- A softening condominium market in New York and other large cities could lead to developers not meeting their repayment milestones and ultimately to defaults, workouts or foreclosures.
- Because of the unusual nature of condominium construction lending, lenders need to be cognizant of certain issues unique to condominium financing, which is different from most other types of lending, particularly in New York state.
- This Holland & Knight alert highlights several important considerations in dealing with potential condominium loan defaults, including the key decision of whether to issue a Notice of Default.
Numerous reports have documented the softening condominium market in New York and other large cities resulting from the excess capacity of expensive units. The softening could lead to developers not meeting their repayment milestones and ultimately to defaults, workouts or foreclosures. Because of the unusual nature of condominium construction lending, lenders need to be cognizant of certain issues unique to condominium financing.
Condominium financing is different from most other kinds of lending, particularly in New York state, due to the fact that at least four parties have an interest in the expeditious completion of the construction – the borrower, the lender, potential buyers and the New York State Attorney General (the NYAG) – although only two parties (the borrower and the lender) are signatories to the loan documents. Unlike other forms of construction loans, the two non-signatories with an interest in the process (the potential buyers of the units and the NYAG, under whose jurisdiction condominium formation and sales occur), play a critical role in making certain that the loans are repaid. Lenders ignoring the NYAG and the effect of that office's actions on the market could see the value of their collateral diminish.
Notice of Default Decision
There are multiple issues to consider in dealing with potential condominium loan defaults, but none is more pressing than deciding whether to issue a Notice of Default, which in all other forms of financing is a routine issue. In the event that the borrower has not complied with the terms of the loan documents, the sending of a Notice of Default becomes critically important. If sent prematurely, however, it could result in a significant adverse impact because of the significance of the Notice of Default to the NYAG.
Upon the receipt of a Notice of Default by a borrower-sponsor, sales must cease and the closing of signed contracts be postponed, as well as the sales office closed, marketing curtailed and the Offering Plan amended to disclose all material factors related to the default. Conversely, halting sales while the sponsor is not performing a loan provision and then commencing sales after the issue is resolved without actually declaring a default can be a more expedient way of proceeding. Accordingly, knowing when to send a Notice of Default, what kind of notice to send and how to resolve the issue without sending a Notice of Default is important to everyone involved.
It is imperative that the lender review all of the condominium documents and the filings with the NYAG before deciding the appropriate action to take. This is due to the potential liability to the sponsor and its impact on the value of the collateral if the Offering Plan failed to fully and adequately disclose the material facts relating to the condominium and the offering. The lender must also ascertain whether the borrower has performed all of its obligations pursuant to the terms of the Offering Plan and the NYAG's regulations, or whether the lender or the successor sponsor could be obligated to take such actions.
The lender also has to determine whether the building construction or rehabilitation is in accordance with the approved building plans on file with both the New York City Department of Buildings and the NYAG. Finally, the lender should review the executed purchase agreement to become aware of specific promises or deadlines that were made to purchasers that could become an issue for the lender.
Of course, if the lender determines that the borrower did not make adequate disclosures or if there are other significant issues, the lender or a successor sponsor can have the Offering Plan amended before the sponsor continues to offer the units or can withdraw the offering and rent the units rather than sell them. Conversely, once the sponsor declares the Offering Plan effective and units have already closed, the lender's options are limited, although the debt will be reduced with each sale.
In the event that the borrower has acted in accordance with the loan documents and the Offering Plan, in most situations it makes sense for the lender to permit the borrower to complete the project and avoid the risk of negative publicity, litigation or an NYAG investigation. Frequently, leaving the borrower in control of the project is the most efficient and effective way of proceeding without increasing the lender's exposure to risk or diminishing the likelihood of a successful offering and loan repayment.
It is important to note that, unlike many other states, New York does not impose liability to a lender or successor sponsor for the original sponsor's mistakes. A successor sponsor is liable to future purchasers from the successor sponsor, but the original sponsor is responsible for the mistakes made by the original sponsor. However, the successor sponsor may decide to fix the original sponsor's mistakes in order to improve the marketability of the remaining units.
A softening of the real estate market always poses issues for lenders, but there is no reason why the project cannot be completed and the units sold if properly handled, which is an important lesson from prior market softenings.