Indiana's Mortgage Foreclosure Redemption Laws

I attended the American Legal & Financial Network’s informative and productive “Foreclosure Intersect” Conference in Dallas this week. One of the many issues that struck me was how wide ranging the country’s redemption laws are. This is due, in part, to the fact that, unlike Indiana, twenty-six states have non-judicial foreclosures. Even judicial foreclosure states have different laws regarding when and how to redeem. Anyway, I thought a quick reminder about Indiana’s right of redemption was in order.

Pre-sale. If a borrower defaults, and if a secured lender exercises its rights under a mortgage to foreclose, the borrower still is able to avoid losing the real estate collateral. This is because, in Indiana, borrowers have a right of redemption. “Redeem” means “to buy back. To free property from mortgage . . . by paying the debt for which it stood as security.” Black’s Law Dictionary. Redemption (basically, a payoff) is the way for a borrower to keep the property, end the litigation and free itself of the lender’s mortgage interest.

Indiana Code § 32-29-7-7 “Redemption by owner before sheriff’s sale” outlines this right:

Before the [sheriff’s] sale under this chapter, any owner or part owner of the real
estate may redeem the real estate from the judgment by payment to the:

(1) clerk before the issuance to the sheriff of the judgment and decree; or
(2) sheriff after the issuance to the sheriff of the judgment and decree;

of the amount of the judgment, interest, and costs for the payment or satisfaction
of which the sale was ordered. If the owner or part owner redeems the real estate
under this section, process for the sale of the real estate under judgment may not
be issued or executed, and the officer receiving the redemption payment shall
satisfy the judgment and vacate order of sale . . ..

Post-sale. There is, however, no post-sale right of redemption for a borrower/owner/mortgagor. I.C. § 32-29-7-13 states: "There may not be a redemption from the foreclosure of a mortgage executed after June 30, 1931, on real estate except as provided in this chapter [Section 7 noted above and 32-9-8 noted below]." Well-settled Indiana case law provides that "a foreclosure sale cuts off a mortgagor's rights of redemption." Patterson v. Grace, 661 N.E.2d 580, 585 (Ind. Ct. App. 1996); Overmyer v. Meeker, 661 N.E.2d 1271, 1275 (Ind. Ct. App. 1996); Vanjani v. Federal Land Bank of Louisville, 451 N.E.2d 667, 672, n.1 (Ind. Ct. App. 1983).

Basically, a borrower must pay the debt amount (pre-judgment) or the judgment amount (post-judgment) before the sheriff’s sale. Otherwise, in Indiana. the right to redeem terminates with the sale. In Re Collins, 2005 Bankr. LEXIS 1800 (S.D. Bankr. 2005). “Once a sheriff’s sale takes place, a mortgage-debtor is no longer the title holder . . ..” Id. Judge Coachys concluded, in Collins, that a sheriff’s sale is complete when the hammer falls and that the actual delivery of the sheriff’s deed is purely ministerial. Id.  At the sale, when the sheriff's deputy or the auctioneer says "Sold!" the party's over.

Post-sale exception. There is narrow exception to the post-sale rule, but the exception does not apply to borrowers. As explained in detail in my April 12, 2012 post, certain lienholders mistakenly omitted from the foreclosure process have limited remedies under I.C. § 32-9-8

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I represent lenders, loan servicers, borrowers, and guarantors in foreclosure and real estate-related disputes. If you need assistance with a similar matter, please call me at 317-639-6151 or email me at john.waller@woodenlawyers.com. Also, don’t forget that you can follow me on Twitter @JohnDWaller or on LinkedIn, or you can subscribe to posts via RSS or email as noted on my home page.   


Marion County (Indianapolis) Sheriff's Sale Website And Other Tidbits

Shame on me for not more quickly updating the link to the Marion County Civil Sheriff's foreclosure sale website to your left (under the heading "Indiana Courts/Govt.").  We're good now.  Marion County has a slick new website with lots of useful information about the local sheriff's sale process.  The site also has links to many critical form documents.    Any party or lawyer navigating through a sheriff's sale in Indianapolis should study this website.  Click here for the full site.

As a reminder, in Indiana, mortgage foreclosures are judicial or, in other words, through the court system.  As a general proposition, real estate collateral must be sold, pursuant to a judge's decree, by the county civil sheriff's office.  Although the Indiana Code covers the fundamentals of the sheriff's sale process, the specific rules and procedures vary by county.  I once presented at a foreclosure-related seminar, and one of my co-presenters accurately stated, in essence, that there are 92 counties in Indiana and therefore 92 different sets of rules applicable to sheriff's sales. 

My advice is to call or visit the local civil sheriff's office to confirm the hoops through which you must jump, and when, to start and finish a successful sheriff's sale.  Many if not most counties now have websites similar to Marion County's that are very helpful or at a minimum provide contact information.  Despite information that may be available on the internet, I've found it to be invaluable to talk to, and form a working relationship with, the sheriff's staff member who will be handling your sale.

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My practice includes the representation of parties involved in, or who wish to bid at, sheriff's sales.  If you need assistance with a similar matter, please call me at 317-639-6151 or email me at john.waller@woodenlawyers.com.  You can follow me on Twitter @JohnDWaller or on LinkedIn, or you can subscribe to posts via RSS or email as noted on the top left of my home page.


Third In Rem Foreclosure Action Barred Due to Rule 41(E) Dismissal Of First Action

Lesson. Once a lender files an Indiana mortgage foreclosure suit, the lender should move the case along and prosecute it to the end. In the event a post-filing loan modification, workout or intervening bankruptcy occurs, however, the lender should either dismiss the case without prejudice or get an order staying the action. Otherwise, the lender runs the risk of a dismissal for failure to prosecute that could prevent subsequent efforts to foreclose the mortgage, especially in the absence of a new default.

Case cite. Mannion v. Wilmington Savings Fund, Case No. 19A-MF-446.  See, The Indiana Lawyer - "Reversal: Bank loses in lengthy foreclosure battle".

Legal issue. Whether the dismissal of an in rem foreclosure action under Ind. Trial Rule 41(E) bars a subsequent in rem foreclosure on the same note and mortgage.

Vital facts. In this residential case, the borrower filed for bankruptcy in 2007. The borrower received a personal discharge from the mortgage debt in February 2009 and made no further payments on the loan. In April 2009, lender’s predecessor filed an in rem foreclosure action against the borrower, or more specifically the borrower’s property. Due to a failure by the lender to take any action in the case, the trial court dismissed the suit in April 2011 under Rule 41(E). A second action was filed in 2012 and dismissed in 2017 at the plaintiff’s request. Then, in April 2018, the current lender, an assignee of the mortgage loan, filed a third in rem foreclosure action.

Procedural history. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment in the third case. The trial court ruled in favor of the lender and entered a decree of foreclosure. The borrower appealed.

Key rules. Under Rule 41(E), a dismissal for a failure to prosecute is “with prejudice.” Unless the order of dismissal states otherwise, the dismissal operates as an adjudication on the merits.

Indiana law is settled that a dismissal with prejudice “is conclusive of the rights of the parties and res judicata as to the questions that might have been litigated.”

Indiana’s doctrine of res judicata “serves to prevent repetitious litigation of disputes that are essentially the same.”

Holding. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s summary judgment for the lender and instructed the trial court to enter judgment for the borrower.

Policy/rationale. Since the order of dismissal in the first foreclosure action was not limited and did not otherwise indicate that it was “without” prejudice, the order was deemed an adjudication on the merits.

The lender in Mannion argued that the first and third foreclosure actions were not the same “because they [were] based on different acts of default and because they [sought] different amounts.” The Court surmised that the lender was trying to argue that a “new and independent default” had arisen since the dismissal of the first case. The Court rejected that contention and reasoned that, because the borrower’s personal liability under the mortgage loan had been discharged in bankruptcy, “both foreclosure actions were based upon the nonpayment of the mortgage due to the [borrower’s] discharge in bankruptcy.” The increase in the amount of the debt through growing interest and attorney fees was immaterial.

The bottom line was that the relief sought in both cases was the same and based on the same default.  So, the borrower got to keep his property free and clear of the mortgage. The Court rationalized the outcome, in part, by saying “the creditor created the situation as a direct result of its failure to prosecute, and … the [dismissal order] should have its full res judicata effect….”

Related posts.

Following Rule 41(E) Dismissal For Failure To Prosecute, Can A Second Suit Be Filed?
Following A Dismissal, Lenders Generally Are Able To Refile Foreclosure Actions Based On New Defaults
An “In Rem” Judgment Limits Collection To The Mortgaged Property

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I represent lenders, loan servicers, borrowers, and guarantors in loan and real estate-related disputes.  If you need assistance with a similar matter, please call me at 317-639-6151 or email me at john.waller@woodenlawyers.com. Also, don’t forget that you can follow me on Twitter @JohnDWaller or on LinkedIn, or you can subscribe to posts via RSS or email as noted on my home page.


IBJ.com: Marion County reschedules canceled tax sale for early 2020

The Indianapolis Business Journal is reporting that Marion County (Indianapolis) has canceled its fall real estate tax sales (with a combined value of at least $6MM) due to a clerical error.  The 2019 sales will occur 2/14/20.  Here is the story.  Click here for a post of mine from earlier this year talking about Indiana tax sales and notice-related issues.  The "clerical error" leading to the postponement of the sales appears to be related to perfecting the statutory notice required for the sales to be valid.  Better to have a do over now instead of dealing with potentially hundreds of tainted sales later.    


Indiana Court Finds That Ex-Wife Held A Judgment Lien, Not A Security Interest, On Ex-Husband’s Farm

Lesson. Property settlement agreements in divorce cases can create judgment liens on real estate owned by the spouse holding title to the real estate post-dissolution. If an owner intendeds for the ex-spouse only to be a secured creditor, then the divorce court must specifically eliminate the application of Indiana’s judgment lien statute in connection with any approved settlement agreement.

Case cite. Kobold v. Kobold, 121 N.E.3d 564 (Ind. Ct. App. 2019)

Legal issue. Whether, post-divorce, wife held a judgment lien on the marital farm as opposed to a secured interest.

Vital facts. The marital property of the spouses included a farm. The couple got divorced and entered into a property settlement agreement (PSA), which provided that husband would keep the farm while making “equalization payments” to wife for her pro rata share of the farm’s value. Husband signed a promissory note for the full amount of the equalization payments. The note, which did not have an acceleration clause, granted husband the right to sell the marital assets. On the other hand, the PSA stipulated that wife could sell the farm to satisfy the debt if husband defaulted under the note. Husband failed to make any equalization payments, so wife obtained a court order permitting her to sell the farm – which she did over husband’s objection. Husband wanted to go a different direction with the farm’s liquidation. As you might suspect, there is more to the story, so read the opinion for a full report.

Procedural history. The trial court approved the sale of the farm to a third party to satisfy various secured creditors and ordered the net proceeds to be paid to each spouse pursuant to the PSA. The court based its ruling on the premise that wife held a judgment lien on the farm. For a variety of reasons, husband appealed.

Key rules. The outcome in Kobold turned on whether wife held a judgment lien under Ind. Code 34-55-9-2 versus a secured interest under the dissolution security statute at Ind. Code 31-15-7-8.

In divorce cases, when one receives a money judgment against another, the judgment lien statute creates an automatic lien on the indebted party’s real estate. This is so even when one spouse agrees to pay the other in installments, which was the case in Kobold.

A trial court can overcome the presumption of a judgment lien, however, if the trial court “specifically eliminates” application of the judgment lien statute and finds that a settlement agreement creates a security interest under Ind. Code 31-15-7-8.

Holding. The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s finding that wife held a judgment lien against the farm. This gave wife “the right to attach the judgment to the debtor’s property [the farm].” In turn, that lien “empowered [wife] to sell the farm to procure the full amount of the equalization payments.”

Policy/rationale. Husband contended that the trial court impermissibly modified the PSA by permitting wife to sell the farm. More specifically, husband argued that the trial court erred in concluding “that the dissolution decree gave [wife] a judgment lien … [granting wife] the right to refuse to release the judgment lien unless she was paid in full on the promissory note.” The Court of Appeals concluded that, although the record was not crystal clear, the trial court did not specifically eliminate the application of the judgment lien statute so as to overcome the wife’s presumptive judgment lien arising out of the PSA. As the holder of a judgment lien, wife, not husband, “had the right to negotiate a sale of the real estate.”

While I’m no divorce lawyer, and don’t pretend to understand fully how a settlement agreement with a promissory note constitutes a judgment lien, I see the justice in the Kobold's result. The Court stated that wife’s sale of the farm for $1.63MM, which was more than the appraised value of $1.56MM, “appears to have made the best of a bad situation” by paying off husband’s creditors, including the wife, and paying husband $500,000.

Related posts.

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I represent judgment creditors and lenders, as well as their mortgage loan servicers, entangled in lien priority and title claim disputes. If you need assistance with a similar matter, please call me at 317-639-6151 or email me at john.waller@woodenlawyers.com. Also, don’t forget that you can follow me on Twitter @JohnDWaller or on LinkedIn, or you can subscribe to posts via RSS or email as noted on my home page.