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Travis v. GMAC Mortgage, LLC

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

March 14, 2017

KELVIN TRAVIS, CAROLYN TRAVIS, AND ALL PERSONS OR ENTITIES AND ALL UNKNOWN PARTIES IN INTEREST CLAIMING AN INTEREST IN THE REAL PROPERTY AND IMPROVEMENTS DESCRIBED HEREIN APPELLANTS
v.
GMAC MORTGAGE, LLC APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/12/2015

         PERRY COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. DAWN H. BEAM TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANTS: MAURICE MCINTOSH FORSYTH.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: TERRY L. CAVES RISHER GRANTHAM CAVES.

          BEFORE LEE, C.J., ISHEE AND GREENLEE, JJ.

          LEE, C.J.

         ¶1. In this appeal, we must decide whether the chancellor abused her discretion when, applying the doctrines of equitable estoppel and unjust enrichment, she ordered the divestiture and exchange of certain real property from Kelvin and Carolyn Travis to GMAC Mortgage LLC. Finding no abuse of discretion, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. In 2002, Donald Travis received a deed from R.C. Travis and Charles Travis, his father and uncle, to a parcel of land identified as Parcel A, located in Perry County, Mississippi. Donald and his wife, Joe Ann Travis, contracted with DIMA Homes to construct a house on the property described as Parcel A. They pledged the property as security for the construction loan. DIMA built the home according to Donald's instructions, on what was believed to be Parcel A. Donald believed the house was built within the boundaries of the deed. Donald and Joe Ann signed a promissory note and deed of trust with Homecomings Financial Network Inc., pledging the house, improvements, and the land described as Parcel A as security for the loan. Homecomings Financial Network paid off the DIMA construction loan.

         ¶3. Donald and Joe Ann lived in the home from May 2003 until sometime in 2010 when they defaulted on the loan. Homecomings Financial Network assigned the deed of trust and note to Nationstar Mortgage LLC in November 2010. The property went into foreclosure. During that time, Donald's brother and sister-in-law, Kelvin and Carolyn Travis, negotiated to purchase the home from Nationstar. Pursuant to the sale, a title search and survey were performed, and the survey revealed that the house was located partly off of Parcel A. In fact, the house was located partly on Parcel A, Parcel B, and Parcel C. Donald and Kelvin's mother owned Parcels B and C. Due to the location of the house, the contract for the sale of the home was cancelled.

         ¶4. In January 2011, Nationstar foreclosed its deed of trust and conveyed the property to Federal National Mortgage Association. Around the same time, Kelvin obtained a deed from his mother to Parcels B and C. He admitted at trial that he believed this would enable him to secure a lower purchase price of the house. Federal National Mortgage Association conveyed its interest in the property to GMAC Mortgage LLC in February 2012. After GMAC acquired the property, it learned that the house was not completely located on Parcel A.

         ¶5. In July 2012, Kelvin and Carolyn moved in to the house and lived there for approximately three years, rent free. Kelvin claimed that he made improvements prior to moving in to the property, but was unable to show any evidence of expenditures. He stated that he believed he would eventually obtain title to the house and Parcel A, but admitted knowing all along that GMAC claimed title to Parcel A. Kelvin further admitted that neither he, nor Travis, nor their mother objected to the location of the home during its construction.

         ¶6. GMAC filed suit in the Perry County Chancery Court against Kelvin and Carolyn (Travises) with claims of equitable estoppel, unjust enrichment, constructive trust, and ejectment. The Travises filed an answer but did not plead any affirmative defenses or assert any counterclaims. GMAC proposed to the chancellor a property exchange wherein the Travises would receive a 1.12-acre tract of land-an acreage equal to Parcels B and C; and GMAC would receive a two-acre tract of land containing the house-an acreage equal to Parcel A. The chancellor found that the Travises were not bona fide purchasers for value, and their occupation of the home constituted unjust enrichment. Applying the doctrines of equitable ...


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