IMPRESSION: A recent Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling served as a stiff reminder to investor-purchasers of condominium units: request of association resale disclosure certificates should be undertaken as a matter of course (in Wisconsin this is essentially the Section 703.165(4) Wis. Stat. statement of the amount of unpaid assessments).

DETAILS: In Bridge Investments, LLC v. Lowry Ridge Townhomes Assoc., LLP, A17-1221 (Minn. Ct. App. 2018) the owner of a condo unit in the Lowry Ridge Townhomes community defaulted on association payments owing over $3,500.00 in assessments.  After foreclosure proceedings, the condo was purchased by the owner’s bank at a sheriff’s sale.  Later, the defaulting owner reacquired the condo via redemption and on the same day sold the unit to Bridge Investments (“Bridge”)—a venture capital and private equity firm.  Bridge recorded its purchase with no knowledge of Lowry Ridge’s assessment lien; which was junior to the bank’s mortgage, but not eliminated by the redemption, and remained attached to the condo when sold. By this time, the outstanding balance reached over $9,000.00 prompting Lowry Ridge to record a lien for the unpaid balance, late fees, attorney’s fees, and costs.  Lowry Ridge attempted to amicably collect its debt rather than foreclose on the unit; however, Bridge felt it was not responsible for payment since it had no notice of the preexisting lien prior to purchasing the condo.
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When a mortgage company faces having its mortgage interest swept away in a quiet title action following an HOA lien foreclosure, the mortgage company comes up with all sorts of arguments as to why its mortgage should remain intact. This time, the arguments did not carry the day.

Facts.  In a 2017 Nevada case, a successful purchaser at an HOA lien foreclosure sale bought the condo for $35,000.  The fair market value of the condo at the time was $335,000. The unit purchaser filed a quiet title action against Nationstar, who held the first mortgage on the unit, seeking to extinguish Nationstar’s mortgage so the purchaser could have clear title to the unit.
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An association in southeastern Wisconsin is made up of condominiums that are also rented out for the owners (condotels). In this particular case, a unit owner, who lived in Illinois, was in financial difficulty and wanted to file bankruptcy and turn their condominium over to their bank.  The bank’s attorney prepared a deed in lieu and sent it to the unit owner, which the unit owner then had recorded.  The bank became the owner and was responsible for not only the dues from that date forward, but also what was owed by the unit owner.  The bank did not want to acknowledge this.
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A Milwaukee association took possession of a unit through foreclosure, but could not rent out the unit because of its condition and could not sell it because of a large mortgage. After the property is vacant for several months and the lender did not start a foreclosure, The Husch Blackwell Condominium & HOA Law Team brought a quiet title action against the lender. The purpose of this is to either get the lender to take a deed for the property or have the court order the mortgage to be quieted (wiped out) on the title.
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First mortgage holders continue to be the largest impediment to Association collections, once unit owners fail to pay. This arises because the bank’s lien is superior to the association’s and therefore most associations decide not to proceed with a foreclosure if the bank has begun its foreclosure.  This is true even though banks frequently file foreclosures and then don’t proceed to the sheriff sale, adjourn the case indefinitely or very SLOWLY, or never seek to confirm the sale.  Accordingly, Associations must have a strategy to combat these issues. 
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When a foreclosure is first initiated by a bank or some other third-party, the association has three choices:

  1. Do nothing and hope that the foreclosure is actually completed and that the entity foreclosing actually has a lien superior to the Association;
  2. Monitor the foreclosure internally; or
  3. Send the file to an attorney to protect the association’s interests.


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