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New Decision: Mortgage Lien (Heartwood II v. Dori)
January 27, 2017

Whether a mortgage with a correct legal description can be foreclosed if the deed to the mortgagor/borrower contained a defective legal description was at issue and Heartwood II. LLLC v. Dori, Case No. 3D1-2576 Fla. 3d DCA, January 11, 2017). The trial court dismissed the lender’s mortgage foreclosure action and reformation action.

Two instruments were involved a deed to Mr. Dori and a mortgage from him to the lender. The deed would make a title underwriter cry. The legal description in the deed to Dori stated as a legal description:

Unit 918, Mirador 1200, a Condominium, together with an undivided interest in the common elements, according to the Declaration of Condominium thereof, as recorded in Official Records Book , Page , of the Public Records of Miami-Dade County.

This Commitment will be endorsed at the time of the recordation of the Declaration of Condominium to complete the legal description.

The unit’s street address was stated.

The same date Dori obtain the deed, he executed the mortgage for unit which is the subject of the foreclosure action. The mortgage contained the proper legal description, including the recording book and page numbers missing from the deed, and including the same street address.

The deed likely was created by copying the legal description from the title commitment which was created before the declaration of condominium was recorded. The court also surmised that the mortgage has the correct legal description because the mortgage was created by the lender.

The lender’s complaint sought to foreclosure the mortgage and to reform the deed’s legal description. Dori answered admitting that he owned the property, and not raising any affirmative defense concerning the deed’s legal description. The lender’s unopposed motion for leave to amend to add the deed’s grantor was denied because the case was set for trial the following month.

The ultimate bottom line was that as Dori acknowledged ownership and there was no dispute that the mortgage contained the proper legal description, the mortgage was valid. The result was that the matter was remanded, not just for further proceedings, but for entry of a judgment of foreclosure. The lender at its option could pursue the reformation action.

Interestingly, the appellate court did not address whether the deed is adequate. Normally, the test is whether the deed provides sufficient identification of the property. In this instance the name of the condominium and the unit was present together with the street address which might have been a sufficient identification of the property; thus, alleviating the need to reform. In the same regard, if the deed was not sufficient, then the foreclosure action should not have been allowed proceed without naming the owner of property.

Michael J. Gelfand
Florida Bar Board Certified Real Estate Attorney
Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediator: Civil Circuit Court & Civil County Court

Michael J. Gelfand
Immediate Past Chair
Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section of The Florida Bar
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Note: This article is not legal advice. Statements and comments made are not those of The Florida Bar or the RPPTL Section
© 2017 Michael J. Gelfand