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Rahimi v. Global Discoveries, Ltd., LLC

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

August 1, 2018

David Rahimi, etc., Appellant,
v.
Global Discoveries, Ltd., LLC, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          An Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County Lower Tribunal No. 14-27252, Jorge E. Cueto, Judge.

          Murdoch, Weires & Neuman, PLLC and Scott A. Weires (Boca Raton), for appellant.

          McCumber, Daniels, Buntz, Hartig, Puig & Ross, P.A., Amy L. Dilday, Starlett M. Massey, and Jonathan D. Kaplan (Tampa), for appellee.

          Before ROTHENBERG, C.J., and SALTER and LUCK, JJ.

          LUCK, J.

         Florida statutes allow for the government-sponsored forced sale of real property to pay the overdue property tax bill owed on that property. If, after the money from the sale has been used to pay the property taxes and other government liens, there is a balance - or surplus - the surplus is to be paid to the property's titleholders, lienholders, and mortgagees. But what date must the clerk use to determine which titleholders, lienholders, and mortgagees are entitled to the surplus - the date of the sale or when the court adjudicates disputed claims to the surplus? Because we agree with the trial court that the determination of who is entitled to the surplus is made at the time of the tax deed sale, we affirm the summary judgment.

         Factual Background and Procedural History

         Ila Weiner purchased a condominium at the Mayfair House on January 5, 2005. About a year later, she took out a mortgage loan on the property with Regions Bank in the amount of $193, 000. In September 2007, the loan, which at this time had $198, 539.73 owing, was modified. Soon thereafter, Weiner executed the first of three warranty deeds transferring the property to the Mayfair 555 Trust. David Rahimi is the current trustee of this trust.

         Taxes on the condominium were not paid, and, on June 12, 2014, the property was sold at a tax deed sale. The sale, after the taxes were paid off, resulted in a surplus of $92, 519.89, which remained in the court registry. Global Discoveries, Ltd. is a company that recovers judicial sale surplus proceeds on behalf of mortgagees. The company obtained an assignment from Regions Bank to recover the subject funds. At the time, the amount owed on the modified mortgage loan was $208, 618.92.

         Two lawsuits were filed to recover the surplus. Rahimi filed a complaint to quiet title, which sought to recover the surplus funds resulting from the tax deed sale. Upon the filing of the quiet title action, the clerk marked the funds "do not disburse." When Global Discoveries filed a statement of claim against the surplus, the clerk refused to disburse the money. Global Discoveries then filed a declaratory action to compel disbursement based on the priority held by the mortgage. Rahimi moved to intervene in the declaratory action and the trial court eventually consolidated the two cases.

         While the two cases were pending, on January 14, 2016, Regions Bank recorded a release of mortgage. The release stated that Regions Bank "cancel[led] and discharge[d]" the subject mortgage. Nonetheless, Global Discoveries moved for summary judgment asserting that "discharge of the [m]ortgage . . . does not release the prior titleholder's obligation to pay the [l]oan, it only releases the property from serving as collateral for the [l]oan." The trial court concluded that the mortgage lien had priority to the surplus funds regardless of the later release. Thus, it granted summary judgment in favor of Global Discoveries and ordered the clerk to disburse the surplus to the company.

         This is the appeal of that order.

         Standard ...


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