Tag Archives: 2932.5

California’s antideficiency rules latest holding

29 Jun

 

Bank of America v Mitchell (2012)

The Editor’s Take: Watching our courts attempt to steer California’s antideficiency rules through the treacherous currents of multiple security contexts is always somewhat painful. Code of Civil Procedure §580d, enacted in 1939, prohibits recovery of a deficiency judgment after a nonjudicial sale, which seems straightforward enough at the start. But 24 years later, the California Supreme Court held that this prohibition did not apply to a creditor suing on its junior note after having been sold out in a senior foreclosure sale (the “sold-out junior exception”). Roseleaf Corp. v Chierighino (1963) 59 C2d 35, 41, 27 CR 873. But then, 30 years after that, a court of appeal held that this sold-out junior exception did not apply to a creditor who held both the senior and junior notes. Simon v Superior Court (1992) 4 CA4th 63, 71, 5 CR2d 428. So from then on, we had a “being your own junior” exception to the “sold-out junior” exception.

A decade after that came two more exceptions to the exception to the exception: The court in Ostayan v Serrano Reconveyance Co. (2000) 77 CA4th 1411, 1422, 92 CR2d 577, , allowed a two-note-holding creditor to foreclose on its junior deed of trust and sell the property subject to its own senior encumbrance (although that is not a §580d issue). More importantly, National Enters., Inc. v Woods (2001) 94 CA4th 1217, 115 CR2d 37, allowed the holder of two notes to judicially foreclose on the first one and to sell the second note to a third party, who then was held able to sue on it as a sold-out junior. This was technically not a §580d issue, since the senior foreclosure was not by power of sale, but the reasoning made it look like we were going to have a “third party transferee” or “unbundling the package” exception to the “being your own junior” exception of Simon. It began to look like Simon would be eaten away with exceptions, especially when the original lender made a timely divestment of one of its notes.

But instead, we now learn from Mitchell that the Simon doctrine will be applied against a third party transferee who took the junior paper from the common lender after that lender had trustee sold the property under its senior deed of trust. Both National Enters. and Mitchell involved a transfer of the junior loan after a sale under the senior security, differing only with regard to whether the senior foreclosure was judicial or nonjudicial, which distinction should perhaps matter more to the selling senior than to the nonselling junior.

So many factors potentially affect the outcomes in these situations that it is really impossible to make any confident predictions. How much does it matter whether the two loans were made at the same or different times? Whether they were for related or entirely different purposes? Whether one of them was transferred (and before or after the other was foreclosed)? Whether the transferred loan was the senior or junior? Whether the one foreclosed was the senior or junior? Whether the foreclosure was judicial or nonjudicial? I can point out these distinctions, but that doesn’t mean I can forecast their effect on the outcome of the next case that comes up. —Roger Bernhardt

 

204 Cal.App.4th 1199 (2012)

139 Cal. Rptr. 3d 562

BANK OF AMERICA, N.A., Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
MICHAEL MITCHELL, Defendant and Respondent.

No. B233924.

Court of Appeals of California, Second District, Division Four.

April 10, 2012.

1202*1202 The Dreyfuss Firm and Bruce Dannemeyer for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Law Offices of Ulric E. J. Usher, Ulric E. J. Usher and Richard Kavonian for Defendant and Respondent.

OPINION

SUZUKAWA, J.—

Appellant Bank of America’s (Bank) predecessor in interest loaned respondent Michael Mitchell (Mitchell) $315,000 to purchase a home, secured by two notes and first and second deeds of trust. When Mitchell defaulted on the loan, the lender foreclosed and sold the property. The lender then assigned the second deed of trust to the Bank, which initiated the present action to recover the indebtedness evidenced by the note. Mitchell demurred, and the court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend, concluding that the Bank’s action was barred by California’s antideficiency law. The Bank appeals from the judgment of dismissal and from the subsequent award of prevailing party attorney fees to Mitchell. We affirm.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

The Bank filed the present action on September 16, 2010, and it filed the operative first amended complaint (complaint), asserting causes of action for 1203*1203 breach of contract, open book account, and money lent, on December 2, 2010. The complaint alleges that Mitchell obtained a loan from GreenPoint Mortgage Funding, Inc. (GreenPoint), on or about September 14, 2006. The loan was evidenced by a note secured by a deed of trust recorded against real property located at 45245 Kingtree Avenue, Lancaster, California (the property). The security for the loan was eliminated by a senior foreclosure sale in 2009. Because Mitchell defaulted on payments owing on the loan, the complaint alleged that he breached the terms of the contract, resulting in damage to the Bank in the principal sum of $63,000, plus interest at the note rate of 11.625 percent from March 1, 2010, through the date of judgment.

Mitchell demurred. Concurrently with his demurrer, he sought judicial notice of several documents, including two deeds of trust, a notice of trustee’s sale, and a trustee’s deed upon sale. On the basis of these documents, he contended that on September 14, 2006, GreenPoint made him two loans to purchase the property, with a note and deed of trust for each loan recorded against the property. The first note and deed of trust were for $252,000, and the second note and deed of trust were for $63,000. Both deeds of trust were recorded on September 21, 2006. Mitchell defaulted on the notes sometime in 2008. A notice of default was recorded, and the property was sold at trustee sale for $53,955.01 on November 6, 2009. More than a year later, on November 18, 2010, GreenPoint assigned the second deed of trust to Bank of America, which subsequently filed the present action to recover on the second note and deed of trust. Mitchell contended that the action was barred by California’s antideficiency legislation, which bars a deficiency judgment following nonjudicial foreclosure of real property.

The trial court granted Mitchell’s request for judicial notice and sustained the demurrer without leave to amend on January 27, 2011, concluding that the Bank’s breach of contract and common counts claims seek recovery of the balance owed on the obligation secured by the second deed of trust and, thus, are barred by the antideficiency statutes as a matter of law. On April 7, 2011, the court awarded Mitchell prevailing party attorney fees of $8,400 and costs of $534.72.

Judgment for Mitchell was entered on July 8, 2011. The Bank appealed from the award of attorney fees on June 17, 2011, and from the judgment on August 8, 2011. We ordered the two appeals consolidated on October 13, 2011.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

“A demurrer tests the legal sufficiency of the factual allegations in a complaint. We independently review the sustaining of a demurrer and determine de novo whether the complaint alleges facts sufficient to state a cause of 1204*1204 action or discloses a complete defense. (McCall v. PacifiCare of Cal., Inc. (2001) 25 Cal.4th 412, 415 [106 Cal.Rptr.2d 271, 21 P.3d 1189]Cryolife, Inc. v. Superior Court (2003) 110 Cal.App.4th 1145, 1152 [2 Cal.Rptr.3d 396].) We assume the truth of the properly pleaded factual allegations, facts that reasonably can be inferred from those expressly pleaded, and matters of which judicial notice has been taken. (Schifando v. City of Los Angeles (2003) 31 Cal.4th 1074, 1081 [6 Cal.Rptr.3d 457, 79 P.3d 569].) We construe the pleading in a reasonable manner and read the allegations in context. (Ibid.)” (City of Industry v. City of Fillmore (2011) 198 Cal.App.4th 191, 205 [129 Cal.Rptr.3d 433].)

“If we determine the facts as pleaded do not state a cause of action, we then consider whether the court abused its discretion in denying leave to amend the complaint. (McClain v. Octagon Plaza, LLC [(2008)] 159 Cal.App.4th [784,] 791-792 [71 Cal.Rptr.3d 885].) It is an abuse of discretion for the trial court to sustain a demurrer without leave to amend if the plaintiff demonstrates a reasonable possibility that the defect can be cured by amendment. (Schifando v. City of Los Angeles[,supra,] 31 Cal.4th [at p.] 1081. . . .)” (Estate of Dito (2011) 198 Cal.App.4th 791, 800-801 [130 Cal.Rptr.3d 279].)

Attorney fee awards normally are reviewed for abuse of discretion. In the present case, however, the Bank contends that the trial court lacked the authority as a matter of law to award attorney fees in any amount. Accordingly, our review is de novo. (Connerly v. Sate Personnel Bd. (2006) 37 Cal.4th 1169, 1175 [39 Cal.Rptr.3d 788, 129 P.3d 1].)

DISCUSSION

I. The Trial Court Properly Sustained the Demurrer Without Leave to Amend

A. Code of Civil Procedure Section 580d

(1) “`In California, as in most states, a creditor’s right to enforce a debt secured by a mortgage or deed of trust on real property is restricted by statute. Under California law, “the creditor must rely upon his security before enforcing the debt. (Code Civ. Proc., §§ 580a, 725a, 726.) If the security is insufficient, his right to a judgment against the debtor for the deficiency may be limited or barred . . . .” [Citation.]’ [Citation.]” (In re Marriage of Oropallo (1998) 68 Cal.App.4th 997, 1003 [80 Cal.Rptr.2d 669].)

Code of Civil Procedure section 580d (section 580d) prohibits a creditor from seeking a judgment for a deficiency on all notes “secured by a deed of 1205*1205 trust or mortgage upon real property . . . in any case in which the real property . . . has been sold by the mortgagee or trustee under power of sale contained in the mortgage or deed of trust.”[1] The effect of section 580d is that “`the beneficiary of a deed of trust executed after 1939 cannot hold the debtor for a deficiency unless he uses the remedy of judicial foreclosure. . . .'” (Simon v. Superior Court (1992) 4 Cal.App.4th 63, 71 [5 Cal.Rptr.2d 428] (Simon).)

(2) In Roseleaf Corp. v. Chierighino (1963) 59 Cal.2d 35 [27 Cal.Rptr. 873, 378 P.2d 97] (Roseleaf), the California Supreme Court held that where two deeds of trust are held against a single property and the senior creditor nonjudicially forecloses on the property, section 580d does not prohibit the holder of the junior lienor “whose security has been rendered valueless by a senior sale” from recovering a deficiency judgment. (59 Cal.2d at p. 39.) There, defendant Chierighino purchased a hotel from plaintiff Roseleaf Corporation. The consideration for the hotel included three notes, each secured by a second trust deed on parcels owned by Chierighino. After the sale of the hotel, the third parties who held the first trust deeds on the three parcels nonjudicially foreclosed on them, rendering Roseleaf’s second trust deeds valueless. Roseleaf then brought an action to recover the full amount unpaid on the three notes secured by the second trust deeds. (Id. at p. 38.)

The trial court entered judgment for Roseleaf. Chierighino appealed, contending that Roseleaf’s action was barred by section 580d, but the Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed. It explained that the purpose of section 580d was to “put judicial enforcement [of powers of sale] on a parity with private enforcement.” (Roseleaf, supra, 59 Cal.2d at p. 43.) That purpose, the court said, would not be served by applying section 580d against a nonselling junior lienor: “Even without the section the junior has fewer rights after a senior private sale than after a senior judicial sale. He may redeem from a senior judicial sale (Code Civ. Proc., § 701), or he may obtain a deficiency judgment. [Citations.] After a senior private sale, the junior has no right to redeem. This disparity of rights would be aggravated were he also denied a right to a deficiency judgment by section 580d. There is no purpose in denying the junior his single remedy after a senior private sale while leaving 1206*1206 him with two alternative remedies after a senior judicial sale. The junior’s right to recover should not be controlled by the whim of the senior, and there is no reason to extend the language of section 580d to reach that result.” (59 Cal.2d at p. 44.)

In Simon, supra, 4 Cal.App.4th 63, the court held that the rule articulated in Roseleafdid not apply to protect a junior lienor who also held the senior lien. There, Bank of America (Lender) lent the Simons $1,575,000, for which the Simons gave it two separate promissory notes. Each note was secured by a separate deed of trust naming the Bank as beneficiary and describing the same real property (the property). Subsequently, the Simons defaulted on the senior note and the Lender foreclosed. The Lender purchased the property at the nonjudicial foreclosure sale and then filed an action to recover the unpaid balance of the junior note. (Id. at p. 66.)

(3) After detailing the history of the antideficiency legislation and the governing case law, the court held that section 580d barred the Lender’s deficiency causes of action. It noted that in Roseleaf, the Supreme Court explained that the purpose of section 580d was to create parity between judicial and nonjudicial enforcement. Such parity would not be served “if [the Lender] here is permitted to make successive loans secured by a senior and junior deed of trust on the same property; utilize its power of sale to foreclose the senior lien, thereby eliminating the Simons’ right to redeem; and having so terminated that right of redemption, obtain a deficiency judgment against the Simons on the junior obligation whose security [the Lender], thus, made the choice to eliminate.” (Simon, supra, 4 Cal.App.4th at p. 77.) The court continued: “Unlike a true third party sold-out junior, [the Lender’s] right to recover as a junior lienor which is also the purchasing senior lienor is obviously not controlled by the `whim of the senior.’ We will not sanction the creation of multiple trust deeds on the same property, securing loans represented by successive promissory notes from the same debtor, as a means of circumventing the provisions of section 580d. [Fn. omitted.] The elevation of the form of such a contrived procedure over its easily perceived substance would deal a mortal blow to the antideficiency legislation of this state. Assuming, arguendo, legitimate reasons do exist to divide a loan to a debtor into multiple notes thus secured, section 580d must nonetheless be viewed as controlling where, as here, the senior and junior lenders and lienors are identical and those liens are placed on the same real property. Otherwise, creditors would be free to structure their loans to a single debtor, and the security therefor, so as to obtain on default the secured property on a trustee’s sale under a senior deed of trust; thereby eliminate the debtor’s right of redemption thereto; and thereafter effect an excessive recovery by obtaining a deficiency judgment against that debtor on an obligation secured by a junior lien the creditor chose to eliminate.” (Id. at pp. 77-78.)

1207*1207 B. Simon and Roseleaf Bar a Deficiency Judgment in the Present Case

(4) Simon is dispositive of the present case. Here, Mitchell executed two promissory notes, for $252,000 and $63,000, secured by the first and second deeds of trust in the property. As in Simon, the first and second deeds of trust were held by a single lender, GreenPoint. GreenPoint, as beneficiary under the first deed of trust, chose to exercise its power of sale by holding a nonjudicial foreclosure sale. GreenPoint thus was not a “sold-out junior” lienor and would not have been permitted to obtain a deficiency judgment against Mitchell under the rule articulated in Simon. The result is no different because GreenPoint, after the trustee sale, assigned the second deed of trust to the Bank. “An assignment transfers the interest of the assignor to the assignee. Thereafter, `”[t]he assignee `stands in the shoes’ of the assignor, taking his rights and remedies, subject to any defenses which the obligor has against the assignor prior to notice of the assignment.”‘ [Citation.]” (Manson, Iver & York v. Black (2009) 176 Cal.App.4th 36, 49 [97 Cal.Rptr.3d 522].) Accordingly, because GreenPoint could not have obtained a deficiency judgment against Mitchell, the Bank also is precluded from doing so.

The Bank urges that Simon is distinguishable because in that case, the lender ultimately purchased the property for a credit bid at its own foreclosure sale, whereas in this case, the property was sold to a third party. The Bank thus contends that “[u]nder Simon if (a) both loans are held by the same lender and (b) that lender acquires the property at the foreclosure sale, the risk of manipulation by the lender is too great, so no deficiency is allowed. But if either is missing, the risk of manipulation is reduced, and a deficiency should be allowed.” Like the trial court, we reject the contention that the lender must have acquired the property at the foreclosure sale forSimon to apply. Although Simon noted the lender’s purchase at the foreclosure sale, that purchase was not material to its holding. Instead, the court’s focus was on the lender’s dual position as holder of the first and second deeds of trust, and its consequent ability to protect its own interest. (Simon, supra, 4 Cal.App.4th at p. 72 [“[The Lender] was not a third party sold-out junior lienholder as was the case inRoseleaf. As the holder of both the first and second liens, [the Lender] was fully able to protect its secured position. It was not required to protect its junior lien from its own foreclosure of the senior lien by the investment of additional funds. Its position of dual lienholder eliminated any possibility that [the Lender], after foreclosure and sale of the liened property under its first lien, might end up with no interest in the secured property, the principal rationale of the court’s decision in Roseleaf.“].)

The Bank further contends that the present case is distinguishable from Simonbecause the presence of a third party purchaser at the foreclosure sale 1208*1208prevented the kind of “manipulation” possible in Simon. According to the Bank, “[w]hen the foreclosure sale results in acquisition by a third party, who competed with the foreclosing lender and all other bidders at the public auction, a low-ball bid is impossible. If the foreclosing lender bids below market, it will be outbid; it will not acquire the property. The lender cannot manipulate the price. The presence of third party bids demonstrates the market is at work to achieve a fair price. Third party bids provide the functional equivalent of a right of redemption. By outbidding the lender, the third party prevents the lender from manipulating the process.” We disagree. Whatever the merits of the Bank’s argument as a matter of policy, it has no support in the statute, and the Bank suggests none. Indeed, nothing in the antideficiency legislation suggests that the presence of a third party bidder at a foreclosure sale excepts the sale from the legislation and permits the lender to seek a deficiency judgment.[2]

For all the foregoing reasons, section 580d bars the deficiency judgment the Bank seeks in the present case and, thus, the trial court properly sustained the demurrer. Because the Bank suggests no way in which the legal defects identified could be cured by amendment, the demurrer was properly sustained without leave to amend.

II. The Trial Court Properly Awarded Mitchell Attorney Fees

A. Relevant Facts

Following the trial court’s order sustaining Mitchell’s demurrer without leave to amend, Mitchell filed a motion for attorney fees pursuant to Civil Code section 1717. Two days later, on February 10, 2011, the Bank filed a request for dismissal with prejudice. It then filed opposition to the motion for attorney fees, contending that there could be no prevailing party within the meaning of Civil Code section 1717 because it had voluntarily dismissed its action.[3]

On March 8, 2011, the trial court vacated the dismissal and granted Mitchell’s motion for attorney fees. It explained that because it had sustained a demurrer to the Bank’s complaint without leave to amend, the Bank did not have a right pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 581 to voluntarily dismiss the action, and the dismissal had been entered in error. It awarded Mitchell attorney fees of $8,400 and costs of $534.72.

1209*1209 B. Analysis

The Bank contends that the trial court lacked authority to award Mitchell attorney fees. It urges that under Code of Civil Procedure section 581, it had an absolute right to dismiss its case voluntarily, so long as it did so with prejudice. Because it did so, there was no prevailing party pursuant to Civil Code section 1717, subdivision (b)(2), and thus the trial court lacked authority to award Mitchell contractual attorney fees.

(5) The Bank is correct that under Civil Code section 1717, a defendant in a contract action is not deemed a prevailing party where the plaintiff voluntarily dismisses the action. (Id., subd. (b)(2) [“Where an action has been voluntarily dismissed or dismissed pursuant to a settlement of the case, there shall be no prevailing party for purposes of this section.”].) Therefore, if the Bank’s dismissal was valid, the Bank is correct that the trial court erred in awarding attorney fees. The trial court determined, however, that the Bank’s dismissal was not valid, the issue to which we now turn.

(6) Pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 581, a plaintiff may voluntarily dismiss an action, “with or without prejudice,” at any time before the “actual commencement of trial.” (§ 581, subds. (b)(1), (c).) Further, a plaintiff may voluntarily dismiss an action with prejudice “at any time before the submission of the cause.” (Estate of Somers (1947) 82 Cal.App.2d 757, 759 [187 P.2d 433].) Upon the proper exercise of the right of voluntary dismissal, a trial court “`would thereafter lack jurisdiction to enter further orders in the dismissed action.’ (Wells v. Marina City Properties, Inc. (1981) 29 Cal.3d 781, 784 [176 Cal.Rptr. 104, 632 P.2d 217].) `Alternatively stated, voluntary dismissal of an entire action deprives the court of both subject matter and personal jurisdiction in that case, except for the limited purpose of awarding costs and . . . attorney fees. [Citations.]’ (Gogri v. Jack in the Box, Inc.(2008) 166 Cal.App.4th 255, 261 [82 Cal.Rptr.3d 629].)” (Lewis C. Nelson & Sons, Inc. v. Lynx Iron Corp. (2009) 174 Cal.App.4th 67, 76 [94 Cal.Rptr.3d 468].)

A plaintiff’s right to voluntarily dismiss an action before commencement of trial is not absolute, however. (Lewis C. Nelson & Sons, Inc. v. Lynx Iron Corp., supra, 174 Cal.App.4th at pp. 76-77Zapanta v. Universal Care, Inc. (2003) 107 Cal.App.4th 1167, 1171 [132 Cal.Rptr.2d 842].) “Code of Civil Procedure section 581 recognizes exceptions to the right; other limitations have evolved through the courts’ construction of the term `commencement of trial.’ These exceptions generally arise where the action has proceeded to a determinative adjudication, or to a decision that is tantamount to an adjudication.” (Harris v. Billings (1993) 16 Cal.App.4th 1396, 1402 [20 Cal.Rptr.2d 718].)

1210*1210 (7) The Supreme Court found such a “determinative adjudication” in Goldtree v. Spreckels (1902) 135 Cal. 666 [67 P. 1091] (Goldtree). There, the defendant’s demurrer to each of the plaintiff’s causes of action was sustained without leave to amend as to the first two. The plaintiff then filed a written request to dismiss the entire case, and the court clerk entered an order of dismissal. The trial court vacated the dismissal, and the plaintiff appealed. (Id. at pp. 667-668.) The Supreme Court affirmed: “In our opinion the subdivision of the section 581 of the Code of Civil Procedure in question cannot be restricted in its meaning to trials of the merits after answer, for there may be such a trial on a general demurrer to the complaint as will effectually dispose of the case where the plaintiff has properly alleged all the facts which constitute his cause of action. If the demurrer is sustained, he stands on his pleading and submits to judgment on the demurrer, and, if not satisfied, has his remedy by appeal. In such a case, we think, there would be a trial within the meaning of the code, and the judgment would cut off the right of dismissal, unless it was first set aside or leave given to amend. [¶] The clerk had no authority, therefore, to enter the dismissal, and being void the court rightly set it aside.” (Id. at pp. 672-673.)

(8) The Supreme Court reached a similar result in Wells v. Marina City Properties, Inc., supra, 29 Cal.3d 781 (Wells). There, the trial court sustained the defendant’s demurrer with leave to amend. The plaintiff failed to amend within the time provided, but instead sought to voluntarily dismiss the action without prejudice. The Supreme Court held that the voluntary dismissal was improperly entered: “[O]nce a general demurrer is sustained with leave to amend and plaintiff does not so amend within the time authorized by the court or otherwise extended by stipulation or appropriate order, he can no longer voluntarily dismiss his action pursuant to section 581, subdivision 1, even if the trial court has yet to enter a judgment of dismissal on the sustained demurrer.” (Id. at p. 789.)

In the present case, the trial court sustained defendant’s demurrer without leave to amend on January 27, 2011. Although the trial court had not yet entered a judgment of dismissal when the Bank filed a request for voluntary dismissal on February 10, 2011, as in Goldtree and Wells, the trial court had already made a determinative adjudication on the legal merits of the Bank’s claim. Accordingly, as in those cases, the Bank no longer had the right to voluntarily dismiss under Code of Civil Procedure section 581.

The Bank contends that the present case is distinguishable from Goldtree and Wellsbecause here it sought to dismiss with prejudice, while in those cases the attempted dismissal was without prejudice. We do not agree. The 1211*1211 court rejected a similar contention in Vanderkous v. Conley (2010) 188 Cal.App.4th 111 [115 Cal.Rptr.3d 249] (Vanderkous). There, the plaintiff and the defendant formerly had lived together on a multilot parcel owned by the plaintiff. An arbitration award entered after their relationship ended directed the parties to cooperate in a lot line adjustment that would result in the home and a garage on a single lot to be owned by the defendant, with the remainder of the parcel to be owned by the plaintiff. The plaintiff was also to have access and utility easements over the garage area for the benefit of his parcel. The easements were executed by the defendant and recorded, but the garage and surrounding property were never transferred because the plaintiff never recorded either the lot line adjustment or the grant deed to the defendant for the garage and setback area. When the plaintiff subsequently sought to record a subdivision map, the title company that was to record the map refused to do so because the grants of easement by the defendant created a cloud on the plaintiff’s title. The plaintiff thus filed a complaint for declaratory relief and to quiet title. (Id. at pp. 114-115.)

Following a trial, the court filed a statement of decision that ordered the defendant to execute a quitclaim deed in favor of the plaintiff, and ordered the plaintiff to compensate the defendant in an amount equal to the full market value of the garage area. If the parties could not agree on the amount the plaintiff was to pay the defendant, each party was ordered to submit an appraisal for the court’s final determination. The defendant submitted an appraisal that valued the garage area at $410,000, and the plaintiff submitted an appraisal that valued the property at $75,000, but also requested a continuance and an evidentiary hearing on the value of the property. The day before the evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff filed a request for dismissal with prejudice with the clerk. The trial court ruled that the plaintiff’s attempt to dismiss was void ab initio and ordered the plaintiff to pay the defendant $199,246 plus attorney fees and costs. (Vanderkous, supra, 188 Cal.App.4th at p. 116.)

(9) The plaintiff appealed, contending that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to set aside his voluntary dismissal of his action and to award attorney fees. (Vanderkous, supra, 188 Cal.App.4th at p. 117.) The court disagreed and affirmed the judgment. It explained: “Section 581, subdivision (d) provides that a complaint may be dismissed with prejudice when the plaintiff abandons it before the final submission of the case.Here, the court’s statement of decision following the three-day court trial, states `[t]he matter was deemed submitted on March 10, 2008, following receipt of closing briefs from both sides.’ The statement of decision resolved Vanderkous’s quiet title cause of action and his claim for declaratory relief, and ordered him to compensate Conley for the fair market value of property she was required to quitclaim to 1212*1212 him. [¶] … [¶] Because Vanderkous has not convinced us that he had an absolute right to dismiss his complaint, we also reject his argument that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to set aside his attempted dismissal. [Citations.] A contrary rule would enable Vanderkous to avoid compliance with the court’s decision and would undermine the trial court’s authority to provide for the orderly conduct of proceedings before it and compel obedience to its judgments, orders, and process. (See § 128, subd. (a).)” (Vanderkous, supra, at pp. 117-118; see also Weil & Brown, Cal. Practice Guide: Civil Procedure Before Trial (The Rutter Group 2011) ¶ 11:28, p. 11-16 (rev. # 1, 2011) [“[O]nce the case is finally submitted for decision, there is no further right to dismiss with prejudice. At that point, plaintiffs cannot avoid an adverse ruling by abandoning the case.”].)

The present case is analogous. As in Vanderkous, the Bank sought to dismiss afterthe court made a dispositive ruling against it, not before. To allow the Bank to dismiss at that late stage would permit procedural gamesmanship inconsistent with the trial court’s authority to provide for the orderly conduct of proceedings before it.

We do not agree with the Bank that its right to dismiss is supported by this division’s decision in Marina Glencoe, L.P. v. Neue Sentimental Film AG (2008) 168 Cal.App.4th 874 [85 Cal.Rptr.3d 800] (Marina Glencoe). There, after the plaintiff presented its evidence on the single bifurcated issue of alter ego liability, the defendant moved for judgment. The court heard argument on the motion but did not rule; the following day, before a ruling on the pending motion, the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the action with prejudice. The defendant moved for prevailing party attorney fees, and the court denied the motion, concluding that the defendant was not entitled to such fees under Civil Code section 1717. The defendant appealed. We affirmed, noting that because the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed with prejudice, “[i]ts intent was to end the litigation, not to manipulate the judicial process to avoid its inevitable end. This was entirely proper.” (168 Cal.App.4th at p. 878.)

The present case is distinguishable from Marina Glencoe. In Marina Glencoe, the plaintiff dismissed its action before the trial court ruled on a dispositive motion, and thus judgment in the defendant’s favor was not inevitable. In the present case, in contrast, the trial court had already sustained Mitchell’s demurrer without leave to amend, and thus judgment against the Bank had already “ripened to the point of inevitability.” (Marina Glencoe, supra, 168 Cal.App.4th at p. 878.) Accordingly, unlike in Marina Glencoe, the Bank no longer had the right to voluntarily dismiss its action, either with or without prejudice.

1213*1213 DISPOSITION

We affirm the judgment of dismissal and award of attorney fees. Mitchell shall recover his appellate costs.

Willhite, Acting P. J., and Manella, J., concurred.

[1] The full text of section 580d is as follows: “No judgment shall be rendered for any deficiency upon a note secured by a deed of trust or mortgage upon real property or an estate for years therein hereafter executed in any case in which the real property or estate for years therein has been sold by the mortgagee or trustee under power of sale contained in the mortgage or deed of trust.

“This section does not apply to any deed of trust, mortgage or other lien given to secure the payment of bonds or other evidences of indebtedness authorized or permitted to be issued by the Commissioner of Corporations, or which is made by a public utility subject to the Public Utilities Act (Part 1 (commencing with Section 201) of Division 1 of the Public Utilities Code).”

[2] Although not relevant to our analysis, we note that the property’s foreclosure sale purchase price of $53,955.01 does not convincingly demonstrate, as the Bank asserts, that the presence of a third party bidder made a “low-ball bid . . . impossible.”

[3] In its opposition, the Bank represented to the court as follows: “The litigation is over. There will be no appeal.”

 

Post Foreclosure and Reversing your CA Foreclosure Sale under new Case Law

7 Apr

Reversing a foreclosure sale:  Avoiding the “Tender Rule”

Firm commentary:

Foreclosure auction signs

Foreclosure auction signs (Photo credit: niallkennedy)

If you are considering suing to reverse a foreclosure sale, consider the LONA case for a better understanding on CA non-judicial sales and exceptions to the requirement that you must offer to pay off the loan to title to your home back in your name.

After a nonjudicial foreclosure sale has been completed, the traditional method by which the sale is challenged is a suit in equity to set aside the trustee’s sale. (Anderson v. Heart Federal Sav. & Loan Assn. (1989) 208 Cal.App.3d 202, 209-210.) Generally, a challenge to the validity of a trustee’s sale is an attempt to have the sale set aside and to have the title restored. (Onofrio v. Rice (1997) 55 Cal.App.4th 413, 424 (Onofrio), citing 4 Miller & Starr, Cal. Real Estate (2d ed. 1989) Deeds of Trusts & Mortgages, § 9.154, pp. 507-508.)

 

The burden of proof is on the former owner:

A nonjudicial foreclosure sale is accompanied by a common law presumption that it ‗was conducted regularly and fairly.  This presumption may only be rebutted by substantial evidence of prejudicial procedural irregularity. The mere inadequacy of price, absent some procedural irregularity that contributed to the inadequacy of price or otherwise injured the trustor, is insufficient to set aside a nonjudicial foreclosure sale.

It is the burden of the party challenging the trustee’s sale to prove such irregularity and thereby overcome the presumption of the sale’s regularity.‖ (Melendrez v. D & I Investment, Inc. (2005) 127 Cal. App.4th 1238, 1258 (Melendrez) In addition, under section 2924,6 there is a conclusive statutory presumption created in favor of a bona fide purchaser who receives a trustee’s deed that contains a recital that the trustee has fulfilled its statutory notice requirements. (Melendrez, supra, 127 Cal App.4th at p. 1250.)

Case law instructs that the elements of an equitable cause of action to set aside a foreclosure sale are: (1) the trustee or mortgagee caused an illegal, fraudulent, or willfully oppressive sale of real property pursuant to a power of sale in a mortgage or deed of trust;

(2) the party attacking the sale (usually but not always the trustor or mortgagor) was prejudiced or harmed; and

(3) in cases where the trustor or mortgagor challenges the sale, the trustor or mortgagor tendered the amount of the secured indebtedness or was excused from tendering. (Bank of America etc. Assn. v. Reidy, supra, 15 Cal.2d at p. 248; Saterstrom v. Glick Bros. Sash, Door & Mill Co. (1931) 118 Cal.App. 379, 383 (Saterstrom) [trustee’s sale set aside where deed of trust was void because it failed to adequately describe property]; Stockton v. Newman (1957) 148 Cal.App.2d 558, 564 (Stockton) [trustor sought rescission of the contract to purchase the property and the promissory note on grounds of fraud]; Sierra-Bay Fed. Land Bank Ass’n v. Superior Court (1991) 227 Cal.App.3d (1991) 227 Cal.App.3d 318, 337 (Sierra-Bay) [to set aside sale, ―debtor must allege such unfairness or irregularity that, when coupled with the inadequacy of price obtained at the sale, it is appropriate to invalidate the sale‖; ―debtor must offer to do equity by making a tender or otherwise offering to pay his debt‖]; Abadallah v. United Savings Bank (1996) 43 Cal.App.4th 1101, 1109 (Abadallah) [tender element]; Munger v. Moore (1970) 11 Cal.App.3d 1, 7 [damages action for wrongful foreclosure]; see also 1 Bernhardt, Mortgages, Deeds of Trust and Foreclosure Litigation (Cont.Ed.Bar 4th ed. 2011 supp.) § 7.67, pp. 580-581 and cases cited therein summarizing grounds for setting aside trustee sale.)

 

The Tender requirement

Because the action is in equity, a defaulted borrower who seeks to set aside a trustee’s sale is required to do equity before the court will exercise its equitable powers. (MCA, Inc. v. Universal Diversified Enterprises Corp. (1972) 27 Cal.App.3d 170, 177 (MCA).)

Consequently, as a condition precedent to an action by the borrower to set aside the trustee’s sale on the ground that the sale is voidable because of irregularities in the sale notice or procedure, the borrower must offer to pay the full amount of the debt for which the property was security. (Abadallah, supra, 43 Cal.App.4th at p. 1109; Onofrio, supra, at p. 424 [the borrower must pay, or offer to pay, the secured debt, or at least all of the delinquencies and costs due for redemption, before commencing the action].)

The rationale behind the rule is that if [the borrower] could not have redeemed the property had the sale procedures been proper, any irregularities in the sale did not result in damages to the [borrower]. (FPCI RE-HAB 01 v. E & G Investments, Ltd. (1989) 207 Cal.App.3d 1018, 1022.)

 

A series of cases have come down in the last few weeks that have some very serious ramifications for lenders.

The most dramatic case is that of Lona v. Citibank, based on a property right here in my back yard. The fact pattern in Lona is that the bank foreclosed and Lona sued the bank to void the sale on the absurd theory that the lender made him an unconscionable loan he couldn’t possibly afford therefore the loan was void. (Apparently, he’s a mushroom farmer in Hollister making $40k/yr)*.

Lona alleged that he agreed to refinance the home, on which he owed $1.24 million at the time, in response to an ad. The monthly payments were more than four times his income, so unsurprisingly, he defaulted within five months and the home was sold at a trustee’s sale in August 2008.

Lona obtained two re-financed loans: the first being $1.125 million, a 30-year term and an interest rate that was fixed at 8.25% for five years and adjustable annually after that, with a cap of 13.255 and the second loan being $375,000, with a term of 15 years, a fixed rate of 12.25%, monthly payments of nearly $4,000, and a balloon payment of $327,000 at the end of the 15 year term.

Lona testified that English was not his first language, he was 50 years old at the time of the loan and he that he did not understand the loan documents. Of course, he also did not read the loan documents.

After Citibank foreclosed, it filed an unlawful detainer action (“UD”) to evict Lona, but the UD was consolidated with Lona’s lawsuit to void and set aside the foreclosure sale. According to Citibank, Lona had been “living for free” in the house and had not posted bond or paid any “impound funds.” (since 2007!!!)

San Benito County Superior Court Judge Harry Tobias said Lona’s “bare allegations” were not enough to persuade him that the bank or the broker had engaged in misconduct and that it was “hard to believe” that the Lonas weren’t “responsible for their own conduct,” especially since they owned other property that had been foreclosed upon.

Despite the craziness of Plaintiff’s theory, the appellate court rendered a 32 page opinion that discussed in major detail that:
1) The borrower did not have to tender offer (which goes against almost a century of a legal precedent); and
2) The borrower’s allegations of the loan being unconscionable were not wholly disproven by the lenders.

The Court decision stated “Lona had received $1.5 million from the lenders and had not made any payments since June 2007. Meanwhile, he and his wife continued to live in the house for free, without paying rent or any impound funds…” and so it was quite aware of the inequities or injustice of the situation. However, the Court still concluded that the Lenders did not meet their burden of proof on summary judgment and so the case may continue at its snail pace until trial. [Lona v. Citibank No. H036140. Court of Appeals of California, Sixth District. (December 21, 2011.)]

The other case that came down a week before Lona (Dec. 21) was the Bardasian (Dec. 15) case, where the borrower sued because the lender’s trustee did not discuss loan mod options with her as required by Civil Code Section 2923.5. The court granted the borrower’s injunction and like Lona, the borrowers did not tender, nor put up an undertaking or surety for the bond. The lower court had ruled at the injunction hearing that the trustee had not complied with the code and that Bardasian must bond in the amount of $20k. When she failed to do so, the lower court dissolved the injunction.

On appeal, the appellate court concluded that since the injunction had been issued after the court had ruled on the merits stating:

“Plaintiff seeks postponement of the foreclosure sale until the defendants comply with Civil Code [section] 2923.5. Plaintiff has established that BAC Home Loan Servicing did not comply with Civil Code section 2923.5 prior to the issuance of the notice of default on September 15, 2010.” “Plaintiff states under penalty of perjury that no contact was ever made at least 30 days before the notice of default was issued…”

that the injunction was not actually “preliminary” at all, but that the plaintiffs had essentially won their argument showing that the defendants had not complied with Section 2923.5 and so no Notice of Default could successfully issue and the trustee’s sale could not take place until Section 2923.5 had been complied with. (Bardasian v. Santa Clara Partners Mortgage C068488. Court of Appeals of California, Third District. (December 15, 2011).

So in one month, two appellate cases came down where the borrower could either pursue voiding a trustee’s sale or enjoin one without tendering!

2012 will prove to be an interesting year as more decisions stemming from the subprime meltdown start coming down the pipeline.

* The decision contained a footnote that Lona’s loan application that apparently stated Lona made $20k/month, or $240k/yr. Clearly, as stated income loans go, that was a whopper!

The Exceptions to the Tender requirement under LONA

First, 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. (Stockton, supra, (1957) 148 Cal.App.2d at p. 564) [trustor sought rescission of the contract to purchase the property and the promissory note on grounds of fraud]; Onofrio, supra, 55 Cal.App.4th at p. 424.)

Second, 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. In such cases, it is deemed that the tender and the counter claim offset one another, and if the offset is equal to or greater than the amount due, a tender is not required. (Hauger, supra, (1954) 42 Cal.2d at p. 755.)

 

Third, a tender may not be required where it would be inequitable to impose such a condition on the party challenging the sale. (Humboldt Savings Bank v. McCleverty (1911) 161 Cal. 285, 291 (Humboldt). In Humboldt, the defendant’s deceased husband borrowed $55,300 from the plaintiff bank secured by two pieces of property. The defendant had a $5,000 homestead on one of the properties. (Id. at p. 287.) When the defendant’s husband defaulted on the debt, the bank foreclosed on both properties. In response to the bank’s argument that the defendant had to tender the entire debt as a condition precedent to having the sale set aside, the court held that it would be inequitable to require the defendant to•pay, or offer to pay, a debt of $57,000, for which she is in no way liable to attack the sale of her $5,000 homestead.10 (Id. at p. 291.)

Fourth, 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. (Dimock, supra, 81 Cal.App.4th at p. 878 [beneficiary substituted trustees; trustee’s sale void where original trustee completed trustee’s sale after being replaced by new trustee because original trustee no longer had power to convey property].)

 For a better understanding of how this new case affects your individual situation, contact the Firm and set up an appointment.

THE SAN FRANSICO “SMOKING GUN REPORT”

19 Feb

Audit Uncovers Extensive Flaws in Foreclosures

By
Published: February 15, 2012

An audit by San Francisco county officials of about 400 recent foreclosures there determined that almost all involved either legal violations or suspicious documentation, according to a report released Wednesday.

Annie Tritt for The New York Times

Phil Ting, the San Francisco assessor-recorder, found widespread violations or irregularities in files of properties subject to foreclosure sales.

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Anecdotal evidence indicating foreclosure abuse has been plentiful since the mortgage boom turned to bust in 2008. But the detailed and comprehensive nature of the San Francisco findings suggest how pervasive foreclosure irregularities may be across the nation.

The improprieties range from the basic — a failure to warn borrowers that they were in default on their loans as required by law — to the arcane. For example, transfers of many loans in the foreclosure files were made by entities that had no right to assign them and institutions took back properties in auctions even though they had not proved ownership.

Commissioned by Phil Ting, the San Francisco assessor-recorder, the report examined files of properties subject to foreclosure sales in the county from January 2009 to November 2011. About 84 percent of the files contained what appear to be clear violations of law, it said, and fully two-thirds had at least four violations or irregularities.

Kathleen Engel, a professor at Suffolk University Law School in Boston said: “If there were any lingering doubts about whether the problems with loan documents in foreclosures were isolated, this study puts the question to rest.”

The report comes just days after the $26 billion settlement over foreclosure improprieties between five major banks and 49 state attorneys general, including California’s. Among other things, that settlement requires participating banks to reduce mortgage amounts outstanding on a wide array of loans and provide $1.5 billion in reparations for borrowers who were improperly removed from their homes.

But the precise terms of the states’ deal have not yet been disclosed. As the San Francisco analysis points out, “the settlement does not resolve most of the issues this report identifies nor immunizes lenders and servicers from a host of potential liabilities.” For example, it is a felony to knowingly file false documents with any public office in California.

In an interview late Tuesday, Mr. Ting said he would forward his findings and foreclosure files to the attorney general’s office and to local law enforcement officials. Kamala D. Harris, the California attorney general, announced a joint investigation into foreclosure abuses last December with the Nevada attorney general, Catherine Cortez Masto. The joint investigation spans both civil and criminal matters.

The depth of the problem raises questions about whether at least some foreclosures should be considered void, Mr. Ting said. “We’re not saying that every consumer should not have been foreclosed on or every lender is a bad actor, but there are significant and troubling issues,” he said.

California has been among the states hurt the most by the mortgage crisis. Because its laws, like those of 29 other states, do not require a judge to oversee foreclosures, the conduct of banks in the process is rarely scrutinized. Mr. Ting said his report was the first rigorous analysis of foreclosure improprieties in California and that it cast doubt on the validity of almost every foreclosure it examined.

“Clearly, we need to set up a process where lenders are following every part of the law,” Mr. Ting said in the interview. “It is very apparent that the system is broken from many different vantage points.”

The report, which was compiled by Aequitas Compliance Solutions, a mortgage regulatory compliance firm, did not identify specific banks involved in the irregularities. But among the legal violations uncovered in the analysis were cases where the loan servicer did not provide borrowers with a notice of default before beginning the eviction process; 8 percent of the audited foreclosures had that basic defect.

In a significant number of cases — 85 percent — documents recording the transfer of a defaulted property to a new trustee were not filed properly or on time, the report found. And in 45 percent of the foreclosures, properties were sold at auction to entities improperly claiming to be the beneficiary of the deeds of trust. In other words, the report said, “a ‘stranger’ to the deed of trust,” gained ownership of the property; as a result, the sale may be invalid, it said.

In 6 percent of cases, the same deed of trust to a property was assigned to two or more different entities, raising questions about which of them actually had the right to foreclose. Many of the foreclosures that were scrutinized showed gaps in the chain of title, the report said, indicating that written transfers from the original owner to the entity currently claiming to own the deed of trust have disappeared.

Banks involved in buying and selling foreclosed properties appear to be aware of potential problems if gaps in the chain of title cloud a subsequent buyer’s ownership of the home. Lou Pizante, a partner at Aequitas who worked on the audit, pointed to documents that banks now require buyers to sign holding the institution harmless if questions arise about the validity of the foreclosure sale.

The audit also raises serious questions about the accuracy of information recorded in the Mortgage Electronic Registry System, or MERS, which was set up in 1995 by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and major lenders. The report found that 58 percent of loans listed in the MERS database showed different owners than were reflected in other public documents like those filed with the county recorder’s office.

The report contradicted the contentions of many banks that foreclosure improprieties did little harm because the borrowers were behind on their mortgages and should have been evicted anyway. “We can deduce from the public evidence,” the report noted, “that there are indeed legitimate victims in the mortgage crisis. Whether these homeowners are systematically being deprived of legal safeguards and due process rights is an important question.”

A version of this article appeared in print on February 16, 2012, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Audit Uncovers Extensive Flaws in Foreclosures.

Freddie Mac Bets Against American Homeowners

7 Feb
Freddie Mac

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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.

Liz Day of ProPublica contributed to this story.

Foreclosure Cases 2011 in review California

30 Dec
Trustees Catherine Ripley and Ken Gibson

Image by dave.cournoyer via Flickr

California Cases – 2004 to Present
Including Federal cases interpreting California law
LISTED WITH MOST RECENT CASES FIRST
Go to cases 2000 – 2003

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 Company     Docket     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 Partners     Docket
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 XXVI      Modification     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 Mortgage     Modification     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. Rounsavell     Mod 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 Company     Modification     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 Investments     Docket
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 Company     Modification     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. Neilsen      Modification     Docket     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. McCormack     Docket     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-Bloor     Docket
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 Cabinets     Docket
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 Sonoma     Docket     Sup.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 Obispo     Docket     Sup.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 Properties     Docket
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. Lee     Docket
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. Cridlebaugh     Docket
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. Butterfield     Docket     Sup.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 Products     Docket
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. Shetty     Docket     Sup.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. Horton     Modification     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 Lund     Docket
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 Liquors     Docket     Sup.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. Burch     Docket
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 Solano     Docket
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. Butterfield     Modification     Docket     Sup.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. Hilbert     Docket
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. Bollag     Modification     Docket
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 Assn     Modification     Docket     Sup.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     Docket     Sup.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 Park     Docket     Sup.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. Liebermensch     Docket
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 Robinson     Docket     Sup.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 Court     Docket
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 HOA     Docket     Sup.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. Marshall     Docket
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. Markowitz     Docket
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. Lukes     Docket
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. McCormick     Docket     Sup.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 Felder     Docket
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 Trust     Order Modifying Opinion     Docket     Sup.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. Dintino     Docket
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. Allen     Docket     Sup.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 Holtemann     Docket     Sup.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. Pheil     Docket
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 Angeles     Docket     Sup.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. Pereira     Docket     Sup.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 Sausalito     Docket
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 Operations     Docket     Sup.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 Sonoma     Docket     Sup.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 Court     Docket     Sup.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. Ratliff     Docket     Sup.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. Wang     Docket
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. Flora     Docket
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. Schilling     Docket
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. Hustwit     Docket     Sup.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 Estate     Sup.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. Cooper     Docket     Sup.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. Beckham     Docket
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. Thexton     Docket     Sup.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 Cases     Docket
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 Association     Docket
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. Capon     Docket
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. Ng     Docket
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. Martinez     Docket
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. Prun     Docket
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. Rudnick     Docket
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. Vallas     Docket
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. Seith     Docket
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, LLC     Docket
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. Helal     Docket     Sup.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. Partnership     Docket     Sup.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 Investments     Docket     Sup.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. Stapakis     Docket
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. Blechman     Docket     Sup.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. Post     Docket     Sup.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. Burch     Docket     Sup.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. Tseng     Docket     Sup.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 Equalization     Docket     Sup.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. Handlery     Docket     Sup.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. Blankenship     Docket
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. Cooper     Docket
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. Liebermensch
     Docket     Sup.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 Ruelas     Docket
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 Partners     Docket     Sup.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. Overton     Docket     Sup.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 Company     Docket     Sup.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.     Docket     Sup.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. Reed     Docket
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 Estates     Order Modifying Opinion     Docket
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. Kamins     Docket
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 Yool     Docket
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 Berkeley     Docket
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.     Docket     Sup.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. Powell     Docket     Sup.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 Court     Docket     Sup.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 Angeles     Docket
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 Estate     Docket
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 Company     Docket     Sup.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. McMcMahon     Docket
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. Taylor     Docket
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. Doherty     Docket
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. Martinez     Docket     Sup.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. Mix     Docket
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 Escrow     Docket
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 Exchange     Docket
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 Industries     Docket
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 Bay     Docket     Sup.Ct. Docket
144 Cal.App.4th 767, 145 Cal.App.4th 309a – 2nd Dist (B176929) 11/7/06     Modification of Opinion 12/6/06     Petition 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 Bank     Docket
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 Foods     Docket     Sup.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. Merrill     Docket
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 Mutual     Docket     Sup.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 Francisco     Docket     Sup.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. Fidelity     Docket     Sup.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 Association     Docket     Sup.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. Foley     Docket
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 Angeles     Docket
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 Company     Docket     Sup.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 House     Docket
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 Association     Docket
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. Lepe     Docket
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.     Docket     Sup.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. Wilde     Docket     Sup.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. UNPUBLISHED Harbor 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. Dunham     Docket     Sup.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 Ranch     Docket     Sup.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. Saladino     Docket     Sup.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. Hussa     Docket
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 Estate
     Docket     Sup.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 Investors     Docket     Sup.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. Torres     Docket     Sup.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. Koehler     Order Modifying Opinion     Docket     Sup.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 Mortgage     Docket
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 Foundation     Docket
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 Corporation     Docket     Sup.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 Court     Docket
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. Mix     Docket
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 Clara     Docket
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 Ventura     Docket
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. Molinari     Docket     Sup.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)     Docket     Sup.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 Docket     Docket     Sup.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. Pearson     Docket
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 Benson     Docket
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. Fegen     Docket
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. Edwards     Docket     Sup.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. Nielsen     Docket     Sup.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 Resort     Docket
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 Group     Docket     Sup.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. McAdams     Docket
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.     Docket     Sup.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 Company     Docket
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. Schoellkopf     Docket     Sup.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 Court     Docket     Sup.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 Seifert     Docket     Sup.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 Investment     Docket     Sup.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. Garamendi     Docket     Sup.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 Court     Docket     Sup.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 California     Docket     Sup.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 HOA     Docket
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 America     Docket     Sup.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. Berghold     Docket     Sup.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 Company     Docket     Sup.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.”

State of California v. PriceWaterhouseCoopers
39 Cal.4th 1220 – Cal. Supreme Court (S131807) 8/31/06

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. Davey     Docket
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     Docket      Sup.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 Court     Docket     Sup.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. Berger     Docket     Sup.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. Doherty     Docket
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 Escrow     Docket
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 Court     Docket
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. Uba     Docket
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 Mendocino     Docket
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. Grabach     Docket     Sup.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. Soni     Docket
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. Jones     Docket
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 Corporation     Docket
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. Havis     Docket
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 Francisco     Docket     Sup.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. Soos     Docket
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. Terifaj     Docket
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 Gioia     Docket
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 Beach     Docket     Sup.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.     Docket      Sup.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. Charnley     Docket     Sup.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. Carrigan     Docket
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. Welch     Docket     Sup.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 Company     Docket     Sup.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.     Docket     Sup.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 Investors     Docket
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. Quinones     Docket
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. Ostrovsky     Docket
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-King     Docket     Sup.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.

Go to cases 2000 – 2003

Challenge Your Lender… Now!

13 Dec

Don’t delay – Opt in to the follow Blog and gain access to over 680 ideas and posts to hold your Lender accountable new post every day!

Do you want to hold your lender responsible for their illegal actions?

Challenge Your Lender… Now!

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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.

This situation is all over the news, and now, starting today, you can learn how to protect yourself from unlawful foreclosure.

WE CAN TRAIN YOU HOW TO CHALLENGE YOUR LENDER

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.

I am prepared to show you the most amazing information on how you can actually Challenge Your Lender. Once you opt in for our free ebook (just enter your email address above and to the right), you’ll get immediate access to our first, very informative webinar, as well as to our free ebook. You’ll learn more about the Challenge Your Lender program, and more importantly, how the US mortgage system is rigged to take advantage of you and how to can fight back. My program will show you exactly how to get a copy of your loan documents that your lender or loan servicer currently has in their possession, and then how to begin examining these documents to learn more about how your lender, as well as other parties involved, has used your name and credit to make millions of dollars. Analyzing your loan documents is a crucial first step in beginning the Challenge Your Lender process.


Save your home from foreclosure

The information that you will be receiving in my free material and webinar will further your knowledge on what most lenders are doing to homeowners, and how you can save yourself from foreclosure. You will have the opportunity to acquire a free copy of my Challenge Your Lender workbook and learn how to begin building the paper trail that you will need to defend yourself and to prove the wrongdoings of your lender and loan servicer. Once you go through the workbook and listen in on the free webinar, you will be on top of your Challenge and ready to begin the program.

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.

Don’t wait – opt in today. Every day counts in the battle against your lender.

Best regards,
Tim

Tim McCandless Blogs its amazing what you can do if you don’t watch TV

1 Sep

timothymccandless.wordpress.com
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chapter11bankruptcy.wordpress.com
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http://mybk7.com
http://mortgagereductionlaw.com
http://evictiondefender.com
http://prodefenders.com
http://neilgarfield.com
http://massjoinderlitigation.info
http://fairdebtcollectionpracticesact.org
http://thestopforeclosureplan.com

KISS: KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID from Garfield

28 Aug

Finality versus good and evil. In the battlefield it isn’t about good and evil. It is about winner and losers. In military battles around the world many battles have been one by the worst tyrants imaginable.

Just because you are right, just because the banks did bad things, just because they have no right to do what they are doing, doesn’t mean you will win. You might if you do it right, but you are up against a superior army with a dubious judge looking on thinking that this deadbeat borrower wants to get out of paying.

The court system is there to mediate disputes and bring them to a conclusion. Once a matter is decided they don’t want it to be easy to reopen a bankruptcy or issues that have already been litigated. The court presumably wants justice to prevail, but it also wants to end the dispute for better or for worse.

Otherwise NOTHING would end. Everyone who lost would come in with some excuse to have another trial. So you need to show fundamental error, gross injustice or an error that causes more problems that it solves.

These are the same issues BEFORE the matter is decided in court. Foreclosures are viewed as a clerical act or ministerial act. The outcome is generally viewed as inevitable.

And where the homeowner already admits the loan exists (a mistake), that the lien is exists and was properly filed and executed (a mistake) and admits that he didn’t make payments — he is admitting something he doesn’t even know is true — that there were payments due and he didn’t make them, which by definition puts him in default.

It’s not true that the homeowner would even know if the payment is due because the banks refuse to provide any accounting on the third party payments from bailout, insurance CDS, and credit enhancement.

That’s why you need reports on title, securitization, forensic reviews for TILA compliance and loan level accounting. If the Judges stuck to the law, they would require the proof first from the banks, but they don’t. They put the burden on the borrowers —who are the only ones who have the least information and the least access to information — to essentially make the case for the banks and then disprove it. The borrowers are litigating against themselves.

In the battlefield it isn’t about good and evil, it is about winners and losers. Name calling and vague accusations won’t cut it.

Sure you want to use the words surrogate signing, robo-signing, forgery, fabrication and misrepresentation. You also want to show that the court’s action would or did cloud title in a way that cannot be repaired without a decision on the question of whether the lien was perfected and whether the banks should be able to say they transferred bad loans to investors who don’t want them — just so they can foreclose.

But you need some proffers of real evidence — reports, exhibits and opinions from experts that will show that there is a real problem here and that this case has not been heard on the merits because of an unfair presumption: the presumption is that just because a bank’s lawyer says it in court, it must be true.

Check with the notary licensing boards, and see if the notaries on their documents have been disciplined and if not, file a grievance if you have grounds. Once you have that, maybe you have a grievance against the lawyers. After that maybe you have a lawsuit against the banks and their lawyers.

But the primary way to control the narrative or at least trip up the narrative of the banks is to object on the basis that counsel for the bank is referring to things not in the record. That is simple and the judge can understand that.

Don’t rely on name-calling, rely on the simplest legal requirements that you can find that have been violated. Was the lien perfected?

If the record shows that others were involved in the original transaction with the borrowers at the inception of the deal, then you might be able to show that there were only nominees instead of real parties in interest named on the note and mortgage.

Without disclosure of the principal, the lien is not perfected because the world doesn’t know who to go to for a satisfaction of that lien. If you know the other parties involved were part of a securitization scheme, you should say that — these parties can only be claiming an interest by virtue of a pooling and servicing agreement. And then make the point that they are only now trying to transfer what they are calling a bad loan into the pool that the investors bought — which is expressly prohibited for multiple reasons in the PSA.

This is impersonation of the investor because the investors don’t want to come forward and get countersued for the bad and illegal lending practices that were used in getting the borrower’s signature.

Point out that the auction of the property was improperly conducted where you can show that to be the case. Nearly all of the 5 million foreclosures were allowed to be conducted with a single bid from a non-creditor.

If you are not a creditor you must bid cash, put up a portion before you bid, and then pay the balance usually within 24-72 hours.

But instead they pretended to be the creditor when their own documents show they were supposed to be representing the investors who were not part of the lawsuit nor the judgment.

SO they didn’t pay cash and they didn’t tender the note. THEY PAID NOTHING. In Florida the original note must actually be filed with the court to make sure that the matter is actually concluded.

There is a whole ripe area of inquiry of inspecting the so-called original notes and bringing to the attention the fraud upon the court in submitting a false original. It invalidates the sale, by operation of law.

JUDGES: ASSUME THE BORROWER IS WRONG

15 Aug

So you have denied the claims of the pretenders and put that in issue. You have even alleged fraud, forgery and fabrication and the catch-word “robosigning”. But the Judge, alleging that he did not want to “make new law” (which wasn’t true) or allegedly because he didn’t want to start an avalanche of litigation interfering with judicial economy (and therefore allowing fraud and theft on the largest scale ever known to human history) has not only denied your claims and motions, but refused to even put the matter at issue, thus enabling you to at least use discovery to prove your point.

So the pretenders have their way: no evidence has been introduced into the record. You have proffered, they have proffered, but somehow their proffer means something more than your proffer even though no proffer is evidence.

Attorneys recognize this as low hanging fruit on appeal, where the trial judge is going to get the case back on remand with instructions to listen to the evidence and allow each side to produce real evidence, not proffers from counsel, and allow each side to conduct discovery. It’s not guaranteed but it is very likely. And the pretenders know that if it ever gets down to real evidence as opposed to arguments of counsel, they are dead in the water, subject to sanctions and liability for slander of title and other claims.

So they have come up with this strategy of setting supersedeas bond higher and higher so that the order appealed from goes into effect and they are able to kick the can down the road with a foreclosure sale, more transfers etc in the title chain, thus enabling them to argue the deed is done and the “former” homeowner must be relegated to only claiming damages, not the home itself. People can be kicked out by eviction proceedings that typically are conducted in courts of limited jurisdiction where in most states you are not allowed to even allege that the title is not real or that it was illegally obtained.

Initially supersedeas bond was set at levels that could be met by homeowners — sometimes as little as $500 or a monthly amount equal to a small fraction of the former monthly payment. Now, Judges who are heavily influenced by banks and large law firms, especially chief Judges who stick their noses into cases not assigned to them, are making sure that the case does NOT go to jury trial and essentially influencing the presiding Judge ex parte, to set a high supersedeas bond thus preventing the homeowner from obtaining a stay of execution on the eviction or the final judgment regarding title.

Of course it is wrong. But it is happening. You counter this by (1) making the record on appeal as to the merits of the appeal (2) adding to the record actual affidavits and testimony as to value, rental value etc. and (3) of course demanding and evidential hearing on the proper amount of the bond. Here you want to search out and produce the bond set in similar cases in the county in which your case is pending. Make sure you have a court reporter and a transcript on appeal and that the record on appeal is complete. It is not uncommon for certain documents to get “lost” or allegedly not “introduced” so when the appellate court gets it you can be met with the question of “what document?”

The other reason they are increasing supersedeas bond is because of a misconception by many pro se litigants and even some attorneys. They have the impression that the appeal is over if the bond is NOT posted with the clerk. And they have the impression that they can’t challenge the amount of bond set, or even go to the appellate court just on that issue and ask the appellate court to set bond — something they might not do but when they remand it, it is usually with instructions to the trial judge to hear evidence on the relevant issues — again something the pretenders don’t want.

Supersedeas bond ONLY applies to execution of the order or judgment that you are appealing. You can AND should continue with the appeal and if you win, the Judgment might be overturned — which means by operation of law you probably get your house back.

All these things are technical matters. Listening to other pro se litigants or even relying upon this other sites intended to help you is neither wise nor helpful. Before you act or fail to act, you should be in close contact with an attorney licensed in the jurisdiction in which your property is located. Local rules can sometimes spell the difference between the life or death of your case.

MERS and invalid assignments

26 Jul

Brand New, Hot Off The Presses MERS Policy Bulletin

July 24th, 2011 | Author:

After years of claiming that assignments don’t matter and the date of assignment certainly doesn’t matter, the MERS Monster has finally changed its tune, effective July 21, 2011:

The Certifying Officer must execute the assignment of the Security Instrument from MERS before initiating foreclosure proceedings or filing Legal Proceedings and promptly send the assignment of the Security Instrument for recording in the applicable public land records

Well, harumph says I…what of all those damn post filing assignments?  What about all them specious arguments made in courtrooms all across this country that said the date of assignment didn’t matter?  What about the absurd argument that an “equitable assignment” had already occurred? (despite the fact that neither the pooling and servicing a agreement nor law permit such assignments)  For foreclosure cases already adjudged this is problematic and for all those hundreds of thousands still pending, this change in policy is exhibit #1 in the argument that a post filing assignment cannot confer standing.

This certainly ain’t “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead”, it’s just another stanza in “Humpty Dumpty Sat on A Wall”

And all the kings horses and all the kings men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Humpty Dumpty is our real property recording system that was developed over hundreds of years in this country.  A key read is Hernando Desoto’s “The Mystery of Capital” for a long explanation that our country’s success is tied largely to our real property record system that has been completely obliterated in just a few short years by all this mortgage madness.  What is most astonishing (and the biggest indictment of the whole MERS madness) is the fact that no law, legislation or court decision was ever rendered to justify the MERS system prior to its widespread implementation.  It was merely spread all across this country like a virulent virus that was transmitted and lay dormant in the property records impacting millions of homes all across America.

MERS Policy Bulletin

Foreclosure Trustee duties and obligations

26 Apr

Because of the significant increase in defaults and foreclosures, mortgage servicers need to understand the duties and liabilities the law imposes upon foreclosure trustees.

Litigation based upon trustee error can slow, stop or invalidate foreclosures and impair the servicer’s ability to dispose of properties following foreclosure. When borrowers refinance or pay off during foreclosure, trustees are often responsible for the payoffs and reconveyances. After foreclosure, the trustee is responsible for distribution of surplus funds – the funds in excess of the debt due under the foreclosed deed of trust. All these responsibilities are sources of claims against trustees.

Foreclosure litigation plaintiffs often name and seek to hold lenders and servicers responsible for trustee errors on the theory that the trustee is the agent of the lender and servicer. According to Miller & Starr’s “California Real Estate,” this claim is particularly easy to make when the lender or servicer uses an in-house trustee and especially when the trustee acquires the property by credit bid for the lender or servicer at its own foreclosure sale. This article examines a trustee’s liability for damages under California law for conduct of the foreclosure sale, payoffs, reconveyances and distribution of surplus funds. The scope of a trustee’s duties differs for each of these services, and a breach of one of these duties can subject the trustee, lender and servicer to substantial compensatory damages, punitive damages and even criminal sanctions. Foreclosure sales In the I.E. Associates v. Safeco case, the California Supreme Court limited the scope of the trustee’s duties in conducting foreclosure sales. The issue in that case was whether a trustee breached its duty to a trustor by failing to ascertain the current address of the trustor where the current address was different from the address of record. The trustee did not have actual knowledge of the current address, but through reasonable diligence could have discovered it. The Supreme Court held that the trustee did not have a duty to find the current address. The court found that a foreclosure trustee is not a true trustee, such as a trustee of a person or a trustee under a trust agreement. Instead, a foreclosure trustee is merely “a middleman” between the beneficiary and the trustor who only carries out the specific duties that the deed of trust and foreclosure law specifically impose upon it.

The deed of trust and the statute are the exclusive source of the rights, duties and liabilities governing notice of nonjudicial foreclosure sales. Because neither the deed of trust nor the statute required the trustee to search for an address it did not have, the court held that the trustee had no duty to do so. The Stephens v. Hollis case reiterated the rule that a foreclosure trustee is not a true trustee: “Just as a panda is not an ordinary bear, a trustee of a deed of trust is not an ordinary trustee. ‘A trustee under a deed of trust has neither the powers nor the obligations of a strict trustee. He serves as a kind of common agent for the parties.’”

It is critical to recognize, however, that these rules of limited duty only apply to the trustee’s duty to provide proper notice of the sale. The trustee also has a broad common law duty to conduct a sale that is fair in all respects. In Hatch v. Collins, the court noted that “A trustee has a general duty to conduct the sale ‘fairly, openly, reasonably and with due diligence,’ exercising sound discretion to protect the rights of the mortgagor and others…A breach of the trustee’s duty to conduct an open, fair and honest sale may give rise to a cause of action for professional negligence, breach of an obligation created by statute, or fraud.” Examples of such a breach could be conspiring to “chill the bidding” by overstating the debt, thereby dissuading others from appearing and bidding at the sale. California Civil Code Section 2924h(g) states that it is “unlawful for any person, acting alone or in concert with others, (1) to offer to accept or accept from another any consideration of any type not to bid, or (2) to fix or restrain bidding in any manner at a sale of property conducted pursuant to a power of sale in a deed of trust or mortgage.” The code continues: “In addition to any other remedies, any person committing any act declared unlawful by this subdivision or any act which would operate as a fraud or deceit upon any beneficiary, trustor or junior [lien holder] shall, upon conviction, be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned in the county jail for not more than one year, or be punished by both that fine and imprisonment.” In addition to imposing criminal penalties, this section also imposes civil liability upon the trustee.

The courts will review foreclosure sale proceedings to make sure they have been fair in all respects. A trustee who violates its contractual duties under the deed of trust or its statutory or common law duties is liable to the trustor or to an affected junior lien holder for such person’s lost equity in the property. This is measured by the difference between the fair market value of the property and the liens senior to the affected person’s interest at the time of the sale. In addition, pursuant to Civil Code Section 3333, the trustee has liability for all other damages proximately caused by its wrongful conduct, whether those damages were foreseeable or not. A willful violation of these duties can subject the trustee to punitive damages under Civil Code Section 3294. Payoffs and reconveyances Civil Code Section 2943(c) requires a beneficiary or its representative, which is frequently the trustee, to provide a payoff statement to an “entitled person” within 21 days after a written request for a payoff demand. An “entitled person” means the trustor, a junior lien holder, their successors or assigns, or an escrow. Failure to provide a timely payoff demand makes the beneficiary or its representative liable to the entitled person for all actual damages such a person may sustain due to a failure to provide a timely payoff demand, plus $300 in statutory damages. Failure to provide an accurate payoff demand can have dire consequences. If the entitled person closes a sale or refinance in reliance upon a payoff demand that understates the payoff, the beneficiary must reconvey its lien. The beneficiary is then left with only an unsecured claim against the entitled person. A trustee who is responsible for such an error could have substantial liability to its beneficiary. After the note and deed of trust are paid off, Civil Code Section 2941 requires the beneficiary to deliver the original note, the deed of trust and a request for reconveyance to the trustee. Within 21 days thereafter, the trustee must record the reconveyance and deliver the original note to the trustor. If the reconveyance has not been recorded within 60 days after the payoff, upon the trustee’s written request, the beneficiary must substitute himself as trustee and record the reconveyance. If the reconveyance is not recorded within 75 days after payoff, any title company may prepare and record a release of the obligation. A person who violates any of these provisions is liable for $500 in statutory damages and all actual damages caused by the violation. These can include damages for emotional distress. A willful violation of these requirements is a misdemeanor which can subject the violator to a $400 fine, plus six months’ imprisonment in the county jail. Surplus funds Civil Code Sections 2924j and 2924k impose upon the trustee a duty to distribute surplus funds that the trustee receives at a sale to lien holders and trustors whose interests are junior to the foreclosed deed of trust. Surplus funds are defined as funds in excess of the debt due to the holder of the foreclosed lien and the costs of the foreclosure sale. As previously referenced in the I. E. Associates and Stephens cases, those courts held that with respect to the conduct of the foreclosure sale, a foreclosure trustee is not a true trustee – only a middleman. Further, in Hatch v. Collins, the court held that a breach of the trustee’s duties in the conduct of the sale does not constitute a breach of a fiduciary duty. While no case holds that a trustee is a fiduciary with respect to surplus funds, a trustee’s surplus funds duties closely resemble those of a fiduciary – a fiduciary is one who holds and manages property for the benefit of another. Fiduciaries are held to a higher standard of care than others in discharging their duties. If a trustee has a fiduciary duty in handling surplus funds, a trustee may have a duty to do more than simply follow the statute with respect to giving notice of and distributing the surplus funds. For instance, a trustee may have a duty to take reasonable steps to find an interested party whose address is unknown to the trustee if the trustee has reason to believe such an address can be found. This is particularly so because the trustee can pay for the expense of the investigation from the surplus funds. Also, a trustee as a fiduciary may face greater exposure to punitive damages, which can be awarded for breach of fiduciary duty when coupled with fraud, malice or oppression. Servicers Using In-House Foreclosure Trustees Must Beware in Mortgage Servicing > Foreclosure by John Clark Brown Jr. on Tuesday 19 June 2007 email the content item print the content item comments: 0 Servicing Management, June 2007. Because of the significant increase in defaults and foreclosures, mortgage servicers need to understand the duties and liabilities the law imposes upon foreclosure trustees. Litigation based upon trustee error can slow, stop or invalidate foreclosures and impair the servicer’s ability to dispose of properties following foreclosure. When borrowers refinance or pay off during foreclosure, trustees are often responsible for the payoffs and reconveyances. After foreclosure, the trustee is responsible for distribution of surplus funds – the funds in excess of the debt due under the foreclosed deed of trust. All these responsibilities are sources of claims against trustees. Foreclosure litigation plaintiffs often name and seek to hold lenders and servicers responsible for trustee errors on the theory that the trustee is the agent of the lender and servicer. According to Miller & Starr’s “California Real Estate,” this claim is particularly easy to make when the lender or servicer uses an in-house trustee and especially when the trustee acquires the property by credit bid for the lender or servicer at its own foreclosure sale. This article examines a trustee’s liability for damages under California law for conduct of the foreclosure sale, payoffs, reconveyances and distribution of surplus funds. The scope of a trustee’s duties differs for each of these services, and a breach of one of these duties can subject the trustee, lender and servicer to substantial compensatory damages, punitive damages and even criminal sanctions. Foreclosure sales In the I.E. Associates v. Safeco case, the California Supreme Court limited the scope of the trustee’s duties in conducting foreclosure sales. The issue in that case was whether a trustee breached its duty to a trustor by failing to ascertain the current address of the trustor where the current address was different from the address of record. The trustee did not have actual knowledge of the current address, but through reasonable diligence could have discovered it. The Supreme Court held that the trustee did not have a duty to find the current address. The court found that a foreclosure trustee is not a true trustee, such as a trustee of a person or a trustee under a trust agreement. Instead, a foreclosure trustee is merely “a middleman” between the beneficiary and the trustor who only carries out the specific duties that the deed of trust and foreclosure law specifically impose upon it. The deed of trust and the statute are the exclusive source of the rights, duties and liabilities governing notice of nonjudicial foreclosure sales. Because neither the deed of trust nor the statute required the trustee to search for an address it did not have, the court held that the trustee had no duty to do so. The Stephens v. Hollis case reiterated the rule that a foreclosure trustee is not a true trustee: “Just as a panda is not an ordinary bear, a trustee of a deed of trust is not an ordinary trustee. ‘A trustee under a deed of trust has neither the powers nor the obligations of a strict trustee. He serves as a kind of common agent for the parties.’” It is critical to recognize, however, that these rules of limited duty only apply to the trustee’s duty to provide proper notice of the sale. The trustee also has a broad common law duty to conduct a sale that is fair in all respects. In Hatch v. Collins, the court noted that “A trustee has a general duty to conduct the sale ‘fairly, openly, reasonably and with due diligence,’ exercising sound discretion to protect the rights of the mortgagor and others…A breach of the trustee’s duty to conduct an open, fair and honest sale may give rise to a cause of action for professional negligence, breach of an obligation created by statute, or fraud.” Examples of such a breach could be conspiring to “chill the bidding” by overstating the debt, thereby dissuading others from appearing and bidding at the sale. California Civil Code Section 2924h(g) states that it is “unlawful for any person, acting alone or in concert with others, (1) to offer to accept or accept from another any consideration of any type not to bid, or (2) to fix or restrain bidding in any manner at a sale of property conducted pursuant to a power of sale in a deed of trust or mortgage.” The code continues: “In addition to any other remedies, any person committing any act declared unlawful by this subdivision or any act which would operate as a fraud or deceit upon any beneficiary, trustor or junior [lien holder] shall, upon conviction, be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned in the county jail for not more than one year, or be punished by both that fine and imprisonment.” In addition to imposing criminal penalties, this section also imposes civil liability upon the trustee. The courts will review foreclosure sale proceedings to make sure they have been fair in all respects. A trustee who violates its contractual duties under the deed of trust or its statutory or common law duties is liable to the trustor or to an affected junior lien holder for such person’s lost equity in the property. This is measured by the difference between the fair market value of the property and the liens senior to the affected person’s interest at the time of the sale. In addition, pursuant to Civil Code Section 3333, the trustee has liability for all other damages proximately caused by its wrongful conduct, whether those damages were foreseeable or not. A willful violation of these duties can subject the trustee to punitive damages under Civil Code Section 3294. Payoffs and reconveyances Civil Code Section 2943(c) requires a beneficiary or its representative, which is frequently the trustee, to provide a payoff statement to an “entitled person” within 21 days after a written request for a payoff demand. An “entitled person” means the trustor, a junior lien holder, their successors or assigns, or an escrow. Failure to provide a timely payoff demand makes the beneficiary or its representative liable to the entitled person for all actual damages such a person may sustain due to a failure to provide a timely payoff demand, plus $300 in statutory damages. Failure to provide an accurate payoff demand can have dire consequences. If the entitled person closes a sale or refinance in reliance upon a payoff demand that understates the payoff, the beneficiary must reconvey its lien. The beneficiary is then left with only an unsecured claim against the entitled person. A trustee who is responsible for such an error could have substantial liability to its beneficiary. After the note and deed of trust are paid off, Civil Code Section 2941 requires the beneficiary to deliver the original note, the deed of trust and a request for reconveyance to the trustee. Within 21 days thereafter, the trustee must record the reconveyance and deliver the original note to the trustor. If the reconveyance has not been recorded within 60 days after the payoff, upon the trustee’s written request, the beneficiary must substitute himself as trustee and record the reconveyance. If the reconveyance is not recorded within 75 days after payoff, any title company may prepare and record a release of the obligation. A person who violates any of these provisions is liable for $500 in statutory damages and all actual damages caused by the violation. These can include damages for emotional distress. A willful violation of these requirements is a misdemeanor which can subject the violator to a $400 fine, plus six months’ imprisonment in the county jail. Surplus funds Civil Code Sections 2924j and 2924k impose upon the trustee a duty to distribute surplus funds that the trustee receives at a sale to lien holders and trustors whose interests are junior to the foreclosed deed of trust. Surplus funds are defined as funds in excess of the debt due to the holder of the foreclosed lien and the costs of the foreclosure sale. As previously referenced in the I. E. Associates and Stephens cases, those courts held that with respect to the conduct of the foreclosure sale, a foreclosure trustee is not a true trustee – only a middleman. Further, in Hatch v. Collins, the court held that a breach of the trustee’s duties in the conduct of the sale does not constitute a breach of a fiduciary duty. While no case holds that a trustee is a fiduciary with respect to surplus funds, a trustee’s surplus funds duties closely resemble those of a fiduciary – a fiduciary is one who holds and manages property for the benefit of another. Fiduciaries are held to a higher standard of care than others in discharging their duties. If a trustee has a fiduciary duty in handling surplus funds, a trustee may have a duty to do more than simply follow the statute with respect to giving notice of and distributing the surplus funds. For instance, a trustee may have a duty to take reasonable steps to find an interested party whose address is unknown to the trustee if the trustee has reason to believe such an address can be found. This is particularly so because the trustee can pay for the expense of the investigation from the surplus funds. Also, a trustee as a fiduciary may face greater exposure to punitive damages, which can be awarded for breach of fiduciary duty when coupled with fraud, malice or oppression.

Recording false documents ? and getting the house, the insurence, the tarp, the fdic guarentee, and whatever else the American taxpayer will give the pretender lender

23 Apr

Recently, many California Courts have been dismissing lawsuits filed to stop non-judicial foreclosures, ruling that the non-judicial foreclosure statutes occupy the field and are exclusive as long as they are complied with.  Thus, in the case where a notice of default is recorded and a lawsuit then filed in response to stop the foreclosure since the foreclosing party does not possess the underlying note, all too often the Court will simply dismiss the case and claim “2924 has no requirement to produce the note.”

Thus, these Courts view the statutes that regulate non-judicial foreclosures as all inclusive of all the requirements and remedies in foreclosure proceedings.  Indeed, California Civil Code sections 2924 through 2924k provide a comprehensive framework for the regulation of a nonjudicial foreclosure sale pursuant to a power of sale contained in a deed of trust. This comprehensive statutory scheme has three purposes: ‘“(1) to provide the creditor/beneficiary with a quick, inexpensive and efficient remedy against a defaulting debtor/trustor; (2) to protect the debtor/trustor from wrongful loss of the property; and (3) to ensure that a properly conducted sale is final between the parties and conclusive as to a bona fide purchaser.” [Citations.]’ [Citation.]” (Melendrez v. D & I Investment, Inc. (2005) 127 Cal.App.4th 1238, 1249–1250 [26 Cal. Rptr. 3d 413].)

Notwithstanding, the foreclosure statutes are not exclusive.  If someone commits murder during an auction taking place under Civil Code 2924, that does not automatically mean they are immune from criminal and civil liability.  Perhaps this is where some of these courts are “missing the boat.”

For example, in Alliance Mortgage Co. v. Rothwell (1995) 10 Cal. 4th 1226, 1231 [44 Cal. Rptr. 2d 352, 900 P.2d 601], the California Supreme Court concluded that a lender who obtained the property with a full credit bid at a foreclosure sale was not precluded from suing a third party who had fraudulently induced it to make the loan. The court concluded that “ ‘the antideficiency laws were not intended to immunize wrongdoers from the consequences of their fraudulent acts’ ” and that, if the court applies a proper measure of damages, “ ‘fraud suits do not frustrate the antideficiency policies because there should be no double recovery for the beneficiary.’ ” (Id. at p. 1238.)

Likewise, in South Bay Building Enterprises, Inc. v. Riviera Lend-Lease, Inc. [*1071]  (1999) 72 Cal.App.4th 1111, 1121 [85 Cal. Rptr. 2d 647], the court held that a junior lienor retains the right to recover damages from the trustee and the beneficiary of the foreclosing lien if there have been material irregularities in the conduct of the foreclosure sale. (See also Melendrez v. D & I Investment, Inc., supra, 127 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1257–1258; Lo v. Jensen (2001) 88 Cal.App.4th 1093, 1095 [106 Cal. Rptr. 2d 443] [a trustee’s sale tainted by fraud may be set aside].)

In looking past the comprehensive statutory framework, these other Courts also considered the policies advanced by the statutory scheme, and whether those policies would be frustrated by other laws.  Recently, in the case of California Golf, L.L.C. v. Cooper, 163 Cal. App. 4th 1053, 78 Cal. Rptr. 3d 153, 2008 Cal. App. LEXIS 850 (Cal. App. 2d Dist. 2008), the Appellate Court held that the remedies of 2924h were not exclusive.  Of greater importance is that the Appellate Court reversed the lower court and specifically held that provisions in UCC Article 3 were allowed in the foreclosure context:

Considering the policy interests advanced by the statutory scheme governing nonjudicial foreclosure sales, and the policy interests advanced by Commercial Code section 3312, it is clear that allowing a remedy under the latter does not undermine the former. Indeed, the two remedies are complementary and advance the same goals. The first two goals of the nonjudicial foreclosure statutes: (1) to provide the creditor/beneficiary with a quick, inexpensive and efficient remedy against a defaulting debtor/trustor and (2) to protect the debtor/trustor from a wrongful loss of the property, are not impacted by the decision that we reach. This case most certainly, however, involves the third policy interest: to ensure that a properly conducted sale is final between the parties and conclusive as to a bona fide purchaser.

This is very significant since it provides further support to lawsuits brought against foreclosing parties lacking the ability toenforce the underlying note, since those laws also arise under Article 3.  Under California Commercial Code 3301, a note may only be enforced if one has actual possession of the note as a holder, or has possession of the note not as a non-holder but with holder rights.

Just like in California Golf, enforcing 3301 operates to protect the debtor/trustor from a wrongful loss of the property.  To the extent that a foreclosing party might argue that such lawsuits disrupt a quick, inexpensive, and efficient remedy against a defaulting debtor/trustor, the response is that “since there is no enforceable obligation,  the foreclosing entity is not a party/creditor/beneficiary entitled to a quick, inexpensive, and efficient remedy,” but simply a declarant that recorded false documents.

This is primarily because being entitled to foreclose non-judicially under 2924 can only take place “after a breach of the obligation for which that mortgage or transfer is a security.”   Thus, 2924 by its own terms, looks outside of the statute to the actual obligation to see if there was a breach, and if the note is unenforceable under Article 3, there can simply be no breach.  End of story.

Accordingly, if there is no possession of the note or possession was not obtained until after the notice of sale was recorded, it is impossible to trigger 2924, and simple compliance with the notice requirements in 2924 does not suddenly bless the felony of grand theft of the unknown foreclosing entity.  To hold otherwise would create absurd results since it would allow any person or company the right to take another persons’ home by simply recording a false notice of default and notice of sale.

Indeed, such absurdity would allow you to foreclose on your own home again to get it back should you simply record the same false documents.  Thus it is obvious that these courts improperly assume the allegations contained in the notice of default and notice of sale are truthful.   Perhaps these courts simply cannot or choose not to believe such frauds are taking place due to the magnitude and volume of foreclosures in this Country at this time.  One can only image the chaos that would ensue in America if the truth is known that millions of foreclosures took place unlawfully and millions more are now on hold as a result of not having the ability to enforce the underlying obligation pursuant to Article 3.

So if you are in litigation to stop a foreclosure, you can probably expect the Court will want to immediately dismiss your case.  These Courts just cannot understand how the law would allow someone to stay in a home without paying.  Notwithstanding, laws cannot be broken, and Courts are not allowed to join with the foreclosing parties in breaking laws simply because “not paying doesn’t seem right.”

Accordingly, at least for appeal purposes, be sure to argue that 2924 was never triggered since there was never any “breach of the obligation” and that Appellate Courts throughout California have routinely held that other laws do in fact apply in the non-judicial foreclosure process since the policies advanced by the statutory non-judicial foreclosure scheme are not frustrated by these other laws. The recent exposure and discovery of Robosigners and notary fraud has added another dimension to the “exclusive 2924 argument as seen in the 22/20 special aired April 3, 2011.

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.

Video: The next housing shock
Extra: Eviction reprieve
Extra: “Save the Dream” events

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

Tel:  909/890-9192

Fax: 909/382-9956

Attorney for Plaintiffs

 

SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA

 

COUNTY OF ____________

___________________________________,

And ROES 1 through 5,000,

Plaintiff,

v.

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,

Defendants.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:

GENERAL ALLEGATIONS

            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:

Parcel No. 1:

A.P.N. No. _________ (hereinafter “Subject Property”).

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

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Possession of the note “NO” recorded assignment “YES” civil code 2932.5 CARTER v. DEUTSCHE BANK NATIONAL TRUST COMPANY (N.D.Cal. 1-27-2010)

4 Jul

Some courts appear to have reasoned that plaintiff’s position
Page 29
would create an explicit conflict with the statute’s provisions.
The statute authorizes the “trustee, mortgagee, or beneficiary,
or any of their authorized agents” to initiate foreclosure. Cal.
Civ. Code § 2924(a)(1). Under California Civil Code
section 2924(b)(4), a “person authorized to record the notice of default
or the notice of sale” includes “an agent for the mortgagee or
beneficiary, an agent of the named trustee, any person designated
in an executed substitution of trustee, or an agent of that
substituted trustee.” Several courts have held that this language
demonstrates that possession of the note is not required,
apparently concluding that the statute authorizes initiation of
foreclosure by parties who would not be expected to possess the
note. See, e.g., Spencer v. DHI Mortg. Co., No. 090925,
2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55191, *23*
24 (E.D. Cal. June 30, 2009)
(O’Neill, J.). However, the precise reasoning of these cases is
unclear.[fn14]
A second argument adopted by sister district courts is that
even if requiring possession of the promissory note does not
contradict the statute’s provisions, it nonetheless extends them,
and such extensions are impermissible. See, e.g., Bouyer v.
Countrywide Bank, FSB, No. C 085583,
2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53940, *23*
24 (N.D. Cal. June 25, 2009). California courts have
described the statute as establishing a “comprehensive scheme”
for nonjudicial
foreclosures. Homestead Sav. v. Darmiento,
Page 30
230 Cal. App. 3d 424, 433 (1991)). Because this scheme “is intended to be
exhaustive,” California courts have refused to incorporate
additional obligations, such as allowing a debtor to invoke a
separate statutory right to cure a default. Moeller,
25 Cal. App. 4th at 834 (refusing to apply Cal. Civ. Code § 3275). The
California Supreme Court has similarly held that “[t]he rights
and powers of trustees in nonjudicial foreclosure proceedings
have long been regarded as strictly limited and defined by the
contract of the parties and the statutes.” I.E. Associates v.
Safeco Title Ins. Co., 39 Cal. 3d 281, 288 (1985). I.E.
Associates held that while a trustee has a statutory duty to
contact a trustor at the trustor’s last known address prior to
nonjudicial
foreclosure, the Court could not impose a further
duty to search for the trustor’s actual current address. Id.
District courts have applied I.E. Associates and Moeller to hold
that the trustee’s duties are “strictly limited” to those
contained specifically in the nonjudicial
foreclosure statute,
section 2924 et seq. See, e.g., Bouyer v. Countrywide Bank, FSB,
2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53940, *23*
24 (N.D. Cal. June 25, 2009).
These courts have held that because section 2924 does not specify
that any party must possess the note, such possession is not
required. Id. Courts have similarly refused to require a trustee
“to identify the party in physical possession of the original
promissory note prior to commencing a nonjudicial foreclosure.”
Ritchie v. Cmty. Lending Corp.,
Page 31
2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 73216, *20 (C.D. Cal. Aug. 12, 2009).[fn15]
contained specifically in the nonjudicial
foreclosure statute,
section 2924 et seq. See, e.g., Bouyer v. Countrywide Bank, FSB,
2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53940, *23*
24 (N.D. Cal. June 25, 2009).
These courts have held that because section 2924 does not specify
that any party must possess the note, such possession is not
required. Id. Courts have similarly refused to require a trustee
“to identify the party in physical possession of the original
promissory note prior to commencing a nonjudicial foreclosure.”
Ritchie v. Cmty. Lending Corp.,
Page 31
2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 73216, *20 (C.D. Cal. Aug. 12, 2009).[fn15]
Finally, while the above arguments have focused on and rejected
a requirement of production of the note, a series of opinions by
Judge Ishii have held that under California law, possession of
the note is not required either. Garcia v. HomEq Servicing Corp.,
2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 77697 *11 (E.D. Cal. Aug. 18, 2009), Topete
v. ETS Servs., LLC, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 77761 *10*
11(E.D. Cal. Aug. 18, 2009), Wood v. Aegis Wholesale Corp.,
2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 57151, *14 (E.D. Cal. July 2, 2009). These opinions
reason as follows. Under Cal. Civ. Code § 2932.5, when the
beneficial interest under the promissory note is assigned, the
assignee may exercise a security interest in real property
provided that the assignment is “duly acknowledged and recorded.”
See, e.g., Wood, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 57151 at *14.
The Ninth
Circuit has applied California law to hold that promissory notes
arising out of real estate loans could be sold without transfer
of possession of the documents themselves. Id. (citing In re
Golden Plan of Cal., Inc., 829 F.2d 705, 707, 708 n. 2, 710 (9th
Cir. 1986)). Judge Ishii concluded that because a party may come
to validly own a beneficial interest in a promissory note without
possession of the promissory note itself, and because this
Page 32
interest, if recorded on the deed of trust, carries with it the
right to foreclose, possession of the promissory note is not a
prerequisite to nonjudicial
foreclosure. Id.
Having reviewed the arguments adopted by the district courts,
the court is left with the sense that reasonable minds could
disagree. Notably, I.E. Associates held that trustee’s duties are
“strictly limited” to those arising under the “statutes,” and a
reasonable jurist could conclude that the plural “statutes”
incorporates the Commercial Code. Although the Civil Code
authorizes a number of parties to initiate nonjudicial
foreclosure, it could be that whichever of those parties
possesses the note may foreclose.
At some point, however, the opinion of a large number of
decisions, while not in a sense binding, are by virtue of the
sheer number, determinative. I cannot conclude that the result
reached by the district courts is unreasonable or does not accord
with the law. I further note that this conclusion is not
obviously at odds with the policies underlying the California
statutes. The apparent purpose of requiring possession of a
negotiable instrument is to avoid fraud. In the context of
nonjudicial
foreclosures, however, the danger of fraud is
minimized by the requirement that the deed of trust be recorded,
as must be any assignment or substitution of the parties thereto.
While it may be that requiring production of the note would have
done something to limit the mischief that led to the economic
pain the nation has suffered, the great weight of authority has
reasonably concluded that California law does not
CARTER v. DEUTSCHE BANK NATIONAL TRUST COMPANY (N.D.Cal. 1-27-2010)

Page 33
impose this requirement.
While the court concludes that neither production nor
possession is required, the court need not decide whether this is
because promissory notes are not “negotiable instruments,” or
instead because Cal. Civ. Code § 2924 et seq. render the
Commercial Code inapplicable. The court leaves that question for
the California courts. The court solely concludes that neither
possession of the promissory note nor identification of the party
in possession is a prerequisite to nonjudicial
foreclosure.

MERS and civil code 2932.5 and Bankruptcy code 547 here is how it comes together

26 May

CA Civil Code 2932.5 – Assignment”Where a power to sell real property is
given to a mortgagee, or other encumbrancer, in an instrument intended
to secure the payment of money, the power is part of the security and
vests in any person who by assignment becomes entitled to payment of the
money secured by the instrument. The power of sale may be exercised by
the assignee if the assignment is duly acknowledged and recorded.”

Landmark vs Kesler – While this is a matter of first impression in
Kansas, other jurisdictions have issued opinions on similar and related
issues, and, while we do not consider those opinions binding in the
current litigation, we find them to be useful guideposts in our analysis
of the issues before us.”

“Black’s Law Dictionary defines a nominee as “[a] person designated to
act in place of another, usu. in a very limited way” and as “[a] party
who holds bare legal title for the benefit of others or who receives and
distributes funds for the benefit of others.” Black’s Law Dictionary
1076 (8th ed. 2004). This definition suggests that a nominee possesses
few or no legally enforceable rights beyond those of a principal whom
the nominee serves……..The legal status of a nominee, then, depends
on the context of the relationship of the nominee to its principal.
Various courts have interpreted the relationship of MERS and the lender
as an agency relationship.”

“LaSalle Bank Nat. Ass’n v. Lamy, 2006 WL 2251721, at *2 (N.Y. Sup.
2006) (unpublished opinion) (“A nominee of the owner of a note and
mortgage may not effectively assign the note and mortgage to another for
want of an ownership interest in said note and mortgage by the
nominee.”)”

The law generally understands that a mortgagee is not distinct from a
lender: a mortgagee is “[o]ne to whom property is mortgaged: the
mortgage creditor, or lender.” Black’s Law Dictionary 1034 (8th ed.
2004). By statute, assignment of the mortgage carries with it the
assignment of the debt. K.S.A. 58-2323. Although MERS asserts that,
under some situations, the mortgage document purports to give it the
same rights as the lender, the document consistently refers only to
rights of the lender, including rights to receive notice of litigation,
to collect payments, and to enforce the debt obligation. The document
consistently limits MERS to acting “solely” as the nominee of the
lender.

Indeed, in the event that a mortgage loan somehow separates interests of
the note and the deed of trust, with the deed of trust lying with some
independent entity, the mortgage may become unenforceable.

“The practical effect of splitting the deed of trust from the promissory
note is to make it impossible for the holder of the note to foreclose,
unless the holder of the deed of trust is the agent of the holder of the
note. [Citation omitted.] Without the agency relationship, the person
holding only the note lacks the power to foreclose in the event of
default. The person holding only the deed of trust will never experience
default because only the holder of the note is entitled to payment of
the underlying obligation. [Citation omitted.] The mortgage loan becomes
ineffectual when the note holder did not also hold the deed of trust.”
Bellistri v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC, 284 S.W.3d 619, 623 (Mo. App.
2009).

“MERS never held the promissory note,thus its assignment of the deed of
trust to Ocwen separate from the note had no force.” 284 S.W.3d at 624;
see also In re Wilhelm, 407 B.R. 392 (Bankr. D. Idaho 2009) (standard
mortgage note language does not expressly or implicitly authorize MERS
to transfer the note); In re Vargas, 396 B.R. 511, 517 (Bankr. C.D. Cal.
2008) (“[I]f FHM has transferred the note, MERS is no longer an
authorized agent of the holder unless it has a separate agency contract
with the new undisclosed principal. MERS presents no evidence as to who
owns the note, or of any authorization to act on behalf of the present
owner.”); Saxon Mortgage Services, Inc. v. Hillery, 2008 WL 5170180
(N.D. Cal. 2008) (unpublished opinion) (“[F]or there to be a valid
assignment, there must be more than just assignment of the deed alone;
the note must also be assigned. . . . MERS purportedly assigned both the
deed of trust and the promissory note. . . . However, there is no
evidence of record that establishes that MERS either held the promissory
note or was given the authority . . . to assign the note.”).

What stake in the outcome of an independent action for foreclosure could
MERS have? It did not lend the money to Kesler or to anyone else
involved in this case. Neither Kesler nor anyone else involved in the
case was required by statute or contract to pay money to MERS on the
mortgage. See Sheridan, ___ B.R. at ___ (“MERS is not an economic
‘beneficiary’ under the Deed of Trust. It is owed and will collect no
money from Debtors under the Note, nor will it realize the value of the
Property through foreclosure of the Deed of Trust in the event the Note
is not paid.”). If MERS is only the mortgagee, without ownership of the
mortgage instrument, it does not have an enforceable right. See Vargas,
396 B.R. 517 (“[w]hile the note is ‘essential,’ the mortgage is only ‘an
incident’ to the note” [quoting Carpenter v. Longan, 16 Wall. 271, 83
U.S. 271, 275, 21 L. Ed 313 (1872)]).

* MERS had no Beneficial Interest in the Note,
* MERS and the limited agency authority it has under the dot does
not continue with the assignment of the mortgage or dot absent a
ratification or a separate agency agreement between mers and the
assignee.
* The Note and the Deed of Trust were separated at or shortly
after origination upon endorsement and negotiation of the note rendering
the dot a nullity
* MERS never has any power or legal authority to transfer the note
to any entity;
* mers never has a beneficial interest in the note and pays
nothing of value for the note.

Bankr. Code 547 provides, among other things, that an unsecured
creditor who had won a race to an interest in the debtor’s property
using the state remedies system within 90 days of the filing of the
bankruptcy petition may have to forfeit its winnings (without
compensation for any expenses it may have incurred in winning the race)
for the benefit of all unsecured creditors. The section therefore
prevents certain creditors from being preferred over others (hence,
section 547 of the Bankruptcy Code is titled “Preferences).” An
additional effect of the section (and one of its stated purposes) may be
to discourage some unsecured creditors from aggressively pursuing the
debtor under the state remedies system, thus affording the debtor more
breathing space outside bankruptcy, for fear that money spent using the
state remedies system will be wasted if the debtor files a bankruptcy
petition.

. Bankr. Code 547(c) provides several important exceptions to the
preference avoidance power.

Bankr. Code 547 permits avoidance of liens obtained within the 90 day
(or one year) period: the creation of a lien on property of the debtor,
whether voluntary, such as through a consensual lien, or involuntary,
such as through a judicial lien, would, absent avoidance, have the same
preferential impact as a transfer of money from a debtor to a creditor
in payment of a debt. If the security interest was created in the
creditor within the 90 day window, and if other requirements of section
547(b) are satisfied, the security interest can be avoided and the real
property sold by the trustee free of the security interest (subject to
homestead exemption). All unsecured creditors of the debtor, including
the creditor whose lien has been avoided, will share, pro rata, in the
distribution of assets of the debtor, including the proceeds of the sale
of the real estate

Ortiz v. Accredited Home Lenders

27 Feb
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
Docket Number available at www.versuslaw.com
Citation Number available at www.versuslaw.com
July 13, 2009

ERNESTO ORTIZ; ARACELI ORTIZ, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ACCREDITED HOME LENDERS, INC.; LINCE HOME LOANS; CHASE HOME FINANCE, LLC; U.S. BANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, TRUSTEE FOR JP MORGAN ACQUISITION TRUST-2006 ACC; AND DOES 1 THROUGH 100, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Jeffrey T. Miller United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS Doc. No. 7

On February 6, 2009, Plaintiffs Ernesto and Araceli Ortiz (“Plaintiffs”) filed a complaint in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of San Diego, raising claims arising out of a mortgage loan transaction. (Doc. No. 1, Exh. 1.) On March 9, 2009, Defendants Chase Home Finance, LLC (“Chase”) and U.S. Bank National Association (“U.S. Bank”) removed the action to federal court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1331. (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint on April 21, 2009, naming only U.S. Bank as a defendant and dropping Chase, Accredited Home Lenders, Inc., and Lince Home Loans from the pleadings. (Doc. No. 4, “FAC.”) Pending before the court is a motion by Chase and U.S Bank to dismiss the FAC for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 12(b)(6). (Doc. No. 7, “Mot.”) Because Chase is no longer a party in this matter, the court construes the motion as having been brought only by U.S. Bank. Plaintiffs oppose the motion. (Doc. No. 12, “Opp’n.”) U.S. Bank submitted a responsive reply. (Doc. No. 14, “Reply.”) Pursuant to Civ.L.R. 7.1(d), the matter was taken under submission by the court on June 22, 2009. (Doc. No. 12.)

For the reasons set forth below, the court GRANTS the motion to dismiss.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs purchased their home at 4442 Via La Jolla, Oceanside, California (the “Property”) in January 2006. (FAC ¶ 3; Doc. No. 7-2, Exh. 1 (“DOT”) at 1.) The loan was secured by a Deed of Trust on the Property, which was recorded around January 10, 2006. (DOT at 1.) Plaintiffs obtained the loan through a broker “who received kickbacks from the originating lender.” (FAC ¶ 4.) U.S. Bank avers that it is the assignee of the original creditor, Accredited Home Lenders, Inc. (FAC ¶ 5; Mot. at 2, 4.) Chase is the loan servicer. (Mot. at 4.) A Notice of Default was recorded on the Property on June 30, 2008, showing the loan in arrears by $14,293,08. (Doc. No. 7-2, Exh. 2.) On October 3, 2008, a Notice of Trustee’s Sale was recorded on the Property. (Doc. No. 7-2, Exh. 4.) From the parties’ submissions, it appears no foreclosure sale has yet taken place.

Plaintiffs assert causes of action under Truth in Lending Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1601 et seq. (“TILA”), the Perata Mortgage Relief Act, Cal. Civil Code § 2923.5, the Foreign Language Contract Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 1632, the California Unfair Business Practices Act, Cal. Bus. Prof. Code § 17200 et seq., and to quiet title in the Property. Plaintiffs seek rescission, restitution, statutory and actual damages, injunctive relief, attorneys’ fees and costs, and judgments to void the security interest in the Property and to quiet title.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standards

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the legal sufficiency of the pleadings. De La Cruz v. Tormey, 582 F.2d 45, 48 (9th Cir. 1978). In evaluating the motion, the court must construe the pleadings in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accepting as true all material allegations in the complaint and any reasonable inferences drawn therefrom. See, e.g., Broam v. Bogan, 320 F.3d 1023, 1028 (9th Cir. 2003). While Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal is proper only in “extraordinary” cases, the complaint’s “factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level….” U.S. v. Redwood City, 640 F.2d 963, 966 (9th Cir. 1981); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 US 544, 555 (2007). The court should grant 12(b)(6) relief only if the complaint lacks either a “cognizable legal theory” or facts sufficient to support a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep’t, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

In testing the complaint’s legal adequacy, the court may consider material properly submitted as part of the complaint or subject to judicial notice. Swartz v. KPMG LLP, 476 F.3d 756, 763 (9th Cir. 2007). Furthermore, under the “incorporation by reference” doctrine, the court may consider documents “whose contents are alleged in a complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically attached to the [plaintiff’s] pleading.” Janas v. McCracken (In re Silicon Graphics Inc. Sec. Litig.), 183 F.3d 970, 986 (9th Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks omitted). A court may consider matters of public record on a motion to dismiss, and doing so “does not convert a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to one for summary judgment.” Mack v. South Bay Beer Distributors, 798 F.2d 1279, 1282 (9th Cir. 1986), abrogated on other grounds by Astoria Fed. Sav. and Loan Ass’n v. Solimino, 501 U.S. 104, 111 (1991). To this end, the court may consider the Deed of Trust, Notice of Default, Substitution of Trustee, and Notice of Trustee’s Sale, as sought by U.S. Bank in their Request for Judicial Notice. (Doc. No. 7-2, Exhs. 1-4.)

B. Analysis

A. Truth in Lending Act

Plaintiffs allege U.S. Bank failed to properly disclose material loan terms, including applicable finance charges, interest rate, and total payments as required by 15 U.S.C. § 1632. (FAC ¶¶ 7, 14.) In particular, Plaintiffs offer that the loan documents contained an “inaccurate calculation of the amount financed,” “misleading disclosures regarding the…variable rate nature of the loan” and “the application of a prepayment penalty,” and also failed “to disclose the index rate from which the payment was calculated and selection of historical index values.” (FAC ¶ 13.) In addition, Plaintiffs contend these violations are “obvious on the face of the loans [sic] documents.” (FAC ¶ 13.) Plaintiffs argue that since “Defendant has initiated foreclosure proceedings in an attempt to collect the debt,” they may seek remedies for the TILA violations through “recoupment or setoff.” (FAC ¶ 14.) Notably, Plaintiffs’ FAC does not specify whether they are requesting damages, rescission, or both under TILA, although their general request for statutory damages does cite TILA’s § 1640(a). (FAC at 7.)

U.S. Bank first asks the court to dismiss Plaintiffs’ TILA claim by arguing it is “so summarily pled that it does not ‘raise a right to relief above the speculative level …'” (Mot. at 3.) The court disagrees. Plaintiffs have set out several ways in which the disclosure documents were deficient. In addition, by stating the violations were apparent on the face of the loan documents, they have alleged assignee liability for U.S. Bank. See 15 U.S.C. § 1641(a)(assignee liability lies “only if the violation…is apparent on the face of the disclosure statement….”). The court concludes Plaintiffs have adequately pled the substance of their TILA claim.

However, as U.S. Bank argues, Plaintiffs’ TILA claim is procedurally barred. To the extent Plaintiffs recite a claim for rescission, such is precluded by the applicable three-year statute of limitations. 15 U.S.C. § 1635(f) (“Any claim for rescission must be brought within three years of consummation of the transaction or upon the sale of the property, whichever occurs first…”). According to the loan documents, the loan closed in December 2005 or January 2006. (DOT at 1.) The instant suit was not filed until February 6, 2009, outside the allowable three-year period. (Doc. No. 1, Exh. 1.) In addition, “residential mortgage transactions” are excluded from the right of rescission. 15 U.S.C. § 1635(e). A “residential mortgage transaction” is defined by 15 U.S.C. § 1602(w) to include “a mortgage, deed of trust, … or equivalent consensual security interest…created…against the consumer’s dwelling to finance the acquisition…of such dwelling.” Thus, Plaintiffs fail to state a claim for rescission under TILA.

As for Plaintiffs’ request for damages, they acknowledge such claims are normally subject to a one-year statute of limitations, typically running from the date of loan execution. See 15 U.S.C. §1640(e) (any claim under this provision must be made “within one year from the date of the occurrence of the violation.”). However, as mentioned above, Plaintiffs attempt to circumvent the limitations period by characterizing their claim as one for “recoupment or setoff.” Plaintiffs rely on 15 U.S.C. § 1640(e), which provides:

This subsection does not bar a person from asserting a violation of this subchapter in an action to collect the debt which was brought more than one year from the date of the occurrence of the violation as a matter of defense by recoupment or set-off in such action, except as otherwise provided by State law.

Generally, “a defendant’s right to plead ‘recoupment,’ a ‘defense arising out of some feature of the transaction upon which the plaintiff’s action is grounded,’ … survives the expiration” of the limitations period. Beach v. Ocwen Fed. Bank, 523 U.S. 410, 415 (1998) (quoting Rothensies v. Elec. Storage Battery Co., 329 U.S. 296, 299 (1946) (internal citation omitted)). Plaintiffs also correctly observe the Supreme Court has confirmed recoupment claims survive TILA’s statute of limitations. Id. at 418. To avoid dismissal at this stage, Plaintiffs must show that “(1) the TILA violation and the debt are products of the same transaction, (2) the debtor asserts the claim as a defense, and (3) the main action is timely.” Moor v. Travelers Ins. Co., 784 F.2d 632, 634 (5th Cir. 1986) (citing In re Smith, 737 F.2d 1549, 1553 (11th Cir. 1984)) (emphasis added).

U.S. Bank suggests Plaintiffs’ TILA claim is not sufficiently related to the underlying mortgage debt so as to qualify as a recoupment. (Mot. at 6-7.) The court disagrees with this argument, and other courts have reached the same conclusion. See Moor, 784 F.2d at 634 (plaintiff’s use of recoupment claims under TILA failed on the second and third prongs only); Williams v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 504 F.Supp.2d 176, 188 (S.D. Tex. 2007) (where plaintiff “received a loan secured by a deed of trust on his property and later defaulted on the mortgage payments to the lender,” he “satisfie[d] the first element of the In re Smith test….”). Plaintiffs’ default and U.S. Bank’s attempts to foreclose on the Property representing the security interest for the underlying loan each flow from the same contractual transaction. The authority relied on by U.S. Bank, Aetna Fin. Co. v. Pasquali, 128 Ariz. 471 (Ariz. App. 1981), is unpersuasive. Not only does Aetna Finance recognize the split among courts on this issue, the decision is not binding on this court, and was reached before the Supreme Court’s ruling in Beach, supra. Aetna Fin., 128 Ariz. at 473,

Nevertheless, the deficiencies in Plaintiffs’ claim become apparent upon examination under the second and third prongs of the In re Smith test. Section 1640(e) of TILA makes recoupment available only as a “defense” in an “action to collect a debt.” Plaintiffs essentially argue that U.S. Bank’s initiation of non-judicial foreclosure proceedings paves the path for their recoupment claim. (FAC ¶ 14; Opp’n at 3.) Plaintiffs cite to In re Botelho, 195 B.R. 558, 563 (Bkrtcy. D. Mass. 1996), suggesting the court there allowed TILA recoupment claims to counter a non-judicial foreclosure. In Botelho, lender Citicorp apparently initiated non-judicial foreclosure proceedings, Id. at 561 fn. 1, and thereafter entered the plaintiff’s Chapter 13 proceedings by filing a Proof of Claim. Id. at 561. The plaintiff then filed an adversary complaint before the same bankruptcy court in which she advanced her TILA-recoupment theory. Id. at 561-62. The Botelho court evaluated the validity of the recoupment claim, taking both of Citicorp’s actions into account — the foreclosure as well as the filing of a proof of claim. Id. at 563. The court did not determine whether the non-judicial foreclosure, on its own, would have allowed the plaintiff to satisfy the three prongs of the In re Smith test.

On the other hand, the court finds U.S. Bank’s argument on this point persuasive: non-judicial foreclosures are not “actions” as contemplated by TILA. First, § 1640(e) itself defines an “action” as a court proceeding. 15 U.S.C. § 1640(e) (“Any action…may be brought in any United States district court, or in any other court of competent jurisdiction…”). Turning to California law, Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 726 indicates an “action for the recovery of any debt or the enforcement of any right secured by mortgage upon real property” results in a judgment from the court directing the sale of the property and distributing the resulting funds. Further, Code § 22 defines an “action” as “an ordinary proceeding in a court of justice by which one party prosecutes another for the declaration, enforcement, or protection of a right, the redress or prevention of a wrong, or the punishment of a public offense.” Neither of these state law provisions addresses the extra-judicial exercise of a right of sale under a deed of trust, which is governed by Cal. Civ. Code § 2924, et seq. Unlike the situation in Botelho, U.S. Bank has done nothing to bring a review its efforts to foreclose before this court. As Plaintiffs concede, “U.S. Bank has not filed a civil lawsuit and nothing has been placed before the court” which would require the court to “examine the nature and extent of the lender’s claims….” (Opp’n at 4.) “When the debtor hales [sic] the creditor into court…, the claim by the debtor is affirmative rather than defensive.” Moor, 784 F.2d at 634; see also, Amaro v. Option One Mortgage Corp., 2009 WL 103302, at *3 (C.D. Cal., Jan. 14, 2009) (rejecting plaintiff’s argument that recoupment is a defense to a non-judicial foreclosure and holding “Plaintiff’s affirmative use of the claim is improper and exceeds the scope of the TILA exception….”).

The court recognizes that U.S. Bank’s choice of remedy under California law effectively denies Plaintiffs the opportunity to assert a recoupment defense. This result does not run afoul of TILA. As other courts have noted, TILA contemplates such restrictions by allowing recoupment only to the extent allowed under state law. 15 U.S.C. § 1640(e); Joseph v. Newport Shores Mortgage, Inc., 2006 WL 418293, at *2 fn. 1 (N.D. Ga., Feb. 21, 2006). The court concludes TILA’s one-year statute of limitations under § 1635(f) bars Plaintiffs’ TILA claim.

In sum, U.S. Bank’s motion to dismiss the TILA claim is granted, and Plaintiffs’ TILA claims are dismissed with prejudice.

B. Perata Mortgage Relief Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 2923.5

Plaintiffs’ second cause of action arises under the Perata Mortgage Relief Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 2923.5. Plaintiffs argue U.S. Bank is liable for monetary damages under this provision because it “failed and refused to explore” “alternatives to the drastic remedy of foreclosure, such as loan modifications” before initiating foreclosure proceedings. (FAC ¶¶ 17-18.) Furthermore, Plaintiffs allege U.S. Bank violated Cal. Civ. Code § 2923.5(c) by failing to include with the notice of sale a declaration that it contacted the borrower to explore such options. (Opp’n at 6.)

Section 2923.5(a)(2) requires a “mortgagee, beneficiary or authorized agent” to “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.” For a lender which had recorded a notice of default prior to the effective date of the statute, as is the case here, § 2923.5(c) imposes a duty to attempt to negotiate with a borrower before recording a notice of sale. These provisions cover loans initiated between January 1, 2003 and December 31, 2007. Cal. Civ. Code § 2923.5(h)(3)(i).

U.S. Bank’s primary argument is that Plaintiffs’ claim should be dismissed because neither § 2923.5 nor its legislative history clearly indicate an intent to create a private right of action. (Mot. at 8.) Plaintiffs counter that such a conclusion is unsupported by the legislative history; the California legislature would not have enacted this “urgency” legislation, intended to curb high foreclosure rates in the state, without any accompanying enforcement mechanism. (Opp’n at 5.) The court agrees with Plaintiffs. While the Ninth Circuit has yet to address this issue, the court found no decision from this circuit where a § 2923.5 claim had been dismissed on the basis advanced by U.S. Bank. See, e.g. Gentsch v. Ownit Mortgage Solutions Inc., 2009 WL 1390843, at *6 (E.D. Cal., May 14, 2009)(addressing merits of claim); Lee v. First Franklin Fin. Corp., 2009 WL 1371740, at *1 (E.D. Cal., May 15, 2009) (addressing evidentiary support for claim).

On the other hand, the statute does not require a lender to actually modify a defaulting borrower’s loan but rather requires only contacts or attempted contacts in a good faith effort to prevent foreclosure. Cal. Civ. Code § 2923.5(a)(2). Plaintiffs allege only that U.S. Bank “failed and refused to explore such alternatives” but do not allege whether they were contacted or not. (FAC ¶ 18.) Plaintiffs’ use of the phrase “refused to explore,” combined with the “Declaration of Compliance” accompanying the Notice of Trustee’s Sale, imply Plaintiffs were contacted as required by the statute. (Doc. No. 7-2, Exh. 4 at 3.) Because Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim under Cal. Civ. Code § 2923.5, U.S. Bank’s motion to dismiss is granted. Plaintiffs’ claim is dismissed without prejudice.

C. Foreign Language Contract Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 1632 et seq.

Plaintiffs assert “the contract and loan obligation was [sic] negotiated in Spanish,” and thus, they were entitled, under Cal. Civ. Code § 1632, to receive loan documents in Spanish rather than in English. (FAC ¶ 21-24.) Cal. Civ. Code § 1632 provides, in relevant part:

Any person engaged in a trade or business who negotiates primarily in Spanish, Chines, Tagalog, Vietnamese, or Korean, orally or in writing, in the course of entering into any of the following, shall deliver to the other party to the contract or agreement and prior to the execution thereof, a translation of the contract or agreement in the language in which the contract or agreement was negotiated, which includes a translation of every term and condition in that contract or agreement.

Cal. Civ. Code § 1632(b).

U.S. Bank argues this claim must be dismissed because Cal. Civ. Code § 1632(b)(2) specifically excludes loans secured by real property. (Mot. at 8.) Plaintiffs allege their loan falls within the exception outlined in § 1632(b)(4), which effectively recaptures any “loan or extension of credit for use primarily for personal, family or household purposes where the loan or extension of credit is subject to the provision of Article 7 (commencing with Section 10240) of Chapter 3 of Part I of Division 4 of the Business and Professions Code ….” (FAC ¶ 21; Opp’n at 7.) The Article 7 loans referenced here are those secured by real property which were negotiated by a real estate broker.*fn1 See Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 10240. For the purposes of § 1632(b)(4), a “real estate broker” is one who “solicits borrowers, or causes borrowers to be solicited, through express or implied representations that the broker will act as an agent in arranging a loan, but in fact makes the loan to the borrower from funds belonging to the broker.” Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 10240(b). To take advantage of this exception with respect to U.S. Bank, Plaintiffs must allege U.S. Bank either acted as the real estate broker or had a principal-agent relationship with the broker who negotiated their loan. See Alvara v. Aurora Loan Serv., Inc., 2009 WL 1689640, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Jun. 16, 2009), and references cited therein (noting “several courts have rejected the proposition that defendants are immune from this statute simply because they are not themselves brokers, so long as the defendant has an agency relationship with a broker or was acting as a broker.”). Although Plaintiffs mention in passing a “broker” was involved in the transaction (FAC ¶ 4), they fail to allege U.S. Bank acted in either capacity described above.

Nevertheless, Plaintiffs argue they are not limited to remedies against the original broker, but may seek rescission of the contract through the assignee of the loan. Cal. Civ. Code § 1632(k). Section 1632(k) allows for rescission for violations of the statute and also provides, “When the contract for a consumer credit sale or consumer lease which has been sold and assigned to a financial institution is rescinded pursuant to this subdivision, the consumer shall make restitution to and have restitution made by the person with whom he or she made the contract, and shall give notice of rescission to the assignee.” Cal. Civ. Code § 1632(k) (emphasis added). There are two problems with Plaintiffs’ theory. First, it is not clear to this court that Plaintiffs’ loan qualifies as a “consumer credit sale or consumer lease.” Second, the court interprets this provision not as a mechanism to impose liability for a violation of § 1632 on U.S. Bank as an assignee, but simply as a mechanism to provide notice to that assignee after recovering restitution from the broker.

The mechanics of contract rescission are governed by Cal. Civ. Code § 1691, which requires a plaintiff to give notice of rescission to the other party and to return, or offer to return, all proceeds he received from the transaction. Plaintiffs’ complaint does satisfy these two requirements. Cal. Civ. Code § 1691 (“When notice of rescission has not otherwise been given or an offer to restore the benefits received under the contract has not otherwise been made, the service of a pleading…that seeks relief based on rescission shall be deemed to be such notice or offer or both.”). However, the court notes that if Plaintiffs were successful in their bid to rescind the contract, they would have to return the proceeds of the loan which they used to purchase their Property.

For these reasons discussed above, Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim under Cal. Civ. Code § 1632. U.S. Bank’s motion to dismiss is granted and Plaintiffs’ claim for violation of Cal. Civ. Code § 1632 is dismissed without prejudice.

D. Unfair Business Practices, Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200

California’s unfair competition statute “prohibits any unfair competition, which means ‘any unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business act or practice.'” In re Pomona Valley Med. Group, 476 F.3d 665, 674 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200, et seq.). “This tripartite test is disjunctive and the plaintiff need only allege one of the three theories to properly plead a claim under § 17200.” Med. Instrument Dev. Labs. v. Alcon Labs., 2005 WL 1926673, at *5 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 10, 2005). “Virtually any law–state, federal or local–can serve as a predicate for a § 17200 claim.” State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. v. Superior Court, 45 Cal.App.4th 1093, 1102-3 (1996). Plaintiffs assert their § 17200 “claim is entirely predicated upon their previous causes of action” under TILA and Cal. Civ. Code §§ 2923.5 and § 1632. (FAC ¶¶ 25-29; Opp’n at 9.)

U.S. Bank first contend Plaintiffs lack standing to pursue a § 17200 claim because they “do not allege what money or property they allegedly lost as a result of any purported violation.” (Mot. at 9.) The court finds Plaintiffs have satisfied the pleading standards on this issue by alleging they “relied, to their detriment,” on incomplete and inaccurate disclosures which led them to pay higher interest rates than they would have otherwise. (FAC ¶ 9.) Such “losses” have been found sufficient to confer standing. See Aron v. U-Haul Co. of California, 143 Cal.App.4th 796, 802-3 (2006).

U.S. Bank next offers that Plaintiffs’ mere recitation of the statutory bases for this cause of action, without specific allegations of fact, fails to state a claim. (Mot. at 10.) Plaintiffs point out all the factual allegations in their complaint are incorporated by reference into their § 17200 claim. (FAC ¶ 25; Opp’n at 9.) The court agrees there was no need for Plaintiffs to copy all the preceding paragraphs into this section when their claim expressly incorporates the allegations presented elsewhere in the complaint. Any argument by U.S. Bank that the pleadings failed to put them on notice of the premise behind Plaintiffs’ § 17200 claim would be somewhat disingenuous.

Nevertheless, all three of Plaintiffs’ predicate statutory claims have been dismissed for failure to state a claim. Without any surviving basis for the § 17200 claim, it too must be dismissed. U.S. Bank’s motion is therefore granted and Plaintiffs’ § 17200 claim is dismissed without prejudice.

E. Quiet Title

In their final cause of action, Plaintiffs seek to quiet title in the Property. (FAC ¶¶ 30-36.) In order to adequately allege a cause of action to quiet title, a plaintiff’s pleadings must include a description of “[t]he title of the plaintiff as to which a determination…is sought and the basis of the title…” and “[t]he adverse claims to the title of the plaintiff against which a determination is sought.” Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 761.020. A plaintiff is required to name the “specific adverse claims” that form the basis of the property dispute. See Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 761.020, cmt. at ¶ 3. Here, Plaintiffs allege the “Defendant claims an adverse interest in the Property owned by Plaintiffs,” but do not specify what that interest might be. (Mot. at 6-7.) Plaintiffs are still the owners of the Property. The recorded foreclosure Notices do not affect Plaintiffs’ title, ownership, or possession in the Property. U.S. Bank’s motion to dismiss is therefore granted, and Plaintiffs’ cause of action to quiet title is dismissed without prejudice.

III. CONCLUSION

For the reasons set forth above, U.S. Bank’s motion to dismiss (Doc. No. 7) is GRANTED. Accordingly, Plaintiffs’ claim under TILA is DISMISSED with prejudice and Plaintiffs’ claims under Cal. Civ. Code § 2923.5, Cal. Civ. Code § 1632, and Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200, and their claim to quiet title are DISMISSED without prejudice.

The court grants Plaintiffs 30 days’ leave from the date of entry of this order to file a Second Amended Complaint which cures all the deficiencies noted above. Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint must be complete in itself without reference to the superseded pleading. Civil Local Rule 15.1.

IT IS SO ORDERED.


Opinion Footnotes


*fn1 Although U.S. Bank correctly notes the authorities cited by Plaintiffs are all unreported cases, the court agrees with the conclusions set forth in those cases. See Munoz v. International Home Capital Corp., 2004 WL 3086907, at *9 (N.D. Cal. 2004); Ruiz v. Decision One Mortgage Co., LLC, 2006 WL 2067072, at *5 (N.D. Cal. 2006).

90% Forclosures Wrongful

1 Jan

A wrongful foreclosure action typically occurs when the lender starts a non judicial foreclosure action when it simply has no legal cause. This is even more evident now since California passed the Foreclosure prevention act of 2008 SB 1194 codified in Civil code 2923.5 and 2923.6. In 2009 it is this attorneys opinion that 90% of all foreclosures are wrongful in that the lender does not comply (just look at the declaration page on the notice of default). The lenders most notably Indymac, Countrywide, and Wells Fargo have taken a calculated risk. To comply would cost hundreds of millions in staff, paperwork, and workouts that they don’t deem to be in their best interest. The workout is not in there best interest because our tax dollars are guaranteeing the Banks that are To Big to Fail’s debt. If they don’t foreclose and if they work it out the loss is on them. There is no incentive to modify loan for the benefit of the consumer.

Sooooo they proceed to foreclosure without the mandated contacts with the borrower. Oh and yes contact is made by a computer or some outsourcing contact agent based in India. But compliance with 2923.5 is not done. The Borrower is never told that he or she have the right to a meeting within 14 days of the contact. They do not get offers to avoid foreclosure there are typically two offers short sale or a probationary mod that will be declined upon the 90th day.

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
* Misapplied payments
* 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
* Quiet title
* Wrongful foreclosure
* Tortuous violation of 2924 2923.5 and 2923.5 and 2932.5
Injunction

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. Most borrower don’t know who the real lender is. Servicing has changed on average three times. And with the advent of MERS Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems the “investor lender” hundreds of times since the origination. And now they then have to contact the borrower. The don’t even know who the lender truly is. The laws that are now in place never contemplated the virtualization of the lending market. The present laws are inadequate to the challenge.

This is even more evident now since California passed the Foreclosure prevention act of 2008 SB 1194 codified in Civil code 2923.5 and 2923.6. In 2009 it is this attorneys opinion that 90% of all foreclosures are wrongful in that the lender does not comply (just look at the declaration page on the notice of default). The lenders most notably Indymac, Countrywide, and Wells Fargo have taken a calculated risk. To comply would cost hundreds of millions in staff, paperwork, and workouts that they don’t deem to be in their best interest. The workout is not in there best interest because our tax dollars are guaranteeing the Banks that are To Big to Fail’s debt. If they don’t foreclose and if they work it out the loss is on them. There is no incentive to modify loan for the benefit of the consumer.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.
Impact

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.

Fabrication of Documents: MERS GAP Illuminated

23 Dec

Posted on July 30, 2009 by livinglies

Another example of why a TILA audit is grossly inadequate. A forensic audit is required covering all bases. Although dated, this article picks up on a continuing theme that demonstrates the title defect, the questionable conduct of pretender lenders and the defects in the foreclosure process when you let companies with big brand names bluff the system. The MERS GAP arises whether MERS is actually the nominee on the deed of trust (or mortgage deed) or not. It is an announcement that there will be off record transactions between parties who have no interest in the loan but who will assert such an interest once they have successfullly fabricated documents, had someone without authority sign them, on behalf of an entity with no real beneficial interest or other economic interest in the loan, and then frequently notarized by someone in another state. we have even seen documents notarized in blank and forged signatures of borrowers on loan closing papers.

NYTimes.com
Lender Tells Judge It ‘Recreated’ Letters
Tuesday January 8, 2008 11:38 pm ET
By GRETCHEN MORGENSON
The Countrywide Financial Corporation fabricated documents related to the bankruptcy case of a Pennsylvania homeowner, court records show, raising new questions about the business practices of the giant mortgage lender at the center of the subprime mess.The documents — three letters from Countrywide addressed to the homeowner — claimed that the borrower owed the company $4,700 because of discrepancies in escrow deductions. Countrywide’s local counsel described the letters to the court as “recreated,” raising concern from the federal bankruptcy judge overseeing the case, Thomas P. Agresti.

“These letters are a smoking gun that something is not right in Denmark,” Judge Agresti said in a Dec. 20 hearing in Pittsburgh.

The emergence of the fabricated documents comes as Countrywide confronts a rising tide of complaints from borrowers who claim that the company pushed them into risky loans. The matter in Pittsburgh is one of 300 bankruptcy cases in which Countrywide’s practices have come under scrutiny in western Pennsylvania.

Judge Agresti said that discovery should proceed so that those involved in the case, including the Chapter 13 trustee for the western district of Pennsylvania and the United States trustee, could determine how Countrywide’s systems might generate such documents.

A spokesman for the lender, Rick Simon, said: “It is not Countrywide’s policy to create or ‘fabricate’ any documents as evidence that they were sent if they had not been. We believe it will be shown in further discovery that the Countrywide bankruptcy technician who generated the documents at issue did so as an efficient way to convey the dates the escrow analyses were done and the calculations of the payments as a result of the analyses.”

The documents were generated in a case involving Sharon Diane Hill, a homeowner in Monroeville, Pa. Ms. Hill filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection in March 2001 to try to save her home from foreclosure.

After meeting her mortgage obligations under the 60-month bankruptcy plan, Ms. Hill’s case was discharged and officially closed on March 9, 2007. Countrywide, the servicer on her loan, did not object to the discharge; court records from that date show she was current on her mortgage.

But one month later, Ms. Hill received a notice of intention to foreclose from Countrywide, stating that she was in default and owed the company $4,166.

Court records show that the amount claimed by Countrywide was from the period during which Ms. Hill was making regular payments under the auspices of the bankruptcy court. They included “monthly charges” totaling $3,840 from November 2006 to April 2007, late charges of $128 and other charges of almost $200.

A lawyer representing Ms. Hill in her bankruptcy case, Kenneth Steidl, of Steidl and Steinberg in Pittsburgh, wrote Countrywide a few weeks later stating that Ms. Hill had been deemed current on her mortgage during the period in question. But in May, Countrywide sent Ms. Hill another notice stating that her loan was delinquent and demanding that she pay $4,715.58. Neither Mr. Steidl nor Julia Steidl, who has also represented Ms. Hill, returned phone calls seeking comment.

Justifying Ms. Hill’s arrears, Countrywide sent her lawyer copies of three letters on company letterhead addressed to the homeowner, as well as to Mr. Steidl and Ronda J. Winnecour, the Chapter 13 trustee for the western district of Pennsylvania.

The Countrywide letters were dated September 2003, October 2004 and March 2007 and showed changes in escrow requirements on Ms. Hill’s loan. “This letter is to advise you that the escrow requirement has changed per the escrow analysis completed today,” each letter began.

But Mr. Steidl told the court he had never received the letters. Furthermore, he noticed that his address on the first Countrywide letter was not the location of his office at the time, but an address he moved to later. Neither did the Chapter 13 trustee’s office have any record of receiving the letters, court records show.

When Mr. Steidl discussed this with Leslie E. Puida, Countrywide’s outside counsel on the case, he said Ms. Puida told him that the letters had been “recreated” by Countrywide to reflect the escrow discrepancies, the court transcript shows. During these discussions, Ms. Puida reduced the amount that Countrywide claimed Ms. Hill owed to $1,500 from $4,700.

Under questioning by the judge, Ms. Puida said that “a processor” at Countrywide had generated the letters to show how the escrow discrepancies arose. “They were not offered to prove that they had been sent,” Ms. Puida said. But she also said, under questioning from the court, that the letters did not carry a disclaimer indicating that they were not actual correspondence or that they had never been sent.

A Countrywide spokesman said that in bankruptcy cases, Countrywide’s automated systems are sometimes overridden, with technicians making manual adjustments “to comply with bankruptcy laws and the requirements in the jurisdiction in which a bankruptcy is pending.” Asked by Judge Agresti why Countrywide would go to the trouble of “creating a letter that was never sent,” Ms. Puida, its lawyer, said she did not know.

“I just, I can’t get over what I’m being told here about these recreations,” Judge Agresti said, “and what the purpose is or was and what was intended by them.”

Ms. Hill’s matter is one of 300 bankruptcy cases involving Countrywide that have come under scrutiny by Ms. Winnecour, the Chapter 13 trustee in Pittsburgh. On Oct. 9, she asked the court to sanction Countrywide, contending that the company had lost or destroyed more than $500,000 in checks paid by homeowners in bankruptcy from December 2005 to April 2007.

Ms. Winnecour said in court filings that she was concerned that even as Countrywide had misplaced or destroyed the checks, it levied charges on the borrowers, including late fees and legal costs. A spokesman in her office said she would not comment on the Hill case.

O. Max Gardner III, a lawyer in North Carolina who represents troubled borrowers, says that he routinely sees lenders pursue borrowers for additional money after their bankruptcies have been discharged and the courts have determined that the default has been cured and borrowers are current. Regarding the Hill matter, Mr. Gardner said: “The real problem in my mind when reading the transcript is that Countrywide’s lawyer could not explain how this happened.”

Filed under: CDO, CORRUPTION, Eviction, GTC | Honor, Investor, Mortgage, bubble, currency, foreclosure, securities fraud | Tagged: borrower, countrywide, disclosure, foreclosure defense, foreclosure offense, fraud, rescission, RESPA, TILA audit, trustee
« Lucrative Fees May Deter Efforts to Alter Loans

How to Use MERS on Deed of Trust or Mortgage

19 Dec

It is time to use the presence of MERS on the originating loan paperwork as an OFFENSIVE TACTIC. Most states have some version of the statute below. It is simply common sense. A creditor is not a creditor unless they are owed something. A beneficiary is not a beneficiary unless they are a creditor. In the case of a mortgage note, a beneficiary is not a creditor unless it is the obligee on the note (i.e., the one to whom the note directs payment). There is no escaping this logic.

The point is that designating MERS as beneficiary or mortgagee is the same as designating nobody at all. The range of options for the Judge include several possibilities. But the one I think we should concentrate on is that an ambiguity has been raised on the face of every Deed of Trust or Mortgage Deed naming MERS as the beneficiary or mortgagee. That being the case, it MUST BE JUDICIALLY DETERMINED by a trier of fact (Judge or Jury)in judicial foreclosure states.

In California there is legislation being proposed that would require mandatory mediation before a foreclosure can be initiated. The provisions the California Foreclosure prevention act of 2008 are just not working. Judges don’t uphold what the law says civil code 2023.6 and 2923.6 when the attorneys for the publicly funded Banks (our tax dollars 17.1 Trillion before it all over) oppose individual debtors and claim federal preemption. Our legal system is a rigged game favoring the capital of a capitalist system. In California a nonjudicial state a foreclosure can occur on the mere word of a lender without the original note or assignment of the original deed of trust. A then former homeowner can then be evicted by giving notice to vacate constructively (without notice) have a summons “Posted and Mailed” (again no actual notice) a default judgment taken (no trial) and a writ issued and the Sheriff’s instruction to evict issued and enforced.

In Non Judicial an action should be filed for declaratory relief that the foreclosure is invalid and void this is the problem in the non Judicial states. See state bar president article No Lawyer No Law Without having a beneficiary or mortgagee identified, there obviously can be no enforcement. The power off sale is contained in Civil 2932 and in California there must be a valid assignment civil code 2932.5 to have the power to foreclose.

So the strategy here would be to force the would-be forecloser (pretender lender) to file a lawsuit establishing the note and mortgage (or deed of trust) by identifying the beneficiary or mortgagee. It would also enable you, in the face of a reluctant judge, to press for expedited discovery for information that the would-be foreclosing trustee or attorney should have had before they started. And this leads to a request for an evidentiary hearing — the kiss of death for pretender lenders unless you don’t know your rules of evidence

California Mortgage and Deed of Trust Practice § 1.39 (3d ed Cal CEB 2008)

§ 1.39 (1) Must Be Obligee

The beneficiary must be an obligee of the secured obligation (usually the payee of a note), because otherwise the deed of trust in its favor is meaningless. Watkins v Bryant (1891) 91 C 492, 27 P 775; Nagle v Macy (1858) 9 C 426. See §§ 1.8-1.19 on the need for an obligation. The deed of trust is merely an incident of the obligation and has no existence apart from it. Goodfellow v Goodfellow (1933) 219 C 548, 27 P2d 898; Adler v Sargent (1895) 109 C 42, 41
P 799; Turner v Gosden (1932) 121 CA 20, 8 P2d 505. The holder of the note, however, can enforce the deed of trust
whether or not named as beneficiary or mortgagee. CC § 2936;

How to Stop Foreclosure

5 Dec

This is general information and assumes that you have access to the rest of the material on the blog. Foreclosures come in various flavors.

First of all you have non-judicial and judicial foreclosure states. Non-judicial basically means that instead of signing a conventional mortgage and note, you signed a document that says you give up your right to a judicial proceeding. So the pretender lender or lender simply instructs the Trustee to sell the property, giving you some notice. Of course the question of who is the lender, what is a beneficiary under a deed of trust, what is a creditor and who owns the loan NOW (if anyone) are all issues that come into play in litigation.

In a non-judicial state you generally are required to bring the matter to court by filing a lawsuit. In states like California, the foreclosers usually do an end run around you by filing an unlawful detainer as soon as they can in a court of lower jurisdiction which by law cannot hear your claims regarding the illegality of the mortgage or foreclosure.

In a judicial state the forecloser must be the one who files suit and you have considerably more power to resist the attempt to foreclose.

Then you have stages:

STAGE 1: No notice of default has been sent.

In this case you want to get a forensic analysis that is as complete as humanly possible — TILA, RESPA, securitization, title, chain of custody, predatory loan practices, fraud, fabricated documents, forged documents etc. I call this the FOUR WALL ANALYSIS, meaning they have no way to get out of the mess they created. Then you want a QWR (Qualified Written Request) and DVL (Debt Validation Letter along with complaints to various Federal and State agencies. If they fail to respond or fail to answer your questions you file a suit against the party who received the QWR, the party who originated the loan (even if they are out of business), and John Does 1-1000 being the owners of mortgage backed bonds that are evidence of the investors ownership in the pool of mortgages, of which yours is one. The suit is simple — it seeks to stop the servicer from receiving any payments, install a receiver over the servicer’s accounts, order them to answer the simple question “Who is my creditor and how do I get a full accounting FROM THE CREDITOR? Alternative counts would be quiet title and damages under TILA, RESPA, SEC, etc.

Tactically you want to present the forensic declaration and simply say that you have retained an expert witness who states in his declaration that the creditor does not include any of the parties disclosed to you thus far. This [prevents you from satisfying the Federal mandate to attempt modification or settlement of the loan. You’ve asked (QWR and DVL) and they won’t tell. DON’T GET INTO INTRICATE ARGUMENTS CONCERNING SECURITIZATION UNTIL IT IS NECESSARY TO DO SO WHICH SHOULD BE AFTER A FEW HEARINGS ON MOTIONS TO COMPEL THEM TO ANSWER.

IN OTHER WORDS YOU ARE SIMPLY TELLING THE JUDGE THAT YOUR EXPERT HAS PRESENTED FACTS AND OPINION THAT CONTRADICT AND VARY FROM THE REPRESENTATIONS OF COUNSEL AND THE PARTIES WHO HAVE BEEN DISCLOSED TO YOU THUS FAR.

YOU WANT TO KNOW WHO THE OTHER PARTIES ARE, IF ANY, AND WHAT MONEY EXCHANGED HANDS WITH RESPECT TO YOUR LOAN. YOU WANT EVIDENCE, NOT REPRESENTATIONS OF COUNSEL. YOU WANT DISCOVERY OR AN ORDER TO ANSWER THE QWR OR DVL. YOU WANT AN EVIDENTIARY HEARING IF IT IS NECESSARY.

Avoid legal argument and go straight for discovery saying that you want to be able to approach the creditor, whoever it is, and in order to do that you have a Federal Statutory right (RESPA) to the name of a person, a telephone number and an address of the creditor — i.e., the one who is now minus money as a result of the funding of the loan. You’ve asked, they won’t answer.

Contemporaneously you want to get a temporary restraining order preventing them from taking any further action with respect to transferring, executing documents, transferring money, or collecting money until they have satisfied your demand for information and you have certified compliance with the court. Depending upon your circumstances you can offer to tender the monthly payment into the court registry or simply leave that out.

You can also file a bankruptcy petition especially if you are delinquent in payments or are about to become delinquent.

STAGE 2: Notice of Default Received

Believe it or not this is where the errors begin by the pretender lenders. You want to challenge authority, authenticity, the amount claimed due, the signatory, the notary, the loan number and anything else that is appropriate. Then go back to stage 1 and follow that track. In order to effectively do this you need to have that forensic analysis and I don’t mean the TILA Audit that is offered by so many companies using off the shelf software. You could probably buy the software yourself for less money than you pay those companies. I emphasize again that you need a FOUR WALL ANALYSIS.

Stage 3 Non-Judicial State, Notice of Sale received:

State statutes usually give you a tiny window of opportunity to contest the sale and the statute usually contains exact provisions on how you can do that or else your objection doesn’t count. At this point you need to secure the services of competent, knowledgeable, experienced legal counsel — professionals who have been fighting with these pretender lenders for a while. Anything less and you are likely to be sorely disappointed unless you landed, by luck of the draw, one of the increasing number of judges you are demonstrating their understanding and anger at this fraud.

Stage 4: Judicial State: Served with Process:

You must answer usually within 20 days. Failure to do so, along with your affirmative defenses and counterclaims, could result in a default followed by a default judgment followed by a Final Judgment of Foreclosure. See above steps.

Stage 5: Sale already occurred

You obviously need to reverse that situation. Usually the allegation is that the sale should be vacated because of fraud on the court (judicial) or fraudulent abuse of non-judicial process. This is a motion or Petitioner but it must be accompanied by a lawsuit, properly served and noticed to the other side. You probably need to name the purchaser at sale, and ask for a TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) that stops them from moving the property or the money around any further until your questions are answered (see above). At the risk of sounding like a broken record, you need a good forensic analyst and a good lawyer.

Stage 6: Eviction (Unlawful Detainer Filed or Judgment entered:

Same as Stage 5.