How Do I Prevent a Sale of Property if the Owner Owes me Money for an Oral Loan?
The doctrine of unjust enrichment is based upon the principle that one should not be permitted unjustly to enrich himself at the expense of another but should be required to make restitution of or for property received, retained or appropriated. The general rule is that a payment of money under a mistake of fact may be recovered provided that such payment will not prejudice the payee. It is considered unjust enrichment to permit a recipient to retain money paid because of a mistake, unless the circumstances are such that it would be inequitable to require its return. This applies even if the mistake is one on one side (unilateral) and a consequence of the payors negligence, or that the payee acted in good faith. "A person who has conferred a benefit on another by mistake is not precluded from maintaining an action for restitution by the fact that the mistake was due to his lack of care." (Restatement of Restitution § 59.) Equity, which is based on notions of fairness, often allows a person who pays money to another under the mistaken belief a valid contract exists to recover that money when the contract is subsequently canceled for fraud or mistake and the rights of innocent parties have not intervened. (Restatement of Restitution §§ 17, 28.)
A constructive trust is one that arises by operation of law against one who, by fraud, wrongdoing, or any other unconscionable conduct, either has obtained or holds legal right to property which he ought not to, in good conscience, keep and enjoy. A constructive trust is an appropriate remedy against unjust enrichment. Unjust enrichment is present in nearly every case where a constructive trust is imposed. However, the court's creation of a constructive trust is not necessarily dependent on a finding that the person whose property is subjected to it has acted wrongly, but may rest as well upon a finding of unjust enrichment arising from other circumstances that "render it inequitable for the party holding the title to retain it." (Starleper v. Hamilton 106 Md.App. 632, 666 A.2d 867 (1995).)
The basis for creating a constructive trust is to prevent unjust enrichment. (Restatement of Restitution § 160, comment c.) "Where a person wrongfully disposes of property of another knowing that the disposition is wrongful and acquires in exchange other property, the other is entitled to enforce a constructive trust of the property so acquired." If the property so acquired is or becomes more valuable than the property used in acquiring it, the profit thus made by the wrongdoer cannot be retained by him; the person whose property was used in making the profit is entitled to it." (Restatement Restitution § 202.) When property is given or devised to a defendant in breach of a donor's or testator's contract with a plaintiff, equity will impose a constructive trust upon that property being held by another even though (1) the transfer is not the result of breach of a fiduciary duty or an actual or constructive fraud practiced upon the plaintiff, and (2) the donee or devisee had no knowledge of the wrongdoing or breach of contract. (Jones v. Harrison , 250 Va. 64, 458 S.E.2d 766 (1995 ).)
A person who has been unjustly enriched at the expense of another may be required to make restitution to the other. Despite not having a contractual agreement, a trial court may require an individual to make restitution for unjust enrichment if he has received a benefit which would be unconscionable to retain. A person may be deemed to be unjustly enriched if he (or she) has received a benefit, and keeping it would create injustice.
If a person is sued for a breach of contract and fails to pay the winner's judgment, the unpaid judgment can be used to place a lien on the property owned by the losing party. Having a judgment lien on real property makes it more difficult to sell. An oral contract may be enforced through a breach of contract action, but oral contracts present evidentiary problems and often become a matter of one's person's word against the other's. If possible, it is best to get the agreement in writing. Please see the links to the breach of contract forms and promissory notes below.
A promissory note may be secured or unsecured. When it is secured, it means that property, called collateral, may be taken by the lender if the borrower fails to pay the loan payment. If the debtor files bankruptcy, the lender may be able to recover the value of the loan by taking possession of the specified collateral instead of receiving only a portion of the borrowers property after it is divided among all creditors. Collateral may be many different types of property, such as shares of stock of a company, inventory, accounts receivable, etc.
The parties to the loan must sign it and the notary must witness the signatures. The contract may contain a choice of law clause as to where it will be litigated if a dispute arises. Choice of law refers to what jurisdiction's law is to be applied when there is a dispute in a transaction. The loan document may then be recorded in the county recorder's office where the property is located.
A promissory note may provide for payments to be made in installments or in a lump sum. The terms may provide for a series of smaller payments at the beginning of the loan period and a larger balloon payment at the end of the loan period. The option for a confessed judgment agreement, also called a cognovit note, may also be included. A confessed judgment agreement requires the debtor not to claim defenses and agree to have a judgment entered against him if he fails to pay and the matter is taken to court.
Promissory Note: A promissory note is a written promise to pay a debt and is typically signed at the time of the loan. It is an unconditional promise to pay on demand or at a fixed or determined future time a particular sum of money to or to the order of a specified person or to the bearer.
Cognovit Note: A cognovit note is a note in which the maker acknowledges the debt and authorizes the entry of judgment against him or her without notice or a hearing : a note containing a confession of judgment. This type of note is not valid in many States.
Collateral Note: A collateral note is a note secured by collateral. Same as a secured note.
Demand Note: A demand note is a note payable on demand from the person who is owed the money.
Floating Note: A floating rate note (or adjustable rate note) is a note where interest varies.
Recourse Note: A recourse note is a note where the default may result in loss of collateral and also personal suit and judgment. Most notes are recourse notes.
Renewal Note: A renewal note is a note that renews a previous note due date.
Unsecured Note: An unsecured note is a note that is not secured by any collateral but only the promise to pay (i.e. signature only is required to loan the money).
If a mortgage already exists on the property, the lender most likely has a prior lien recorded on the property. A mortgage loan will typically create a lien on a home and if filed before another debtor, the mortgage lien will be entitled to be paid first before the remaining proceeds, if any, can be paid to junior creditors.
If you wish to use the legal system to resolve your dispute, you may want to review the following general information regarding contract law and breach of contract actions:
Contracts are agreements that are legally enforceable. A contract is an agreement between two parties that creates an obligation to do or refrain from doing a particular thing. The purpose of a contract is to establish the terms of the agreement by which the parties have fixed their rights and duties. An oral contract is an agreement made with spoken words and either no writing or only partially written. An oral contract may generally be enforced the same as a written agreement. However, it is much more difficult with an oral contract to prove its existence or the terms. Oral contracts also usually have a shorter time period within which a person seeking to enforce their contract right must sue. A written contract generally provides a longer time to sue than for breach of an oral contract. Contracts are mainly governed by state statutory and common (judge-made) law and private law. Private law generally refers to the terms of the agreement between the parties, as parties have freedom to override many state law requirements regarding formalities of contracts. Each state has developed its own common law of contracts, which consists of a body of jurisprudence developed over time by trial and appellate courts on a case-by-case basis.
An unjustifiable failure to perform all or some part of a contractual duty is a breach of contract. A legal action for breach of contract arises when at least one party's performance does not live up to the terms of the contract and causes the other party to suffer economic damage or other types of measurable injury. A lawsuit for breach of contract is a civil action and the remedies awarded are designed to place the injured party in the position they would be in if not for the breach. Remedies for contractual breaches are not designed to punish the breaching party. The five basic remedies for breach of contract include the following: money damages, restitution, rescission, reformation, and specific performance. A money damage award includes a sum of money that is given as compensation for financial losses caused by a breach of contract. Parties injured by a breach are entitled to the benefit of the bargain they entered, or the net gain that would have accrued but for the breach. The type of breach governs the extent of damages that may be recovered.
Restitution is a remedy designed to restore the injured party to the position occupied prior to the formation of the contract. Parties seeking restitution may not request to be compensated for lost profits or other earnings caused by a breach. Instead, restitution aims at returning to the plaintiff any money or property given to the defendant under the contract. Plaintiffs typically seek restitution when contracts they have entered are voided by courts due to a defendant's incompetence or incapacity.
Rescission is the name for the remedy that terminates the contractual duties of both parties, while reformation is the name for the remedy that allows courts to change the substance of a contract to correct inequities that were suffered. In order to have a rescission, both parties to the contract must be placed in the position they occupied before the contract was made. Courts have held that a party may rescind a contract for fraud, incapacity, duress, undue influence, material breach in performance of a promise, or mistake, among other grounds.
Specific performance is an equitable remedy that compels one party to perform, as nearly as practicable, his or her duties specified by the contract. Specific performance is available only when money damages are inadequate to compensate the plaintiff for the breach.
Promissory estoppel is a term used in contract law that applies where, although there may not otherwise be an enforceable contract, because one party has relied on the promise of the other, it would be unfair not to enforce the agreement. Promissory estoppel arises from a promise which the promisor should reasonably expect to induce action or forebearance of a definite and substantial character on the part of the promisee and which does induce such action or forebearance in binding if injustice can be avoided only by enforcement of the promise. Detrimental reliance is a term commonly used to force another to perform their obligations under a contract, using the theory of promissory estoppel. Promissory estoppel may apply when a promise was made; reliance on the promise was reasonable or foreseeable; there was actual and reasonable reliance on the promise; the reliance was detrimental; and injustice can only be prevented by enforcing the promise. Detrimental reliance must be shown to involve reliance that is reasonable, which is a determination made on an individual case-by-case basis, taking all factors into consideration. Detrimental means that some type of harm is suffered.
Reasonable reliance is usually referred to as a theory of recovery in contract law. It was what a prudent person might believe and act upon based on something told by another. Sometimes a person acts in reliance on the promise of a profit or other benefit, only to learn that the statements or promises were either incorrect or were exaggerated. The one who acted to their detriment in reasonable reliance may recover damages for the costs of his/her actions or demand performance. Reasonable reliance connotes the use of the standard of an ordinary and average person.