Not too long ago, even bad loans got repaid. With so much new money in the pipeline and refinance transactions always around the corner, errors in loan documents or lapses in lending oversight didn’t matter, because undiscovered issues never had time to blossom into problems. As a result, some lenders got lazy.
As this story from Memphis’ Commercial Appeal shows, Rusty Hyneman’s banker was really lazy. The worst part is the bank didn’t catch the issues until after approving the loans and, worse, advancing an incredible amount of money. When the bank did some basic post-transaction due diligence, the horses were already out of the barn.
After a customary review of active loans, the banker “hit the road to eyeball properties.” On this random visit to the construction site–11 months after loaning a total of $14 million–the banker must have been shocked to find that absolutely no work was being done on the project. Nothing.
That’s when the bank knew, obviously, there was a problem.
Here’s my advice to creditors: Take time to know your customers and know their projects. On a construction loan, occasionally drive past and make sure work is being done. Especially if you are actively advancing money to fund work at the site. Here, $4.9 million of the bank’s advances were to be used exclusively for construction at the project, and a quick drive-by could have saved millions of dollars.
Once upon a time, a mechanic’s and materialmen’s lien lawsuit was akin to walking a tight-rope. In order to have a valid lien claim, you had to comply with each and every deadline, notice, and other requirement of the statute. Just one mistake rendered the lien claim ineffective.
The Tennessee lien statutes (Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-11-101 et. seq.) were revised in 2007. A notable change was that, under Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-11-148, the statutes were to be “liberally construed” in the lien claimant’s favor and that “[s]ubstantial compliance” with the lien laws is “sufficient for the validity” of lien claims.
The recent case of Tri Am Construction, Inc. v. J & V Development, Inc. (Aug. 30, 2011) is the first case to discuss this new statute on liberal construction. In that case, the claimant: failed to file its Complaint under oath; didn’t add claims against the Deed of Trust trustee; didn’t have an attachment issued; and used a defective notary acknowledgment. All of these would have been fatal errors under the old statutes.
Under the new statute, however, the Court overlooked all of these defects, finding that the errors were “nonprejudicial” and fell within the scope of the liberal construction of the statutes.
I ask the obvious question: If a court is to overlook these defects, exactly what defects would be considered “prejudicial” and would prevent a valid lien claim?
I don’t know. Here, the exceptions appear to eliminate the rule. Surely, a court would dismiss a late-filed lien claim. Right?
Yesterday’s post about Quitclaim Deeds of Real Property has spurred a few variations of the same question: what happens to liens on my property when I transfer it to somebody else?
With only a few exceptions, a sale of property is subject to any properly perfected lien that is attached to the property. So, if I quitclaim land to you, then any liens on that land remain attached to that property, and I take it subject to those unpaid liens. Long story short, conveying your house to your mother doesn’t make the mortgage go away…it just means your mother owns a house with your mortgage on it.
So, as a buyer, it’s my duty to investigate the status of liens on any property that I’m buying and make sure that those liens are paid off or otherwise released (or that I’m content taking the property with the liens). A smart buyer will not only investigate the status of his seller’s title to confirm it’s lien free, but will also look a few “sellers” back, to make sure there are no liens.
From a creditor’s perspective, there is comfort knowing that a valid and recorded lien serves as protection of its rights, and the creditor doesn’t need to watch the property transactions on a daily basis.
For a buyer, only a complete review of the title records can provide comfort.