In addition to imposing new notice requirements on foreclosing creditors, the 2010 Tennessee Legislature has also passed House Bill 3057, which provides post-foreclosure protections to debtors regarding deficiency balances. This new law becomes effective September 1, 2010.
A “deficiency balance” is the amount of debt remaining after the foreclosure sale proceeds are applied to the creditor’s debt. Because most foreclosures don’t net sufficient proceeds to fully pay the debt, lenders often sue their borrowers to recover this difference.
This new statute allows a debtor to question whether the foreclosure sale price was truly representative of the “fair market value” of the property. Under this law, the debtor can attempt to prove “by a preponderance of the evidence that the property sold for an amount materially less than the fair market value…” If successful, the debtor may be able to increase the amount of credit he or she is entitled to.
Additionally, the statute potentially shortens the time to file a lawsuit to recover a deficiency balance, requiring that such actions be brought by the earlier of: two years after the foreclosure; or within the original statute of limitations for suit on the debt.
For most lenders, this new law should not have any practical impact. While you might imagine there would be various horror stories of lenders bidding $10,000 to buy a half-million property, in reality, most lenders were already calculating their foreclosure bids by starting at what the fair market value of the property is, and then subtracting sale expenses and carrying costs. The most prudent lenders have a standard procedure in place for all foreclosures, and many go the expense to order pre-foreclosure appraisals.
The key to avoiding issues under this law is to have some reasonable basis for determining “fair market value” when preparing foreclosure bids, whether it’s the tax records, recent sales, or new appraisals.