Texas Supreme Court Update: Fair Market Value Is a Flat Circle

Two years ago, the Dallas Court of Appeals ruled that PlainsCapital Bank was not entitled to judgment against a borrower because it based its deficiency claim on the price it obtained when the property was sold a year after foreclosure, rather than the fair market value of the property at the time it was foreclosed. Last summer, the Texas Supreme Court granted the bank’s petition for review and set the case for oral argument. This morning, the Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeals was correct in ruling that § 51.003 of the Texas Property Code controlled PlainsCapital’s deficiency claim. However, the Court also ruled that “fair market value” under the deficiency statute does not mean the price that a willing buyer would pay to a willing seller at the time of foreclosure. Because § 51.003(b)(5) permits the trier of fact to consider the forward-looking factor of discounts that may be applied to a future sales price, it was proper for the trial court to base its fair market value finding on the price the bank actually received in its post-foreclosure sale. The Supreme Court remanded to the Court of Appeals for consideration of additional issues.

Justice Boyd (joined by Justice Guzman) dissented, arguing that the majority had improperly cast aside the historical definition of fair market value, and that evidence of any future discounts in the sale price of the property was only relevant to consideration of the fair market value at the time of the foreclosure.

TLDR: To determine FMV at the time of foreclosure, you can look to values received in the future.

PlainsCapital Bank v. Martin (majority)

PlainsCapital Bank v. Martin (dissent)

Supreme Court Update: Interstate 35/Chisam Road L.P. v. Moayedi

Readers of the blog will probably be familiar with our “Waive Goodbye” series of posts on the Dallas Court of Appeals’ recent line of cases holding that borrowers and guarantors can contractually waive their statutory right to offset any deficiency if foreclosed property is sold for less than its fair market value. The Texas Supreme Court has now granted the petition for review in the first of those cases, Interstate 35/Chisam Road L.P. v. Moayedi, 377 S.W.3d 791 (Tex. App.–Dallas 2012, pet. granted). Oral argument has been set for January 8, and we will continue to keep our eyes on the issue.

Waive Goodbye, Part VII

The Court of Appeals has once again ruled that a contractual waiver prevents a guarantor from invoking its statutory right to offset if the foreclosed property was sold for less than its fair market value. This is the seventh time the Court has made that ruling in a little over a year, dating back to August 2012 in the case of Interstate 35/Chisam Road, L.P. v. Moayedi, and as recently as August 2013 in Compass Bank v. Manchester Platinum Mgmt. In this particular instance, the parties actually stipulated that the two homes at issue had fair market values in excess of the amounts owed under the promissory notes, even though they were sold for $582,623.07 less than those stipulated values. The Court further held that the broad waiver of “any statute or limitations or other defenses affecting [the guarantor’s] liability hereunder” was sufficiently specific to include a waiver of the offset defense provided by section 53.001 of the Texas Property Code. The Court therefore reversed the trial court and rendered judgment for the deficiency in favor of the lender.

Given the importance of this recurring issue to borrowers, lenders, and guarantors, it would not be surprising to see the Texas Supreme Court weigh in. The petition for review in the Moayedi case has proceeded to briefing on the merits.

Compass Bank v. Goodman, No. 05-13-00447-CV

Waive Goodbye, Part VI

Following a number of recent waiver cases, the Court of Appeals held that the appellees waived their contractual right to offset when they agreed that “Guarantor waives, to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law, the benefit of any statute of limitations or other defenses affecting its liability hereunder.”  The Court rejected appelles’ argument that this language was not specific enough to waiver their rights under section 51.003.

Compass Bank v. Manchester Platinum Mgmt.

Waive Goodbye, Part V

Cleveland Partners, L.P. took out a $520,000 loan from Live Oak State Bank to finance the purchase of an apartment building. The loan was personally guaranteed by the defendant in this case, Josiah Cleveland. The guaranty included a waiver of virtually all of the borrower’s defenses on the debt, including “any setoff available” against the lender. The borrower defaulted, and the bank purchased the property for $415,000 at the resulting foreclosure sale. The bank then sued the guarantor for the deficiency, with the guarantor arguing that the property sold for less than its fair market value. The trial court granted summary judgment for the bank.

On appeal, the guarantor argued that the waiver was “massively overbroad . . . unconscionable and unenforceable.” That issue was easily dispatched, with the court citing three of its four recent opinions holding that borrowers can validly waive their right to claim offset under Chapter 51 of the Texas Property Code. See Interstate 35/Chisam Road, L.P. v. Moayedi, 377 S.W.3d 791 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2012, pet. filed); King v. Park Cities Bank, 2012 WL 3144881 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2012, no pet.); Toor v. PNC Bank, N.A., 2012 WL 3637284 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2012, no pet.); see also Smith v. Town North Bank, 2012 WL 5499406 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2012, pet. denied). Bound by those precedents, the court concluded that Cleveland had validly waived his right to offset the difference between the foreclosure price and the fair market value of the property, rendering irrelevant his claim that he had raised a fact issue as to the property’s fair market value.

Perhaps notably, the petition for review in the Moayedi decision has already drawn some amicus support. If there are any further developments in this area, we’ll keep you updated.

Cleveland v. Live Oak State Bank, No. 05-11-00665-CV

Chapter 51 Applies Regardless of Lender’s Measure of Damages; FMV Must Be Measured on Date of Foreclosure

The court reversed a trial court’s judgment in favor of PlainsCapital Bank for damages and attorney’s fees resulting from Martin’s loan default based on Chapter 51 of the Property Code. In 2008 Martin defaulted and the Bank foreclosed upon and purchased the underlying property at auction for $539,000. Martin owed the Bank nearly $800,000. In 2009, over a year later, the Bank sold the property for $599,000 and sued Martin for the deficiency. Martin sought a damages offset under Property Code § 51.003 based on the value of the property, introducing expert testimony at trial that the property’s fair market value at the time of foreclosure was $850,000. The Bank argued that § 51.003 did not apply because it was not seeking to apply the foreclosure sale price as a credit but instead what the Bank actually received from the property: the 2009 sales price. The trial court agreed, holding § 51.003 inapplicable and crediting Martin $599,000 toward the deficiency.

On appeal, the court held that § 51.003 applies, regardless of the lender’s requested measure of damages, when (1) §51.002 foreclosure sale occurs, (2) the foreclosure sale price is less than the debt, and (3) an action is brought to recover the “deficiency,” or the amount owed on the debt after application of the collateral’s value. The court noted that the lender may not receive the benefit of a § 51.002 foreclosure sale but then “opt out” of § 51.003’s offset to the borrower. Additionally, the price received in the 2009 sale was legally insufficient evidence under § 51.003 because the Bank failed to link that price to the property’s value on the date of foreclosure. The court refused to render judgment based on Martin’s evidence, however, noting that the Bank refuted this value with its own expert testimony but indicating that the 2009 sales price was not evidence of the property’s fair market value at foreclosure.

It should be noted that the court did not hold that a later sales price of property can never be evidence of its fair market value. Rather, it is important for the lender to tie the actual sales price closely to § 51.003’s definition of fair market value, including a showing how it reflects the property’s value on the date of foreclosure.

Martin v. PlainsCapital Bank, No. 05-10-00235-CV

Waive Goodbye, Part IV

The court affirmed a summary judgment in favor of the bank in a foreclosure case dealing with the waiver statutory offset rights contained in Chapter 51 of the Texas Property Code. A builder entered construction loan agreement secured by four properties and signed a personal guaranty of the loan, eventually defaulting. The bank foreclosed on and sold the properties and sued the builder for the deficiency. The builder invoked Chapter 51, asking the court to determine the fair market value of the properties for the deficiency calculation rather than the foreclosure sale price. Town North moved for summary judgment arguing that the guaranty included a waiver of his right to claim any deductions or offsets from the amount guaranteed including any right to seek a reduction in the deficiency under section 51.003, which the trial court granted and then entered a judgment on the deficiency.

On appeal, the court cited its opinion in Interstate 35/Chisam Road, L.P. v. Moayedi, No. 05-11-00209-CV, 2012 WL 3125148 (Tex. App.—Dallas Aug. 2, 2012, no pet.) holding that the rights provided by section 51.003 are subject to waiver. It also cited King v. Park Cities Bank, No. 05-11- 00593-CV, 2012 WL 3144881, at *3 (Tex. App.—Dallas Aug. 3, 2012, no pet. h.) to reject the builder’s argument that language in the guaranty waiving “any defenses given to guarantors at law or in equity other than actual payment and performance of the indebtedness” did not encompass a waiver of section 51.003’s right of offset despite the guaranty’s later reference to a “claim of setoff.” Thus, the court held that the builder waived his rights under section 51.003.

Smith v. Town North Bank, 05-11-00520-CV

Waive Goodbye, Part III

In a memorandum opinion, the court of appeals has affirmed summary judgment in favor of PNC Bank on four personal guarantys of a promissory note.  Each of the guaranty agreements contained provisions waiving the defense of offset against a deficiency claim, preventing the guarantors from asserting that the bank had sold the foreclosed property for less than fair market value.  The court of appeals rejected the guarantors’ argument that parties could not waive the statutory offset rights contained in Chapter 51 of the Texas Property Code, citing the court’s own recent opinions in Interstate 35/Chisam Road, L.P. v. Moayedi and King v. Park Cities Bank.  The court also rejected the guarantors’ contention that the language of their own guaranty agreements was not specific enough to waive their right to offset the deficiency.

Toor v. PNC Bank, N.A., No. 05-11-00012-CV

Waive Goodbye, Part II

This action involved a deficiency claim by a Bank against several loan Guarantors.  The loans at issue were undertaken to finance improvements on properties owned by a partnership in Collin County.   After the partnership defaulted, the Bank exercised its right to sell the properties at non-judicial foreclosure sales, and then brought this action action against the Guarantors.  Because the Guarantors had agreed in the original Guaranty Agreement to waive any defense of offset to the bank’s deficiciency claim, the trial court granted the Bank’s motion for summary judgment and awared the Bank the outstanding amounts due on each of the promissory notes.  On appeal, the Guarantors argued that the right of offset provided for in section 51.003(c) of the property code cannot be contractually waived and, alternatively, that if such waiver were available they did not, in fact, waive the right of offset because the waiver provision did not contain the phrase “right of offset.”  Relying on the reasoning in Moayedi, the Court of Appeals rejected both of the Guarantors’ arguments, finding that nothing  in the property code prevents a guarantor from waiving his right to an offset in a guaranty agreement.  Additionally, the Court found that the waiver language need not include the precise terms “right of offset” to constitute an effective waiver.  Thus, the court upheld the trial court’s summary judgment decision.

 

King, et al. v. Park Cities Bank, No. 05-11-00593-CV

Waive Goodbye

The court reversed a summary judgment in favor of a guarantor on his Property Code Chapter 51 offset defense against a creditor. Moayedi guaranteed a loan made by I-35 to Villages. I-35 sued Moayedi based upon his guaranty to recover the balance remaining on Villages’s promissory note after a Property Code section 51.003 foreclosure sale. Moayedi contended that he was entitled to offset the deficiency by the difference between the fair market value and the sale price pursuant to section 51.003(c). I-35 replied that Moayedi waived “any defense” in the guaranty, including the right of offset. After considering competing summary judgment motions, the trial court granted Moayedi’s and held that the right of offset pursuant to section 51.003(c) could not be waived by the general terms in the guaranty agreement.

The court of appeals reversed. First, it engaged in a thorough analysis of waiver and section 51.003(c)’s offset provision. It held that a section 51.003(c) offset is indeed a “defense” as the term was used in the guaranty. Next, the court analyzed the contract language and held that “any defense” included the section 51.003(c) offset defense. The court then looked at the guaranty as a whole, finding four other provisions supporting such a broad waiver. Finally, the court rejected the argument that a waiver of section 51.003(c) rights violates public policy, citing Texas’s strong policy in favor of freedom of contract and other courts that have held that Chapter 51 rights of offset may be contractually waived. Thus, the court reversed and rendered judgment in favor of I-35.

Interstate 35/Chisam Road, L.P. and Malachi Development Corporation v. Moayedi, No. 05-11-00209-CV