Bank of America, N.A. v. Toscano River Townhomes Association, Inc. et al

Filing 36

ORDER granting ECF No. 30 Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff shall submit a proposed form of judgment within 14 days of this order's entry. Signed by Judge Robert C. Jones on 05/23/2017. (Copies have been distributed pursuant to the NEF - KW)

Download PDF
1 2 3 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 4 DISTRICT OF NEVADA 5 6 7 BANK OF AMERICA, N.A., 8 Plaintiff, 9 10 3:16-cv-00196-RCJ-VPC vs. ORDER TOSCANO RIVER TOWNHOMES ASSOCIATION, INC. et al., 11 Defendants. 12 13 This case arises from the foreclosure of a residential property pursuant to a homeowners 14 association lien. Now pending before the Court is Plaintiff Bank of America’s Motion for 15 Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 30.) For the reasons given herein, the Court grants the motion. 16 17 I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND On or about October 9, 2008, non-party Michael R. Toscano purchased a home located at 18 1980 Dickerson Road, Reno, Nevada, 89503 (“the Property”), subject to the Covenants, 19 Conditions, and Restrictions (“CC&Rs”) of Toscano River Townhomes Association, Inc. (“the 20 HOA”). (Compl. ¶¶ 8, 14, ECF No. 1.) The Deed of Trust (“DOT”) identified Summit Funding, 21 Inc. as the lender, Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (“MERS”) as the beneficiary, 22 First Centennial Title Company of Nevada as the trustee, and a secured amount of $314,128. 23 (Deed of Trust, ECF No. 30-1.) By an assignment recorded on October 3, 2011, MERS 24 transferred its interest in the Property to Bank of America. (Assignment, ECF No. 30-2.) 1 of 9 1 On September 25, 2013, Defendant ATC Assessment Collection Group, LLC (“ATC”)— 2 as the HOA’s agent—recorded a Notice of Default and Election to Sell against the Property, due 3 to Mr. Toscano’s failure to pay HOA dues. (Compl. ¶¶ 17–18.) On October 30, 2013, Bank of 4 America—through its agent Miles, Bauer, Bergstrom & Winters, LLP (“Miles Bauer”)— 5 requested a current HOA superpriority lien payoff demand and account ledger from ATC. 6 (Compl. ¶ 26; Ledger Request, ECF No. 30-6 at 6–7.) ATC responded to the request by sending 7 an itemized owner ledger for the Property, but did not specifically provide the amount of the 8 HOA’s superpriority lien. (Compl. ¶ 26; Owner Ledger, ECF No. 30-6 at 9–11.) Therefore, 9 based on the $265 monthly assessments appearing in the ledger, Miles Bauer calculated the 10 superpriority amount of the HOA’s lien to be $2,385. (Compl. ¶ 27–28.) On December 6, 2013, 11 Miles Bauer tendered this amount to ATC in an attempt to protect the DOT from extinguishment 12 at the impending foreclosure sale. (Id.; Tender Letter, ECF No. 30-6 at 13–14; Check, ECF No. 13 30-6 at 15.) It is undisputed that the tender was rejected. (See Resp. 5, ECF No. 31.) 14 On August 5, 2014, a foreclosure deed was recorded with Defendant Remedy Property 15 Partners, LLC (“Remedy”) named as grantee. Despite an appraised value of $198,000, Remedy 16 paid just $9,000 at the foreclosure sale. (Appraisal Report, ECF No. 30-9 at 5–7; Foreclosure 17 Deed, ECF No. 30-7 at 65–66.) Remedy took the foreclosure deed “without warranty expressed 18 or implied.” (Foreclosure Deed.) Soon thereafter, by an assignment recorded on August 11, 19 2014, Remedy transferred its interest in the Property to Defendant Comstock Capital Partners, 20 LLC (“Comstock”). (Deed of Sale, ECF No. 30-10.) The conveyance to Comstock was also 21 “without warranty, express or implied.” (Id.) 22 Bank of America alleges four causes of action in its Complaint: (1) quiet title/declaratory 23 judgment against all Defendants; (2) breach of N.R.S § 116.1113 against the HOA and ATC; (3) 24 2 of 9 1 wrongful foreclosure against the HOA and ATC; and (4) injunctive relief against Comstock. 2 Bank of America now moves for summary judgment. (ECF No. 30.) 3 4 II. LEGAL STANDARDS A court must grant summary judgment when “the movant shows that there is no genuine 5 dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. 6 Civ. P. 56(a). Material facts are those which may affect the outcome of the case. See Anderson v. 7 Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if there 8 is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See id. A 9 principal purpose of summary judgment is “to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported 10 11 claims.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323–24 (1986). In determining summary judgment, a court uses a burden-shifting scheme. The moving 12 party must first satisfy its initial burden. “When the party moving for summary judgment would 13 bear the burden of proof at trial, it must come forward with evidence which would entitle it to a 14 directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial.” C.A.R. Transp. Brokerage Co. v. 15 Darden Rests., Inc., 213 F.3d 474, 480 (9th Cir. 2000) (citation and internal quotation marks 16 omitted). In contrast, when the nonmoving party bears the burden of proving the claim or 17 defense, the moving party can meet its burden in two ways: (1) by presenting evidence to negate 18 an essential element of the nonmoving party’s case; or (2) by demonstrating that the nonmoving 19 party failed to make a showing sufficient to establish an element essential to that party’s case on 20 which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323–24. 21 If the moving party fails to meet its initial burden, summary judgment must be denied and 22 the court need not consider the nonmoving party’s evidence. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 23 398 U.S. 144 (1970). If the moving party meets its initial burden, the burden then shifts to the 24 opposing party to establish a genuine issue of material fact. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. 3 of 9 1 Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). To establish the existence of a factual dispute, the 2 opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient 3 that “the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties’ 4 differing versions of the truth at trial.” T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass’n, 809 5 F.2d 626, 631 (9th Cir. 1987). In other words, the nonmoving party cannot avoid summary 6 judgment by relying solely on conclusory allegations unsupported by facts. See Taylor v. List, 7 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). Instead, the opposition must go beyond the assertions and 8 allegations of the pleadings and set forth specific facts by producing competent evidence that 9 shows a genuine issue for trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324. 10 At the summary judgment stage, a court’s function is not to weigh the evidence and 11 determine the truth, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. See Anderson, 477 12 U.S. at 249. The evidence of the nonmovant is “to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are 13 to be drawn in his favor.” Id. at 255. But if the evidence of the nonmoving party is merely 14 colorable or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted. See id. at 249–50. 15 Notably, facts are only viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party where there is 16 a genuine dispute about those facts. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). That is, even 17 where the underlying claim contains a reasonableness test, where a party’s evidence is so clearly 18 contradicted by the record as a whole that no reasonable jury could believe it, “a court should not 19 adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment.” Id. 20 III. ANALYSIS 21 A. Tender of the Superpriority Piece of the HOA’s Lien 22 This Court has held that the unconditional pre-foreclosure tender of the superpriority lien 23 amount has the legal effect of extinguishing the superpriority portion of an HOA lien, whether or 24 not the tender is accepted. See, e.g., U.S. Bank, N.A. v. SFR Investments Pool 1, LLC, No. 3:15- 4 of 9 1 cv-00241, 2016 WL 4473427, at *6–8 (D. Nev. Aug. 24, 2016) (Jones, J.). Here, there is no 2 genuine dispute that the full superpriority piece was tendered prior to the sale. Plaintiff has 3 adduced evidence that on or about December 6, 2013, Miles Bauer tendered a check to the HOA 4 for $2,385, comprising nine months’ worth of common assessments. (See Kendis Aff. ¶¶ 6–10, 5 ECF No. 30-6 at 2–4; Owner Ledger, ECF No. 30-6 at 9–11 (indicating monthly assessments of 6 $265); Tender Letter, ECF No. 30-6 at 13–14; Check, ECF No. 30-6 at 15.) The superpriority 7 piece of an HOA lien does not include collection costs. Horizons at Seven Hills Homeowners 8 Ass’n v. Ikon Holdings, LLC, 132 Nev. Adv. Op. 35, 2016 WL 1704199, at *6 (Nev. 2016). 9 Therefore, the uncontroverted evidence indicates that Miles Bauer tendered the full amount of 10 11 the HOA’s superpriority lien. In addition, the check tendered by Miles Bauer was an unconditional order to pay money; 12 that is part of the very definition of a check under the law of commercial paper. See Nev. Rev. 13 Stat. § 104.3104. The language Miles Bauer included with its cashier’s check states that Miles 14 Bauer, and presumably its client, will understand endorsement of the check to mean they have 15 fulfilled their obligations. (Tender Letter, ECF No. 30-6 at 13–14.) This language simply 16 delineated how the tenderer would interpret the actions of the recipient. It did not require the 17 HOA to take any action or waive any rights. And it did not depend on any uncertain event or 18 contingency. Thus, a reasonable jury could not find the tender was conditional. In reality, the 19 check was an unconditional order to pay money, permitting the HOA to immediately demand 20 and receive money from the draftee in the amount indicated on the check without any further 21 action or consent by Plaintiff or its agent Miles Bauer. 22 The Court notes that the unpublished Nevada Supreme Court case that had previously 23 held that a rejected tender was sufficient to extinguish the superpriority piece of an HOA lien, 24 see Stone Hollow Ave. Trust v. Bank of Am., Nat’l Ass’n, 382 P.3d 911 (Nev. 2016), has been 5 of 9 1 vacated and remanded upon en banc reconsideration, see Stone Hollow Avenue Tr. v. Bank of 2 Am., N.A., No. 64955, (Nev. Dec. 21, 2016). But the Nevada Supreme Court did not rule that a 3 wrongfully rejected tender did not extinguish a corresponding lien. See id. Rather, it found that 4 the district court had erred in determining whether there remained a genuine issue of material 5 fact on the question of wrongful rejection of the tender in that case. See id. Had the Court 6 believed that a wrongfully rejected tender necessarily did not extinguish a corresponding lien, it 7 would not have vacated and remanded for further fact-finding on that issue but simply reversed 8 with instructions. The remand necessarily implied the Nevada Supreme Court’s position that a 9 wrongfully rejected tender extinguishes a corresponding superpriority piece of an HOA lien. 10 Even ignoring the entire Stone Hollow case, the heavy weight of authority as cited by this Court 11 in previous cases, see, e.g., U.S. Bank, N.A. v. SFR Investments Pool 1, LLC, 2016 WL 4473427, 12 at *6–8, indicates that a wrongfully rejected tender is effective to immediately extinguish a 13 corresponding lien. 14 15 B. Comstock’s BFP Status Comstock argues it is a bona fide purchaser for value without notice (“BPF”), and that 16 the Court should therefore rule that it took title free of the DOT. (Resp. 19–20, ECF No. 31.) A 17 BFP is a person who pays money for real property before obtaining notice of an earlier interest in 18 the property. 5 Tiffany Real Property § 1262 & n.39.50 (3rd ed. 2015). The traditional common 19 law rule of competing interests in real property is “first in time, first in right.” 11 Thomas, supra, 20 § 92.03, at 97 (citing Ralph W. Aigler, The Operation of the Recording Acts, 22 Mich. L. Rev. 21 405, 406 (1924) (“first in time was first in right because there was nothing left for the second 22 transferee”)). The equity courts created exceptions to the traditional “first in time, first in right” 23 rule. Id. § 92.03, at 98. Under the common law, an earlier claim had priority over a later claim if 24 both claims were legal claims (as opposed to equitable claims). Id. § 92.03, at 97. The same was 6 of 9 1 true if both claims were equitable. Id. BFP status only mattered under the common law where the 2 purported BFP had a legal claim and a competing earlier claim to the property was purely 3 equitable. Id. 4 Today, the difference between legal and equitable claims does not matter as much as the 5 policies behind recognizing BFP status (or not) in particular circumstances, and BFP-type 6 exceptions to the common law rule of priority are governed by recording statutes, in any case. Id. 7 § 92.03, at 98–99. Recording statutes are categorized as “race,” “notice,” or “race-notice” 8 statutes. Id. § 92.08, at 158. Under notice statutes, an exception to the traditional “first in time” 9 rule is codified for those who give value for an interest in land “without notice or knowledge” of 10 an earlier competing interest. Id. § 92.08(b). Race-notice statutes additionally require the later 11 grantee to record his interest before the earlier grantee. Id. § 92.08(c). Where notice matters, as 12 under notice and race-notice statutes, one who takes title without warranty can be found to have 13 had inquiry notice of prior unrecorded interests (and therefore not qualify as a BFP), because a 14 grantor’s refusal to issue standard warranties of title should put a reasonable and prudent person 15 on notice of potential competing interests. Id. § 92.09(c)(3)(C), at 191. 16 Nevada has a race-notice statute. See Nev. Rev. Stat. § 111.325 (“Every conveyance of 17 real property within this State hereafter made, which shall not be recorded as provided in this 18 chapter, shall be void as against any subsequent purchaser, in good faith and for a valuable 19 consideration, of the same real property, or any portion thereof, where his or her own 20 conveyance shall be first duly recorded.”). In other words, a later-obtained interest can prevail 21 over an earlier-obtained interest in Nevada where the later purchaser has no knowledge of the 22 previous interest and records his interest first. It is not genuinely disputed that neither of these 23 elements is satisfied here. Comstock had constructive notice of the DOT at the time it acquired 24 its interest in the Property because the DOT had been recorded, see Nev. Rev. Stat. § 111.315, 7 of 9 1 and the deed of sale by which Comstock obtained its interest in the Property was of course not 2 recorded before the DOT. 3 The remaining question is whether Comstock is a BFP as against the fact that the HOA’s 4 superpriority lien had been extinguished prior to the sale. That is, if Comstock had no notice of 5 any pre-sale dispute between Plaintiff, ATC, and the HOA, should the legal effects of Miles 6 Bauer’s tender be imposed against Comstock? The general BFP rule in Nevada is: 7 8 9 Any purchaser who purchases an estate or interest in any real property in good faith and for valuable consideration and who does not have actual knowledge, constructive notice of, or reasonable cause to know that there exists a defect in, or adverse rights, title or interest to, the real property is a bona fide purchaser. 10 Nev. Rev. Stat. § 111.180(1). Even assuming the issue were whether Comstock had notice not 11 only of the DOT but also of the legal possibility that the DOT might have survived the HOA 12 foreclosure sale (whether due to the pre-sale tender of the superpriority piece in particular or the 13 legal possibility that the sale might not extinguish the DOT under N.R.S § 116.3116 in general), 14 Comstock was not an innocent purchaser. Comstock was on inquiry notice of the continuing 15 vitality of the DOT, especially considering that: (1) the foreclosure deed had been recorded and 16 indicated a sale price that was but a tiny fraction of the original loan amount appearing in the 17 DOT, and a similarly small fraction of the Property’s appraised value; and (2) Comstock took 18 title to the Property without any express or implied warranty. See Berge v. Fredericks, 591 P.2d 19 246, 249–50 (Nev. 1979); 11 Thomas, supra, § 92.09, at 163 (“Persons who knew about or could 20 have discovered the existence of prior adverse claims through reasonable investigations should 21 not be protected.”). A buyer who takes title without warranty does not qualify as a BFP, because 22 a grantor’s refusal to issue standard warranties of title puts a reasonable and prudent person on 23 inquiry notice of any competing interests. See 11 Thomas, supra § 92.09(c)(3)(C), at 191. And 24 any inquiry to Remedy alone was insufficient as a matter of law. See id. (noting that “reliance 8 of 9 1 upon a vendor, or similar person with reason to conceal a prior grantee’s interest, does not 2 constitute ‘adequate inquiry’”). The law was not clear at the time of the foreclosure sale that the 3 sale would extinguish the DOT at all, superpriority tender or not, and a reasonable purchaser 4 therefore would have perceived a serious risk that it would not. Comstock cannot be said to be a 5 BFP as against the DOT under these circumstances. 6 7 C. Plaintiff’s Claims for Violation of NRS 116.1113 and Wrongful Foreclosure In its prayer for relief, Plaintiff requests primarily a declaration that Remedy and 8 Comstock purchased the Property subject to its DOT. The other relief requested—with the 9 exception of the injunctive relief discussed below—is phrased in the alternative. Therefore, 10 because the Court grants summary judgment for Plaintiff on its quiet title claim, Plaintiff has 11 received the relief it requested. Accordingly, the Court dismisses Plaintiff’s second and third 12 causes of action as moot. 13 14 D. Injunctive Relief In its fourth cause of action, Plaintiff requests a preliminary injunction pending a 15 determination by the Court concerning the parties’ respective rights and interests. The Court’s 16 grant of summary judgment for Plaintiff moots this claim, and it is therefore dismissed. CONCLUSION 17 18 IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 30) 19 is GRANTED. Plaintiff shall submit a proposed form of judgment within fourteen days of this 20 order’s entry. 21 22 23 24 IT IS SO ORDERED. DATED: This 23rd day of May, 2017. _____________________________________ ROBERT C. JONES United States District Judge 9 of 9

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?