Metes And Bounds Legal Descriptions, As Opposed To Street Addresses, Control The Effectiveness Of Mortgages In Indiana
Lesson. So long as the legal description in a mortgage provides notice of the boundaries and location of the subject real estate, discrepancies regarding the street address are of no moment.
Legal issue. Whether the trial court should have granted Lender’s motion for summary judgment in its mortgage foreclosure action.
Vital facts. Spencer was a residential mortgage foreclosure case involving a few twists and turns. This is my fourth and final post about the opinion. For background, please click on my three prior posts: 1/23/24, 2/2/24 and 2/15/24.
Procedural history. The trial court denied Lender’s motion for summary judgment and later entered judgment for the Borrowers that essentially nullified the mortgage.
The Court in Spencer reminds us of some fundamentals surrounding Indiana mortgage foreclosure claims. First, a “mortgage is an interest in real property that secures a creditor's right to repayment.” This means that “an action to foreclose a mortgage is an in rem (i.e., against the property) proceeding."
Yet, upon a borrower’s default, "in addition to the remedy of an in rem action of foreclosure, a creditor may sue to establish the debtor's in personam (i.e., personal) liability for any deficiency on the debt and may enforce a judgment against the debtor's personal assets."
Among other things, “for a mortgage to be effective, it must contain a description of the land intended to be covered sufficient to identify it.” The test for determining the sufficiency of a legal description “is whether the tract intended to be mortgaged can be located with certainty by referring to the description.”
Holding. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s summary judgment ruling.
Policy/rationale. To prevail on the summary judgment motion, Lender had to show Borrowers were in default under the terms of the promissory note and mortgage. Borrowers did not really contest that they were in default and in violation of the terms of the mortgage. No payments had been made for several years.
Despite Borrowers’ arguments to the contrary, the Court declined to hold that there was a “material” issue of fact (which would have prevented summary judgment) related to some confusion about the correct street address for the subject real estate. This is because the metes and bounds legal description in the relevant deeds and mortgage was consistent and put “potentially interested parties on notice as to the boundaries and location of the property.” In Indiana, legal descriptions, not street addresses (aka common addresses), generally control the enforceability of a mortgage. As such, the Court found that summary judgment as to liability must be entered, although it remanded the case back to the trial court to determine the amount of Lender’s damages, including reasonable attorney’s fees.
- Motion for Summary What?
- Defective Legal Description Will Not Necessarily Invalidate Mortgage
- Reformation: How A Mortgage With An Erroneous Legal Description Can Be Foreclosed
- To Be Enforceable, An Indiana Mortgage Must Adequately Describe The Debt It Purports To Secure
Part of my practice involves mortgage-related litigation and title disputes. If you need assistance with a similar matter, please call me at 317-639-6151 or email me at [email protected]. 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.