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MTC Financial Inc. v. California Dept. of Tax & Fee Administration

California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, Third Division

October 31, 2019

MTC FINANCIAL INC., Plaintiff,
v.
CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF TAX AND FEE ADMINISTRATION, Defendant and Respondent; Rajindar Mehta, Defendant and Appellant.

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 743

         COUNSEL

         Winters Law Firm and Dennis Winters, Santa Ana, for Defendant and Appellant.

         Xavier Becerra, Attorney General, Diane S. Shaw, Assistant Attorney General, Lisa W. Chao and Charles Tsai, Deputy Attorneys General, for Defendant and Respondent.

          OPINION

         MOORE, J.

Page 744

          Proceeds remaining after a home foreclosure sale were deposited with a trial court due to competing claims to the proceeds. A primary dispute between the claimants was whether a first in time trust deed sufficiently described the foreclosed property. Among other things, the court found the description was insufficient and the trust deed therefore void. It entered judgment in favor of a next in time state tax lien. Finding no error in the result of the judgment, we affirm.

         [254 Cal.Rptr.3d 488] I

          FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In 2017, a foreclosure sale for the home (the property) of Kamini and Anand Chopra (collectively, the Chopras) was conducted by MTC Financial Inc. (the trustee). Following an initial distribution of the sale proceeds, the trustee determined there was a conflict between outstanding claims to the remaining proceeds (the surplus fund). The trustee deposited the fund with the trial court so it could determine the claimants’ respective priorities pursuant to Civil Code section 2924j, subdivisions (c) and (d).[1] Among the claimants was appellant Rajindar Mehta, the grantee of a 2004 deed of trust signed by the Chopras (the trust deed). Mehta claimed his trust deed was senior in priority because it was created first in time relative to the outstanding claims to the fund. Respondent, the California Department of Tax and Fee

Page 745

Administration (the Tax Department),[2] disputed Metha’s claim and contended that its 2008 tax lien against Kamini Chopra had senior priority as next in time because, among other things, the trust deed was void and unenforceable based upon its insufficient legal description of the property.[3]

          A. The Ambiguous Trust Deed

          The trust deed’s legal description of the property contains multiple points of inaccuracy or ambiguity: (1) the lot number of "68" is incorrect (it should be "88"); (2) the book page number of "810-11" is incorrect (it should be "1-11"); (3) the city of the property is not identified; and (4) regarding the county where the property is located, the description only reads "said county," although a preceding information field does state the correct "Orange County."

         At the same time, the trust deed references an assessor’s parcel number, which matches the number identified for the property according to attachments to the trustee’s petition which was filed with the deposit of the surplus fund.[4] The attachments include two copies of a purported assessor’s map denoting information that could correspond to the trust deed’s legal description of the property. For example, the map purports to depict a "Tract No. 9268," which is the tract described in the trust deed. Ambiguously, however, both numbers "68" and "88" (respectively, the incorrect lot number listed in the trust deed and the true lot number that should have been listed) appear at ...


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