In a Florida home foreclosure, when the bank repossess the home, the lender is not liable for more than one year of back home owners’ association fees when it’s a subdivision, and six months when it’s a condo.* Often that’s not nearly what is owed, but it gives the association some recovery from the loss of income. That’s what’s supposed to happen, but one South Florida condo association—which shall remain nameless here—sees it differently.
The condominium owner went into foreclosure on his unit. He didn’t make his mortgage payments and he also couldn’t afford the condo association dues. Financial hardship led to foreclosure and months of unpaid association fees. Finally the condo unit went to auction on the courthouse steps, and the lender ended up with the property.
Then a buyer came along. He bought the foreclosure condo from the lender and got title insurance. As part of the closing process, the title company obtained an estoppel letter from the condo association that provided a certain amount to catch up all the back association fees.
Everything was great. The new buyer became the owner of their dream condominium. They got done, closed, everybody thought everything was wonderful. Now if that were really the case would I be writing this blog? In a typical situation, everything that transacted here here would be considered normal and customary—everybody crossed their proverbial t’s and dotted their proverbial i’s—why would the buyer waste money on title insurance?
Let’s list all that has transpired: There was a proper foreclosure and sale at the courthouse steps. When a new buyer was found, a new title search was done and everything came back spotless, no issues. In preparation for closing, the title company acquired all proper estoppel letters and all monies due including taxes. And the closing was conducted properly—what could go wrong?
I’ll tell you what could go wrong: the association came back and demanded all unpaid association fees prior to the buyer purchasing the condo.
“But we have an estoppel letter that says all association fees are current,” said the buyer.
The association said, “Show us the original letter.”
The buyer says, “ The lender only has a faxed copy.”
The association says, “That’s not good enough. Pay up, because if you don’t we’re going to foreclose… and by the way, thank you for the new cabinets and flooring and the updated toilet seats, they’re nice.”
How could this happen? Everything was done right. The answer: crap happens, and it’s expensive when it does.
There is a happy ending to this story even though this story has not ended: the buyer has title insurance, and the title insurance company is paying to defend the buyer’s ownership.
In a case like this, it doesn’t matter if the lawsuit is right, it doesn’t matter if it’s legal, it doesn’t matter if it’s covered in spaghetti and meatballs—the New Owner has to defend his interest in the property in a court of law… and that costs money. Without Title Insurance, the full force of the legal expense lands on the New Owner’s wallet.
The legal expense—hiring an attorney and court costs—versus the balance of the condo association. Which is more? Doesn’t matter if you have Title Insurance. Your Title Insurance Policy will either settle the claim or provide and pay for the legal defense of your ownership interest (and pay out the policy amount if that defense fails).
You buy Title Insurance for peace of mind—not because you know you are going to use it. Title Insurance is a one-time fee you pay at ground level in case a high rise of legal expense happens related to your property ownership.
No matter where you live, the view is better if you’ve got clear title, and beyond that, you’ll rest well if you’ve got financial protection through Title Insurance.
*This limitation on what’s owed on back association fees is only applicable if the foreclosing lender is the highest bidder at the courthouse steps. If a private party is the highest bidder, that person is responsible to pay all back association fees no matter how high the fees are or how far back the fees go.
Reason #328 to get Title Insurance.