Our special guest for Episode 4 of our second season of Title Nerds was land title attorney Lance Pomerantz of Land Title Law. An attorney who provides expert consultant services to the title insurance and real estate industry, Lance shared some very interesting war stories from his “accidental career.” He has researched land grants back to the Royal Charter, as well as underwater land grants and title disputes involving numerous New York beachfront properties.
Co-host Michael O’Donnell asked Lance about some of the thorniest chains of title Lance has been involved in, some of which had him sounding more like a gritty Harrison Ford character than a land title attorney!
Co-host Bethany Abele then interviewed Kevin Hakansson, an associate in our Title Insurance practice, about Davis v. Reverse Mortgage Solutions, (No. 2:20-cv-632-CWB, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42496 (M.D. Ala. Mar. 14, 2023)). In Davis, two parcels of land, one with a house and the other with the surrounding yard and pool, were merged into a single tax parcel, which passed to the Plaintiff upon her father’s death. The father had applied for a reverse mortgage three years before his death, and it was not discovered until later that the metes and bounds description for the reverse mortgage only contained the description of the second parcel of property, and not the parcel with the house.
Consistent with the metes and bounds description, the Foreclosure Deed encompassed only the non-residence portion of the property. The Plaintiff subsequently asserted ownership to the first parcel with the house and filed suit seeking a declaration of ownership.
Ultimately, the federal court granted summary judgment to the Plaintiff, who asserted claims for reformation of both the mortgage and a subsequent foreclosure deed on the grounds of a mutual mistake. The Court noted that it was “authorized to reform real estate documents in circumstances where—due to a mutual mistake—the executed documents fail to reflect the true intentions of the parties.” It relied upon precedent issued in Federal Land Bank of New Orleans v. Williams, a case in which the Alabama Supreme Court granted reformation of a mortgage when a survey discovered that the mortgage did not properly describe the parcel on which the borrower resided.
Bethany and Kevin agreed that the Court got this right, taking a common-sense approach to determining whether the reverse mortgage should be reformed. The Court looked to the circumstances and documentation to find that the parties were all aware that the parcel of property with the house was intended to be encumbered.