The FDIC Reigns “Supreme” in Nevada

By: Nathan Kanute

For several years, Nevada Courts have considered a myriad of issues related to how Nevada law applies to loans made by banks that are later take over by the FDIC. In the past eight months, the Nevada Supreme Court has addressed two of those issues. See Munoz v. Branch Banking and Trust Company, Inc., 131 Nev., Adv. Op. 23 (Apr. 30, 2015) and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. v. Rhodes, 130 Nev., Adv. Op. 88 (Oct. 30, 2014). In both cases, the Court held that the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution precluded application of the applicable Nevada statutes.… Read More »

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Successful Laches Defense Becoming Commonplace in Colorado

By: Neal McConomy

Boiler plate language in responsive pleadings often includes “Plaintiff’s claims are barred by the doctrine of laches” (or “The doctrine of laches bars Plaintiff’s claims” if you prefer the active voice).  However, litigation of a laches defense is fairly rare, and a defendant successfully arguing a laches defense is something of a legal Haley’s Comet, only less reliable. Often, courts refuse to consider a laches defense if a statute of limitations applies. See e.g., Ivani Contracting Corp. v. City of New York, 103 F.3d 257 (2d Cir. 1997); and Lyons P’ship v. Morris Costumes, Inc., 243 F.3d 789 (4th Cir.… Read More »

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Nevada Supreme Court holds that Voluntary Payment Doctrine Prohibits a Party from Recovering Amounts Wrongly Paid to Homeowner’s Association in Order to Prevent Foreclosure

By:          Bob L. Olson

On September 30,2014, we posted “Lenders Beware: the Nevada Supreme Court Holds that Foreclosures of Homeowner’s Association Liens May Extinguish First Priority Deeds of Trust” which discussed the recent decision of SFR Investments Pool 1, LLC v. U.S. Bank, N.A., 130 Nev. Adv. Op. 75 (Sept. 18, 2014) (“SFR”).   At the risk of oversimplification, the SFR Court held that:

  1. NRS 116.3116 (the “Statute”) splits the lien of a homeowner’s association (“HOA”) into a “superpriority piece” and a “subpriority piece.”
  2. The superpriority piece of the HOA’s lien consists of the “last nine months of unpaid HOA dues and maintenance and nuisance-abatement charges” and is prior to the first priority lien.
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Federal Courts to Apply More Protective State Law when Analyzing Validity of Pre-dispute Jury Trial Waivers in Diversity Jurisdiction Cases

By Anthony J. Carucci

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that federal courts sitting in diversity jurisdiction must apply the underlying state law to determine the validity of pre-dispute jury trial waivers where the state law is more protective than the federal law. In re Cnty. of Orange, No. 14-72343, 2015 WL 1727240, at *4–5 (9th Cir. Apr. 16, 2015).

Facts/Procedural History

In 2007, plaintiff County of Orange (the “County”) hired defendant Tata America International Corporation (“Tata”) to develop a property tax management system. Id. at *5. In 2008, the parties entered into a contract for that purpose, which included an unambiguous jury trial waiver.… Read More »

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Arizona Courts Lacks Authority To Stay Forcible Entry And Detainer Judgments When The Judgment Itself Is Not Pending Appeal

By: Nicholas Kunz1411947988kdp8g

Can a court stay the execution of a Forcible Entry and Detainer (“FED”) action when the FED judgment itself is not appealed? The Arizona Court of Appeals recently addressed this question, holding that the court did not have the authority to stay the execution of the FED judgment, because only the denial of an Abeyance/Motion to Set Aside Judgment—and not the original FED judgment—was being appealed.

Facts/Procedural History

Tri City National Bank (“TCNB”) became the owner of a property occupied by the Gradys through a trustee sale. Shortly after the trustee sale, TCNB filed an action for FED to remove the Gradys from the property.… Read More »

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Church Property Tax Liability in Arizona for Commercial Leases

By: Bob Henry

Arizona House Bill 2128, which was signed into law by Governor Doug Ducey on March 23, 2015, has potential impact on the commercial real estate leasing market.  The bill enables owners of real property that is leased to religious institutions to enjoy the closest thing to a complete exemption that is available to lessees of real property owned by for-profit organizations or individuals.

This blog does not opine on policy issues, and the wisdom of this legislation can be debated.  But this legislation nevertheless creates some potential practical and logistical issues—for better or worse, and depending on one’s perspective and circumstances. … Read More »

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A Purchaser Who Doesn’t Inquire May Be Teeing Up For Failure

 

By: Erica Stutman

Picture this:  While on the hunt for new development opportunities, you stumble across a golf course in the middle of a high-end community, and you think this would be the perfect spot for more houses, or a retail center, or a movie theater, or …oh, the possibilities are endless!  Better yet, you learn you can buy it for a bargain. Before closing the deal, you review the property’s recorded chain of title and find nothing requiring the property to be used as a golf course. You sign the closing papers and start planning your perfect new development.… 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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Injunctive Relief for Building Encroachment. Do I Have to Move the House?

By Kevin Parker

When a land owner mistakenly builds a house or other building or structure that encroaches on a neighbor’s property, what is the remedy?  Does the offending land owner have to physically remove the structure from the neighbor’s property?   Is the harmed neighbor entitled to a mandatory injunction against continuing trespass?  Can the offending land owner invoke equitable “balancing of hardships” and simply pay damages?  In a recent case, the Supreme Court of Rhode Island distinguished the encroachment situation from traditional injunctive relief analysis.  (A court order requiring the offending land owner to remove the offending structure would be a mandatory injunction order.)  The general rule is that a party seeking injunctive relief must prove irreparable harm not remediable by damages. … Read More »

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Inverse Condemnation: When is Your Claim Precluded by the Arizona Statute of Limitations?

By:  Richard Herold

An inverse condemnation of a landowner’s property can occur when a governmental entity: (1) physically takes the property without compensation; or (2) passes a new law that has a serious impact on the value and/or utility of the property.  At times, the taking may be obvious, for example, if the governmental entity deprives the owner of access to the property by putting up a fence.  While regulatory takings are at times less obvious and/or pressing, in both cases, the property owner may adopt the view that he or she will simply address the problem later.

Believe it or not, the property owner needs to move quickly and file suit within one year of the taking.… 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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Transfer of Property Title to a Holding Company Did Not Divest Landowner of Owner-Occupant Status Under A.R.S. § 33-1002(B)

By:  Richard G. Erickson

Recently, in Marco Crane & Rigging Co. v. Masaryk, 703 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 29 (Dec. 30, 2014), the Arizona Court of Appeals established that a subcontractor on a residential project has no lien rights against an owner-occupant, even though the homeowner transferred the property’s title to a holding company (an Arizona limited liability company) after the subcontractor commenced work.

In other words, the lien protections afforded to owner-occupants are determined, at the latest, when a contractor records its lien.  After the contractor commences work and records its lien, the homeowner’s actions in negating owner-occupant status do not divest the homeowner of statutory protections against lienholders. … 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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Beneath the Surface: Entek GRB, LLC v. Stull Ranches, LLC and the Continuing Battle Between Surface Owners and Subsurface Owners

By: Neal McConomy

On August 14, 2014, the Tenth Circuit vacated and remanded the lower court’s decision regarding a dispute between a surface owner’s and a subsurface owner’s respective rights to access and enjoy land and property rights.  Entek GRB, LLC v. Stull Ranches, LLC, 763 F.3d 1252 (10th Cir. 2014).  The decision reached in Entek GRB, LLC v. Stull Ranches, LLC addresses a debate occurring throughout Colorado and the United States: what controls do surface owners have regarding subsurface owners’ claims for access to and occupation of surface areas in their pursuit to exercise their rights to the oil, gas, and other minerals beneath the surface owner’s land. … Read More »

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Guarantor Waivers Narrowed

By:  Lyndsey A. Torp and Sean M. Sherlock

A general waiver by a guarantor of “all defenses” does not actually waive “all defenses.”   California Bank & Trust v. Del Ponti, — Cal.Rptr.3d —, 2014 WL 6908141 (Cal.App. 4 Dist.).  That was the holding in a recent opinion wherein the California Court of Appeal affirmed judgment against a lender, holding that the bank could not recover on its loan guaranties because it had breached the underlying loan agreement.

In California Bank & Trust v. Del Ponti, borrower obtained a construction loan from Vineyard Bank (which was later assigned to California Bank & Trust) to develop a townhome project, with guaranties from two principals of the borrower. … 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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California Case Requires Arbitration Despite Lack of Actual Controversy

 

By:  Lyndsey A. Torp and Sean M. Sherlock

For parties to litigate a contract dispute in a court of law, the parties’ disagreement must have ripened into an actual controversy presenting more than a mere academic difference of opinion.  But under a recent California Court of Appeal opinion, no actual controversy is required to compel arbitration over a disagreement.  Bunker Hill Park Limited v. U.S. Bank National Association, — Cal.Rptr.3d —, 2014 WL 6684796 (Cal.App. 2 Dist.).  To avoid being compelled to arbitrate purely academic disagreements, parties should draft their arbitration clauses to limit arbitrable disputes to those that have ripened into actual controversies.… Read More »

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Nevada Supreme Court adds New Elements to Constructive Eviction Claims.

By Bob L. Olson

Nevada, like many jurisdictions, has recognized the ability of a tenant to vacate property if it becomes unfit for occupancy for the purpose for which it was leased.  This is commonly known as a “constructive eviction.”  Traditionally, to establish a claim for or defense of constructive eviction, the tenant had to prove the following three elements:

1.         The landlord either acted or failed to act;

2.         The landlord’s action or inaction rendered the whole or a substantial part of the premises unfit of occupancy for the purpose for which it was leased; and

3.         The tenant must actually vacate the property within a reasonable time.… Read More »

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Landlords Need Not Deny Puppy Love

By: Erica Stutman

Dog-lovers will be happy to know they may rent property to a tenant and the tenant’s dog without necessarily being subject to strict liability if man’s best friend turns out to be not-so-friendly after all.  In Spirlong v. Browne, the Arizona Court of Appeals decided that the strict liability for injuries or damages caused by a dog that is imposed upon a person “keeping” a dog requires that the person exercises care, custody, or control of the dog, and that merely allowing a dog to live in your property does not alone subject a person to liability.  … Read More »

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General Contractor’s Prospective Waiver Of Its Lien Rights Is Enforceable In California

By: Lyndsey Torp

http://www.swlaw.com/attorneys/lyndsey_torp

In another decision favoring lenders (See http://www.swlaw.com/blog/real-estate-litigation/2014/08/29/arizona-supreme-court-to-contractor-sorry-but-equitable-subrogation-of-a-banks-later-deed-of-trust-trumps-earlier-mechanics-lien-rights/), the California Court of Appeal, in an opinion published in September 2014, entitled Moorefield Construction, Inc. v. Intervest Mortgage Investment Company, et al., D065464, held an original contractor can contractually waive or impair its own lien rights, even before it gets paid or performs work, as long as it does not waive or impair the lien rights of its subcontractors. In Moorefield, the court of appeal reversed a trial court’s decision awarding a general contractor $2.2 million on its mechanic’s lien.  In doing so, the court of appeal upheld a subordination agreement that the general contractor, Moorefield Construction, Inc., signed with the lender, Intervest Mortgage, “subordinating” the general contractor’s mechanic’s lien claim to the lender’s deed of trust, which was security for the construction loan.… Read More »

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Arizona Chamber of Commerce Forms Policy Group for Real Estate and Community Development Issues

By:  Bob Henry

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry has formed a new policy committee for “Real Estate and Community Development Issues.”  The Arizona Chamber’s policy committees—now 16 different committees that cover policy areas ranging from “Budget & Government Reform” to “Workplace, Workers Compensation and Insurance”—are actively involved in supporting and opposing legislation on issues that are of particular importance to the Arizona business community.  The Arizona Chamber’s formation of a new policy committee focusing specifically on real estate and community development issues should thus be welcome news to those who do business in the real estate industry in Arizona. … 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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Homestead Exemption Cannot be Denied on Equitable Grounds

By Kevin J. Parker

Arizona’s homestead exemption allows a person to protect from certain creditors up to $150,000 of their equity in their residence (dwelling house, condominium, or mobile home).  A.R.S. § 33-1101 et seq.  This homestead equity is exempt from non-consensual liens, for example recorded judgments against the owner.  The homestead exemption does not apply as against consensual liens such as a mortgage or deed of trust.

 In a recent opinion, the Arizona Court of Appeals addressed the question of whether a property owner could be precluded on equitable grounds from asserting the homestead exemption.  Rogone v. Correia (Opinion filed September 25, 2014). … Read More »

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New California Case Illustrates Peril of Full Credit Bid

By: Sean M. Sherlock

In a new California case, a lender that made a full credit bid at a foreclosure sale lost its right as mortgagee under a lender’s insurance policy for damage to the property that occurred prior to foreclosure. This was so even though the lender held multiple deeds of trust, and foreclosed on only one of them. The case provides valuable guidance in devising a foreclosure bidding strategy.

In Najah v. Scottsdale Ins. Co., ___ Cal.Rptr.3d ___, 2014 WL 4827882 (Cal.App. 2 Dist., Sep. 30, 2014), plaintiff (lender) sued defendant (insurer) for failing to pay a claim for property damage that occurred prior to plaintiff’s foreclosure on the property.… 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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Easements Made Easier: Building Pipelines with the Power of Eminent Domain Under the Natural Gas Act

By: Richard H. Herold

Any person or entity seeking to construct a natural gas pipeline and successful in obtaining a certificate of convenience and necessity from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission may exercise the power of eminent domain to obtain easements across private property when those easements are necessary and cannot be obtained consensually (by contract) from the landowners.  Columbia Gas Transmission, L.L.C. v. 76 Acres More or Less, 2014 WL 2960836 (D. Md. June 27, 2014).  the Columbia Gas Court recently held that (1) the property’s legal description need not be attached to sufficiently identify the property to be condemned, and (2) even in the absence of a federal condemnation statute authorizing immediate possession of the property, the condemning plaintiff may obtain an order to take immediate possession of the property since it would be wasteful and inefficient to skip over one or more parcels in the construction process – only if the condemning plaintiff is capable of satisfying the requirements for preliminary injunctive relief under Fed.R.Civ.P.… Read More »

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Social Media Concerns Potentially Affecting Arizona’s Real Estate Industry

By:  Jefferson R. Hayden  http://www.swlaw.com/attorneys/jefferson_hayden

A growing number of governmental authorities are cracking down on the use of social media with regard to commercial transactions.  In Arizona, for example, legislation was proposed restricting an employer’s right to access social media account information of its employees.  Though SB 1411 was not passed in 2013, the Arizona real estate industry should pay close attention to its own social media practices since it is covered by the Fair Housing Act.  If the legislative progression of other states is any indicator, the Arizona real estate industry may also encounter future issues in both the landlord/tenant and lending realms.… Read More »

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Arizona Supreme Court to Contractor: Sorry But Equitable Subrogation of a Bank’s Later Deed of Trust Trumps Earlier Mechanics’ Lien Rights

By Rick Erickson

http://www.swlaw.com/attorneys/rick_erickson

The smoke has finally cleared in a hard and long-fought battle between a bank and contractor both claiming priority to foreclose millions of dollars on a Phoenix condominium project. The project, well-known as Summit at Copper Square in central Phoenix (“Summit”), went broke in 2007. The foreclosure case began in 2008, and the construction and real estate industries have been keeping a close eye on the outcome. In the end, the Arizona Supreme Court weighed in for its “first opportunity to address the interplay between equitable subrogation and the priority granted to mechanics’ liens by [Arizona Revised Statutes] § 33-992(A).”

The Arizona Supreme Court issued its decision in The Weitz Company L.L.C.… Read More »

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Nevada Supreme Court Clarifies Mechanic and Materialman Lien Issues

By:  Nathan Kanute and Bob Olson

On August 7, 2014, the Nevada Supreme Court issued two opinions dealing with the priority of mechanics’ liens and the proof required for a materialman to establish a lien.  These cases provide valuable guidance to lenders, materialmen, contractors, and subcontractors operating in Nevada.

In Byrd Underground, LLC v. Angaur, LLC, 130 Nev. Adv. Op. 62, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Nevada certified three questions to the Nevada Supreme Court.  The questions focused on whether placement of fill materials and grading constituted “construction of a work of improvement” for purposes of a lien priority determination under NRS 108.225. … 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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Colorado Supreme Court Revisits Rule Against Perpetuities

By: Ginny Olmstead   http://www.swlaw.com/attorneys/virginia_olmstead

In March of this year, the Colorado Supreme Court revisited a fundamental doctrine of property law, which it described as “long cherished by law school professors and dreaded by most law students: the infamous rule against perpetuities.”  The rule applies an unusual formula to prevent property from remaining “tied up” by grants of contingent future interests vesting too remotely in time.  Although the rule was originally crafted to prevent excessively long family settlements, courts have since applied it to commercial transactions as well.  This has created some odd results in case law governing commercial transactions, because the rule’s formula is structured around “lives in being” and potential heirs. … Read More »

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Full Credit Bid Rule Bars Recovery for Wrongfully Enjoined Lender

By:  Michelle Keogh

On June 30, 2014, Judge James A. Teilborg, a Senior District Judge in Arizona, ruled that Tri City National Bank (“TCNB”) was not entitled to bond money posted by the plaintiffs after TCNB was wrongfully enjoined from executing a trustee sale.  Grady v. Bank of Elmwood, 2014 WL 2930510 (D. Ariz. June 30, 2014).

In Grady, the plaintiffs initially sought injunctive relief against Bank of Elmwood (“BOE”).  Plaintiffs signed a promissory note and a deed of trust with BOE for their home loan of just over $1.8M.  Less than a year later, the plaintiffs filed suit in Maricopa County Superior Court seeking to have the note voided for fraud. … Read 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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Governmental Power and Property Lines

By: Neal McConomy

On May 27, 2014, the Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Town of Dillon v. Yacht Club Condos. Home Owners Ass’n, 2014 CO 37.  Overturning the rulings of both the trial court and the Colorado Court of Appeals, the Colorado Supreme Court reaffirmed the long-standing deference Colorado law shows to state legislative bodies exerting their police powers.  This opinion reminds Colorado property owners that property rights and interests end at the property line and no one should rely on the ability to use public land around their property in the future.

Between 1965 and 1967, a developer constructed the Yacht Club Condominiums in Dillon, Colorado, consisting of three buildings and fifty condominium units. … Read More »

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Guarantors Score Two Victories Before the Nevada Supreme Court.

By:  Bob Olson and Nathan Kanute

On May 29, 2013, the Nevada Supreme Court issued two decisions that all real estate lenders need to be aware of because they have the potential to eliminate the ability of a lender to recover a deficiency judgment from a guarantor.

In Nevada it is common for lenders to commence foreclosure proceedings and, at the same time, sue all guarantors that have waived the benefit of Nevada’s one-action rule for the full amount of the debt they guaranteed.  Often the foreclosure sale will occur before lender obtains a judgment against the guarantor.  In Lavi v.Read More »

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Real estate salesperson succeeds in mission to collect commission

By: Erica Stutman

A.R.S. § 32-2152 allows a real estate broker or salesperson to file a court action to collect earned compensation if he was a “qualified licensed broker or salesperson at the time the claim arose.”  In Focus Point Prop., LLC v. Johnson, 689 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 4 (June 19, 2014), plaintiff Cleo Johnson tested the meaning of a “qualified” licensee, arguing that her salesperson was not entitled to his commission because his license could have been revoked at the time he performed his services.

In 2009, Johnson, trustee of a trust, hired Jeff Kantor from Focus Point Properties to sell a commercial property owned by the trust and also to assist with rehabilitation activities and leasing.  … Read More »

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Nevada Supreme Court and District Court Issue Decisions Regarding Nevada’s Limitations on Deficiency Judgments.

By:  Bob Olson and Nathan Kanute

In 2011 the Nevada Legislature enacted Assembly Bill 273 (“AB 273”) which amended NRS 40.459 by limiting deficiency judgments to the difference between the amount the lender paid to acquire the loan or obligation and the larger of the market value of the property or the amount paid for the property at a foreclosure sale.  As one can imagine, a large number of borrowers and guarantors have tried to take advantage of this recent law to limit or in some cases eliminate their liability for deficiencies.  Creditors, on the other hand, have cried foul by arguing that, among other things, the law cannot be applied retroactively, it impairs the value of their pre-enactment paper and violates the Contracts Clauses of both the United States and Nevada Constitutions. … Read More »

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Is the Future Bright for Commercial Real Estate in Arizona?

By Cory L. Braddock

AZRE Magazine recently published an interesting article discussing the outlook for the commercial real estate market in Arizona.  To give it a read, click here.… 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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Seller Liability for Disclosures (or Non-Disclosures), Part 2

May 12, 2014

By:  Kevin J. Parker

In our blog post dated April 29, 2013, Matthew Fischer discussed the case Lerner v. DMB Realty, LLC (Arizona Court of Appeals, November 27, 2012).  In that case, the Arizona Court of Appeals addressed, among other things, the viability of a claim wherein a buyer of residential real estate alleged that the seller had an obligation – under the facts of that case – to disclose that they were selling because of the presence of a registered sex offender next door.

The complicating factor was that Arizona, by statute, expressly states that sellers are not obligated to disclose the existence of registered sex offenders in the vicinity. … 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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Legal Pot Leads to Possible Nuisance Suits, but Viability is Unlikely

By: Neal McConomy

Almost four months into Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana for adults aged twenty-one and over, the weather is warming, windows are opening, and outdoor spaces are getting more use.  All the while, a segment of the Colorado population, especially in the City and County of Denver (“Denver”), is exercising its new-found legal right to use marijuana.[1]  A pungent plant known for its skunk-like aroma, marijuana, accompanied by its distinct scent, is poised to waft onto properties across Colorado that may find the odor less than euphoric.[2]  The issue becomes whether these Denver residents have a legal avenue to control the once contraband odors from invading their living spaces, be it an adjacent apartment, backyard, or living room.… Read More »

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Arizona Supreme Court Holds That Property Owner Who Quarreled With Light Rail Construction Should Be Compensated For Lost Access

By Eric H. Spencer

Late last week, the Arizona Supreme Court handed down a decision that clarified the rights of property owners who lose access to an abutting road and, in the process, reinforced the principle that both elimination and substantial impairment of access is compensable under the Arizona Constitution.  But perhaps more significant, the Supreme Court in City of Phoenix v. Garretson held that a property owner should be compensated even if it retains relatively convenient access to that road through other means.

In so holding, the Supreme Court no doubt sent initial shockwaves through public works departments across Arizona who may be wondering whether they are hamstrung in making even basic traffic improvements. … Read More »

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Sellers Cannot Look to the Appraiser When Lenders Pull the Plug on a Prospective House Flip

By:  Eric Spencer

An outgrowth of Arizona’s housing downturn in recent years has been the proliferation of would-be real estate investors who purchase, renovate and flip residential properties.   On the other hand, in part to prevent the next downturn from occurring, lenders have tightened borrowing requirements and balked at financing any purchase of a “flipped” home that exceeds the appraised value.  Often caught in the middle of these competing interests are the appraisers themselves: when a lender-commissioned appraisal comes back substantially below the proposed purchase price, the prospective buyer often has no choice but to walk away.   And, when the real transaction falls apart accordingly, the real estate investor-turned-seller might seek to hold the appraiser liable for what it deems to be a negligently-conducted valuation of the property. … Read More »

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The Registrar is Changing the Game for Complaints Against Arizona Contractors

By Rick Erickson http://www.swlaw.com/attorneys/rick_erickson

Sweeping changes at the Registrar of Contractors have the construction and real estate industries concerned and curious.  The Registrar recently received some poor performance reports by the Auditor General and State Ombudsmen.  As a result, the Registrar overhauled its procedures for handling complaints and adjudicating contested cases against Arizona contractors.  You should be following these changes before the Registrar rolls out its new approach this summer.     

The Registrar regulates contractor licensing and enforcement of workmanship standards against thousands of licensees throughout Arizona.  In doing so, the Registrar dictates administrative remedies available to property owners on residential and commercial projects. … 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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Brandt Revocable Trust v. U.S. – the United States’ theory of land ownership derailed

By: Erica Stutman

In Brandt Revocable Trust v. U.S., the United States Supreme Court held that abandoned railway rights-of-way that had been granted to railroad companies under the General Railroad Right-of-Way Act of 1875 left underlying landowners with property free of the rights-of-way, and the United States government has no interest in the abandoned land.

Pursuant to the Act, the government granted railroad companies the right to build railroads through public lands.  In large part, the government later conveyed the public land underlying the rights-of-way to private landowners by a land patent, which stated that the land was conveyed subject to a right-of-way for railroad purposes.… Read More »

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Lender’s Title Insurance: When Should Courts Measure the Fair Market Value of Property Affected by a Title Defect?*

By:  Andy Stone

Title insurance is designed to pay for damages caused by any defects to title that the title company should have discovered but did not.  Lender’s title insurance protects lenders who lose money due to a title defect, which is distinguished from an owner’s policy that protects the property owners.  How to calculate a lender’s damages under a title insurance policy is an issue that courts have struggled to address in a consistent manner.  Generally, courts are in agreement about when a lender suffers damages, which occurs after the borrower defaults and the security for the mortgage proves inadequate. … Read More »

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Beyond Real Estate: Publicly Traded Homebuilders (And Other Public Companies) Must be Aware of Cybersecurity and Data Breach Disclosure Requirements Applicable to SEC Filings

By:  Richard H. Herold

Generally speaking, publicly traded homebuilders and other public companies must disclose material information in their SEC filings.  “Information is considered material if there is a substantial likelihood that a reasonable investor would consider it important in making an investment decision or if the information would significantly alter the total mix of information available.”  Basic v. Levinson, 485 U.S. 224 (1988)

As the agenda of hackers and other criminals advances, so has the issue of cybersecurity, focusing on what risks exist in the company’s cybersecurity defenses and, if there has already been a data breach incident, whether the scope of the breach and the resulting adverse consequences (which may include regulatory investigations, SEC or FTC enforcement actions, securities class actions, and/or derivative lawsuits) is material and must be reported in SEC filings.… 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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ABOR Fences Out a Property Owner’s Quiet Title Action

By: Cory L. Braddock 

In May of last year, the Arizona Court of Appeals determined that “the statute of limitations does not run against a plaintiff in possession who brings a quiet title action purely to remove a cloud on the title to his property.”  Cook v. Town of Pinetop-Lakeside, 661 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 31 (App, May 28, 2013).  The Cook decision was discussed in detail in our prior blog post entitled The Clock Doesn’t Tick-Tock for Owners in Possession.  Now, the Arizona Court of Appeals, presumably with some regret, has been forced to address real property statute of limitations issues for the second time within six months. … Read More »

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Bona Fide Tenancies for a Term Remain Protected

By:  Julie E. Maurer

A recent California Court of Appeals decision determined that the federal Protecting Tenants Against Foreclosure Act (“PTFA”) impliedly overrides state laws that provide less protection to tenants, but expressly allows states to retain the authority to enact greater protection.  The PTFA was enacted by Congress in May 2009 (Pub.L. 111-22, Div. A, Title VII, §§ 702-704, May 20, 2009, 123 Stat. 1660) and, in 2010, the Congress amended it (Pub.L. 111-203), Title XIV, § 1484, July 21, 2010, 124 Stat. 2204).  The PTFA provides protections for bona fide tenants of residential real property at foreclosure until the PTFA is scheduled to sunset at the end of 2014.… 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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Commercial Real Estate Broker Liens

Arizona, by statute, allows a commercial real estate broker in certain limited circumstances to record a lien against the owner’s real property which is the subject of the commission agreement, in order to protect the broker’s entitlement to their commission.  See A.R.S. §§ 33-1071 – 1076.  The lien rights apply only to commercial real property and residential property with five or more residential units.  The lien rights apply only to leasing and rental transactions, not sales.  The lien is enforceable by a foreclosure action the same as a mortgage.    The statutes identify very specific protocols that need to be followed.  For example, in order to take advantage of such lien rights, such lien rights must be referenced in the pertinent brokerage/listing agreement between the broker and the owner of the real property; a preliminary notice of intent to lien must be recorded no later than 15 days before the date the tenant takes possession; and in certain circumstances a notice of lien must be filed within 90 days after the tenant takes possession. … Read More »

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Arizona Court of Appeals Holds That Certain Residential Developers Are Not Protected By The Anti-Deficiency Statute After Foreclosure Of A Deed Of Trust On Vacant Land

By Eric Spencer and Adam Lang

Nearly three years ago, in M&I Marshall & Isley Bank v. Mueller, the Arizona Court of Appeals held that the Arizona anti-deficiency statute protects a borrower who started, but never completed, construction of a single-family dwelling before defaulting on its loan. This week, the same appellate court limited those anti-deficiency protections by holding in BMO Harris Bank v. Wildwood that a developer of vacant land – land on which no construction has begun – cannot invoke the anti-deficiency statute as a matter of law, regardless of whether the borrower intends to eventually reside on that land.… Read More »

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Arizona Residential Mortgage Brokers: Potential Additional Liability Exposure on the Horizon

by Bob Henry

Arizona Senate Bill 1026, introduced by Senator Ableser, proposes some significant changes to the law governing Arizona’s residential mortgage brokers that could expand their potential liability arising out of their day-to-day business dealings.

The bill proposes amendments to A.R.S. § 6-909, which currently sets forth various “prohibited acts” for those who are engaged in the business of making or negotiating “mortgage loans” in the State of Arizona. If enacted, S.B. 1026 would impose upon mortgage brokers an independent duty to verify a loan applicant’s ability to repay a loan, which historically has been the obligation (from a business perspective) of the institution actually providing the loan to the borrower, and not a statutory obligation or duty of the person or institution helping a borrower secure the loan.… Read More »

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Frustration of Purpose: A Frustrating Doctrine

By: Erica Stutman

Next Gen Capital, LLC v. Consumer Lending Associates, LLC illustrates the difficulty a tenant faces when trying to avoid liability for breaching a lease based on the “frustration of purpose” defense. No. 1 CA-CV 12-0624 (Ariz. Ct. App. Dec. 19, 2013).  In 2007, Consumer Lending Associates (“CLA”) signed a five-year lease, which limited CLA’s primary use of the premises to operating its “payday loan” business.  CLA was operating pursuant to an Arizona statute, which, by its terms, expired on July 1, 2010.  When the authorizing statute expired, CLA vacated the premises and refused to pay rent due through the end of the term, claiming that the lease terminated “by operation of Arizona law.”  The landlord sued for breach of contract, and the superior court granted a motion for summary judgment, holding that CLA had to pay unpaid rent and relates charges through the end of the lease term. … Read More »

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Developers and Homebuilders: The Ramifications of Yanni v. Tucker Plumbing, Inc.

By Bob Henry

On November 20, 2013, Division Two of the Arizona Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Yanni v. Tucker Plumbing, Inc., 2013 Ariz. App. LEXIS 235.    While the opinion was a victory of sorts for the real estate and construction industry generally in Arizona, the opinion could have long-term ramifications to developers and home builders.    In short, the opinion could encourage more direct suits by homeowners against developers and homebuilders – including potential class actions, as was the situation in Yanni – for defects in the construction of homes arising out of defective and substandard work by subcontractors.… Read More »

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Partition Disputes

Partition is a statutory procedure whereby co-tenants (for example joint tenancy, tenancy-in-common, community property) can file a court action to physically divide or sell the property.  See A.R.S. § 12-1211 et seq.  Unless the co-tenants have a private partition agreement, any co-tenant can compel sale or physical division of the property through the statutory partition process.  Under the statutory partition process, the court appoints commissioners to study whether a physical division of the property is appropriate.  If so, the property will be physically divided among the co-owners.  If not, the property will be sold by the commissioners and the net proceeds divided among the co-owners. … 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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Bidding on State Land Trust Leases: Even the Top Revenue-Generating Bids Must be Balanced Against Qualitative “Best Use” Factors Designed to Protect the Land

By:  Richard H. Herold

The Court of Appeals recently held that that the Commissioner of the State Land Trust Department properly balanced Wildearth Guardians, Inc.’s higher revenue-generating bid against “best use” qualitative factors set forth in the Arizona Administrative Code.  As a result, the appellate court affirmed the Commissioner’s decision to award a 10-year grazing lease to the Knights for their 28-year record of stewardship and protection of the leased land near Springerville, Arizona, despite the $79,344 in additional revenue over 10 years which would have been generated for the benefit of Arizona’s public schools by the Wildearth Guardian’s bid.  Wildearth Guardians, Inc.Read More »

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A Compilation and Summary of Real Estate Related Legislation Enacted by the 51st Arizona Legislature

On Friday June 14, 2013, at 12:59 a.m., on the 152nd day of the regular legislative session, the 51st Arizona Legislature adjourned sine die, or “without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing.”  Generally, except as otherwise noted in the act itself, legislation in Arizona is not effective until 90 days after the regular session adjourns sine die.  Accordingly, on Friday, September 13, 2013, the vast majority of legislation enacted by the Arizona Legislature in the 2013 legislative session went into effect.

Although real estate related bills certainly did not dominate the legislative landscape this past session, they still held their own. … Read More »

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CC&Rs Remain Subject to Statutory Modification

By:  Andy Stone

Future legislation may impact current CC&R obligations.  In an important decision for all communities, homeowner associations, builders, and developers, the Arizona Court of Appeals recently held that new laws may apply retroactively to modify or eliminate CC&R provisions.

In Hawk v. PC Village Ass’n, Inc., No. 1CA-CV-12-0362 (Ariz. Ct. App. September 3, 2013), the Arizona Court of Appeals held that a 2009 law, which renders unenforceable any covenant, restriction or condition prohibiting the posting of “for sale” signs, invalidated a restriction recorded before 2009.

In 2009, the Hawks purchased a lot in a master-planned community managed by PC Village Association, Inc. … Read More »

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AZRE Article Discusses Social Media Resources for the Industry

By:  Matthew P. Fischer

In the most recent issue of the magazine AZRE: Arizona Commercial Real Estate (September October 2013), reporter and former editor Peter Madrid wrote on social media coverage of the Arizona commercial real estate industry in his article, “The Message Is the Medium:  Commercial real estate practice groups embracing social media as a source and outlet of gathering disseminating relevant news.”  Among the social media resources mentioned, Mr. Madrid discusses the Snell & Wilmer Real Estate Litigation Blog.  You can read the article online by clicking the hyperlinked title.  Keep up the great work AZRE!… 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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Suing a Licensed Real Estate Professional May Require You to Complete and Turn In Your Homework.

By: Cory L. Braddock

A lawyer must have a good faith belief, after reasonable inquiry, that a lawsuit he files is grounded in fact and warranted by existing law.  Ariz. R. Civ. P. 11.  In other words, lawyers violate Arizona’s rules of civil procedure when they file frivolous lawsuits.  In Arizona, the legislature has, at least in some cases, added an additional layer of scrutiny to lawsuits filed against licensed professionals.  Specifically, a plaintiff must certify whether or not expert testimony is necessary to prove the licensed professional’s standard of care or liability for the claim.  See A.R.S. § 12-2602(A). When expert testimony is necessary, the plaintiff is required to serve a preliminary expert opinion affidavit with their Rule 26.1 initial disclosure.… 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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Understanding zoning nonconforming uses is no walk in the park, but a mobile-home park may be treated as a unified use.

By:  Erica Stutman

When Arizona municipalities adopt new zoning ordinances and regulations, existing property owners have the right to continue using their property for the use in place when the new ordinance or regulation becomes effective, including the right to make reasonable repairs and alterations.  See A.R.S. § 9-462.02(A).   This right to continue the “legal nonconforming use,” which is premised on due process concerns, may be lost if the owner makes major changes to the property after the new zoning law takes effect.  When property is divided into smaller units, questions may arise as to what constitutes the prior use and what changes destroy the protected status. … 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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Protecting Your Project From Litigation: Limited Liability Company vs. Partnership

If you have multiple investors/owners, one of the benefits of using a Limited Liability Company (LLC) to own real property rather than using a partnership is that the LLC offers better protection of the real property from creditors of any individual part-owner (LLC member or partner).  A judgment creditor of an LLC member is limited to getting a charging order against the member’s interest in the LLC.  The charging order gives the judgment creditor the rights of an assignee of the member’s interest.  This assignee position simply gives the judgment creditor the “passive” right to receive the distributions from the LLC (if any) that would otherwise go to the LLC member. … Read More »

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Anticipating Earnest Money “Damages” – Don’t Assume It

By Bob Henry

The Arizona Supreme Court issued an opinion last month in Thomas v. Montelucia Villas, LLC, 2013 Ariz. LEXIS 152 (June 14, 2013) that adds a few wrinkles to efforts by sellers in real estate transactions to retain “earnest money” from a buyer upon the buyer’s default.   While the opinion addresses issues that are fairly unusual in the earnest money world, the holding is one that any seller or developer of real estate should keep in mind when drafting real estate contracts.… Read More »

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The U.S. Supreme Court’s Latest Attempt to Differentiate a Fair Quid Pro Quo in the Developer’s Permitting Process From an Unconstitutional Taking

By:  Rick Herold

Introduction

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued an important decision in an attempt to add clarity and help government land use planners understand the difference between reasonable requests and unreasonable demands rising to the level of unconstitutional takings in the permitting process.  Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District, 2013 WL 3184628 (June 25, 2013).

When does a fair quid pro quo, a legitimate exercise of police power in the permitting process, go too far and lapse into an unconstitutional taking without just compensation through the government’s unconstitutional conditions in the permitting process?  In Koontz, the Supreme Court ruled that the seminal cases of Nollan v.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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Sign those Real Estate Agreements!

By: Bobby Kethcart

The Statute of Frauds is a BIG deal in real estate transactions and litigation. (This is our second post about it already…) We know it requires (most) agreements related to real estate to be in writing—agreements for the sale of an interest in real property, agreements for a lease of longer than one year, agreements authorizing or employing a broker or agent to buy or sell real property for compensation or a commission, and even some agreements to pay referral commissions if they can’t be performed in less than a year. We also know that the Statute of Frauds only requires the written agreement to be signed “by the party to be charged,” i.e.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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Owners of Multifamily Housing Beware

By:  Julie Maurer

Owners and developers of multifamily housing beware—you may be held responsible for your architect’s oversight. A growing number of state and federal courts are in universal agreement that owners and developers cannot sue their architects for designs that fail to meet accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While Arizona has yet to address this issue, recent decisions illustrate the importance for owners to proactively engage architects and consultants regarding accessibility issues.

In a recent decision, Miami Valley Fair Hous. Ctr., Inc. v. Campus Vill. Wright State, LLC, 2012 WL 4473236 (S.D.… Read More »

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The Clock Doesn’t Tick-Tock for Owners in Possession

By: Cory L. Braddock

The Arizona Court of Appeals recent decision in Cook v. Town of Pinetop-Lakeside, 661 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 31 (App, May 28, 2013) reiterated its forty-three year old holding in City of Tucson v. Morgan, 13 Ariz. App. 193, 195, 475 P.2d 285, 287 (App. 1970) and held that “the statute of limitations does not run against a plaintiff in possession who brings a quiet title action purely to remove a cloud on the title to his property.”

Clock

 In 2001, Jerry Cook asked the town of Pinetop-Lakeside (the “Town”) to abandon a public right-of-way to him because the right-of-way was no longer needed for public use. … Read More »

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The Risk of Intent in Your Letter of Intent

By:  Richard Herold

Although the press frequently reports cavalierly on the execution of a “letter of intent” (“LOI”), as if it is a meaningless document, a LOI can be enforced if the parties intend to be bound, which turns primarily upon a close review of the language of the LOI and, sometimes, the surrounding facts and circumstances.

 First and foremost, under Arizona’s statute of frauds at A.R.S. §44-101(6), to have an enforceable agreement to sell real property, it must be in writing and signed by the “party to be charged” (i.e., the party you want to sue or hold accountable under the agreement).… Read More »

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Purchase Options: Strict Compliance Required

By:  Kevin Parker

In a rising real estate market, we tend to see more disputes relating to purchase options.  Given the increase in value, the property owner would rather avoid the option and sell at a higher price.  The option holder can make a large profit by simply exercising the option.  In 2003, the Arizona Supreme Court set forth many important legal principles relating to option contracts in real estate transactions.  In Andrews v. Blake, 205 Ariz. 236, 69 P.3d 7 (2003), the lessee of a plant and tree nursery had an option to purchase the property for $300,000.  The owner/landlord claimed that the lessee failed to timely exercise the purchase option. … 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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Moving From Quiet Title to Wrongful Recordation

By: Adam Lang

Pretend you own real property in Arizona that you want to sell.  You have a buyer.  You enter into a purchase contract.  But when the buyer runs a title report, she learns that someone else has wrongfully recorded a claim on your property.  The buyer cancels. 

You want to hold the individual who wrongfully recorded the interest on your property accountable.  Not only do you need to consider the possible claims you should bring, but you may want to consider the order in which you decide to prosecute those claims. 

Two claims come to mind:  quiet title and wrongful recordation. … 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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Does an Appraiser Owe a Duty of Care to Non-Client Third Parties? It Depends.

By: Andy Stone

Under what circumstances do appraisers owe a duty of care to third parties sufficient to give rise to liability for negligent misrepresentation claims was examined (again) by the Arizona Court of Appeals in late 2012.  See Belen Loan Investors, LLC v. Bradley, 296 P.3d 984, 650 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 8 (App. 2012).  This question has been examined multiple times by the Arizona Court of Appeals over the past few years.  See id.; see also Sage v. Blagg Appraisal Co., 221 Ariz. 33, 209 P.3d 169 (App. 2009); Kuehn v. Stanley, 208 Ariz. 124, 91 P.3d 346 (App.… Read More »

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Broker Beware?

By: Erica Stutman

While oral contracts are often enforceable, certain categories of contracts must be documented in a signed writing or an action for breach of the contract will be barred by the statute of frauds.  See A.R.S. 44-101 for Arizona’s statute of frauds.  The statute of frauds plays an important role in real estate transactions, as agreements for the sale of an interest in real property and for leases longer than one year fall within the statute, as do most real estate broker or agent agreements.  A less obvious category that may affect a real estate agent or broker’s ability to collect commissions is an agreement which is not to be performed within one year from the date the agreement is made.… Read More »

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Statutory Caveat Emptor Survives…or Does It?

By:  Matthew P. Fischer

Arizona has codified the concept of caveat emptor (i.e., buyer beware) for three particular circumstances.  Pursuant to A.R.S. § 32-2156, real property sellers are not obligated to disclose:  (1) deaths or felonies that have occurred on the premises; (2) prior occupancy by someone with a non-communicable disease; and (3) nearby sex offender residents.  The constitutionality of § 32-2156 was recently challenged in Lerner v. DMB Realty, et al., 294 P.3d 135 (Ariz. Ct. App. Nov. 27, 2012), specifically with respect to subsection three (click on the case name for the full opinion of the court). … 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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