News

Hot Topics in Real Estate Coming Next Week

If you do real estate law, you don't want to miss the annual Hot Topics in Real Estate program jointly produced by the Tennessee Bar Association and the Tennessee Land Title Association. This year's program will be Nov. 10 at the AT&T Building in downtown Nashville, starting at 8:30 a.m. and offering 6.25 CLE hours credit. Here's what the agenda looks like.

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Targeting Affiliated Businesses

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently took action against Meridian Title Corporation (Meridian) for violation of a long-standing provision of the Real Estate Settlement Procedure Act (RESPA). CFPB has been delegated with the enforcement of RESPA.  
 
According to the release, Meridian is a real estate settlement agent and a title insurance agency located in South Bend, Indiana, which was found to have steered “consumers to a title insurer owned in part by several of [Meridian’s] executives without making disclosures about the business affiliation.” 
 
When directed to its affiliated provider, the settlement agent/title agent “was able to keep extra money beyond the commission it would normally have been entitled to collect based on an understanding with the affiliated provider, to add to its bottom line,” according to Director Richard Cordray.
 
Receiving “anything of value” pursuant to a referral agreement has long been a violation of RESPA, but if the referring entity meets the definition of an “affiliated business,” then the referring entity must “generally disclose its relationship to the consumer.” Theoretically, this permits the consumer to exercise independent judgment regarding whether to use that provider. The penalty for Meridian’s failure to disclosure resulted in an order that required the regional company to pay $1.25 million to 7,000 “harmed consumers” and an order to desist from such conduct in the future.
 
Unfortunately, many affiliated providers of services for title agencies and lenders have become lax and brush off this continuing obligatory disclosure to the consumer.
 
This action is noteworthy because the CFPB has identified and taken action against a relatively minor player in the title industry. This should reinforce the importance of compliance by every title agency and lender. Lenders who enjoy affiliated business arrangements with title insurance providers are apt to trivialize this RESPA requirement when dealing with the consumer, especially when the lender views the provider as a business partner through its relationship as a member in the provider’s limited liability company.
 
As with many consumer protection regulations, the consumer often fails to appreciate the value of choosing services through a provider that does not share in the financial interest of the lender. This is especially true when an owners title policy is issued simultaneously with a loan policy. The interest of the consumer and lender are not necessarily the same.
 
Paul "Kelley" Hinsley is an eastern delegate and past chair of the executive council for the Tennessee Bar Association's Real Estate Section. Hinsley holds degrees from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and the University of Tennessee College of Law.

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Global & Tennessee Specific Trade & Investment Perspectives & Policies for 2018 & Beyond

 
The International Law Section of the Tennessee Bar Association is sponsoring a free seminar “Global & Tennessee Specific Trade & Investment Perspectives & Policies for 2018 & Beyond” to be held on Thursday, Nov. 2 from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at Nashville School of Law, Appellate Courtroom, 4013 Armory Oaks Drive, Nashville, Tenn. 
 
The speakers on the panel include:
  • Terry Olsen, Chair of the TBA International Law Section, as Moderator
  • Clay Banks, Regional Director of Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development
  • James Forde, Prosperity and Economics Officer of British Consulate General, Atlanta
  • Ms. Joanne Chu, Director of Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (New York)
  • Mr. Michael Kwan, Deputy Director of Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (New York)
The seminar will provide an overview of the global & U.S. trade & investment landscape as it concerns Tennessee for 2018 & beyond, and both policy & legal views of the ever-changing global standard of Tennessee in the international investment environment.
 
Attendees will also have the opportunity to have direct interactive discussions with the speakers at the end of the seminar.
 
The panel discussion will last from 6pm thru 7pm, and then followed with a FAQ session for attendees, along with a light reception of beverage & desserts. 
 
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Hot Topics in Real Estate 2017

The annual Hot Topics in Real Estate program, a collaborative between the Tennessee Bar Association and the Tennessee Land Title Association, is right around the corner. This program offers advanced topics in real estate for Tennessee lawyers and the opportunity to network with professionals sharing your focus.
 
This year's program will return with perennial favorites: legislative updates and case law updates, providing you with the important information needed to stay on top of your game. New this year are two innovative sessions focused on pressing issues in cybersecurity, an ever-changing market that often requires a novel approach. Section members receive a discounted rate for the program. For more information and to register for this event, click here.
 
 
• When: Nov. 10, registration begins at 8 a.m., CDT
 
• Where: AT&T Building, Auditorium, 333 Commerce St., Nashville, TN, 37201
 
 
Other topics include:
 
tax sales
commercial underwriting
sovereign citizens and squatters
 
Speakers/producers include:
 
• Scott Augenbaum, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Nashville 
• Joshua Denton, Gullett Sanford Robinson & Martin PLLC, Nashville 
• Joshua Hopkins, Rubin Lublin, LLC, Peachtree Corners 
• Joseph Kirkland Jr., CloseTrak, Memphis 
• Gerald Morgan, Wilson & Associates, PLLC, Brentwood 
• Mark Rosser, First American Title Insurance Company, Knoxville
• Charles Welch Jr, Farris Bobango PLC, Nashville
 
Course material will be made available online. We hope to see you there.
 
 
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Lawsuit Filed Against Knoxville Developer

A lawsuit alleging misrepresentation has been filed against prominent Knoxville developer Richard E. “Rick” Dover, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Royal Properties, Inc., which represents the owners of the historic Pryor Brown garage building in Knoxville, is suing Dover for alleged dishonesty over the costs of turning the building into condominiums and commercial space. He is also accused in the lawsuit of tricking the owners into deeding him the property and of using the property as his own personal storage. Dover had six felony convictions in Texas related to financial fraud more than 20 years ago, but built a career in Knoxville after that.
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Judge Tosses Lawsuit Against Zillow ‘Zestimates’

A federal judge has tossed out a lawsuit claiming real estate website Zillow’s “Zestimates” are in violation of appraisal laws, the ABA Journal reports. The suit was filed by a building company that believed Zillow was undervaluing some properties and publishing Zestimates, automated guesses as to a property’s appraisal value, without permission. The plaintiffs are looking into amending the complaint and pursuing the case further.
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15-Hour Annual Review CLE Set for Knoxville

On Aug. 25, a special Tennessee Bar Association CLE will provide 15 hours of combined live and online continuing legal education. Attend for seven live hours and receive an additional eight online credits to complete at your convenience. Topics for the live portion include cyber security, real estate, unemployment compensation, probate and more.

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Developers of Nashville Twin-Tower Project Head to Trial

The developers of a twin-tower project in Nashville are heading to trial over their controversial effort to buy a small parking lot in the footprint of their development, the Nashville Business Journal reports. The trial is scheduled for January 2018 and will see out-of-state investors clash with the Atlanta-based owner of the lot. The project was approved by the Metro Planning Commission last year and would be among the five tallest buildings in Nashville – 10 to 25 stories above Metro zoning restrictions for the area.
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Appellate Court Rules Landowners May Challenge TDOT Pipeline Permit

A judge found that two landowners do have standing to challenge a Tennessee Department of Transportation permit granted to US Nitrogen, which operates two 10-mile pipelines running along two state highways and could be intruding on the owners’ property, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Appeals Court Judge Brandon O. Gibson’s ruling completely reverses the decision of a lower court. US Nitrogen could be forced to remove the pipelines, which are being utilized in the production of ammonium nitrate, after the case goes back to Chancery Court to determine the legality of TDOT’s permits. 
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Item of Interest

Below is an article that was published in the the Disability Section Connect. We thought it had information that would be of interest to those of you in this section as well.  

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Man Sentenced in Mortgage Fraud Wants Conviction Tossed

A businessman sentenced in 2014 for a mortgage fraud scheme wants his conviction tossed out and a new trial, the Times Free Press reports. Attorney Michael Richardson argued in Chattanooga’s U.S. District Court that Joshua Dobson did not make an informed decision when he exercised his constitutional rights and took his case to trial in 2013. Richardson further explained that Dobson’s former attorney allowed his client to turn down a plea deal without properly explaining the amount of time Dobson faced in prison. Federal prosecutors, however, noted that the government never formally offered a deal to Dobson.
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Turn Your Expertise into a Magazine Article

It’s no surprise that some of the best articles in the Tennessee Bar Journal have come from TBA section members. Your membership in this section shows that you have a keen interest in trends, developments and case law in this practice area. Sharing this knowledge with your colleagues is one of the best traits of the profession.

How can you become a Journal author? Think of and refine your topic. It should be of interest to Tennessee lawyers, which is a broad criteria. This could mean you might explain a new state law, explain a complicated area of law, or take a larger issue and connect it to what it means for Tennessee attorneys and the justice system. Find a global issue within your particular experience or knowledge and tell about it and how it affects Tennessee law. Then take a look at the writer’s guidelines at http://www.tba.org/submit-an-article, which will tell you about length, notes and other details. Once it’s in the proper format, send it in! It goes to the editor, Suzanne Craig Robertson, who will then get it to the seven members of the Editorial Board for review.

If you are published, you may apply for CLE credit for your work under Supreme Court Rule 21 Section 4.07(b). For details on claiming the credit, check with the Commission on CLE & Specialization at http://www.cletn.com/.

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State AG Files Suit Against California Company for Imposter Scam

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III has filed a lawsuit against a California company for allegedly mailing invoices to new homeowners requiring payment in order for the homeowners to receive copies of their deeds. The invoices are designed to look like real government documents. The suit names LA Investors LLC, based in Southern California, and its principals, Roberto Romero and Laura Romero. LA Investors conducted business in Tennessee under the names “Local Records Office” and “National Profile Document.”

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Nashville Judge Under Scrutiny for Short-Term Rental Ownership Resigns

The Nashville magistrate who handled complaints and fines involving short-term rental properties has resigned amid reports that he owns mulitple short-term rental properties himself, the Tennessean reports. Jim Todd, magistrate for the Davidson County General Sessions Environmental Court, denies any wrongdoing, but said in his resignation letter to Judge Allegra Walker that he made the decision because “recent misleading media reports could call the court’s fairness into question.” 
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TBA Convention in Kingsport is Just Around the Corner

Registration is open for the 2017 TBA Annual Convention. This years programming offers plenty of opportunities to make new friends and renew acquaintances with colleagues from across the state. The highlight comes Thursday night with the Kingsport Karnival at the downtown Farmers Market. Along with fabulous food and drink, there will be live music from two bands, an aerialist, juggler, magician, body and face painters, caricaturist and more. Plus, you'll have access to the fabulous Kingsport Carousel, the delightful project of community artisans. Special thanks to Eastman for support of this event! 

This years convention also offers 12 hours of CLE programming, highlighted by sessions on the Hatfields and McCoys, The Neuroscience of Decision-Making, and the popular Better Right Now wellness program. It is all set at the beautiful MeadowView Marriott Conference Resort & Convention Center. To receive the TBA $129 room rate, you must book your reservation by May 23. Book your room online now or call 423-578-6600.

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Call For Submissions — Law Practice Pointers

One of the benefits of being a TBA Section Member is having access to information from experienced practitioners to assist in your day-to-day practice. The sharing of this information amongst colleagues is one of the best traits of the profession. It is also a way of helping each other to maneuver the evolving legal market and strengthen your legal practice.

How can you help your fellow Section Members?  If you have some Law Practice Pointers you would like to share with your fellow section members, write an article between 300-500 words and submit it to the Section Coordinator for review and approval. These Law Practice Pointers can be related to a court opinion, piece of legislation, or current event or industry trend that affects the practice of law as it relates to the specific Section. The main requirement is to make sure the article gives lawyers practical tips, based on experience, to include in their day-to-day practice.

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Nashville Sued Over Affordable Housing Ordinance

Conservative think tank Beacon Center of Tennessee filed a lawsuit against the city of Nashville for its recent affordable housing ordinance, calling it an unconstitutional mandate, the Nashville Post reports. The law requires apartment developers building five or more units and requesting variances for greater densities or heights to also include a percentage of new affordable housing units in the project. The suit seeks injunctive relief from the ordinance and a judge’s declaration that it is unconstitutional. 
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Court: Survivorship Rights Ended When Joint Owner Transferred Ownership

In a family dispute over land, the Tennessee Supreme Court has held that, where two persons own land as joint tenants with a right of survivorship, if one of them transfers her interest in the land to someone else, that action terminates both of the joint tenants’ survivorship interests. Justice Sharon Lee filed a dissent in which she argued it would be better to follow the law in jurisdictions such as Michigan or Oregon that do not allow a joint co-tenant to act unilaterally, protecting the rights and expectations of the joint tenants.
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Check Out New 1-Click CLE Offerings

Gain fast and easy access to annual updates with TBA's 1-Click CLE options. New packages offer recent programming in real estate, administrative law, and appellate practice.  
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Nashville Judge Rules Against ‘Eyesore’ Scrap Metal Yard

A federal judge in Nashville ruled against the scrapyard PSC Metals in a dispute between the company and its landlord, the Nashville Post reports. The two parties disagreed over an appraisal of the property, with the landowners believing that the appraisal should take into account what the land could be worth if it was rezoned from industrial to mixed use. Mayor Megan Barry has called the scrapyard an “eyesore” and former mayors have attempted to redevelop the property in the past.
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TBA Mashup and Mini Legal Hackathon this Friday

In conjunction with the Law Tech UnConference CLE this Friday, the TBA is also offering a variety of free events and programs for lawyers we’re calling a Mashup. One program will teach you about Legal Hackathons and see one in action. A Legal Hackathon is a collaborative effort of experts in the legal profession collaborating with a computer programmer to find a technology assisted solution to a problem in the legal industry. Join the TBA Special Committee on the Evolving Legal Market for a mini legal hackathon that will demonstrate the power of collaborative minds at work. We will have tasty beverages and snacks to help you get your collaborative juices flowing.  
 
Other programs that will be a part of the Mashup include Pro Bono In Action which will show you various pro bono programs you can participate in to help your fellow Tennesseans and Member Benefit Programs that will provide you information on  Fastcase 7, health insurance options for small firms, ABA retirement funds and professional liability insurance.
 
Please sign up now to let us know you are coming.

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Have You Heard About the TBA Mashup?

Interested in observing a legal hackathon or getting a hands-on demonstration of the new Fastcase 7 platform? Both will be part of the first TBA Mashup, a full-day of activities and free programming set for Feb. 17 at the Tennessee Bar Center in conjunction with the annual TBA Law Tech UnConference CLE program.

In addition to the hackathon and Fastcase 7 demo, the TBA Mashup will feature sessions on: 

  • Current State of Health Insurance for the Small Firms
  • Professional Liability Insurance - What to look for in YOUR Policy
  • A Demo of Fastcase TopForm, a powerful bankruptcy filing software
  • Retirement Planning Guidance from the ABA Retirement Funds
  • Pro Bono in Action: How to help with pro bono events and how to take part in online options

At the annual TBA Law Tech UnConference CLE program, you can take as many or as few hours as you need. Registration will be open all day. Payment will be determined at checkout based on the hours you need. Topics will include: 

  • Bill & Phil Tech Show
  • Ethical Considerations for Cyber Security in Law
  • Evolution of the Legal Marketplace
  • Making e-Discovery Affordable 
  • Drone Law
  • Encryption for Lawyers

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Investigators May Scrutinize Durham Land Deals

Federal authorities likely will scrutinize real estate transactions involving embattled ex-lawmaker Jeremy Durham, former U.S. attorney Jerry Martin told the Tennessean last week. An analysis of property records by the paper reveals that Durham and his wife borrowed $881,800 from a local bank to finance the purchase of three plots of land and construction of three homes in Williamson County. Records also show they transferred the properties in “unusual transactions” to a Spring Hill alderman who built the homes. The Durhams could have made as much as $91,000 in profit, but the deals were not listed on any disclosure statements, the paper reports. Durham’s lawyer Peter Strianse said all real estate transactions were “completely legal and properly reported to the IRS.”

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Judge Revives Nashville’s Airbnb Law

Davidson County Circuit Judge Kelvin Jones had a change of heart last week, the Tennessean reports. Jones previously had ruled that Metro Nashville’s law regulating short-term rental properties like Airbnbs was too vague to be understood by citizens and thus unconstitutional. Metro continued enforcing the law anyway, while asking Jones to stay his decision so better regulations could be written. Last week, Jones agreed with Metro attorneys that his ruling needed to be amended to only apply to Rachel and P.J. Anderson, the couple that filed suit against the rules. That means the city can enforce the law for everyone except the Andersons.

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Opinion: Homeless Vets Lack Access to Justice

Gary Housepian with the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands writes in today’s Tennessean that there are nearly 40,000 homeless veterans in America and another 1.4 million at risk of homelessness. This fact, he suggests, complicates efforts to provide legal services to veterans, who often need help with eviction and foreclosure, outstanding warrants and fines and child support issues. Housepian calls on his fellow lawyers to provide critical civil legal services and urges veterans to reach out for help.

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