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Kahn v. Deerpark Inv. Co.

SEPTEMBER 23, 1969.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. EDWARD F. HEALY, Judge, presiding. Orders reversed.


On April 2, 1965, the Elm Investment Company owned a parcel of real estate located in Zion, Illinois, which will be referred to as "the Zion property." On that date Elm executed a lease on the property in question. On June 1, 1965, the lease was assigned to Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company as security for Penn's first mortgage on the Zion property. Penn appointed Hart, Shaw and Company (predecessor to Quinlan and Tyson) as its administrative agents of both the mortgage and the assigned lease. Under an agreement Elm was entitled to rentals collected by Hart which exceeded sums necessary to pay installments on the mortgage loan.

On December 8, 1966, the plaintiff obtained judgments against Deerpark Investment Co., Elm Investment Co., and Charles Biggam, the owner of the two companies. The judgments were obtained in the Circuit Court of Cook County, but were not recorded in Lake County until February 8, 1968. On December 22, 1966, Elm assigned to plaintiff its right to receive the excess rentals on the Zion property, which assignment was made to secure the payment of the judgment debt of December 8, 1966. This assignment to the plaintiff (which was never recorded) is the first of the two competing interests.

On January 4, 1967, Comet Builders and Supply Corp. obtained judgment against Biggam. On February 6, 1967, a land trust was created on the Zion property which was conveyed by Elm to the Cosmopolitan National Bank, as trustee for the beneficial owner, Colonial Bank and Trust Co. of Chicago, which conveyance was made to secure part of a loan made at Colonial. On February 15, 1967, Comet commenced garnishment proceedings in connection with its judgment against Biggam. As a result of subsequent negotiations, Colonial assigned its beneficial interest in the newly created land trust on the Zion property to Elm on April 4, 1968, and on the same date Elm assigned that interest to Comet. It is this beneficial interest of Comet's which is the second of the two competing interests. Comet repaid to Colonial all the indebtedness of Biggam and Elm, and on March 12, 1968, entered into an agreement with Biggam by which Biggam, in a satisfaction of debts owed Comet, would sell Comet the Zion property, among other things. Priority must be given either to plaintiff's assignment interest or to Comet's assignment interest.

As beneficiary of the trust Comet had claimed to be entitled to all excess rentals, but after a bench trial Quinlan and Tyson (successor administrator to Hart) were ordered to pay all excess rentals to the plaintiff. A motion of Quinlan and Tyson to set aside that order was denied, and this appeal is taken from the original order and the order denying the motion to vacate.

Quinlan and Tyson argue that plaintiff's interest in the excess rentals, as an incident to an estate in land, was subject to the recording statute, and that since the interest was not recorded as of the date Comet received its assignment, Comet was entitled to rely upon a title search of the Zion property which disclosed no recorded interests in it. This being the case, Comet's interest in the recorded trust is superior to that of the plaintiff. The plaintiff asserts, however, that the subject matter under review — the excess rentals — is personalty, not real estate, and that the law of real estate is therefore inapplicable, and no recording was required to perfect the interest of plaintiff.

Ill Rev Stats 1967, c 30, § 27 provides in pertinent part:

"Deeds, mortgages, powers of attorney, and other instruments relating to or affecting the title to real estate in this state, shall be recorded in the county in which such real estate is situated; . . . ."

Section 29 provides that authorized instruments which are unrecorded are void as to subsequent creditors and purchasers, without notice, and that such documents are ineffective as to subsequent creditors and purchasers until recorded. Section 37 of the statute provides:

"The term `real estate,' as used in this act, shall be construed as co-extensive in meaning with `lands, tenements and hereditaments,' and as embracing all chattels real."

The determination of this case requires an analysis of whether or not plaintiff's interest in the Zion property was subject to the Recording Act. If it was, the plaintiff's interest did not become effective against Comet because it was not recorded at the time Comet took its interest in the land trust on the same property. The plaintiff's argument is based entirely on the fact that the subject matter of the suit concerns the interest of a beneficiary of a land trust. The difficulty with this argument is that plaintiff treats its own interest as the beneficial interest in a land trust, but the land trust which was created was assigned to Comet, not to the plaintiff. Consequently, all the cases cited by plaintiff for the proposition that beneficial interests in land trusts are personalty and therefore not subject to the Recording Act, are not relevant, because plaintiff's interest was not that of a holder of a beneficial interest in a land trust, but simply an assignment of excess rentals in payment of a judgment, and no semantic fabrication can transpose that interest into a land trust.

The question that remains is whether the assignment was subject to the Recording Act, and we feel that the determination of that question centers on an analysis of the statutory language. Is an assignment of excess rentals an instrument "relating to or affecting title to real estate?" If so, it was subject to the act and the failure to record it would mean that it was ineffective as against Comet who took its interest without notice of the prior assignment. The statute sets out that the term "real estate" should be construed as coextensive with lands, tenements and hereditaments, and as embracing all chattels real. It thus appears that the legislature was interested in giving a broad scope to the statute. If the assignment of excess rentals falls within any of the statutory guides as to what constitutes real estate, then the assignment could be effective against Comet only if it had been recorded when Comet took its interest in the trust.

In People v. Phillips, 394 Ill. 119, 67 N.E.2d 281, the court was faced with the question of whether an oil lease conveyed a taxable estate in land separate from the rent or royalty to be paid. The court pointed out at page 122 that "rent to grow due is a part of the land and incident to it, . . . ." On page 123 the court quoted with approval from State v. Royal Mineral Ass'n, 132 Minn. 232, 156 N.W. 128, where it was said, "Unaccrued rents are not personal property. They are incorporeal hereditaments. They are an incident to the reversion and follow the land." (Emphasis supplied.)

Since the right to future rents is an incident to an estate in land, the assignment of such a right is a conveyance of a hereditament. In the case before us the plaintiff received an assignment of a hereditament, and our statute provides that real estate and hereditaments are coextensive and an instrument relating to or affecting title to real estate must be recorded to be perfected against subsequent purchasers and creditors, without notice. Since the plaintiff's interest was one relating to or affecting real estate as defined by section 37, it had to be recorded to ...

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