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EVELYN LAND v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (10/03/86)

decided: October 3, 1986.

EVELYN LAND, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, PENNSYLVANIA HOUSING FINANCE AGENCY, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the Order of the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency in the case of Evelyn Land, dated January 3, 1986.

COUNSEL

Alan M. White, for petitioner.

Lawana M. Johns, for respondent.

Judges MacPhail, Doyle and Barry, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail.

Author: Macphail

[ 101 Pa. Commw. Page 180]

Evelyn Land (Petitioner) applied to the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (Agency) for emergency mortgage assistance on May 8, 1985. The Agency denied her application on August 15, 1985. Petitioner's administrative appeal was denied by the Agency on January 3, 1986. Petitioner filed a petition for review with this Court on January 31, 1986. We vacate the Agency's decision and remand.

On March 26, 1979, Reginald Burney purchased a home at 7447 North 21st Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from the Veterans Administration (VA) by way of a Real Estate Installment Sale Agreement (Agreement). Petitioner purchased all of Reginald Burney's interest in the home on December 29, 1983 through an Assignment of Rights Contract (Assignment). It appears that neither the Agreement nor the Assignment were recorded. Petitioner found herself unable to maintain the payments and consequently the VA mailed her a notice of availability of mortgage assistance pursuant to Section 402-C of the Housing Finance Agency Law (Law), Act of

[ 101 Pa. Commw. Page 181]

December 3, 1959, P.L. 1688, as amended, added by Section 2 of the Act of December 23, 1983, P.L. 385, 35 P.S. § 1680.402c. Petitioner applied for assistance with the Agency but was denied solely because the Agency determined that she was not the owner of the property securing the mortgage as required by Section 404-C(a) of the Law, 35 P.S. § 1680.404c(a). Since Petitioner had never recorded her installment purchase agreement the VA was still the record owner. The Agency denied Petitioner's subsequent appeal.

On appeal to this Court, Petitioner argues that the Agency erred as a matter of law in determining that she was not the owner of her property based on its misunderstanding of Pennsylvania's recording laws. Petitioner argues that neither the Law nor the regulations promulgated pursuant to it require that her interest in the land be recorded to establish her ownership. Petitioner further argues that her due process rights were violated since she only learned, through the Agency's brief filed in this appeal, that the real reason her application was denied was due to her failure to record the installment purchase agreement and the Assignment thereof.

The Agency argues that it has the authority to make rules to implement the eligibility requirements of the Law and as one of its rules it requires all interests in land be recorded to prove ownership. Furthermore, the Agency argues that they did not err as a matter of law in denying Petitioner's mortgage assistance application based on her failure to record since Pennsylvania's recording laws render invalid an unrecorded interest in land. Finally, the Agency argues that the Law requires that a lien be placed on the property to secure the loan and that Petitioner has failed to show that a lien could be placed on her property since she is not the record owner. We note that the parties agree that a land sale contract is within the definition of a mortgage under the Law. See Respondent's brief, footnote 2, page 9.

[ 101 Pa. Commw. Page 182]

Hence, the issues presented to this Court for resolution are: (1) did the Agency err as a matter of law when it interpreted and applied Pennsylvania's recording laws and determined that Petitioner was not the owner of her home solely because she had not recorded her interest; (2) does the Law, or any rules promulgated pursuant to it, require that an interest in land be recorded to establish one's ownership of the property; (3) is the determination of whether or not a lien can be placed on Petitioner's property important in determining her eligibility for mortgage assistance under the Law; and (4) was Petitioner denied due process of law? Because we agree ...


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