miller & Starr, California Real Estate (3d ed.), Deeds of Trust and Mortgages, Chapter 10 §10.179; Anderson v. Heart Federal Sav. & Loan Assn., 208 Cal. App. 3d 202, 211 (3d Dist. 1989), reh’g denied and opinion modified, (Mar. 28, 1989); Miller v. Cote (4th Dist. 1982) 127 Cal. App. 3d 888, 894; System Inv. Corp. v. Union Bank (2d Dist. 1971) 21 Cal. App. 3d 137, 152-153; Bisno v. Sax (2d Dist. 1959) 175 Cal. App. 2d 714, 720.
It has been a cornerstone of foreclosure law that the statutory requirements, intending to protect the Trustor and or Grantor from a wrongful or unfair loss of the property, must be complied with strictly. Miller & Starr, California Real Estate (3d ed.), Deeds of Trust and Mortgages, Chapter 10 §10.182. “Close” compliance does not count. As a result, any trustee’s sale based on a statutorily deficient Notice of Default is invalid (emphasis added). Miller & Starr, California Real Estate (3d ed.), Deeds of Trust and Mortgages, Chapter 10 §10.182; Anderson v. Heart Federal Sav. & Loan Assn. (3dDist. 1989) 208 Cal. App. 3d 202, 211, reh’g denied and opinion modified, (Mar. 28, 1989); Miller v. Cote (4th Dist. 1982) 127 Cal. App. 3d 888, 894; System Inv. Corp. v. Union Bank (2d Dist. 1971) 21 Cal. App. 3d 137, 152-153; Saterstrom v. Glick Bros. Sash, Door & Mill Co.(3d Dist. 1931) 118 Cal. App. 379.
Additionally, any Trustee’s Sale based on a statutorily deficient Notice of Trustee Sale is invalid. Anderson v. Heart Federal Sav. & Loan Assn. (3d Dist. 1989) 11 208 Cal.App. 3d 202, 211, reh’g denied and opinion modified, (Mar. 28, 1989). The California Sixth District Court of Appeal observed, “Pursuing that policy [of judicial interpretation], the courts have fashioned rules to protect the debtor, one of them being that the notice of default will be strictly construed and must correctly set forth the amounts required to cure the default.” Sweatt v. The Foreclosure Co., Inc. (1985 – 6th District) 166 Cal.App.3d 273 at 278, citing to Miller v. Cote (1982) 127 Cal.App.3d 888, 894 and SystemInv. Corp. v. Union Bank (1971) 21 Cal.App.3d 137, 152-153.
The same reasoning applies even to a Notice of Trustee’s Sale. Courts will set aside a foreclosure sale when there has been fraud, when the sale has been improperly, unfairly, or unlawfully conducted, or when there has been such a mistake that it would be inequitable to let it stand. Bank of America Nat. Trust & Savings Ass’n v. Reidy (1940) 15 Cal. 2d 243, 248; Whitman v. Transtate Title Co.(4th Dist. 1985) 165 Cal. App. 3d 312, 322-323; In re Worcester (9th Cir. 1987) 811 F.2d 1224, 1228. See also Smith v. Williams (1961) 55 Cal. 2d 617, 621; Stirton v. Pastor (4th Dist. 1960) 177 Cal. App. 2d 232, 234; Brown v. Busch (3d Dist. 1957) 152 Cal.App. 2d 200, 203-204.
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My name is Timothy McCandless, and I’m here to tell you what most banks and mortgage loan servicers don’t want you to know: More than 65 million homes in the US may not be subject to foreclosure after all, and your home is very likely one of the “safe” homes. The reason these homes are not technically subject to foreclosure is because the lenders, mortgage companies, mortgage servicers, and title companies broke the law throughout the process of managing your loan, both at the inception of your loan and throughout the life of the loan. Because of their fraudulent actions, they are unable to produce a title for, or show ownership of, your property. This causes what we call a “defect of title”, and legally prohibits your lender or servicer from foreclosing, regardless of whether or not your loan is current.
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Most Mortgage Assignments are Illegal
In a major ruling in the Massachusetts Supreme Court today, US Bank National Association and Wells Fargo lost the “Ibanez case”, meaning that they don’t have standing to foreclose due to improper mortgage assignment. The ruling is likely to send shock waves through the entire judicial system, and seriously raise the stakes on foreclosure fraud. Bank stocks plummeted after this ruling. These assignments are what people need to challenge in their own mortgages.
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The Challenge Your Lender program will help put you in a position of power and control over your loan, and will allow you to decide what you would like to do with your property. This leverage will be advantageous when you begin negotiating your foreclosure. Most importantly, your lender or loan servicer should not be able to foreclose on you once you notify them that you have identified fraudulent activity. My program is your first step in saving your property from foreclosure.
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