Giselle Moncada de Vasquez, senior associate, Morgan & Morgan
The loan agreement secured by mortgage is a legal and financial concept that has undoubtedly been a pillar of world economic progress. Hence, the Supreme Court of Justice of Panama in some of its judgments has given it its importance as part of the economic public order.
Certainly, this optimal progress is possible as long as the majority of the debtors pay off the loan punctually, and in cases when they are not able to comply with said payment to its creditor, by activating a mechanism to achieve the expedited collection of the real mortgage loan through a safe conversion system.
Mortgage loan or security trusts
It is important to mention that in recent years the lenders have increased the use of security trusts to guarantee their loans, instead of loans secured by mortgages. Despite of the benefits offered by security trusts to creditors and customers, there is another sector of the market that keeps using the loan agreement secured by mortgage.
Recovery process of mortgage debt
The success of the legal concept of mortgage loan requires the summary proceeding of the real estate guarantee, for cases in which the loan falls into arrears. In the Panamanian legal system, the judicial process generally used for the collection of this type of mortgage debt is the so-called “executory process with waiver of procedures”, thus we have a process that is very special and very summary at our disposal.
The reality is that the aforementioned process is not usually as expeditious as it faces delays both in the processing of the judicial process itself, in the procedure following the registration of the award (mainly in the physical taking of the auctioned property), until achieving the actual sale that is when the collection shall be satisfied.
This time we will list five lines of action that would reduce the harmful damages of a delayed and deficient conversion of the liquid asset through the aforementioned collection process:
- To apply to the Judicial Branch for an adaptation to the regulation of the way these processes are distributed in the Single Window System [known as Registro Único de Entrada (RUE)] so that judges who have links with credit entities, when the latter are executors, can be previously excluded from each distribution. In practice, the processing of a judicial impediment of this type can delay the admission of a process more than two months. The foregoing would even enhance the valuable time of our judicial officers.
- To insist on a procedural reform that empowers the Judge who is acquainted with the execution process, to order the eviction of occupants who do not hold an ownership title of the auctioned property. In comparison to the handling that was given by officials named Corregidores, the eviction proceeding to remove squatters, which is currently the responsibility of the Justices of the Peace, has not presented the improvements in response times expected by users. There are cases in which foreclosed properties are invaded by opportunists who then try dilatory actions in bad faith, postponing the proceeding indefinitely.
- To urge the corresponding authorities (Judicial and Executive Branch) to have the necessary funds for the implementation of Law 12 of May 19, 2016 (Insolvency Law), which creates the Insolvency Circuit Judges and the Fourth Court of the First Judicial District, which would have the power exclusively to hear the bankruptcy proceedings and all executory processes for major claims (that is, also the executory process with waiver of procedures). Despite the fact that the Law came into force on January 2, 2017, the aforementioned judicial offices have not yet been created nor have their personnel been hired.
- To benefit the real estate tax situation of the guarantees auctioned or granted as payment in kind. At the moment, the cadastral value of a property is raised considerably with interest, fees and legal expenses when auctioned or granted as payment in kind. The clearance of said property becomes even more difficult for its later sale if the debtor of the loan omitted to declare the improvements before the auction. This hinders its immediate sale while trying to resolve the tax situation.
- To promote in the population the culture of managing their budget properly and emphasize this teaching from school education. Although sometimes an unpaid debt can be due a health problem or loss of employment, the vast majority of cases seem to be resulting from consumerism.
Let us consider for a moment the economic repercussions that a high default rate in the payment of mortgage loans and the impossibility of making the real estate guarantee effective can have at the national level. It is imperative to take the corrective actions mentioned above.