A California bankruptcy court recently ruled on a motion to lift the automatic stay in a Chapter 13 case by a company that purchased real property at a foreclosure auction. In re Richter, No. 6:14-bk-10231, mem. dec. (Bankr. C.D. Cal., Jan. 20, 2015). The purchaser sought to initiate an unlawful detainer proceeding, commonly known as an eviction, in order to take possession of the property. The debtor argued that he had a right of redemption under California law, which allowed him to recover the property by paying the amount owed to the lienholder. The court expressed sympathy for the debtor but ruled that his right of redemption had expired under both California law and the Bankruptcy Code.
The debtor owned a condominium in Palm Desert, California. Since it was part of a common interest development, the property was subject to covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) enforced by a homeowner’s association (HOA). When the debtor fell behind on assessments, the HOA commenced nonjudicial foreclosure. Under state law, a property owner has a 90-day right of redemption after the sale of a property in a nonjudicial foreclosure by an HOA. Cal. Civ. Code § 5715(b), Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 729.035.
A trustee appointed by the HOA conducted a foreclosure auction in October 2013. The purchaser bought the property for $36,000, which more than covered the debtor’s $18,836 assessment arrearage. The foreclosure trustee notified the debtor of his 90-day right of redemption. On the last day of the redemption period, in January 2014, the debtor filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. According to the court, he intended to use the Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan to exercise his right of redemption. The HOA refused to accept his payments, however, arguing that the sale of the property was complete. The foreclosure trustee recorded the trustee’s deed in August 2014, perfecting the purchaser’s title. In October, the purchaser moved to lift the automatic stay.