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Court rules that designated open space on plat is insufficient to establish an easement absent proof the developer induced buyers to purchase in reliance on promises of open space.

May 19th, 2012 by Joseph William Singer

Disagreeing with the ruling of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in Reagan v. Brissey, 844 N.E.2d 672 (Mass. 2006), an appeals court in New Mexico held that open space designated on a recorded plat is not sufficient to create an easement of access by owners of lots on the map in the absence of evidence the developer made representations to buyers inducing them to buy in reliance on promises those lots would remain open. The mere presence of open space on the map was insufficient to prevent the developer from selling that open space for development purposes. Agua Fria Save The Open Space Ass’n v. Rowe, 255 P.3d 390 (N.M. 2011)

Posted in Consumer protection, Easements, Estates & future interests, Real estate transactions, Statute of frauds | Comments Off on Court rules that designated open space on plat is insufficient to establish an easement absent proof the developer induced buyers to purchase in reliance on promises of open space.

Covenants no longer strictly construed to reduce encumbrances on land but are now interpreted to achieve the intent of the parties

May 19th, 2012 by Joseph William Singer

A New Mexico Appeals Court joined the modern trend in rejecting the interpretive rule that covenants should be narrowly construed, instead adopting the modern approach of interpreting the grant to achieve the grantor’s intent. Agua Fria Save The Open Space Ass’n v. Rowe, 255 P.3d 390 (N.M. 2011). When the language of the grant is unclear, “evidence of the circumstances surrounding the making of the contract and of any relevant usage of trade, course of dealing, and course of performance” is relevant in interpreting the government documents. 255 P.2d at 395.

Posted in Consumer protection, Real estate transactions, Servitudes | Comments Off on Covenants no longer strictly construed to reduce encumbrances on land but are now interpreted to achieve the intent of the parties

More states prohibit transfer fee obligations

February 26th, 2012 by Joseph William Singer

Statutes have been passed in Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia and Washington prohibiting transfer fee obligations which requires payments of fees to a prior seller every time the property is sold. 2011 Pa. Laws 8; 2011 S.D. Sess. Laws 196; 2011 Va. Acts 706; 2011 Wash. Legis. Serv. 36.

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Banks as landlords

February 26th, 2012 by Joseph William Singer

Banks that have obtained title to foreclosed properties traditionally would sell them quickly but the current real estate malaise resulting from the subprime crisis has made it difficult for them to do so. The result is that many properties remain on the books of the banks. Under state property law, the banks have the obligations all landowners have to comply with housing codes and the warranty of habitability. But many banks do not have established procedures for keeping track of all the individual properties they own, especially when the mortgages to those properties were securitized, making the owner of the trust that owns those mortgages the effective landlord of thousands of homes. Both localities and tenants are having to deal with the failure of banks to comply with regulations mandating maintenance of rental properties. read article.

Posted in Consumer protection, Leaseholds, Mortgages, Real estate transactions | Comments Off on Banks as landlords

Massachusetts high court voids title when a buyer purchases property from an owner who obtained title through an improper foreclosure

October 19th, 2011 by Joseph William Singer

In an important but almost inevitable case, Bevilacqua v. Rodriguez,  2011 WL 4908845 (Mass. 2011), the Supreme Judicial Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts held that a lender who does not follow proper procedures to foreclose on property cannot pass good title to a subsequent purchaser. The court’s earlier ruling in U.S. Bank Nat’l Ass’n v. Ibanez, 941 N.E.2d 40 (Mass. 2011) had held that a nonjudicial foreclosure cannot lawfully happen unless the party conducting the foreclosure can show requisite assignments of the mortgage given it the right to foreclose. In Bevilacqua, the original buyer Rodriguez granted a mortgage to MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc.) as nominee for the real lender Finance America, LLC. At the time of the private foreclosure proceedings, MERS had not formally assigned the mortgage from the original lender to U.S. Bank National Association (US Bank); for that reason, the foreclosure brought by US Bank was invalid. The buyer at the foreclosure sale (also US Bank as trustee for a securitized pool of mortgages) could not therefore transfer good title to the property. Thus the buyer Bevilacqua had no title to the property and no standing to bring a quiet title action against the original owner/borrower. The court did suggest that the buyer could sue the bank from whom he tried to obtain title in order to get relief either in the form of damages or actions would satisfy the statute of frauds and actually result in a clear transfer of title from the original owner to the subsequent buyer.

 

Posted in Consumer protection, Mortgages, Real estate transactions, Statute of frauds | Comments Off on Massachusetts high court voids title when a buyer purchases property from an owner who obtained title through an improper foreclosure

More states prohibit transfer fee covenants

September 14th, 2011 by Joseph William Singer

Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi and Montana have all passed statutes prohibiting enforcement of any transfer fee covenants entered into after the dates the legislation goes into effect. See 2011 Idaho Sess. Laws 107; 2011 Ind. Acts 136; 2010 Miss. Gen. Laws 348; 2011 Mont. Laws 259. Transfer fee covenants are promises inserted in deeds to pay a fee to the original seller of the property any time it is sold in the future. Such fees were abolished in New York State in 1852 in the case of DePeyster v. Michael, 6 N.Y. 467 (1852) as a vestige of feudalism.

Posted in Consumer protection, Real estate transactions, Restraints on alienation, Servitudes, Title issues | Comments Off on More states prohibit transfer fee covenants

Massachusetts Attorney General settles lawsuit with subprime mortgage lender, requiring $115 million of loan modifications

August 10th, 2011 by Joseph William Singer

Attorney General Martha Coakley announced that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts settled a lawsuit with a subprime mortgage lender that originated subprime mortgages it knew were likely to fail and which not only targeted African American and Latino borrowers but gave its employees discretion to charge higher fees to such borrowers. The company will pay a penalty of almost $10 million to the Commonwealth and will direct its mortgage servicer to modify $115 million in loans either by writing down the principal balance of lowering interest rates. read article The settlement is based on the legal ruling in the earlier case of Commonwealth v. Fremont Inv. & Loan, 897 N.E.2d 548 (Mass. 2008), which held that it might violate the state consumer protection act to market mortgages that were almost certain to end in foreclosure.

Posted in Antidiscrimination law, Consumer protection, Fair Housing Act, Mortgages, Real estate transactions | Comments Off on Massachusetts Attorney General settles lawsuit with subprime mortgage lender, requiring $115 million of loan modifications

Bank not liable for fraud when it loaned money it knew the borrower could not repay

March 20th, 2011 by Joseph William Singer

In Perlas v. GMAC Mortgage, 113 Cal. Rptr. 3d 790 (Ct. App. 2010), a bank made $417,000 worth of loans to borrowers with a gross income of only $50,000. Although that income was inadequate to make the mortgage payments, and the bank found that the borrower “qualified” for the loan, the court held that the bank did not engage in fraud. Qualification, the judge noted, does not imply affordability and the bank had no duty to the borrower to disclose the fact that the borrowers could not afford to make the loan payments. Contract this case with Commonwealth v. Fremont, 897 N.E.2d 548 (Mass. 2008) which held that granting such a loan might constitute an “unfair” practice in violation of the state consumer protection statute.

Posted in Consumer protection, Mortgages | Comments Off on Bank not liable for fraud when it loaned money it knew the borrower could not repay

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