Throughout Ohio, there has been an uptick in commercial foreclosure and receivership cases, and that trend is likely to continue well into next year. For many years, buyers of distressed real estate have faced a procedural quandary that has forced many of those transactions to be dragged-out, while waiting to obtain a definitive final appealable order.
In BankUnited NA v. Lowe, 2020-Ohio-3742, the Plaintiff lender foreclosed on its mortgage in default, and the lender’s Complaint identified a recorded second mortgage as encumbering the property. The borrower defaulted, but the junior lender filed an Answer asserting a mortgage lien arising from its recorded mortgage. The trial court granted judgment in the foreclosing lender’s favor, ordered that the property be sold, and that the junior lender would have a claim against “the proceeds derived from the sale of said premises” after satisfaction of court costs, property taxes, and Plaintiff’s first mortgage. The borrower appealed from that foreclosure order, arguing that the second mortgage was invalid.
Ohio’s Second District Court of Appeals applied the following standard for determining whether an order in a foreclosure case is final and appealable: “if it determines the extent of each lienholder’s interest, sets out the priority of the liens, determines the other rights and responsibilities of each party, and orders the property to be sold by sheriff’s sale.” Id. at ¶ 11. Where the validity or priority of a mortgage or other encumbrance is denied by the property owner, or otherwise in doubt, the foreclosure order must resolve that challenge in order to be final. Id. at ¶ 12. But in this case, where the property owner defaulted and no other party challenged the validity of the second mortgage, the Court of Appeals concluded that the foreclosure order was sufficiently final, by making clear that the second mortgage was valid and junior in priority to the first.
The Lowe case adds to the growing legal authority addressing what constitutes a final appealable order on the validity and/or priority of liens in a case that will result in the sale of real estate, but that law still is not uniform throughout Ohio. Working with our title team at Omni Title can empower you to overcome certain issues and will enable you to not just obtain a title policy, but to minimize post-transaction risk.
To review the Lowe Decision, click here.