Liebzeit v. Intercity State Bank, FSB, No. 15-1970 (7th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
The Blanchards agreed to sell Marathon County property to the Hoffmans, who paid $30,000 up front. The land contract balance was due in 2015, with an option to close early by paying off the Blanchards’ new $142,000 mortgage, obtained as part of the agreement. The parties signed a separate “rental agreement,” under which the Hoffmans paid $500 per month. The land contract was not recorded. The lender obtained an Assignment of Leases and Rents as collateral, but did not obtain an Assignment of Land Contract. The bank recorded its mortgage and the Assignment. In 2014, the Blanchards filed a bankruptcy petition. The trustee filed an adversary proceeding against the lender under 11 U.S.C. 544(a)(3), which grants him the position of a bona fide purchaser of property as of the date of the bankruptcy, to step ahead of the mortgage and use the Blanchards’ interest in the land contract for the benefit of unsecured creditors. The trustee argued that a mortgage can attach a lien only to real property and that the Blanchards' interest under the land contract was personal property. The district court affirmed summary judgment in favor of the bank. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. A mortgage can attach a lien to a vendor’s interest in a land contract under Wisconsin law; this lender perfected its lien by recording in county land records rather than under UCC Article 9.