iPhone Anyone?

I must be the last person in America to get a Facebook page.

It’s not that I have anything against Facebook. It’s just that life is so busy that there’s never really been a need – or much of an opportunity – to check it out before.

But there it is.  Big as life.  And now I have not only one Facebook page — but two.  A personal page, and a second one for my law office.  So now I feel like I’ve made it into the twenty-first century.

And that’s not all.  My son recently came home from Argentina, where he spent two years doing volunteer service.  A great experience for him and for those he met and served with.  When he came home, he was all of 21 years old, and he didn’t have much in the way of goods or money.  In fact, he was pretty much broke.  But when he came home, he asked for only one thing: an iphone.

This was no small request.  I’ve had cell phones for years, and they’ve been super useful in my law practice.  The ability to make calls from court and from outside the office has been priceless.  It’s been a real change over the years. When I first started practice, there were phone  booths in the courthouse.  If a judge wanted to set a date in a case, I’d sometimes be out in the hall dialing up my office trying to get my calendar availability.  Or I’d be calling a client, or someone else.  Courthouse phones were a big deal.

No more.  I don’t even remember seeing a phone booth in a courthouse for years.  I remember the first cell phone I ever saw.  I was in my office and got a call from an attorney who said he was sitting in a doctor’s office waiting to take the doctor’s deposition.  Nobody had said anything to me – and the doctor was my client!  So I hurried over to this doctor’s office.  When I got there, the waiting room was full of patients.  I saw the attorney sitting there, and we started conversing.  I didn’t see any available phones around, and I asked him how he had made his call to my office.  He pulled out a bulky Motorola cell phone that had a microphone that flipped open and he showed me how it worked.  Unbelieveable.  I felt like he had walked into that office straight out of “Star Trek.”

Now all that’s changed.  Cell phones are a part of everyday life.  Some of my clients don’t even keep a land line anymore – they do everything by cell phone.  So I’m familiar with – and grateful for – cell phones.

But an iphone – I’d never spent any time with one, and wasn’t familiar with them.  But my son asked for one.  It was the only thing he asked for when he got home from Argentina.  Several months earlier my wife had suggested we get iphones.  With my wife and son looking at me this way, I finally caught up and we all three got cell phones.

My!  How convenient they are!  I had no idea.  It’s a phone.  It’s a camera.  It’s a dictionary.  It’s an encyclopedia.  It’s a timer.  It’s an alarm clock.   It’s a mirror. It’s a reminder device.  It’s a calculator.  It’s a calendar.  It’s a scanner. It reviews restaurants.  It sends emails. I use it everyday, all the time.  I really had no idea. I know one person who calls it her “iLife.”

So I was recently in court at trial. The case involved a dispute between a real estate broker and a seller of property.  The broker wanted to collect a commission from the seller even though the transaction had been canceled.  The opposing side offered up a document in evidence that I hadn’t seen before.  They had to show it to me before they could submit it to the judge.  As soon as I saw it, I knew we’d be talking about it in open court – a lot.  But there was no way for me to find a copy machine and make a copy so I could review it while we discussed it in open court.  I had a few brief moments to review it, and then it was going to be submitted to the judge for her review and we would immediately start discussing it.  So what did I do?  I whipped out my iphone, and took a photo of it.  That way I was able to review it on my iphone as soon as the opposing party submitted it to the judge.  Honestly, I never thought I’d be using my iphone to preserve or discuss evidence at trial.  But there it was – super handy, super convenient.  Could I ever go back to a plain old cell phone?  Sure I could.  But it wouldn’t be fun.

Borrowers Can Get Information About Their Loans

            Most loans, including mortgaged loans (or mortgages) can be bought and sold. Home loans are often “serviced” by a company that has been hired by the lender to collect payments for the lender from the borrower. Such companies are often known as “loan servicers” or more simply as “servicers.” Federal law requires certain loan servicers to provide notice to borrowers when a borrower’s loan is bought or sold. This notice requirement also applies when the lender hires a new company to “service” the loan.  When certain loans are bought or sold, or when the servicing of such loans is transferred to a new servicer, the servicer who transfers such loan must provide notice of the sale or transfer to the borrower at least 15 days before the loan is sold.  Such notice must contain the name, address, and toll-free number of the new lender or servicer.  In addition, many times the new servicer must also provide a notice to borrowers that the loan has been sold or the servicing has been transferred.

Even though Federal law requires that two notices be provided to certain borrowers when their loan is sold or when the servicing is transferred, it’s possible that borrowers could still be uncertain as to who their actual lender is.  Borrowers could become confused if they receive multiple notices after their loan is sold multiples times.  Some borrowers may have incomplete paperwork if the notices they received from their lenders are lost or destroyed.  Also, borrowers may not know who their actual lender is if such borrowers receive notice from loan servicers when the loan servicing is being transferred. (Loan “servicing” occurs when a lender hires a different company to collect payments as they become due and to otherwise communicate with the borrower about their loan.)  Since borrowers are entitled to receive notice when their loan servicing is transferred, it would be possible for borrowers to be uncertain whether or not their loan “servicer” is also the owner of their loan.

Fortunately, Congress has provided a method for borrowers to obtain information from a loan servicer as to the identity of a borrower’s lender.  Federal law obligates certain loan servicers to respond to requests for information from borrowers.  Borrowers can send their servicer a “Qualified Written Request” which obligates such servicers to acknowledge this request within 20 days and to then to fully respond to the request within 60 days (Holidays and weekends are not counted in the calculation of these time periods, so the servicer’s response is  not due in 60 calendar days – it’s 60 business days).  Servicers are only required to respond to a “Qualified Written Request,” which consists of a written request that is not made on a payment stub, coupon, or other payment item supplied by the servicer.  A “Qualified Written Request” must enable the servicer to identify the borrower’s name and account, and must include a statement of the reasons for the borrower’s belief that the account has an error, or the request must describe the other information requested by the borrower.  The law that provides for these items is located at 12 United States Code section 2605(e).

What does this all mean?  If a borrower receives a payment coupon from a loan servicer, and if the borrower writes on the coupon something like “Who owns this loan?” or “Did you give me credit for my last payment?” and then mails the coupon back to the servicer, then this question is not a “Qualified Written Request” because the request was made on a payment coupon supplied by the lender.  However, if the borrower wrote those questions in a separate letter, then such a letter may constitute a “Qualified Written Request.” Persons seeking details about making a Qualified Written Request should contact an appropriate legal professional.

The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) indicates at its website that it protects “America’s Consumers.”  The FTC’s web address for certain mortgage loan information is located at

Bankruptcy Can Be an Issue

Clients file Bankruptcy for all kinds of reasons.  Many times Bankruptcy is the inevitable end result when borrowers experience a negative change in their financial situation.

But there can also be situations where a borrower ends up in Bankruptcy due to surprise.  And one of these surprises can result from foreclosure.

With respect to personal liability, California has two general types of homeowner loans—“recourse” and “non-recourse.”  When a loan is a “recourse” loan then the borrower can have personal liability if the loan is not fully repaid.  When a loan is “non-recourse” then the borrower will generally not have personal liability if the loan isn’t repaid.

Many homeowners don’t know whether their loan is “recourse” or “non-recourse.”  If these homeowners default on their loan, then the nature of their loan can be very important.  If a loan is “recourse” and the borrower defaults, then the borrower may be exposed to personal liability following foreclosure.  If the lender files suit against the borrower following foreclosure, then insolvent borrowers may have little option other than Bankruptcy.

Negotiations with lenders can be greatly influenced by whether a borrower’s loan is “recourse” or “non-recourse.”  Some lenders appear to be very willing to make demands on borrowers for repayment even when a loan is “non-recourse.”  And the “non-recourse” nature of a loan can be lost or damaged if a borrower doesn’t act prudently. A lender on a “non-recourse” loan is generally limited to the value of the property.  Situations can vary, and a borrower’s personal liability isn’t always clear. For these reasons, borrowers should always seek competent, professional legal counsel when trying to determine whether their loan is “recourse” or “non-recourse” or before signing any promissory note in favor of their lender.

Trick or Treaters Can Be Expected

            It seems like most people have a good idea as to who is likely to show up at their door on any given day.  Family, friends, neighbors, kids’ friends, the occasional girl scout selling cookies, or maybe an elementary school kid promoting a school fundraiser.  Occasional visitors might include persons sharing religious messages, repairmen, contractors, and even the occasional door to door salesman selling vacuum cleaners or Fuller Brush products.  For most people, that’s about it.

But on one night each year, most people in North America can expect to see a handful of little strangers appear on their door step with nothing to sell, and only asking for something small such as a treat.  That night would, of course, be Halloween.

According to Wikipedia, Halloween is a variant of “All-Hallows-Even” and is the name give to the evening before “All Hallows Day”, or “Hallowmas,” which is also known as “All Saints Day.”  This Day is a religious Holiday that has been around for a long time.  Apparently Shakespeare even refers to the day by the name of “Hallowmas” in his comedy “The Two Gentlemen of Verona.”

According to Wikipedia, the development of “Trick-or-Treating” is a relatively recent development in the observance of Halloween.  Trick-or-Treating is now apparently done  in many different countries, and generally consists of children visiting homes (often of strangers), often accompanied by an adult, where the children say “Trick-or-Treat” after knocking on the front door.  The practice apparently originated as a request by the children for a small treat in exchange for the children not performing some prank or trick on property or the homeowner.  In common practice, there doesn’t seem to be any significant consideration of any “prank” or “trick” in connection with Trick-or-Treating, and most people who participate seem to have a generally positive experience with the practice.  Those who aren’t interested in participating usually seem to keep their lights off or go out for the evening.

From a legal perspective, Halloween creates an interesting situation with respect to homeowners and occupants of property.  Many homeowners don’t specifically invite children to their home on Halloween.  But most people who have lived in this country for any length of time are familiar with the practice of Trick-or-Treating, and many people can reasonably expect children to arrive at their door on Halloween unannounced and uninvited.  It’s usually dark when most of these children show up.  All of these factors can combine to create an unusual set of circumstances – expected visitors who may be excited and may not be paying close attention to their surroundings coming up to properties after dark.  It’s always a good idea for homeowners and property occupants to keep their properties in reasonably clean, orderly, and safe condition for persons who may be coming on to the property.  But it may be especially so when young visitors can be expected after dark – such as on Halloween.  Nobody wants to have a Trick-or-Treat excursion end in an accident or tragedy.  Halloween is a great time for homeowners to take a look around their front yard to make sure that the path to their door is clear, unobstructed, and free of clutter or debris that could present any kind of a risk, danger, or hazard.

Traveling up to a front door doesn’t pose the only potential risk to young children.   Their teeth can also experience the effects of lots of candy.  At least one dentist has been known to sponsor a candy trade-in  where incentives, prizes or rewards are offered to young trick-or-treaters in exchange for the candy they have received on Halloween.  Homeowners or others who are concerned about the effects of lots of candy sometimes offer alternative treats, such as small gifts or favors, or even coins.  That’s one way to recycle of all of that excess change that’s been building up in a jar over the past few years.

Home Sweet Home – or Not

            A legal matter can be an unusual sort of business.

Most people are accustomed to dealing in economic, interchangeable types of transactions.  For example, if someone wants to buy a pair of running shoes, they know where to do so.  They can walk into a mall, or into a large retail store, or into a sporting goods store and before long they can find what they are looking for.  If they prefer online shopping, then it won’t take long to find a pair of shoes for sale online.  Yard sales, online auctions – there are lots of possibilities for buying a pair of running shoes.  And if the shopper doesn’t like the terms of sale, or the price, or the quality, or anything else, then they can just say “Thanks – but no thanks” and move on to the next seller.  Buyers usually aren’t tied to any particular store or any particular seller.  They can just look around until they find what they want, at a price they are willing to pay, from a person or store they like, and then they can make a purchase.

Legal matters are different.  A person involved in a legal matter can’t always choose who they do business with, or how or when their legal matter will end.  Sometimes people get involved in a legal matter, and it just ends up costing more, or taking more time, or causing more frustration that was originally expected.  There can be a great temptation to say “I’m just ready to be done.  Just finish this. By Tuesday if possible.  And I don’t want it to cost me very much.”  Sometimes that kind of an approach might work.  But other times it might be just wishful thinking.

A legal matter can be long, drawn out, uncertain, complex, and emotional.  This can be especially true when the stakes are high.  For most people, the biggest purchase they’ll ever make is their home.  Even after the market downturn, many homes cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and people obligate themselves to payment terms for a lifetime – 30 years or more.  Plus a home is often a centerpoint of life – people are often invested in their homes.  A home can be a center of family life, and a lot of effort, sweat and thought can go into getting a home “just so” or just how the owner likes it.  So it’s no surprise that homeowners can frequently feel like their home is almost an extension of themselves.

When the condition or the status of their home becomes threatened, people’s defenses can go up.  This can happen for any one of a number of reasons.  But one of the most common threats these days is the threat of foreclosure.  Everybody knows that in most cases you have to make your monthly mortgage payment or you’ll eventually lose your home.  But if a borrower can’t make their monthly payment because of illness, job loss, or other circumstances, then it can just sometimes feel like events are getting to be too much.  In these situations, the borrower can often feel like they are in an adversarial relationship with their lender.

And it doesn’t help that borrowers sometimes feel like their lender is unresponsive.  There are still many experiences where borrowers are trying to get a loan modification so that they can stay in their homes, but they sometimes find that the lender loses their paperwork, and that it has to all be re-assembled and submitted.  Or sometimes there can be a substantial delay in getting information, approval, or agreement back from a lender.  This can occur both in situations where borrowers seek loan modifications, as well as in situations where borrowers seek to cure their past loan defaults and bring their loans current.

It can be a difficult – and trying – time.  And because there is usually only one – or two -lenders involved, the borrower usually can’t just say “I’ve had enough – I’m ready to be done – I’d prefer to deal with someone else.”  No, it’s a legal matter and most borrowers have little option other than to deal with the lender they already have.  If the lender’s slow to respond, or difficult to deal with, then the borrower may not be able to realistically end their relationship and just deal with someone else.

In these situations, borrowers sometimes find they are in over their heads.  They often find they could use some good professional coaching, training, or advice.  When dealing with these loan situations, or loan defaults, or risk of foreclosure, or similar items, it’s often a great idea for borrowers to consult with skilled, professional legal counsel.  Borrowers who do so often find they feel much better after such consultation, because they are able to better explore their available options.

Laws Can Vary from State to State

Nevada.  It’s not California.

I recently had the opportunity of driving from Salt Lake City to the San Francisco Bay Area.  Our trip took us on Interstate 80.  At Elko, one of the locals told us some people feel Nevada should be cleaned off the map, but this person told us that such people feel that way only because they never get off Interstate 80.  We took this person’s advice, and at Battle Mountain we took Highway 305 south to Highway 50.  Except for the view of Lake Tahoe from Highway 50, this detour showed us the most beautiful views of Nevada I’ve ever seen.  We’ve never viewed so much green in Nevada, and the mountain vistas were breathtaking.

But landscape and rainfall aren’t the only things that distinguish Nevada from California. The laws concerning lending and foreclosure are also different.  I know of a lender who used to make loans in California.  This lender moved their operations to Nevada, with no further business being done in California.  This was because this lender felt that the Nevada lending laws were much simpler than the California lending laws.  Simpler laws can sometimes allow greater flexibility in business transactions, and this lender found California lending law too restrictive and too regulated.

Those same regulations that make lending more difficult in California can actually provide a benefit to borrowers.  California has lending laws that protect borrowers that some other states don’t have.  Several months ago I had occasion to call an attorney in Nevada about Nevada’s foreclosure laws.  This attorney advised me that in Nevada, lenders can foreclose non-judicially on most loans and then as a routine matter file suit against the borrowers for any deficiency.  That type of situation most frequently happens in California only when a property is encumbered by two loans and where foreclosure by a first results in the second lender becoming a “sold-out junior.”   As a result, some California borrowers experience foreclosure without resulting personal liability, whereas the results would apparently be different in Nevada.

Few people go into a real estate transaction expecting that they will default on their loan payments.  If people had such expectations, most of them probably wouldn’t make their real estate purchase.  Because they don’t expect to default, and because California lending and foreclosure laws are complex, most homebuyers don’t spend the necessary time and money to fully understand the consequences of a default before they purchase a property.  But in the present market, many of these homebuyers find they are taking a crash course in finance and lending law.  What some of them find out after the fact is that the information they get can significantly vary from state to state.

Home is a Castle

            As noted by the California Supreme Court, “A Man’s Home is his Castle.”  People v. Thompson (2006) 38 Cal. 4th 811, 829.

The concept of the “home” as a “castle” has a long, long history in both English and American law. As noted in the People v. Thompson case, American law has for many years provided that a person has an extremely high right of privacy in their own home.  The California Supreme Court wrote that this principle is not “just some forgotten vestige of 15th century English law that allowed English peasants to assert their rights against a powerful monarchy.” Instead, this principle is dearly held, honored and cherished in American law.  The Framers of the U.S. Constitution specifically provided for a very strong right of privacy in the language of the Fourth Amendment: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”  The United States Supreme Court has held that “At the very core [of the Fourth Amendment] stands the right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion.”   Silverman v. United States (1961) 365 U.S. 505, 511.   In the Silverman case, law enforcement officers had placed an electronic device on a heating duct, which essentially turned the duct into a “gigantic microphone” running throughout an entire house.  Because this microphone was placed without a warrant, it constituted a violation of the Fourth Amendment and the conversations heard by police officers were inadmissible evidence.  Likewise, in one case the use of a “thermal imaging device” to explore the details inside a home were held improper when a search warrant wasn’t first obtained.   Kyllo v. United States (2001) 533 U.S. 27, 28.

Whether or not a search warrant must first be obtained before a proper search or investigation can be made is a subject that fills many, many pages of reported legal cases.  But an interesting question arises when the “home” is actually not a “home” at all – but is instead a public sidewalk.

Webster’s II New College Dictionary contains a definition for “Skid Row,” which generally designates a place where people live who are “down on their luck” (so to speak).  Los Angeles apparently has an area actually known as “Skid Row.” (See the report at Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, 2011 Greater Los Angeles Homeless County Report. The report notes that nearly 34% of the homeless in this area are ages 55 and older. The report also states that 18% of the homeless are veterans).  The report further states that according to HUD, an “unsheltered homeless person” is a person who resides in “A place not meant for human habitation, such as cars, parks, sidewalks, abandoned buildings, or on

the street.”

Apparently several individuals were living in the Skid Row district of Los Angeles in 2011, and on several occasions they “stepped away” from their personal property, leaving it on the sidewalks, to perform tasks including eating, showering, or attending court.  These persons had not abandoned their property, but City employees nevertheless seized and destroyed the property under the Los Angeles Municipal Code, which states that “no person shall leave or permit to remain any merchandise, baggage or any article of personal property upon any parkway or sidewalk.”

Nine of these individuals filed suit against the City of Los Angeles by claiming that these practices violated the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.  The trial court granted an injunction that, among other things, barred the City from “Seizing property in Skid Row absent an objectively reasonable belief that it is abandoned and presents an immediate threat to public health or safety, or is evidence of a crime.”  The court also ordered that unless the material posed an immediate threat to public health or safety, the City was obligated to store the property in a secure location for at least 90 days.”  The case was appealed, and in September of 2012 the trial court’s ruling was affirmed.

For details of the ruling, see Lavan v. City of Los Angeles (2012) DJDAR 12545.

Constitutional rights of property and privacy are very complex, and a substantial amount of legal authority exists on these issues. The foregoing discussion only provides the most limited discussion of some of the key issues involved.  Persons with questions about rights of property or privacy should consult competent legal counsel.

Not Worth the Fight

Sometimes Truth is stranger than Fiction.

Having said that, it’s worth noting that homeowner’s insurance can provide a broad range of coverage.  In one case homeowner’s insurance covered a man who fell out of a tree while trying to lop off some large tree branches.  In another case homeowner’s insurance covered someone who fell through a glass topped table while dancing on it. In yet another case homeowner’s insurance covered a claim that a strand of bamboo in a drainage canal caused serious erosion to the property across the canal. Homeowner’s insurance can cover all kinds of things.  But can homeowner’s insurance cover two ears and a nose?

Homeowners insurance is almost always a good idea.  Most policies carry two kinds of coverage: coverage for the home and its contents, and also general liability coverage for the homeowner.  This general liability coverage won’t usually provide coverage for accidents or losses involving motor vehicles.  That kind of coverage is usually provided by a separate policy of motor vehicle insurance.  But if a covered homeowner is out golfing, and if they unintentionally hit a stray ball over a high fence so that it blasts through a million dollar stained glass window on the front of a mile high cathedral – well, there just might be coverage for that.  The general liability coverage in a homeowner’s policy can often provide coverage for all kinds of general liability where a homeowner might unintentionally cause loss or injury to someone else.  Many homeowners might generally think that this type of general liability coverage might only extend to an injury that occurs on the property – such as somebody walking past the house who steps on a rake, and where the rake flips up and gives them a smack right on the forehead.  Or the population of homeowners at large might think that homeowner’s general liability coverage might only extend to something like the homeowner who digs a trench across their front walkway and front yard to install a pipe, only to have a neighbor step into that trench with disastrous results.  Yes, such accidents might be covered.  But there can also be events off the premises that can be covered.  Some of these might be very simple.  Or some can be more dramatic – like one involving a nose and two ears.

Apparently a lawsuit was filed in the Federal District Court in Colorado that resulted in a trial in 1986.  In that case, the plaintiff (or “claimant”) filed a suit against an insurance company who had written a policy of homeowner’s insurance for a defendant.  Apparently the plaintiff had lost his nose and both ears, and had tendered a claim for compensation to the insurance company who had insured the defendant.  The insurance company denied coverage, and the plaintiff sued.  The person who lost their nose and both ears was named Maestas.  The defendant who was insured was named Castro.  In the court’s own words, here is what happened:

“Maestas [the plaintiff] and Castro [the defendant] were occasional drinking buddies who were acquainted through work and softball team activities.  On the night of December 5, 1982, they were drinking and socializing in a bar.  The evening’s events did not remain subdued and tranquil, however.  Epithets were exchanged and fisticuffs ensued.  Maestas and Castro were asked to leave the bar premises.  Round two took place in the parking lot.  Though each claimed the other was the initial aggressor, Maestas lost; his nose and ears were bitten off.

“Before this brawl Castro had hopes of becoming a policeman, but he entered the court system through the other door, so to speak.  He was convicted of criminal assault in the second degree and sentenced to four years imprisonment.”

“On May 3, 1984, Maestas filed a civil complaint against Castro in the state district court.  The complaint sought damages from Castro due to negligence!  One is puzzled by the allegation since at least three bites were required to achieve the damage inflicted.  Arguably such activity could be described as gross negligence, but I think the third bite pretty clearly elevates the activity to an intentional tort, however mindless it might seem.”

Maestas apparently tended a claim to the insurance company for coverage, which was denied.  Maestas then filed suit against the insurance company.  The trial court judge noted that the policy excluded coverage for claims that were “expected or intended by the insured.”  The Court found that biting off the nose and ears of another person required an intentional act (which was expected or intended), and therefore no insurance coverage existed.

As a result, Maestas not only lost the fight; he lost the lawsuit as well.  The case is reported as W. Am. Ins. Co. v. Maesstas, 631 F. Supp. 1565 (D. Colo. 1986).

Homeowner insurance policy coverages can involve complex legal issues.  Persons with coverage questions or issues should consult competent legal counsel.

Homeowner’s Insurance is Important

Several years ago a homeowner wanted to trim a large tree in his front yard. He got two friends to help him. The tree was so large that one of the friends climbed up into the tree.  The friend intended to cut large branches from the tree while he was standing in it.

A rope was obtained, and was tied onto one of the branches to help control it as it fell from the tree.  However, these men weren’t professionals, and there was a problem with the rope.  It failed to work as anticipated, and the friend in the tree lost his balance.  He fell out of the tree onto the sidewalk below, and landed on his elbows.  He ended up with serious injuries and he filed suit against the homeowner.

The homeowner had a policy of homeowner’s insurance, and the homeowner made a claim under the policy.  The insurer accepted the claim and defended the homeowner in the lawsuit.

Sometimes homeowners don’t realize that many (or perhaps most) homeowner policies provide two types of coverage.  The first type of coverage is usually for the house and its contents.  But there’s often also a second type of coverage that some homeowners may not be aware of.  This type of coverage often provides insurance coverage for many types of general liability claims.  This second type of coverage was the policy provision that provided coverage for the homeowner whose friend fell out of the tree.

Why does this make a difference?  Because some homeowners will ultimately pay off their homes.  Once they do, their lenders will no longer require that the homeowner purchase homeowner’s insurance.  But it’s always a good idea to carry such insurance, not only to protect the house and its contents, but also to provide coverage for liability for some accidents.  Coverage can vary from policy to policy, and homeowners should consult a professional in order to determine what their coverage needs are and the types of coverage their policy provides.

It’s About Time

I recently saw a foreclosure notice that gave the date, time and location of a foreclosure sale for some commercial real property.  The foreclosure sale date was set in December.  The location of the sale was in Oakland on the Alameda Courthouse steps.  But the time of the sale was listed as “12:00 p.m.”

That seems straightforward enough.  “12:00 p.m. means . . .”  well, it probably means noon, right?  Probably.  But what if it didn’t?  What if it meant some other time?  Was that even possible?

I knew that “p.m.” meant “post something” but I wasn’t sure what.  So this notice sent me first to my Law Dictionary and then to my desktop College Dictionary.  My Law Dictionary contains tens of thousands of legal definitions.  Sure enough, I found “p.m.” in my Law Dictionary.   I found it right after “Piepowder Court” (which was a court in medieval England that had jurisdiction over a fair or market). So what is the legal meaning of  “p.m.”?  According to my Law Dictionary, “p.m.” is an abbreviation for “post meridiem.”  That’s it. Not too helpful.  So I went to the Law Dictionary definition of “post meridiem” and found the meaning, which is “After noon.”  That’s it.  My College Dictionary?  It had nothing for p.m.  But the College Dictionary definitions of “post meridian” and “post meridiem” generally mean “after noon.”

So now I was really confused.  If 12:00 noon occurs at noon, and if you have 12 hours after noon, does that mean midnight?  If so, then 12:00 p.m. could literally mean 12 hours after noon had passed, which would be midnight.

Lacking adequate clarity on my situation from either of my two dictionaries, I accessed a very accessible encyclopedia —- which was Wikipedia.  I’ve heard that some people may not like Wikipedia.  But for quick accessibility on a topic of general interest, it’s hard to beat.

According to Wikipedia, “post meridiem” means “after midday.”  Conversely, “a.m.” means “before midday.”  Still no clarity – 12:00 p.m. could still logically mean either “noon” or twelve hours after noon.

Wikipedia neatly wrapped this up by suggesting that 12:00 can be viewed as “zero” which would mean that 12:00 p.m. would be “noon” and 12:00 a.m. would be “midnight.”  But then Wikipedia specifically observed that confusion can exist with the use of “12:00 a.m.”, “12:00 p.m.” and the word “midnight.”  If the date changes at exactly midnight, then it’s unclear which time “midnight” may refer to. For example, if a legal notice referred to “midnight on June 12″ then there’s a very real question as to whether the appointed time is at the end of June 11 and the beginning of June 12 in the very early morning hours, or late on June 12 at the latest possible hour just before June 13 begins.  It’s just not clear.  Likewise, 12:00 p.m. on June 12 could mean noon, or it could also mean 12 hours after noon, which would be the moment when June 12 ended and June 13 began.

So much confusion over such a little thing!

Wikipedia suggested a neat little remedy for avoiding such confusion.  Wikipedia noted that some legal documents use 11:59 p.m. as the end of one day, and 12:01 a.m. as the beginning of a second day.

A foreclosing person can choose the time at which the foreclosure sale will be held.  Why not choose 11:59 a.m.?  Or why not choose 12:00 noon? Or why not just choose 10:00 a.m. so everybody can go out to lunch afterwards?