Articles Posted in Foreclosure

shortsaleOur firm frequently has clients who own property that is in foreclosure.  Often, these parties wish to sell their property and move on from the situation.  Once a sales price is agreed upon, the important question to be asked is whether the proceeds from the sale are sufficient to pay off the debt on the property, or, if not, what the expected deficiency will be.  As attorneys for the person selling a property in foreclosure, we would calculate the amount of all liens and judgments on the property, including the mortgage or mortgages in default, the costs and expenses of the sale, including New York State transfer tax and any local transfer tax, as well as the agreed upon broker’s commission for the sale.

This figure is then compared to the negotiated sales price for the property, as per the Contract of Sale.  In many situations, the proceeds may comfortably exceed the debts on the property and the expenses of sale.  For example, the total debt and expenses of sale may total $400,000.00, and the sales price may be $500,000.00.  In this case, the seller may move ahead with the closing and expect to walk away with some additional funds after all costs and expenses of the sale are paid, including the broker’s commission and transfer taxes associated with the transaction.

But what happens if there are insufficient funds from the sales price to cover the debts and expenses encumbering the property?  Let’s say the debt and expenses of sale are $400,000,00, and the sales price is only $375,000.00.  In that situation, the person selling the property has several options, which will be discussed in this blog post.

bankruptcy-300x200Prior blog posts have discussed the effect of filing for bankruptcy on properties which may be in foreclosure.  This post will explain what may happen to the property after a bankruptcy filing; namely, can the property still be sold to a third party, and under what circumstances.

Once a party to a foreclosure action files for federal bankruptcy protection, the Bankruptcy Court issues a stay on all pending legal proceedings.  A stay means that all pending legal proceedings must cease, and no new proceedings can be commenced.  This often occurs when the property in question is on the verge of being sold in a foreclosure auction.  Once a creditor has obtained a foreclosure judgment, and complies with all preliminary requirements (such as public advertising) for a public sale, in general, the only way to stop such a sale is for the debtor to file for bankruptcy.

The bankruptcy filing can even happen on the day before the scheduled auction sale.  Once the filing is made, notice is given to all creditors, who must cease all litigation and post-judgment proceedings, including a scheduled foreclosure auction.  If the creditor wants to proceed with the sale, it must file a motion with the Bankruptcy Court to lift the automatic stay of all proceedings.  This may take several months.  In addition, they are only permitted to proceed against the property in question, and not against the individual filing for bankruptcy.

Time-to-GoPrior blog posts have discussed eviction actions after foreclosures in New York State.  Recently, due to the increased number of cases going to a final judgment of foreclosure and sale, and then being sold, there is an increased amount of tenants in foreclosed properties.  This post will discuss the legal status of these tenants and the possibility of eviction.

A fast summary of the legal foreclosure proceedings is in order at this point.  Once a Court issues a final judgment of foreclosure and sale, the property in question is then sold at public auction.  The highest bidder then pays the amount bid to the court-appointed Referee, and receives a Referee’s Deed, which is evidence of their ownership of the property.  The former owner’s interest is extinguished, together with the interest of any of the former owner’s judgment creditors.

Of course, the former owner may never vacate the premises.  Once their ownership interest is extinguished, they are subject to eviction by the new owner (the successful bidder at the foreclosure auction).  This may be the original lending institution, or an individual or corporate third party who purchases the property as an investment.  If the former owner is still occupying the premises, they are considered a holdover tenant.  Under the law, they must receive proper notice prior to an eviction proceeding being brought.  If they do not vacate within a particular period of time, the new owner can then commence a holdover eviction proceeding in the appropriate local court having jurisdiction over landlord-tenant matters.  For example, if the property was located in White Plains, then a holdover proceeding would be brought in White Plains City Court.

hand-300x169Prior blog posts have discussed foreclosure proceedings, from the commencement of a foreclosure case to the entry of a Judgment of Sale and the public auction of the property.  Many clients then ask, what happens next?  Is it possible for the owner who has been foreclosed already to recover the property after it has been sold at a foreclosure sale?  The answer to this question is a definite yes.

A public auction of foreclosed property will generally have two outcomes.  In the first, the bank or other lending institution which brought the foreclosure case will acquire title to the property.  This usually happens when either no one bids for the property, or when no bid exceeds the amount owned to the lender under the judgment of foreclosure.  The other outcome is when a third party bids over the amount of the judgment, then obtains title, while paying the lender the full amount of its judgment (or a smaller amount negotiated with the lender).

In such cases, the original owner of the property may retain legal possession of the property.  Although he may no longer be the legal owner, he maintains a right of possession, until an eviction action is brought against him.  Sometimes, the owner’s financial circumstances may have improved and he may be in a position to repurchase the property from the successful bidder.  The successful bidder may consider this a positive outcome as he would not have to bring an eviction case to obtain legal possession, and the occupant will pay him more than he paid to acquire the property, ensuring a profit.

gorsuch-300x169Hearings have recently been held to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch as a Supreme Court Justice.  While the hearings certainly involve a great deal of politics, they also raise the question of the proper role of a Judge in our legal system, whether that person is a Judge in a local Court, such as Westchester’s Village Courts and Justice Courts, in which Landlord-Tenant cases are heard, all the way up to the United States Supreme Court.

In general, a Judge’s role in our legal system is to interpret the laws passed by our legislators.  This role should be the same in any level in which the Judge may serve.  Let’s go through an example that has come up in our firm’s landlord-tenant practice.  A law was passed by the New York State Legislature requiring that the Referee’s Deed be exhibited to any tenant that the owner is attempting to evict after foreclosure.

As with many laws, this statute does not specifically define what “exhibiting” a deed to a tenant actually means.  Is it acceptable to simply mail or e-mail the deed to the person, or is more required?  Does a licensed process server need to come to the person’s place of residence and show them the deed in question, as if they were serving legal process? What if the person is not home, or refuses to answer the door when a process server comes knocking?

210deathThe timing of death is never particularly welcome.  Some families are prepared, in that the deceased was elderly, maybe ill, and living in a nursing home.  Perhaps such a person also had the foresight to have their attorney prepare her Will and other estate documents.   Others may pass away at a relatively young age, in the prime of life, with ongoing financial and personal activities.  This post will examine the legal ramifications of passing away while a legal matter is pending.

Imagine that the deceased was a party to a contract concerning the sale of a house which has not yet closed.  The first step that the survivors would need to undertake is to review the contract and determine if it addresses the potential death of one of the parties before the closing.  In most cases, the seller is bound to the terms of the contract through her successors.  This means that the survivors cannot decide to nullify the contract and move into the house.  However, the seller is not available to conclude the transaction.  The attorney for the seller  would need to apply to the Surrogate’s Court  to apply for Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration , which appoints the appropriate fiduciary to act for the Estate in order to complete the closing.  Should circumstances warrant, it may be prudent to apply for Preliminary Letters Testamentary or Preliminary Letters of Administration, to permit the sale to conclude if it is jeopardized by a continued delay.

If the deceased was the potential purchaser of the house, the contract is likely to allow the purchaser’s survivors to cancel the contract.  This is a logical result, as the transaction is inherently dependent upon the purchaser maintaining a job in order to pay the mortgage and other carrying costs of the house.  Forcing this transaction to conclusion is a cruel result.  In most cases, the downpayment is refundable.  However, some contracts only provide that half or none of the downpayment would be refunded.  It is advisable to have your attorney negotiate a favorable disposition for the downpayment in this instance when representing a purchaser, even if he is a young person.

supreme-300x200
Recently, President Donald Trump nominated federal judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court of the United States.  While the U.S. Supreme Court is the highest court in the country, New York’s Supreme Court is not even the top court in New York State.

In New York, the Supreme Court is the name given to the trial court for most cases filed within the state.  Any case with an amount in controversy exceeding $25,000.00 may be filed in the Supreme Court.  Cases involving lower amounts may be heard in local courts, such as Justice Courts or City Courts.  In addition, if a case involves possession of real property, it should be filed in landlord-tenant court, which is usually part of a local court such as District Court, Town and Village Courts, Justice Court, or City Court, depending on where the property in question is located.

Appeals from the Supreme Court are heard in the Appellate Division.  Should a litigant want to appeal to the highest court in the state, which is known as the New York Court of Appeals, located in the state capital, Albany.  Any case heard by the New York Court of Appeals which involves U.S. constitutional principles may eventually be appealed to the United States Supreme Court and be heard by Judge Gorsuch (if he is confirmed by the United States Senate), as well as the other eight current Supreme Court Justices.

rescue-300x235Our firm often represents borrowers whose homes may be the subject of a foreclosure action.  While we attempt to resolve all such cases with the lending institutions, sometimes a foreclosure judgment and sale cannot be avoided, or has already occurred by the time the borrower seeks legal counsel.  In such situations, the borrower needs to be on alert for possible “scams,” or individuals seeking to take advantage of a person in distress.

Because foreclosure lawsuits and judgments are a matter of public record, it is easy for unscrupulous individuals or entities to obtain the name and address of the person whose home has been foreclosed and sold at auction.  Because most auctions result in the property being sold back to the original lending institution, some people will claim that they have purchased the property from the lender.  If the borrower is still living at the property, they will contact the borrower directly or leave a note at the property, requesting that the borrower contact them directly.

We would recommend that if a defendant receives such communications, that they contact their attorney immediately.  Using legal counsel will enable a person to avoid the high pressure tactics that these individuals may exert on the defaulting borrower, so that their desperation to reclaim the property or continue to live in it is not used to her disadvantage.

stopOur firm is occasionally consulted by a party against whom a judgment of foreclosure has been entered.  Prior blog posts have discussed the foreclosure process in detail.  Among the last actions to be taken in a foreclosure case are the issuance of a judgment of foreclosure and the actual foreclosure sale.  This post will discuss the few options available to a foreclosure defendant at this point.

The issuance of a judgment in foreclosure by the Supreme Court of the County in which the property is located usually occurs at two points in the foreclosure litigation.  The first point would be if the defendant fails to answer the initial foreclosure Summons and Complaint, and the lending institution is granted a judgment by default.  If the default was inadvertent, and the defendant has a reasonable excuse for not answering, as well as a meritorious defense, it is possible for the defendant’s attorneys to file a motion to vacate the default judgment.

Another point in the litigation allowing for a foreclosure judgment would be when the plaintiff moves for summary judgment and the motion is granted by the Court.  Once a final judgment is submitted to the Court and signed by the Judge, the foreclosure process is in its final stages.  The plaintiff must advertise a public foreclosure sale in a local newspaper for four weeks prior to the sale, and then conduct the sale, usually at the Supreme Court Courthouse in the county in which the property is located.

duediligenceYou have found the perfect house, cooperative or condominium apartment after a long search.  It has the ideal updated kitchenkitchen to show off your culinary skills and a beautiful bathroom that rivals a spa-like retreat.  Is there anything that should delay the signing of the contract and procession to closing?  Yes, there is.  A prudent purchaser needs to conduct the appropriate due diligence to make sure that the property and surrounding neighborhood is financially and physically sound.  Otherwise, the purchaser may acquire a property that is a long-term headache and difficult to sell when desired.

First, an inspection should be conducted by a professional engineer when buying a house.  Some condominium and cooperative purchasers also find it appropriate to conduct an inspection. For a house, such an inspection may reveal a serious condition, such as a crack in the foundation.  In this case, the buyer may want to search for another property.  An inspection may also show items that the buyer will want to monitor once she is a homeowner.  For instance, if the inspection predicts that the remaining useful life of the roof or the hot water heater is going to be five years, the homeowner may want to budget for such replacement and should not be surprised if these elements need replacement at such time.  The inspection may also list items that your attorney may wish to request for inclusion while negotiating your contract.  The seller may agree to repair the dishwasher, replace a broken smoke detector and the like prior to closing.

Inspections when purchasing a foreclosed property  serve another purpose.  Although properties offered for sale after foreclosure are generally strictly “as is”, inspection results that are unsatisfactory to the buyer may allow the buyer to cancel the contract or present the opportunity to ask the seller to remedy a particular condition or offer a price reduction.  In any case, the buyer will have knowledge as to the condition and the expectations going forward.