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.

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.

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?

stripcenterOur firm is routinely involved in commercial lease negotiations.  This post will address the “give and take” that takes place in such negotiations, while discussing the legal issues that commonly arise.  For convenience sake, let’s assume that our attorney is negotiating on behalf of a retail store tenant engaged in a food business in a suburban strip center.

Commercial leases typically span several decades and are not rent-regulated.  Both landlord and tenant cannot envision business conditions or pricing over such a timeframe.  Most leases will run for an initial term, potentially for ten years.  The parties may wish to include a renewal provision, potentially for another five years.  Is such a renewal term to be a requirement for the landlord to offer or an option to renew on behalf of the landlord or tenant?  If the option to renew is for the tenant, one may find provisions as to the timeframe in which to exercise the option, so that the landlord can make the space available to another tenant without a vacant period of time.

The determination of rent to be charged during the renewal period is tricky.  The parties could state in the current lease that the renewal period rent will be a certain percentage above that charged in the last year of the lease.  This provides certainty but may be too high or too low for market conditions at the time of renewal.  The other option is for the renewal rent to be determined by an appraiser to be mutually selected by the landlord and tenant.  The inherent problems in this formula are that there may be a disagreement on the selection of the appraiser and the rent to be charged would be uncertain.

church-300x225News reports have recently discussed the Archdiocese of New York and their seeking Court approval to mortgage church-owned property.  The purpose behind such action is for the Church to obtain a loan of $100,000,000.00 from JP Morgan, Chase, N.A., backed by a mortgage on Church-owned property located at 457 Madison Avenue in midtown Manhattan.  The loan proceeds will apparently be used to pay monetary settlements to the victims of the Church child abuse scandal.

Laymen may be asking why Court approval is necessary for such a transaction.  If an individual owns property, and seeks to obtain a mortgage on the property in order to raise funds, generally, Court approval is not needed.  The difference in this situation is that the Archdiocese of New York is a Religious Corporation, and, as such, is subject to the New York Religious Corporations Law.

As prior blog posts have discussed, any New York Religious Corporation seeking to buy property, sell or lease property, or obtain a loan backed by a mortgage on property it owns, must obtain approval of the New York State Attorney General’s Office.  The reason behind this statute is to make sure that a religious institution is not “sold out” from under its members by unscrupulous individuals or leaders.  Most religious institutions, of course, do not own the large real estate portfolio that the Archdiocese of New York does, and may own a single building which is used for its offices and place of worship.  The Religious Corporation Law protects all such institutions by requiring Court approval for such important real estate transactions, in order to insure that loan proceeds are used for purposes that congregants will believe will advance the legitimate interests of the church.

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.

transitionOne of the hallmarks of our country’s democracy is the peaceful transfer of power that will occur tomorrow.  Americans recently endured a polarizing election process.  Republicans will now hold the office of the Presidency instead of the Democrats.  Nonetheless, the forty-fifth President of the United Statestrump is expected to take the oath of office by peaceful transition.  This administrative transition occurs no more than every four years on the national level.  However, in the New York metropolitan area, such an administrative change happens much more often.  This author is reminded of the transitions that occur when a new board is elected to run a cooperative or condominium building.

Contested elections for cooperative or condominium boards  can become just as divisive as our country’s elections.  Perhaps unit owners feel that the existing board is out of touch with the current needs of the building.  Shareholders may disagree as to the prudence of agreeing to sell the building’s air rights or as to the extravagance of a lobby renovation.  Boards can also turn over when long-term board members sell and are replaced by much younger board members who may not follow the way in which matters have been handled in the building.

The harmonious tenor of the building may start to unravel once unit owners start to share their concerns about the board online and find that other unit owners agree with them.  Then, a successful takeover of the board may result.  Even though a new board may be in place, certain steps should be undertaken to ensure a peaceful transition.

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.