Hamilton County Court House

The COVID-19 crisis has created a series of delays in civil and criminal cases.  One of those casualties has been residential evictions in Hamilton County.

The problem

No evictions hearings have been held since March 15, and the earliest they are scheduling new hearings at present is July 28. This means not only that landlords can’t clear their properties of tenants who won’t pay rent, but also that tenants who deal drugs, damage property — or even worse criminal behavior — can stay in possession now for more than five months before the landlord can have a hearing to restore possession of the property to him.

Suing the Judges

Finney Law Firm has initiated a relatively unused action — for a Writ of Procedendo — to force the Hamilton County Municipal Court Judges to proceed with forcible entry and detainer actions. The Complaint, captioned State Ex rel. Salvador Properties v. Judge Heather Russell is here.

Other counties

Below is what our research has shown other counties currently are doing (note “per normal” noted below means you can timely get a decision in an eviction case; there may be modified procedures and hours to accommodate the crisis):

  • Butler County: Holding hearings per normal;
  • Warren County: Holding hearings per normal;
  • Clermont County: Holding hearings per normal;
  • Franklin County (Columbus): Holding hearings per normal;
  • Montgomery County (Dayton): Holding hearings per normal;
  • Summit County (Akron and all Municipal Courts): Holding hearings per normal;
  • Lucas County (Toledo): Holding hearings per normal;
  • Mahoning County (Youngstown): No hearings being scheduled; and
  • Cuyahoga County (Cleveland and all Municipal Courts): Cleveland and Cleveland Heights are holding hearings after 6/15/20 and 6/17/20, respectively, and other Municipal Courts (Shaker Heights and Berea) are holding hearings per normal.

So, of surrounding counties and Ohio’s major urban counties, only Mahoning (Youngstown) and two of four Municipal Courts in Cuyahoga County are further delaying eviction hearings for COVID-19 issues. Other than Youngstown with no hearings being scheduled at all, Hamilton County presently is the worst in the State for scheduling eviction hearings.

Conclusion

This suit is one in a series of actions initiated by Finney Law Firm to re-open Ohio business and Courts that have been closed under the COVID-19 crisis. For more information, contact Chris Finney (513.943.6655).

Federal District Court Judge Douglas Cole today issued  an important 51-page decision in Compound Property Management, LLC, et al, v. Build Realty, Inc., et al., the real estate/RICO class action  law suit that seeks to stop what Finney Law Firm alleges are illegal and fraudulent practices by a group of Defendants and obtain monetary recovery for our clients.  Potential class action members number more than 450.

Defendants who participated in the scheme include:

  • Build Realty, Inc.
  • Edgar Construction, LLC
  • Cincy Construction, LLC
  • MacGregor Holdings, LLC
  • Cowtown Holdings, LLC
  • Build NKY, LLC
  • Greenleaf Support Services, LLC
  • Build SWO, LLC
  • Gary Bailey
  • George Triantafilou
  • First Title Agency, LLC
  • GT Financial, LLC
  • G2 Technologies, LLC

You may read the federal Complaint here.

You may read Federal District Court Judge Cole’s the ruling on the Defendants Motions to Dismiss here.

For more information on this case, continue to monitor this blog, or contact Chris Finney at 513-720-2996.

As we have written here and here, the coverage provided by title insurance is particularized to the policy issued, and that is usually tailored to the property insured.

Background

In other words, when someone wants to buy a property, the title insurance company hires a title examiner who conducts a title search of the subject property and ascertains monetary liens, easements, covenants, restrictions, and other encumbrances against that property to be insured. Then, a title insurance policy is prepared that lists as exceptions to coverage the encumbrances found to be of record. It has to be this way; an insurer simply can’t insure against and over valid easements and other encumbrances.

As we have discussed previously, then, for a buyer/insured to know the quality of title he is receiving, it is not enough to obtain an Owner’s Policy of Title Insurance.  Someone has to read the policy and read and understand the encumbrances excepted from coverage.

For almost all parcels in urban and suburban areas, there are some easements, and if you are not careful there could be monetary liens that need to be released. These might be subdivision (residential and commercial) covenants, reciprocal easement and maintenance agreements, utility easements (which circle every commercial and residential subdivision) and other easements and covenants.

Very occasionally, typically in a rural area with no recent development, you will find a parcel with no easements, no covenants, no restrictions, and no monetary liens, but it’s a relative rarity.

My friend is buying an investment property

So, this week, a friend of mine called me.  He was helping his daughter who invests in real estate with financing a property for a “flip.”  Someone else has selected another title company, and he asked me to assure that the title would be clear.

I told him, as I have advised on this blog, someone needs to review the deed, and someone needs to carefully review both the title insurance policy and the exception documents referenced therein.

So, he asked the title insurance company for a copy of the policy pro forma, or a commitment for title insurance and the exception documents.

The clueless clerk at a title company

In return, a clueless clerk at said title company sent a blank form policy, with only pre-printed Schedule B-1 exceptions. These are such standard things as taxes not yet due and payable, things a  survey would disclose, and mechanics liens. Many of these pre-printed exceptions can be deleted by means of a Title  Affidavit provided by the seller at closing, but none of them reveal the exceptions to be taken by a title examination of the specific property.

In other words a title company would be crazy to issue such a policy, as it would insure over actual title deficiencies that would create a loss to the title company to remove such restrictions or pay for any “damage” arising from their existence.

An innocent inquiry to get the real policy

Therefore, I wrote to the clueless clerk as follows:

I have reviewed the documents you sent to my client in this matter, and candidly they are not at all helpful or informative.

 A title policy is only as good as its terms, and the terms of a title policy are dependent on the exceptions to coverage set forth in Schedules B-1 and B-2.  The form you sent is just a blank form.  Now, if you are promising to issue a policy with no exceptions, except those pre-printed, that is great.  Just confirm that.  If not, we will need to (a) know exactly what the exceptions are to the policy being issued (i.e, this actual policy to this actual buyer for the purchase price for this actual property) and (b) see and read the exception documents, meaning we will need copies of them.

 Let me know and thank you.  

I thought it was pointed, but polite.

What just happened?

Her response simply stunned me:

Every policy that we issue is free of exceptions except for those that are pre-printed.

I hope this clarifies the issues laid out so we can remain on schedule.

This is amazing. Her response indicates that on every policy (not just this one) that they write, they don’t bother to perform a title examination, and make no exception to coverage.

I mean this is fantastic for buyer, but not the underwriter. Every title problem magically is insured over, and a buyer is always assured they have fee simple, unencumbered, absolutely clear title in every closing.

I want some of that coverage!

Conclusion

So, I told my client: “Close”! You can’t get coverage that good from me or any other title company.  That is simply amazing.

[Now, notwithstanding her promises, I look forward to seeing the language of the actual policy when it is delivered to my client, and my subsequent insistence that the title company issue precisely the coverage that had been promised. This should be fun!]

Yes, that really happened this week.

Hamilton County property owners will get some measure of relief in the form of a 25 day delay for payment of the second half property tax bills.

Property owners who pay taxes as part of their monthly mortgage payment will not notice any difference, but property owners who normally pay their tax bill by June 22, will have until July 17 to make that payment.

As reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer, Hamilton County Treasurer Robert A. Goering noted that the delay is necessary in part due to the fact that taxpayers cannot get into the Treasurer’s office to make a payment:  “We have to balance the needs financially of the county and the needs of the individual taxpayer. And we have to balance that against the reality that, right now with this crisis, you can’t actually get to the treasurer’s office.”

Thus far, we are unaware of any other local counties who have delayed the property tax bills. We will update this post if any other counties join Hamilton County.

Warren County will continue with its normal tax bill due date of July 29.

Clermont County property tax bills are due July 8.

Butler County property taxes are due August 3.

In Kentucky, the deadline to initiate a property valuation appeal has been extended to begin on July 6 and end on July 20.

Jane Schulte

There have been numerous articles written about Remote Online Notarization (or RON) in the past few months, surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, and the real estate industry’s need to perform work digitally to ensure that sales, purchases and refinances can occur during the social distancing orders currently in place.

However, there has been some confusion surrounding terminology and differences in digital closings, and we are writing this article is to provide some clarity.

E-closing

An e-Closing or electronic closing is a mortgage closing in which all the documents are created, accessed, presented, signed, notarized and recorded electronically. They remain in their digital form and nothing is printed out. An e-Closing is conducted with the signor(s) and Notary in each other’s physical presence, thus not accomplishing the objective of full separation of the notary/closer and the parties.

Hybrid closing

A hybrid closing is the same as an e-Closing except that the Promissory Note is papered out and wet-signed (sometimes along with the mortgage), so again the procedure does not accomplish the objective of physical separation.

Remote Online Notarization (RON)

A RON closing, on the other hand, uses an e-Notary to perform notarial acts when the signor is not in the same physical location as the notary.  The signor appears before an e-Notary in a live, recorded two-way audio/visual conference where identification is verified with a photo ID along with knowledge-based authentication technology.  A platform such as DocVerify, provides a tamper-evident seal and uses encryption and multi-layered security to prevent fraud.

Conclusion

Ivy Pointe Title is pleased to announce that it has an in-house e-Notary to provide these services for cash, lender and refinance real estate transactions.  Craig Donohoe, our in-house closer, is now able to perform RON closings for any lender, realtor, borrower or seller who would like the opportunity to sign their documents in the comfort of their homes or businesses, not only to avoid social contact at this time, but also in the future for convenience, speed and efficiency that has not previously existed in our industry.  We also have a second dedicated outside e-notary, Ted Dahmus, who is committed to priority e-closings for Ivy Pointe Title.

For more information on how to place your RON title and closing order, please contact Rick Turner (513.943.5660).

Ken Meyers of Ohio Financial (513.328.1341) has invited me to do with him a series of video chats on issues of importance in the residential real estate marketplace.  We will be posting them here.

This is the first one on the topic of the typically unwise practice of allowing a buyer to have early occupancy of a property before a closing has taken place. The short answer is: don’t do it. Ever.

That first video entry is linked here.  Here also is a blog entry I have written on the same topic.

Ken is a residential mortgage lender with whom our team has had great experiences and we certainly would recommend him for your consideration.

Let me (513.943.6655) know if you have considerations of early occupancy, you need us to document an agreement for early occupancy, or we can help extricate you from a situation of early occupancy.

 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis gripping the nation, today Ohio Governor Mike DeWine issued an executive order addressing commercial leases and commercial mortgages in Ohio.  However, from our perspective, the Order is not intended to have any binding effect, and he would have no authority under Ohio law to issue such a binding order if he so desired.

Here are the components of the order, each of which he labels as a “request,” not an Order at all:

  • Requesting that landlords suspend commercial lease payments for at least 90 days for “small business commercial tenants in the State of Ohio that are facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
  • Requesting that landlords also provide a moratorium on evictions of small business commercial tenants for a term of at least 90 consecutive days.
  • Requesting that mortgage lenders of Ohio-based properties forbear on collection or enforcement of such mortgage for a period of at least 90 days.

As with our prior blog on the stay-at-home Order, the Order does not seem to have any direct legal effect, but rather is designed to encourage restraint and cooperation in this difficult time all of the world is encountering.

A copy of the Order is linked here.

Join Empower U tonight from the comfort and safety of your home via your laptop, tablet or cell phone for a webinar on powerful tools for small business from the federal government in the CARES Act passed last Friday.

>>> The link to sign up for the free seminar is here. <<<

  • If you want to email questions in advance, click here.
  • For specialized assistance for your company, we are offering consultation through the program for a flat $1,500 fee to help businesses through the process.  Click here to get signed up and type “PPP” in the subject line of the email.
  • To have your email to be added to our firm mailing list and receive tonight’s PowerPoint, click here and say “add me to your list” in the subject line.

Joining us tonight are:

  • Attorney Rebecca Simpson Heimlich who will lead the presentation primarily on Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans available very shortly  to small businesses.
  • Attorney Stephen E. Imm who will answer questions of employers and employees about the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Melissa Knies from US Bank who will explain how to apply for the programs.
  • Attorney Christopher P. Finney will moderate.

We have a record audience for Empower U signed up for tonight. Please join us for this important program.

 

With the advent of the COVID-19 Crisis, Finney Law Firm and Ivy Pointe Title have quickly stepped to the plate, with technology that allows for the practice of law with appropriate social distancing, with attorneys who focus on practice areas to help their clients, and with cutting edge information on emerging programs to help businesses and individuals in need.

Technology allowing for electronic interaction

Finney Law Firm and Ivy Pointe Title  have carefully developed the tools to be prepared for a day such as this:

  • DocuSign allows for execution of documents from your computer.  By federal and state law, e-signed documents are fully enforceable as with “inked” documents. Our team is licensed and trained in DocuSign technology for all documents in which clients will allow an electronic signature.
  • Electronic notary.  Finney Law Firm and Ivy Pointe Title contracted with one of only a handful of licensed e-notaries in Ohio for exclusive provision of e-notary services. Using the platform DocVerify, we have the strongest technology to allow real estate closings and other transactions to proceed.  By Ohio law, it is permissible to have documents signed and acknowledged (notarized) without person-to-person interaction via electronic signature and electronic notary.
  • Electronic payments. We use e-billing and credit card payments (and wire transfers and EFTs) for clients who prefer this method of billing and payment.
  • Electronic discovery and electronic depositions. Your litigation does not need to stop because of the COVID-19 crisis. Most of the work pre-trial can still move forward using e-mail, Zoom.US or Microsoft Teams for depositions, and motion work that can be electronically filed with almost all Courts.
  • Work-from-Home. If you do need to visit our offices, you will find that most of our professionals are not at their desks. Rather, they are safely (for you and them) working from home with the latest technology including Microsoft Surface laptops, Microsoft Teams Video Conferencing, Microsoft Office 365 data in the cloud, so we can access your data from anywhere in the planet, but with tremendous Microsoft security technology and backups.

Practice areas to help your business

Our business lawyers are up to date and prepared to help you through the thicket of issues that arise or are heightened with the COVID-19 crisis:

Attorney Isaac T. Heintz is proficient in contract interpretation, including how to enforce or avoid obligations under a lease or other agreement. He has already written purchase agreements with COVID-19 contingencies to extend due diligence periods to the declared end of the crisis. As you might expect, Isaac has also had many clients initiate their estate planning, or finish long-delayed estate planning work.

Attorney Stephen E. Imm heads our employment law group, and is advising clients on a myriad of new COVID-19 legislation and addressing employment law claims under previously existing law and the new enactments.

Attorney Bradley M.  Gibson heads our litigation group which is dealing with a multitude of business-to-business disputes, including those arising because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Attorney Richard P. Turner runs Ivy Pointe Title and in that capacity has been using every tool at our disposal to continue to close your transactions “accurately and on time, every time.”  These include closings respecting social distancing, and we stand prepared to be one of the first agencies in Ohio to implement fully electronic closings.  We also can do drive-by closings where you come to our office and sign documents from your car, or we come to you and you can sign them on our car hood.

Attorney Christopher P. Finney heads our public interest practice, and the host of issues addressing government-to-business and government-to-individual interaction arising from the COVID-19 crisis.

CARES Act assistance for your small business

Congress just passed the CoronaVirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which includes the Paycheck Protection Program that will provide what essentially are grants to businesses with fewer than 500 employees and enhanced Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL).

Attorney Rebecca Simpson Heimlich has been counseling clients through this program, and on Thursday night she joins other presenters on a panel addressing “CARES Act, Including Paycheck Protection and Funds for Businesses.”

Conclusion

We are working furiously to meet the needs of our clients in this fast-emerging crisis. Let us know how we can help you or your small business navigate these turbulent waters to come to the other side safely and profitably.

And our hope is that each of you remain healthy throughout this pandemic.