Properly Enforcing an Assignment of Rents
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In Florida, lenders typically obtain an “assignment of rents” if the property produces income by collecting rent, such as an apartment complex, rental home, rental space, or office building. An “assignment of rents” allows the lender to collect the rent payments, if the borrower defaults on their loan payments. Although the lender and borrower may agree to the assignment of rents in the loan documents, the procedure for enforcing the assignment of rent is governed by Section 697.07, Florida Statutes.
The Assignment of Rents Should be Recorded
If a lender and borrower agree to the assignment of rents as security for repayment of debt in a mortgage document, the lender will hold a lien on the rent payments. However, to perfect its rents lien against third parties, the lender must record the mortgage in the public records of the county in which the real property is located. Fla. Stat. § 697.07(2).
How Can a Lender Enforce the Assignment of Rents?
Section 697.07 provides two methods for the lender to enforce the assignment of rent: (i) the actual assignment of rent to the lender, and (ii) the sequestration of rents into the court registry. Wane v. U.S. Bank, Nat’l Ass’n, 128 So. 3d 932, 934 (Fla. 2d DCA 2013) (“Section 697.07 draws a clear line between a motion seeking sequestration of rents into the court registry [under subsection (4)] and a motion seeking an actual assignment of rents to the lender pending foreclosure [under subsection (3)].”).
(i) Actual Assignment of Rent to the Lender
The first method, the actual assignment of rent to the lender, is provided in Section 697.07(3). If the borrower defaults on the loan, the lender can make a written demand to the borrower to turn over “all rents in possession or control of the [borrower] at the time of the written demand or collected thereafter,” minus any expenses authorized by the lender in writing. Fla. Stat. § 697.07(3). If the borrower does not turn over rent payments after the lender has made a written demand, the lender may foreclose on the rents lien and collect rent payments, without having to foreclose on the underlying mortgage. Ginsberg v. Lennar Fla. Holdings, Inc., 645 So. 2d 490, 498 (Fla. 3d DCA 1994) (“[A]n assignment of rent creates a lien on the rents in favor of the mortgagee, and the mortgagee will have the right to foreclose that lien and collect the rents, without the necessity of foreclosing on the underlying mortgage.”).
To receive a court order for the actual assignment of rent, the lender will have to prove that there was a default, and that it made a written demand to the borrower to turn over rent payment. Wane, 128 So. 3d at 934. Additionally, an evidentiary hearing will be required.
(ii) Sequestration of Rent Into the Court Registry
The second method, the sequestration of rent into the court registry, is provided in Section 697.07(4). This method can only be used if there is a pending mortgage foreclosure lawsuit. Unlike the first method, the lender does not have to prove that there was a default or make a written demand, and an evidentiary hearing is not required.
Either the borrower or lender may make a motion to the court for sequestration of rent into the court registry. Upon such a motion, a court, pending final judgment of foreclosure, may require the borrower to deposit the collected rents into the court, or in such other depository as the court may designate. The court must hear the motion on an expedited basis, and the moving party will only be required to show that there is a pending foreclosure lawsuit, and that there is a provision in the loan documents for the assignment of rent. Wane, 128 So. 3d at 934.
Moreover, a borrower cannot avoid sequestration of rents by raising defenses or counterclaims. Id.; Fla. Stat. § 697.07(4). In addition, the borrower will be required to submit records of receipt of rent to the court and lender, typically on a monthly basis throughout the lawsuit. The rents will remain in the court registry until conclusion of the foreclosure action.
To properly enforce the assignment of rents, the first thing lenders should do is record the assignment of rents in the public records of the county in which the real property is located. In the event the borrower defaults on their loan, the lender will have two options to enforce the assignment of rents: the actual assignment of rent to the lender (Section 697.07(3)), or the sequestration of rents into the court registry (Section 697.07(4)). If the lender is seeking the actual assignment of rent, the lender must send a written demand to the borrower to turn over the rent payments and provide proof of default. On the other hand, the lender may seek sequestration without proof of default or written demand. Showing the existence of an assignment of rents provision in the loan documents is sufficient to obtain sequestration of rents into the court registry.
- Austin B. Calhoun, Esq.
- Melissa G. Murrin, JD Candidate