Archive for December, 2011

CC&Rs Govern Unless Amended by HomeownersIn Arizona

December 2, 2011

A family’s back yard in a beautiful Ahwatukee subdivision is adjacent to the community park owned by the subdivisions homeowners’ association (“HOA”). Recently, the HOA planted three large ficus trees in the community park without any notice to them. The large ficus trees now obstruct their view of the community park. According to Arizona real estate law, does the HOA have the right to plant these large ficus trees in the community park without any notice to the neighboring homeowners?

The answer is probably. First off, there is no statute or court decision which grants a homeowner a view easement. A view easement, like any other easement, needs to be in writing and recorded. In other words, if the HOA wanted to grant this family a view of the community park, a view easement in writing and recorded would be required. Second, the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (“CC&Rs”) of the community probably authorized the HOA to plant the three large ficus trees. Therefore, this family should review the CC&Rs carefully. If they were to determine that the CC&Rs authorized the planting of the three large ficus trees, CC&Rs generally can be amended by the written agreement of a percentage of the homeowners, e.g., sixty per cent of the homeowners.

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Prepaying a Year of Rent to Landlord?Use Caution

December 2, 2011

Due to of the collapse of the Arizona real estate market an Arizona couple has some bad credit problems. Unfortunately, they are losing their Scottsdale home to foreclosure before long, but they want to rent a home in the same neighborhood for one year. But, because of their bad credit, they are having issues renting any homes in their same neighborhood. They have the funds to pay all of the rent for one year in advance. Is it possible to pay rent in advance for one year? If so, will they forfeit any of this prepaid rent if the landlord loses the home to foreclosure in the next year?

The first thing you should know is, the Residential Arizona Landlord-Tenant Act generally prohibits a landlord from charging a security deposit, including any prepaid rent, of more than one and-a-half month’s rent. A.R.S. §33-1321. If the tenant, however, “voluntarily” pays more than one and-a-half month’s rent (usually for winter rentals when the tenant pays the entire three or four month’s winter rent in advance), the landlord can accept this additional security deposit. Therefore, if the couple is “voluntarily” prepaying one year’s rent due to credit problems, the landlord can accept this one year of prepaid rent.

Secondly, if the couple does pre-pay rent for one year, and the landlord loses the home to foreclosure, under a 2009 federal law the renters are generally entitled to stay in the home for the remainder of the lease term. If the new landlord after the foreclosure never receives any of the prepaid rent, however, the protection under the 2009 federal law is unclear. Therefore, as an Arizona real estate attorney, it is recommended that the tenants and the landlord deposit the one year of prepaid rent into an escrow account, to be distributed monthly to the landlord, or to any subsequent landlord after any foreclosure.

What Are a Commercial Property Tenants Rights After Foreclosure?

December 1, 2011

A small pet grooming business leased some space in a small shopping center. They wanted to make approximately $25,000 in tenant improvements in the back area of the leased space. Before making the improvements, they learned that the shopping center was in foreclosure. They contacted the lender (a national bank) and explained to them that they wanted to make the tenant improvements, but were not going to if we were going to be evicted after foreclosure. The lender’s representative said that the lease would be honored after the foreclosure, and that a longer lease could even be negotiated. However, an investor purchased the shopping center at the foreclosure and delivered a notice of eviction to us. Does the pet grooming business have any commercial property tenant rights to stay in their leased space? If they are evicted, does the investor have to pay them the $25,000 for the tenant improvements?

Under a 2009 federal law, a residential tenant generally has the right to stay in the home after foreclosure until the end of the lease term. A tenant in a shopping center or other commercial property, however, has no such right, and is subject to eviction after the foreclosure unless there is non-disturbance or similar language in the lease. The purchaser at a foreclosure sale, such as the investor who purchased the shopping center, has the right to evict the tenant, and has no obligation to reimburse a tenant for any tenant improvements. However, if the tenant can prove that they relied on the statement by the lender’s representative that they would be allowed to remain in the leased space after the foreclosure, they should have a claim against the lender for at least the $25,000 in tenant improvements.

Note: The pet grooming shop should immediately contact an Arizona commercial property attorney to review their lease to see if there is non-disturbance or similar language that will allow them to stay in the shopping center after the foreclosure.

Serious Penaltiesfor Filing False Liens

December 1, 2011

A gentleman was awarded hisGlendale family home in his divorce buthis ex-wife had the right to live in the home until it was sold. A buyer for the home was found and the closing sale of the home was scheduled. However, just prior to thehome’s closing, the ex-wife recorded a document saying that she was owed $50,000 from the sale of the home. Because of the document, the title company refused to close the sale of the home. Understandably, the buyer was upset and purchased a different home. The woman is emotionally unstable and just does not want to move out of the home. She has apologized but the homeowner is concerned that when another buyer is found she will record some “bogus” claim against the home again. Is there anything the homeowner can do to prevent her from recording a wrongful lien against the home?

According to Arizona real estate law, if a lien is wrongfully recorded against a home or other real property there are sanctions, namely, $5,000 or treble actual damages, whichever is greater, plus attorneys fees and court costs. A.R.S.’ 33-420(A). If these monetary sanctions do not deter you’re the ex-wife from recording a wrongful lien, a court can order her not to record any wrongful liens against the home. If your she were to violate this court order, she could be held in contempt of court with serious penalties, including jail time.

Note: If a wrongful lien is recorded in the name of an unidentifiable person or entity, e.g., invalid address or a non-existent limited liability company, a title company will generally require a quiet title lawsuit to determine that the lien is invalid. This quiet title lawsuit could be expensive, primarily due to the requirement of service of process by publication because the individual or entity is unidentifiable.