Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Got Questions? Get Answers...BSE Wants To Walk Away From Two Investment Properties in Vegas


This question has to do with two properties I own in Las Vegas. Briefly , they are two townhomes in the same develpoment w/ mortgages by two different lenders. Both are intrest only ARM's due to adjust in 2012 and 2013. I've owned them since 2005 and they are currently worth 50% of what I paid. Principe balance on one is $204,000.00 and $172,000.00 on the other. I'm current on both and they are rented but with neg. cash flow. I sold my buisness in 2004 and all of the note payments from the sale of my buisness has gone into these two properties. When these mortgages adjust I most definately will not be able to afford them. My wife and I are both on the notes, she is currently employed and I work part time on a cash basis. We also own our home her in New York as well as a commercial property. The lenders won't talk to me until I miss at least three payments, I'm condisering walking away. What are the potential consequences? By the way I put down $50,000.00 on each of these properties.

Thanks for your help!



Dear BSE:

Thank you for writing.

First of all, you and your wife are equally liable and equally responsible for the mortgage loan since you both signed the note. A lender or creditor will not differentiate between who signed the note first or last, as long as it has been signed by each party.

The primary risks of a strategic default are:

1. Deficiency debt leading to a deficiency judgment.
2. Lower credit score.
3. Loss of the home or property to a foreclosure sale.
4. Recently, Fannie Mae implemented a rule that bans a person from
obtaining a Fannie Mae mortgage, if that person strategically defaults. The ban last for seven years. Furthermore, the United States Government may pass a law that bans a person from obtaining a government insured loan, if it is proven that a person strategically defaults. Read this
link to learn more.
5. Debt collections tactics, including mail, letters, personal visits to the
property, phone calls to cell phone, work, and/or family members. Not all debt collection tactics are legal. You should become familiar with your state’s debt collection protection laws and the Fair Debt Collections Protections Act. Read this
link to learn more.

My experience has established that most people who strategically default are most concerned about deficiency debt. Most people do not want to be chased down for more money by creditors or lenders.

Let’s go through deficiency debt issues carefully. A deficiency debt also known as debt deficiency arises when collateral that is used to secure a loan cannot satisfy the total amount due on the loan. The unsatisfied amount due on the loan is a deficiency debt.

A deficiency judgment is an unsecured money judgment against a borrower whose mortgage foreclosure sale did not produce sufficient funds to pay the underlying promissory note or mortgage loan, in full. A deficiency judgment can be obtained when there is a deficiency debt.

You mentioned that your properties are in Las Vegas, Nevada. Nevada is a recourse state. That means a lender has the right to seek a deficiency judgment. A lender must file for a deficiency judgment in a certain period of time after a foreclosure sale. Please read this
link to learn more.

If a lender or creditor forgives the deficiency then you will not be exposed to a deficiency judgment. When a lender or creditor agrees (IN WRITING) to forgive a debt as opposed to seeking a deficiency judgment, then the forgiven debt may be considered income by your state taxing authority and the IRS. Forgiven debt is income.

Under current Federal Law if a debt is forgiven on a primary residence then there is no tax due to the IRS. However, your properties are investment properties so it is unlikely you can benefit from the rule.

There are ways to minimize your risks of a deficiency judgment:

You can negotiate a principle reduction. This is when a lender or creditor agrees to reduce the principle balance of a loan. You can ask the lender to forgive the difference (IN WRITING) as part of the negotiation.

You can negotiate a deed-in-lieu. This is when you enter into a written agreement to give the property back to the bank. The key is to negotiate a full settlement of your total outstanding mortgage debt including fees and penalties in exchange for the deed to your property. A full settlement of your total outstanding mortgage debt eliminates a deficiency and tax liabilities. A partial settlement still leaves open the possibility of a deficiency judgment or forgiveness of the remaining balance.

You can negotiate a short sale. This is when a lender let’s you sell your property for an amount less than what is owed on the mortgage. Essentially your lender may be willing to accept less than the full amount due on a mortgage. If you owe the lender $400,000 then the lender may agree to let you sell the property for $350,000.

In all these cases you must get the lender to agree to forgive the deficiency.

Beware of the Turn In Your Financial Documents Trap. This happens when the lender’s representative asks you to turn in your financials via telephone or fax in order to see if you qualify for a loan workout, principle reduction, deed-in-lieu, or short sale. Before you agree to turn over your financial documents ask the lender to send you something in writing stating that they will seriously consider a work out option if you turn over your financials. Or ask the lender to direct you to their website regarding their loan workout processing rules. The problem I have is this: What happens to your financial documents, if your lender refuses to negotiate a loan workout? Can the lender use this information against you? For example, can the lender use the information during a foreclosure action or during a lawsuit seeking a deficiency judgment? In order to collect on a properly obtained deficiency judgment, the creditor or lender must locate your bank account, or locate your investment account or locate your place of employment or locate any other asset that has value. I don’t think anyone wants to turn over their financial documents to be used in any way to take their money.

If you do decide to turn over financial documents to the creditor or lender, then cross out all of the account numbers. If the creditor or lender refuses to work with you after you have turned over your financial documents then immediately move all of your money and your investments to another financial institution. Only turn over what the lender asks for nothing more.

A creditor or a lender has the right to garnish wages if it properly and legally obtains a deficiency judgment in a court of law against a person who entered into a legal loan agreement with the creditor or lender. Your wife could be exposed to wage garnishment if the creditor or lender successfully obtains a deficiency judgment against her.

Keep in mind that even if a creditor or lender successfully obtains a deficiency judgment, it does not mean all is lost. You can negotiate a settlement with the creditor or lender. The creditor or lender may take 50% or less than what is owed instead of spending time in court. Also keep in mind to NEVER LET A LAWSUIT FOR A DEFICIENCY JUDGMENT GO UNDEFENDED. NEVER IGNORE THIS TYPE OF LAWSUIT. The simple reason is that you may stop the creditor or lender from getting a judgment or you may be able to use your defense to this lawsuit as a means to negotiate a settlement.

A critical decision is how to protect your assets. There are various tools and strategies that can be employed to legally protect or hide your assets from a creditor. Keep in mind there is a rule called fraudulent conveyance. Essentially, a fraudulent conveyance is when a debtor transfers their assets in a way to prevent a creditor from collecting on a debt. There are specific rules regarding fraudulent conveyance, so this should not prevent you from properly protecting your assets.

Unfortunately, you will lose your initial $50,000 investment. However, you should speak to an accountant to determine what happened to your cash investment if the property is sold at a loss.

You should seriously consider working with a qualified real estate broker, attorney and/or accountant in order to understand your specific risks.

You have much to consider. I am confident you are on the right track.

Please feel free to write me at anytime.


Augustine A. Diji

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