Is a Bankruptcy Plan that Violates Federal Criminal Law Proposed in Bad Faith?

By: Ben Reeves

Although legal in many states, marijuana remains illegal under federal criminal law. See 21 U.S.C. § 856(a)(1). One would think that engaging in illegal activity under federal criminal law would preclude relief under federal bankruptcy law. And, in fact, several bankruptcy courts have reached that exact conclusion. See, e.g., In re Rent-Rite Super Kegs West, Ltd., 484 B.R. 799 (Bankr. D. Colo. 2012) (“[A] federal court cannot be asked to enforce the protections of the Bankruptcy Code in aid of a Debtor whose activities constitute a continuing federal crime.”). That bright-line rule, however, may now be subject to some debate.… Read More »

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Attorneys’ Fees Are Available in Arizona Eviction Actions

By: Ben Reeves

The Arizona Court of Appeals recently held that any successful plaintiff in a forcible detainer action (i.e., an eviction action) may recover an award of its attorneys’ fees and costs incurred at trial under A.R.S. § 12-1178(A). See Bank of New York v. Dodev, 1 CA-CV 17-0652 (Ct. App. Nov. 20, 2018). Prior to this decision, caselaw held that fees were only awardable in actions arising out of the termination of a residential lease. RREEF Mgmt. Co. v. Camex Prods., Inc., 190 Ariz. 75, 945 P.2d 386 (Ct. App. 1997). Changes to the statute, however, rendered the prior caselaw obsolete.… Read More »

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Everyone Wins When a Foreclosure Sale Generates Excess Proceeds

By: Ben Reeves

Introduction

When a foreclosure sale generates more money than needed to pay off the lien, the excess proceeds usually go first to creditors in the order of their priority, and second to the owner after creditors are paid in full. So, in truth, not everyone wins when a foreclosure sale brings in too much money.  Amusingly, in Steinmetz v. Everyone Wins, the court awarded excess sale proceeds to….you guessed it…Everyone Wins, despite the owner’s argument that Arizona’s anti-deficiency statutes barred it from recovering anything.

In addition to supplying a clever title for this post, Steinmetz v. Everyone Wins provides an important analysis of how Arizona’s anti-deficiency statutes, homeowner’s assessment lien statutes, and foreclosure statutes apply when determining who “wins” when it comes to excess sale proceeds.… Read More »

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Not so Fast! How Does Revoking Acceleration of a Note Impact the Statute of Limitations?

By: Ben Reeves

Introduction

Lenders routinely accelerate notes after a default occurs, calling the entire loan due immediately. Less regularly, a lender may change its mind and unilaterally revoke the acceleration.  Rarely, however, does a lender fail to foreclose on its real property collateral before the statute of limitations expires.  In Andra R. Miller Designs, LLC v. U.S. Bank, N.A., 244 Ariz. 265, 418 P.3d 1038 (Ct. App. 2018), a unique set of facts involving these issues led the Arizona Court of Appeals to hold that proper revocation of acceleration resets the statute of limitations.

The Facts

In Miller, a lender made a $1,940,000 loan evidenced by a promissory note and secured by a deed of trust against a home in Paradise Valley, Arizona. … Read More »

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What Types of “Damages Claims” Survive a Trustee’s Sale?

By: Ben Reeves

Introduction

Arizona’s trustee’s sale statutory scheme provides for the waiver of all defenses and objections to a trustee’s sale that: (i) are not raised prior to the sale, and (ii) do not result in an injunction against the sale going forward.  See A.R.S. § 33-811(C).  In other words, if you have an objection to a trustee’s sale, you must seek and obtain an injunction prior to the sale or your objection will be waived.

Arizona’s Court of Appeals previously held that notwithstanding this statutory waiver, “common law” defenses to repayment of the debt survive a non-judicial foreclosure even in the absence of an injunction prior to the sale.  … Read More »

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Oregon and Nevada Adopt the Uniform Commercial Real Estate Receivership Act

By:  Ben Reeves

Nevada and Oregon join Utah in adopting the Uniform Commercial Real Estate Receivership Act (the “Act”) promulgated by the Uniform Law Commission.  We have been following the development of the Act since its drafting stages.  If you want more information about the Act, check out our prior posts about the drafting process, what the Act is and does, and Utah’s enactment of the Act.… Read More »

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The Contributors to This Blog Are Pleased to Announce That….

Snell & Wilmer’s Real Estate Litigation Group, which provides the content for The Real Estate Litigation Blog, is pleased to announce that it has been recognized in both the national and metropolitan rankings by U.S. News Media Group and Best Lawyers for the 2018 edition of “Best Law Firms.”  We achieved the following rankings:

 •            National Tier 1: Litigation – Real Estate

•             Phoenix (AZ) Tier 1: Litigation – Real Estate

•             Utah Tier 1: Litigation – Real Estate

•             Colorado Tier 1: Litigation – Real Estate

•             Reno (NV) Tier 1: Litigation – Real Estate

•             Tucson (AZ) Tier 1: Litigation – Real Estate

The rankings are determined through an evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field, and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process.  Read More »

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Arizona Supreme Court Clarifies Area Variance Standard; Property Owners May Obtain an Area Variance When Special Circumstances Existed at Purchase

By:  Nick Wood, Adam Lang, Noel Griemsmann, and Brianna Long

In Pawn 1st v. City of Phoenix, the Arizona Supreme Court rejected a Court of Appeals rule that would have unduly restrained alienation of property in Arizona. The Court of Appeals found that the City of Phoenix Board of Adjustment acted beyond its authority when it granted an area variance to a pawn shop where the special circumstances causing a need for the variance existed before the pawn shop purchased the property. Under Arizona law, boards of adjustment cannot grant an area variance where the special circumstances requiring the variance are self-imposed.… Read More »

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What Happens When a Secured Creditor Files a Late Claim in an Equity Receivership?

By: Ben Reeves

Pitting a receivership court’s inherent equitable powers against pre-existing property rights can lead to some pretty interesting questions.  In SEC v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 848 F.3d 1339, 1343-44 (11th Cir. 2017), the Eleventh Circuit recently examined whether a district court’s inherent authority to establish a claims submission process allowed the court to extinguish a security interest in real property based solely upon an untimely proof of claim.  Much to the relief of secured creditors, the Eleventh Circuit held that the district court erred, as a matter of law, by extinguishing the creditor’s pre-existing property rights under those circumstances.… Read More »

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RICO Madness: The Nuisance of Owning and Operating a Marijuana Facility

By:  Bob Henry

On June 7, 2017, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Safe Streets Alliance, et al. v. Hickenlooper, et al., (No. 16-1048), an opinion that could open the doors to property use litigation involving marijuana facilities.   One of the issues in Safe Streets was whether a property owner can use the federal RICO statutory scheme to obtain relief arising out of a neighboring property owner using property for the cultivation of marijuana in a manner that causes an impact to the value, use, and enjoyment of one’s property.  

The pertinent factual allegations in Safe Streets (on the federal RICO issue) were straightforward.     Read More »

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Conflicts of Laws, Deficiency Actions, and Statutes of Limitations – Oh My!

By: Ben Reeves

What law governs a deficiency action if the choice-of-law provisions in the note and deed of trust conflict? The Arizona Court of Appeals answered that very question in ZB, N.A. v. Hoeller, No. 1 CA-CV 16-0071 (Ct. App. April 15, 2017).  It turns out, the note controls.

The Facts

In ZB, ZB, N.A. (ZB), a Utah bank, lent money to the Hoellers to purchase a commercial property in Missouri.  The note included a choice-of-law provision stating that Utah law governed the debt.  The deed of trust securing the commercial property, however, provided that Missouri law controlled “procedural matters related to the perfection and enforcement of [ZB’s] rights and remedies against the [p]roperty.”  In 2012, the Hoellers defaulted, and the bank recovered the property through a trustee’s sale.… Read More »

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What is the Effect of an Untimely Challenge to the Timeliness of a Trustee’s Sale?

By: Ben Reeves

Ever wonder what happens if a person challenges the timeliness of a trustee’s sale after the sale already occurred? Waiver of the argument of course!  And, in the case of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Waltner, the affirmance of an eviction judgment.

In the Waltner case, Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., as Trustee for WaMu Mortgage Pass-Through Certificates, Series 2005-PR4 Trust (the “Bank”), purchased a residential property at a trustee’s sale in September 2015.  The Bank gave the occupant of the house, Sarah Waltner (“Waltner”), notice to vacate the property, but she did not do so.  Accordingly, the Bank filed a summary action to evict Waltner, which the trial court ultimately granted.… Read More »

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Utah Becomes First State to Enact the Uniform Commercial Real Estate Receivership Act

By:  David Leta

On March 25, Utah became the first state to enact the Uniform Commercial Real Estate Receivership Act (“UCRERA”) which was drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (the “Conference”) and adopted by the Conference at its annual meeting in July 2015. The Utah Uniform Commercial Real Estate Receivership Act, (the “Utah Act”) mirrors UCRERA and applies to all commercial real property receiverships that are filed in the Utah District Courts on and after May 9, 2017.

The Utah Act provides both substantive and procedural guidance in an area of law that historically has been marked by inconsistency and uncertainty.… Read More »

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Washington Answers the Question of Whether Title Companies Owe a Duty of Care to Third Parties…

By: Ben Reeves

Last year (as we blogged about here and wrote a more in depth Law360 article about here), the Ninth Circuit certified to the Washington Supreme Court the question of whether title companies owe a duty of care to third parties when they record legal instruments. We finally have an answer…

“We answer the certified question no and hold that title companies do not owe a duty of care to third parties in the recording of legal instruments. Such a duty is contrary to Washington’s policy and precedent, and other duty of care considerations.”

Centurion Properties III, LLC v.Read More »

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Guarantors’ “Lost Profits” Completely Offset Lender’s Deficiency Claim

By: Ben Reeves

Believe it or not, lenders can breach loan agreements too…and when they do, there can be significant consequences. In Great Western Bank v. LJC Dev., LLC, 726 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 21 (Ariz. Ct. App. Nov. 10, 2015), the Court of Appeals affirmed that guarantors’ “lost profits” resulting from the lender’s breach of a loan agreement completely offset the amount owed under the guaranty. Much can be learned from this unusual outcome, so please continue reading for an analysis of the facts and legal principles of this case.

The Loan Agreements

In Great Western Bank, the bank entered into an acquisition and development loan (the “A&D Loan”) with Cedar Ridge Investments, LLC (“Borrower”) to allow Borrower to acquire and begin the development of infrastructure for a fifty-home subdivision in Flagstaff, AZ to be known as Cedar Ridge.… Read More »

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The Uniform Law Commission Approves the Uniform Commercial Real Estate Receivership Act

By: Ben Reeves

As we previously reported here, several years ago the Uniform Law Commission (the “ULC”) (the organization that drafted such favorites as the Uniform Commercial Code and the Uniform Arbitration Act) determined that states would benefit from a model act that would govern the powers, rights, and duties of receivers appointed over commercial real property. Since that time, a drafting committee has worked diligently to prepare a comprehensive statute that would address this unique area of law. The ULC recently approved the drafting committee’s final version, and the result is the Uniform Commercial Real Estate Receivership Act (the “Act”).… Read More »

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It just got a little bit easier to enforce judgment liens

By:  Ben Reeves

Last year, we posted It just got a little bit harder to enforce judgment liens, which analyzed a Court of Appeals decision that invalidated a judgment lien against third-party purchasers due to the judgment creditors’ failure to record an information statement along with the judgment.  Lewis v. Debord, 236 Ariz. 57, 335 P.3d 1136 (Ct. App. 2014).  In that case, even though the Court of Appeals found that the judgment lien remained valid, the opinion concluded that the failure to record the information statement affected the “priority” of the judgment lien and rendered the third-party purchasers’ ownership interest superior to the judgment creditors’ lien interest. … Read More »

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Does a title company owe a duty of care to third parties in the recording of legal instruments?

By: Ben Reeves

This is precisely the question that the Ninth Circuit recently certified to the Washington Supreme Court in Centurion Properties III, LLC v. Chicago Title Ins. Co.

Facts of the Case

In this case, Centurion Properties III, LLC (the “Borrower”) purchased a tract of real property in Washington with a loan from General Electric Capital Corporation (the “Senior Lender”), and secured the loan with a first position lien against the property. The loan documents and lien instruments specifically prohibited further encumbrance of the property without the Senior Lender’s prior written consent. Chicago Title served as the escrow agent, closing agent, and the title insurer for this transaction.… Read More »

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HOA Super Priority Legal Battles Continue in the Silver State: What Senate Bill 306 Means for Nevada HOAs, Lenders and Homeowners

By:  Aaron D. Ford and Karl O. Riley

In 1991, the Nevada Legislature enacted the Uniform Common-Interest Ownership Act (UCIOA) which had been promulgated by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) (the Statute).[1] This law provides that a homeowners association (HOA) may record a lien on each home in the community it governs and in enacting this law, the Legislature authorized an HOA to foreclose its lien through a nonjudicial foreclosure process.[2] When the lien attaches or comes into existence continues to be a dispute issue in the ongoing litigation. Under this law, the HOA’s lien is prior to the first mortgage lien to the extent of certain maintenance and abatement charges and either six or nine months of assessments for common expenses, depending on the circumstances.… Read More »

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Are Short-Term Vacation Rentals Legal?

By: Ben Reeves

The recent explosion in popularity of short-term vacation rentals through services such as Airbnb.com and VRBO.com not only provides terrifying horror stories about problem renters (google it if you’re interested), but also raises serious questions about the legality of the practice.

Many cities are currently struggling with this very issue. Opponents to short-term rentals argue that transient renters disrupt otherwise peaceful neighborhoods and negatively impact local business like traditional hotels. Proponents of the practice contend that they have a constitutionally protected property right to use their private property without governmental interference. In Jerome, Arizona, the City recently grappled with this very issue, and ultimately decided to inform a few of its citizens that they could no longer rent their homes on a short-term basis—much to the chagrin of the affected property owners.… Read More »

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Guarantors Can Waive Anti-Deficiency Protections

By:  Richard H. Herold and Ben Reeves

In Arizona, guarantors can now be held liable for deficiencies even where borrowers avoid liability due to Arizona’s anti-deficiency statute.

Arizona courts have been active in the last few years in addressing the law governing post-trustee’s sale deficiencies under Arizona’s anti-deficiency statute, A.R.S. §33-814(G), which provides that no deficiency action may be maintained “if trust property of two and one-half acres or less which is limited to and utilized for either a single one-family or single two-family dwelling is sold pursuant to [a] trustee’s…sale.” The deficiency is determined by crediting the borrower and guarantor with the higher of: (a) the fair market value of the property on the date of the trustee’s sale; or (b) the sale price at the trustee’s sale, to reduce the total balance due and owing.… Read More »

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If Receiver’s Sales Aren’t Foreclosures, What Are They?

By:  Ben Reeves & Bob Olson

When no statute specifically authorizes a court-appointed receiver to sell real property, what type of sale is it?  The Supreme Court of Nevada recently addressed this question, holding that “a receiver sale of real property that secures a loan is a form of judicial foreclosure.”  U.S. Bank v. Palmilla Dev. Co., 131 Nev. Adv. Op. 9 (2015).

Facts

In U.S. Bank v. Palmilla, U.S. Bank made a $20.15 million loan to Palmilla Development Company secured by a development of townhomes.  Palmilla defaulted, and U.S. Bank applied for, and obtained, the appointment of a receiver over its real property collateral.… Read More »

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Are Vacant Lots Protected Under Arizona’s Anti-deficiency Statutes?

By:  Ben Reeves

No, of course not.  Arizona’s anti-deficiency statutes only prohibit deficiency judgments after a trustee’s sale of a “dwelling”.[1]  Under no definition can a vacant lot constitute a “dwelling”.  This was the Arizona Supreme Court’s holding in BMO v. Wildwood Creek Ranch, LLC.

In BMO, Shawn and Kristina Rudgear (through their company Wildwood Creek Ranch, LLC) borrowed $260,000 to fund construction of a home on a vacant 2.26-acre lot.  This loan was secured by a deed of trust against the lot.

Construction of the home never began, the Rudgears defaulted, and BMO Harris Bank foreclosed via trustee’s sale. 

Read More »
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Can an Unsigned Minute Entry Create a Judgment Lien?

By:  Ben Reeves

It appears that 2014 was a banner year for Arizona law on judgment liens.  Indeed, we recently posted about the Lewis v. DeBord decision, which invalidates judgment liens vis-à-vis third-party purchasers if the judgment creditor fails to record an “information statement” with the judgment.  The Court of Appeals has again tackled the question of judgment liens under Arizona law.

In Sysco Arizona, Inc. v. Hoskins, the Court of Appeals held that a recorded unsigned minute entry (which awarded judgment in the amount of $395,598.00) did not create a judgment lien.  The reason for this ruling is simple – under Arizona law, an unsigned minute entry (even if it awards a money judgment) is not a formal “judgment” and the statutes require the recordation of a formal “judgment” to create a “judgment lien”. … Read More »

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Update – Prospective Waivers of “Fair Market Value” Hearings are Definitely Void.

fountain-390788_1280By:  Ben Reeves

In 2013, we blogged about the Arizona Court of Appeals’ determination that prospective contractual waivers of “fair market value” hearings are unenforceable as a matter of public policy.  The link to our prior blog post is here.  Although we noted some deficiencies in the Court of Appeals’ reasoning, we recognized that the holding reached a defensible legal result.  On review, the Arizona Supreme Court reached the same outcome…but with a more robust legal analysis.  See CSA 13-101 Loop, LLC v. Loop 101, LLC, et al., No. CV-14-0029 (Ariz. Dec. 31, 2014).[1]

The Arizona Supreme Court held that although Arizona’s anti-deficiency statutory scheme did not expressly prohibit contractual waivers of “fair market value” hearings, Arizona’s overall public policy behind the trustee’s sale process entitled borrowers and guarantors to the protection afforded by a “fair market value” hearing.… Read More »

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It just got a little bit harder to enforce judgment liens

LewisQuoteBy:  Ben Reeves

Introduction

As everyone knows, the enactment of the Statute of Westminster II in 1285 ushered the concept of a “judgment lien” into English law.  The statute – for the first time in English legal history – authorized a judgment creditor to obtain a writ of elegit (as opposed to a writ of fieri facias) to take possession of the judgment debtor’s land to pay for the judgment debtor’s debts.  1285 was indeed a very good year for judgment creditors.  Nearly three-quarters of a millennium later, the judgment lien remains an important remedy for judgment creditors.

Judgment Liens in Arizona

Although Arizona law has (for the most part) abandoned the use of fanciful Latin phraseology, Arizona does provide for a “judgment lien” – which (despite the plain, uninspired name) creates a lien against all of the real property then owned or later acquired by the judgment debtor. … Read More »

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Vendees’ Liens—Construction Lenders Beware!

By:  David A. Sprentall

A recent Arizona Court of Appeals decision highlights a lien priority risk for secured construction lenders when the financed project fails. The problem—known as a “vendee lien”—is most likely to arise when up-front deposits are paid by buyers of units in condominiums or similar projects.

The case, Rigoli v. 44 Monroe Marketing, LLC, involved a construction loan made by Corus Bank in 2006 for the development of the 44 West Monroe condominium tower in downtown Phoenix. As a condition to the loan, the developer was required to have presales of at least 100 units and earnest money deposits of approximately $4.5 million.… Read More »

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Lenders Beware: the Nevada Supreme Court Holds That Foreclosures of Homeowners’ Association Liens May Extinguish First Priority Deeds of Trust

By:  Bob L. Olson

Nevada has adopted the Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act of 1982 (the “Act”) which governs homeowners’ associations (“HOA”). One particular provision of that Act, enacted by Nevada in 1991 and later amended, and codified as NRS 116.3116 (the “Statute”), states that HOA liens are “prior to all other liens and encumbrances on a unit” except for, among other liens:

(b) A first security interest on the unit recorded before the date on which the assessment sought to be enforced became delinquent . . . :

NRS 116.3116(2)(b) (emphasis added).

At first glance the Statute unconditionally subordinates the HOA’s lien to a first priority mortgage or deed of trust (hereinafter “first priority lien” and the holder, the “mortgage holder”) recorded against the unit before the date on which the assessment sought to be enforced became delinquent.… Read More »

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A Subsequent Developer has no Ability to Force a Public Body to Call an Abandoning Developer’s Performance Bonds for Infrastructure Improvements.

The Arizona Court of Appeals decided on July 22, 2014 that a developer cannot compel a public entity to call its performance bonds to complete infrastructure improvements on a construction project that a prior developer abandoned due to bankruptcy.  Ponderosa Fire Dist. et al. v. Coconino County et al., 1 CA-CV 13-0545.

– See more on this case from our blogger Rick Erickson at: http://www.swlaw.com/blog/construction-ally/2014/07/23/a-subsequent-developer-has-no-ability-to-force-a-public-body-to-call-an-abandoning-developers-performance-bonds-for-infrastructure-improvements/#sthash.3iBSqIC1.dpufRead More »

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Guarantors Remain Liable for “Carve-out” Obligations, Despite Non-recourse Loan

By:  Ben Reeves

Introduction

Believe it or not, guaranty contracts mean what they say.  If a guarantor agrees to reimburse a lender for misappropriated security deposits, unpaid taxes, and the cost of enforcement, then – not surprisingly – courts will hold the guarantors liable for these expenses.

In Investors Warranty of America, Inc. v. Arrowhead Business Center, L.P., the guarantors signed a limited guaranty contract obligating them to pay up to $350,000 if the borrower defaulted on the $5,250,000 commercial loan secured by an office building in Peoria.  In addition to this capped amount, the guarantors agreed to pay for certain “carve-out” expenses, including misappropriated security deposits, unpaid taxes, and costs of enforcement. … Read More »

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Borrowers Can Avoid Liability Even After a Trustee’s Sale

By:  Ben Reeves

Since a lender must have a valid debt and valid lien to conduct a trustee’s sale, a borrower that allows the foreclosure sale to occur impliedly agrees that the debt and lien are valid.  In Madison v. Groseth and BT Capital, LLC v. TD Serv. Co. of Arizona, 229 Ariz. 299, 301, 275 P.3d 598, 600 (2012), Arizona appellate courts reached that exact conclusion, holding that under A.R.S. § 33-811(C), a borrower that does not obtain an injunction stopping a trustee’s sale waives all defenses to the validity of the sale and all defenses related to the sale. … Read More »

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Unmitigated Waivers: Guarantors Remain Liable Despite 4-Year Delay in Foreclosure Sale

debt clockBy:  Ben Reeves

If a lender delays foreclosure allowing years of default interest to accrue such that a guarantor’s obligation increases from $6 million to $12 million, should the guarantor remain on the hook for the full $12 million?  In Pi’ikea, LLC v. Williamson, 683 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 32 (Ct. App. 2014), the Arizona Court of Appeals recently confirmed that if the guarantor waived the “mitigation of damages” or “impairment of collateral” defense in its guaranty contract, then the answer is an unmitigated YES.

The Facts

In 2004, TBM Equities, LLC borrowed $5,922,000 to build an apartment complex in Tucson, AZ. … Read More »

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Amendments to Arizona’s Anti-deficiency Statute Exclude Homebuilders from Anti-Deficiency Protection

By:  Ben Reeves

Last Tuesday, April 20, 2014, Arizona’s Governor, Jan Brewer, signed HB 2018 into law.  This bill closes a long-standing loophole that allowed commercial homebuilders to take advantage of Arizona’s anti-deficiency statute, even though the statute was originally enacted to protect only homeowners.  In sum, for loans secured by residences that are originated after December 31, 2014, commercial homebuilders will no longer be able to avoid liability based on Arizona’s anti-deficiency statute, A.R.S. § 33-814(G).

A.R.S. § 33-814(G) provides that after a trustee’s sale, a lender cannot sue to recover the difference between the value of a “dwelling” and the amount owed on the loan (i.e., the “deficiency”). … Read More »

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A Section 363 Sale Does NOT Transfer Property Free and Clear of an Equitable Servitude

By:  Ben Reeves

Sales in bankruptcy court under 11 U.S.C. § 363 (called “363 Sales”) are often used to sell property during a bankruptcy case.  The 363 Sale process provides an efficient procedure to liquidate estate property and offers several advantages to sales outside of bankruptcy – including the highly desirable ability to sell property “free and clear” of interests.  The procedure is used so regularly and with such great success that parties often expect 363 Sales to transfer property free and clear of all interests as a matter of course.  That result, however, is not always the case.

In re Hassen Imports Partnership reminds us that a 363 Sale does not automatically transfer title free and clear of all interests in real property. … Read More »

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Not All Property Acquired Post-Petition is Safe from Creditors

By:  Ben Reeves

Although property obtained by a debtor after filing for bankruptcy is usually safe from creditors, a recent case from the Ninth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel allowed a Chapter 7 Trustee to sell real property obtained by the debtors post-petition.

In In re Jones, a debtor’s grandmother signed and recorded a “Beneficiary Deed” that transferred certain real property to the debtor effective upon the grandmother’s death.  A year and a half after the grandmother recorded the deed, the debtor filed for bankruptcy.  Three days after he filed for bankruptcy, the grandmother passed away.

The Chapter 7 Trustee attempted to sell the inherited property, but the debtor objected. … Read More »

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Mortgage Lenders Can’t Jump Ahead of Mechanic’s Liens

By:  Ben Reevesleap 4

In Weitz Co., LLC v. Heth, 223 Ariz. 442, 314 P.3d 569 (Ct. App. Nov. 26 2013), the Arizona Court of Appeals held that the plain language of Arizona’s mechanic lien statute, A.R.S. § 33-992(A), does not allow a lender to jump ahead of a mechanic’s lien under the doctrine of “equitable subrogation.”

In Weitz, First National Bank of Arizona lent a developer $44,000,000 to build a 165-unit, mixed-use commercial/residential project in downtown Phoenix.  The bank secured repayment of the construction loan by recording a deed of trust against the project.

The developer hired The Weitz Company as its general contractor. … Read More »

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The EPA Approves New Environmental Due Diligence Standard

By:  Patrick Paul

On December 30, 2013, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its final rulemaking recognizing the newly amended ASTM standard practice for Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessments, E 1527-13 as satisfying the agency’s All Appropriate Inquiries (AAI) rule at 40 C.F.R. Part 312.  Curiously, EPA did not remove the existing reference to the prior E1527–05 standard.  In fact, EPA specifically provided that “today’s rule does not require that any party use this standard.”  Rather, the new rule at least temporarily provides an additional method to achieve AAI without altering the existing requirements or otherwise mandating new requirements.  … Read More »

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California Amends its Anti-Deficiency Statute

By:  Ben Reeves

As of January 1, 2014, California amended its anti-deficiency statute to stop mortgage lenders from “collecting” from homeowners on post-foreclosure debts.  Although the amendments were designed to tackle a purely consumer / residential real estate issue, only time will tell if the changes have unintended consequences beyond the consumer / residential realm.

Prior to the amendment, California’s anti-deficiency statute, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 580d, only barred lenders from obtaining a judgment against homeowners to recover the difference between the value of the home after foreclosure and the amount of the debt owed on the mortgage (i.e.Read More »

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Guarantors Beware! A.R.S. § 33-814 May Not Save You from a Deficiency Judgment

By:  Ben Reeves

In First Credit Union v. Courtney, 309 P.3d 929, 669 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 18 (Ct. App. 2013), the Arizona Court of Appeals rejected three creative arguments that A.R.S. § 33-814 protected the guarantors from paying on their guaranty.  The opinion provides a stark reminder that Arizona courts will usually enforce a guarantor’s contractual obligation to repay a debt.

In 2006, First Credit made a $3.56 million construction loan to Orange Grove I, L.L.C. (the “Borrower”).  First Credit secured the loan with a lien against commercial real property called the Appian Estates.  The Courtneys guaranteed repayment of the loan. … Read More »

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The Uniform Law Commission Makes Progress Drafting a Model Act on the Appointment and Powers of Real Estate Receivers

By:  Ben Reeves

If all goes as planned, the Uniform Law Commission will finalize and promulgate a model act dealing with the appointment and powers of commercial real estate receivers at some point in 2015.  Last month, the Drafting Committee for this model act met in Minneapolis, MN to discuss and revise the latest draft.  Since a significant part of my practice is devoted to real estate receiverships in Arizona, I flew up to Minnesota to participate in the meeting as an Observer.

Led by Chair, Tom Hemmendinger, and Reporter, Wilson Freyermuth, the committee meticulously analyzed every aspect of the draft act, including the grounds for appointment, the receiver’s powers upon appointment, the rights of third-parties affected by a receivership, and – by far the most provocative issue – whether a receiver should have the power to sell real property. … Read More »

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Can You Waive the Right to a “Fair Market Value” Hearing?

By:  Ben Reeves

We finally have an answer to the question of whether parties can contractually waive the right to a “fair market value” hearing under Arizona law – and the answer, according to the Court of Appeals – is “no.”

In CSA 13-101 Loop, LLC v. Loop 101, LLC et al., No. 1CA-CV 12-0167 (Ariz. Ct. App. September 10, 2013), the Arizona Court of Appeals held that Arizona’s deficiency statute, A.R.S. § 33-814(A), prohibits a party from waiving the right to a “fair market value” hearing.  This statute generally entitles borrowers and guarantors to an evidentiary “fair market value” hearing to determine the value of foreclosed property that should be applied towards repayment of the debt that was secured by the foreclosed property. … Read More »

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A Non-Purchase Money Second Deed of Trust is Not Protected by Arizona’s Anti-deficiency Statute

By:  Ben Reeves & Julie Maurer

Arizona anti-deficiency laws do not prohibit a non-purchase money lender from suing on its note after foreclosure by a senior lender.  In Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Brewer, No. 1CA-CV 12-0383 (Ariz. Ct. App. May 21, 2013 unpublished), the Arizona Court of Appeals held that Arizona’s anti-deficiency statute, A.R.S. § 33-814, did not prevent Wells Fargo from suing on its note after a senior lender foreclosed on the borrowers’ multi-million dollar home.

In 2007, Wells Fargo agreed to lend the Brewers up to $1,000,000 and secured the loan with a second position deed of trust recorded against the Brewers’ home. … Read More »

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A Lender Holding Two Liens Can Foreclose on the Senior Lien and Sue on the Junior Lien

By:  Ben Reeves

In Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Riggio, No. 1CA-CV-12-0430 (Ariz. Ct. App. June 4, 2013), the Arizona Court of Appeals held:  (i) that the “merger of rights” doctrine does not “merge” a lender’s first and second lien into a single unitary interest upon the foreclosure of the first lien, and (ii) A.R.S. § 33-814 does not apply to an action on a junior loan.  In other words, Arizona law permits a lender holding two liens against the same property to foreclose on the senior lien, and then sue on the second loan outside of Arizona’s anti-deficiency statutory scheme.… Read More »

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Arizona’s Anti-deficiency Statute, A.R.S. 33-814(G), Cannot be Prospectively Waived Says the Court of Appeals

Money HouseBy:  Ben Reeves

In Parkway Bank & Trust Co. v. Zivkovic, 662 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 26 (Ct. App. 2013), the Arizona Court of Appeals held that provisions in loan documents purporting to waive the applicability of A.R.S. § 33-814(G) violate Arizona public policy and, therefore, are not enforceable under Arizona law.

A.R.S. § 33-814(G) provides that if a lender has a trustee’s sale foreclose of a “property of two and one-half acres or less which is limited to and utilized for either a single one-family or a single two-family dwelling . . . [then] no action may be maintained to recover any difference between the amount obtained by sale and the amount of the indebtedness and any interest, costs and expenses.”  This statute is generally referred to as the “anti-deficiency” statute as it generally prevents lenders from suing homeowners for the difference between the amount owed on their mortgage and the value of their home.… Read More »

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A Person Owning a Fractional Interest in a Vacation Home is Protected by Arizona’s Anti-deficiency Statute

CabinBy:  Ben Reeves

In Independent Mortgage v. Alaburda, the Arizona Court of Appeals held that Arizona’s anti-deficiency statute, A.R.S. § 33-814(G), precluded a lender from suing its borrowers for a deficiency after foreclosing on the borrowers’ fractional interest in a vacation home.  230 Ariz. 181, 281 P.3d 1049 (Ct. App. 2012).

If a lender conducts a trustee’s sale of “trust property of two and one-half acres or less which is limited to and utilized for either a single one-family or a single two-family dwelling,” then A.R.S. § 33-814(G) bars a lender from suing a borrower to recover any difference between the value of the property and the amount of debt owed (i.e.Read More »

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Green construction sounds great, but…

It isn’t always easy being green. Snell & Wilmer partner Marc Erpenbeck talks about emerging litigation issues generated by the proliferation of green construction projects in this informative article entitled “Understanding LEEDigation, The fast-growing trend of GREEN building spurs new issues for the commercial real estate industry” published in the May/June issue of AZRE Magazine. Click on the link to check it out.… Read More »

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A.R.S. § 33-814(A) and Bankruptcy Proofs of Claim: To File or Not to File…Conflicting Cases Leave Creditors With No Clear Answer

By: Ben Reeves

Under Arizona law, does a secured creditor need to file a deficiency action within 90 days after a trustee’s sale to preserve the unsecured portion of its claim in a bankruptcy case? Or is filing (or amending) a proof of claim sufficient? Two recent cases out of Arizona provide conflicting answers.

The two cases reached the issue based on a similar fact pattern. In both cases, the debtors stipulated to relief from the automatic stay to allow a trustee’s sale to occur. In both cases, the sales resulted in substantial, unsecured deficiencies. In both cases, the trustees objected to the unsecured portion of the unsecured claims based on the lenders’ alleged failure to comply with A.R.S.Read More »

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Arizona Residential Landlords in Foreclosure – Expanding the Duty to Notify Tenants

By: Bob Henry

The Arizona Residential Landlord Tenant Act, A.R.S. § 33-1301 et seq., already requires landlords to provide written notice (with specific language) to tenants of a “potential foreclosure” on the property if a “foreclosure action” has been “initiated” at the time the parties enter into the rental agreement. A.R.S. § 33-1331. This obligation was added by the Arizona Legislature in 2010 in reaction to the flurry of foreclosures arising out of the recent real estate crash to protect tenants from entering into leases on properties that were already in significant financial distress and, indeed, in the process of being foreclosed on.… Read More »

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Introducing the Snell & Wilmer Real Estate Litigation Blog

The Snell & Wilmer Real Estate Litigation Group is proud to announce the launch of its new blog.  After decades of handling commercial disputes and trials involving real estate, the Group was officially formed in 2008.  The firm’s real estate litigation and trial attorneys formed the Group to maximize expertise, efficiency and results for the benefit of the firm’s clients.

Through the launch of its blog, the Group is excited about the opportunity to share its collective insight on timely issues affecting real estate litigation.   Each blog post will be written by one or more of the attorneys of the Group, with the aim of providing a forum for the timely discussion and analysis of issues impacting real estate litigation.… Read More »

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