Articles Posted in Real Estate Transactions and Finance

dictator-300x200The New York Post recently reported a news story wherein a condominium property manager “decorated” the common areas of the building with Nazi and other historic propaganda relating to dictators.  Residents of the building felt threatened and intimidated by other activities of the property manager, including alleged physical threats.  This story is an exaggerated version of many tales told by clients of this firm .  In this post, we will discuss suggestions for managing abusive employees of cooperative and condominium buildings  as well as hostile environments created by certain board members.

The cooperative or condominium building is legally responsible for the acts of its employees.  The exception to this rule is criminal activity, with which the perpetrator bears responsibility.  If an employee is abusive to unit owners or denying services to particular shareholders, the board has an obligation to discipline or remove the offending employee.  Boards should consult with a qualified attorney  in the event that the employee is a union member in order to strategically handle the employment situation, so that the building is not subject to a grievance filed with the union.

If the board is not responsive to shareholder complaints, it may be appropriate to seek an election to replace current board members with those more in keeping with unit owner sentiment. First, one should request that an experienced attorney review the governing documents to determine how to legally hold a special or general election to replace the board.  Then, all procedures outlined in the governing documents should be followed so that the election is not subject to being overturned.  Hopefully, this will result in a new board being installed that will manage the offending situation by suitable means.

divorce-300x199Financial troubles can be the cause of much stress for married couples.  Often, these stresses lead to a couple separating, and ultimately, divorcing.  In such situations, there will always almost be issues regarding the marital residence, be it a house or an apartment.  Due to the financial issues, the property may already be in foreclosure.  This blog post will explore the legal issues relating to married couples who own property which may be in foreclosure, and the issues that arise if a divorce proceeding occurs.

The first assumption is that the property in question is owned by both parties.  The legal term for such ownership is tenants by the entirety.  This means that the property is jointly owned by a married couple, and if either party passes away, their ownership share automatically passes to the surviving spouse.  It should be noted that tenants by the entirety only applies to married couples.  Once a divorce is finalized, the ownership interest changes to tenants in common, which means that the interest does not automatically transfer upon death to the survivor, but remains as part of the estate of the deceased.

Of course, when the parties are divorcing, the ownership of the martial residence is usually a major issue.  If the property is in foreclosure, or is likely to become the subject of a foreclosure case in the near future, such issues must be addressed as part of the divorce proceedings.  There are several possibilities in this situation.  First, if there is equity in the property, and neither party wants to remain in the marital residence, the property may be sold, with the couple sharing the proceeds as per their divorce agreement.  In the course of such a sale, any outstanding mortgage would be paid off, and any foreclosure proceedings would be discontinued as a result of such a sale.  This is probably the easiest solution, although not always possible.

reverse-300x159A recent New York Times article concerns possible changes to the enforcement of reverse mortgages against surviving spouses.  To those unfamiliar with reverse mortgages, they are a type of mortgage loan which allows elderly borrowers (usually over 62 years old) with sufficient equity in their primary residences to borrow against that equity.  Generally, the sums borrowed do not have to be repaid until after the death of the borrower.  Therefore, the heirs of the borrower, after their death, have the option of repaying the sums due, or selling the property and then paying off the amount of the reverse mortgage, plus any interest accrued.

Other blog posts have discussed the possible pitfalls of reverse mortgages.  The New York Times article concerns a specific problem with many reverse mortgages, that of a surviving spouse.  The issue raised is this: what happens when the home is owned only in the name of the borrower, the borrower has a (usually) younger spouse, and then the borrower passes away, leaving an unpaid reverse mortgage?  Is the surviving spouse forced to sell the property in order to pay off the reverse mortgage, even though they may have lived there for many years with their spouse?

This situation arises in only a small amount of reverse mortgages.  Most couples own property jointly, and may take out a reverse mortgage in both of their names.  In this situation, where both borrowers qualify by meeting the age requirement, the mortgage is not due until the last of the borrowers passes away.  Therefore, the “surviving spouse” situation does not apply where both borrowers are record owners and borrowers.  However, there are situations, often involving a second marriage, where one borrower may qualify by age, and the other “half” is too young and will not qualify as a borrower.  Reverse mortgage companies may require that the property be put in the qualifying buyer’s name alone in order to approve and close a reverse mortgage.  This creates the situation discussed, where the older borrower then dies and the younger spouse, who may have inherited the property is faced with the reverse mortgage lender demanding payment in full while she does not have the assets to pay the mortgage without selling the property in question.

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.

fatherOur firm wants to extend its best wishes to all Dads for a happy Father’s Day.  We would like to mention some gift ideas of a legal nature that cannot be purchased in an ordinary department store.

Your Father may be on the verge of retirement.  As such, he may be in the market for a qualified attorney  who will negotiate and document the terms of his business sale.  Such a sale may involve preparation of a contract of sale, coordination of the payoff of a business or equipment loan, closing document drafting and the like.  Once the transaction is complete, your Dad can enjoy a care-free retirement.

If your Father is not ready to retire, he may have an ongoing business in the process of relocation.  Our attorneys would welcome the opportunity to negotiate the commercial lease for the new space. We would negotiate its terms in a manner most favorable to dear old Dad.

roof-300x237Now that the weather has finally improved in the New York metropolitan area ny-300x154  and Memorial Day weekend is fast approaching, many of our readers  may want to consider whether their cooperative building  provides access to their rooftop.  Carole King and Gerry Goffin , and later James Taylor , have sung these words while imagining their roof decks: “I climb way up to the top of the stairs and all my cares just drift right into space.”  Our readers must wonder is such a “…paradise…trouble proof?” This post will examine the legal issues to consider when converting an ordinary roof of a cooperative building into a recreational roof deck.

First, we will examine this situation assuming that the roof deck amenity is to be shared by all residents of the cooperative.  A qualified attorney  should review the cooperative’s governing documents to determine whether the Board of Directors or all shareholders are required to approve this project.  If a building-wide assessment needs to be implemented to fund the project, the governing documents may also advise your attorney  whether a Board resolution or a vote of the shareholders at an annual or special shareholders meeting  is required to authorize the assessment.

Next, let’s consider another situation, where the roof deck amenity is to be used exclusively by only one shareholder, usually the resident on the top floor.  The shareholder has agreed to buy this common area space, thus enhancing the cooperative’s coffers.  Prior to the project, the roof is common space owned by the cooperative.  For any particular shareholder to purchase this space, shares of stock need to be allocated to the space.  Unissued stock is called treasury stock.  Hopefully, the cooperative at issue has not already issued all of its stock.  A specialized real estate broker needs to determine that the number of shares to be issued to this area bear a reasonable relationship to the proportion of shares already issued for apartments in the building.  For instance, the broker will consider that 100 shares are issued for apartment 5A with 1,000 square feet and likewise for other apartments.  From that data, the broker will determine how many shares should be issued for the roof deck and the resulting purchase price.  Also, the cooperative attorney  will need to obtain a “no-action letter’ from the Attorney General of the State of New York  authorizing that a certain number of shares be issued for the space and that the cooperative is legally authorized to sell it to the shareholder.

guarantyMany landlords of commercial property  require that the obligations of the tenant be guaranteed by an individual or affiliated entity.  Most tenants of commercial leases are an entity, such as a corporation or limited liability company, whose only asset is the business engaged in the leased premises.  If the entity tenant cannot perform its lease obligations or leaves before the end of the lease, the landlord has no remedy besides renting the premises to a new tenant.  For this reason, most landlords require that an individual or entity closely affiliated with the tenant guaranty the tenant’s requirements.  That way, other assets of the guarantor may be available to the landlord if the tenant defaults under the lease.  This post will examine the various types of guaranties that may be requested by a landlord.

A full guaranty is the most broad, wherein the guarantor covers all of the tenant’s obligations under the lease.  Such obligations would include paying rent, real estate tax escalations, utility payments, common area maintenance payments, maintaining proper insurance, repair obligations and the like.  Landlords prefer this type of guaranty because there is no limit on the amount or extent of the obligation covered.  Also, the landlord does not need to meet any condition before enforcing the guaranty against the guarantor.

A partial guaranty is more limited.  Perhaps the obligations covered are only those that are monetary in nature or up to a certain amount.  Other limited guaranties may cover lease obligations such as keeping up with maintenance and repair obligations.  Partial guaranties could also “burn down” or “sunset” over time.  For instance, after a certain period of perfect performance by the tenant, the amount guaranteed reduces or the partial guaranty terminates entirely.  In partial guaranties, the landlord may need to meet certain conditions before it is enforced against the guarantor.

18If you are like this author , someone close to you may be about to turn eighteen years of age.  This post will discuss the legal ramifications of turning eighteen.  Additional rights and privileges as well as legal responsibilities occur once a “child” becomes eighteen.  Such a person can now vote, run for office, legally support oneself, and be employed full-time.  An eighteen year old male will be penalized if he does not register for the military draft.  All eighteen year olds are treated as adults if they commit a crime.  Since we  practice particular areas of law, this author will address the implications of turning eighteen as they apply to those areas of law.  Also, rights and obligations vary by state, so this post will only address these matters as they relate to New York.

Eighteen year olds have the right to enter a contract and to apply for credit.  Therefore, our soon-to-be eighteen year old can apply for a mortgage and sign a contract to buy a house.  Contracts involving real estate, whether for sale or for a lease of more than one year must be in writing.

Once a person is eighteen, he can make a Will and other estate documents.  While we do not want to consider that someone so young may pass away, without a Will, his assets will be distributed according to New York’s intestacy law.  Also, an eighteen year old can inherit from someone who named him in a Will or in an Administration proceeding if he is of the proper degree of relation according to the New York statute.  Since many eighteen year olds may not be sophisticated enough to inherit substantial assets, those drafting Wills may decide to leave such assets to the child in trust until such age as they anticipate that the child will be mature enough to manage the assets.

springmarketkNow that we’re entering the Spring real estate market , we should anticipate that our real estate clientele will be entering into new real estate contracts for their real estate purchases.  Certain clauses of such contracts should be negotiated in a particular manner, depending upon whether your attorney  is representing a buyer or a seller.

A seller may have decided to forego the services of a professional real estate agent  or the property may have been on the market for an extended period of time.  In these situations, the seller may be more amenable to certain requests of the buyer, such as making certain repairs before closing.  The seller may not know that some of the requests are not customary or may need to move the property, which may result in more flexibility on such matters.

Your attorneys  should pay particular attention to personal property issues , whether representing a buyer or a seller.  The seller will be disappointed to find that a treasured chandelier was not excluded from the personal property to be sold with the house.  A buyer may not approve of the removal of wall scones, without repairs being made to the wall after removal.