Last year a man came into our law office seeking assistance. He was a licensed professional with a very successful practice in Nevada seeking to set up a similar office in Utah. He had worked in Las Vegas for over 10 years without issue, made a decent income, and wanted to expand into Salt Lake, in part, so that he could be closer to family and so that he and his wife could raise their family here.
In order to obtain a Utah license, he needed to fill out a series of questionnaires about his practice, his finances, prior disciplinary history and other relevant information. As a part of providing these requests, he disclosed that he and his wife had to "short sale" a home in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Several years earlier, while his practice was booming and the real estate market was likewise, he and his wife decided to purchase their "dream home" in Sun Valley with the idea that they could use the home for getaways on the weekends and, eventually, move into the place once they were in a financial position to shut down his thriving practice.
The Utah licensing board requested a formal hearing to consider whether this man had the requisite "character and fitness" to practice his trade in Utah, and thus be able to move his business and family to Utah. After a hearing, during which we presented letters of character from other professionals, some of his customers, and family and religious leaders, the board decided that, because of the "short sale" he was not fit to practice his trade in Utah.
He was told that if he cleaned up his credit, made some arrangements with the mortgage institution that lost money on the short sale to make up some of their losses, and wait two years, he could reapply. Because he and his wife are anxious to move "home" to Utah, he has been doing just that.
In light of that, I was intrigued to read about Sen. Mike Lee of Utah ("Lee forced to sell 'dream home' in short sale," The Tribune, May 17). Lee, a successful lawyer at the time, purchased a home in Utah County in January of 2008 for $1.1 million. He sold it, after he was elected to the U.S. Senate, for around $720,000, but only after the mortgage lender, J.P. Morgan Chase, agreed to write off the loss, which is commonly required before a short sale is allowed.
Lee blames the real estate market, and interestingly, the sad fact that he had to take a pay cut from his salary as an attorney down to the meager $174,500 annual salary he draws serving in the Senate. It appeared he was trying to paint himself in a good light by hinting that he could have filed for bankruptcy, although the good people at J.P. Morgan Chase, and the thousands of Americans who continue to pay their house payments notwithstanding our current economy, might beg to differ.
It seems that a double standard is being applied here. The State of Utah will refuse to license a professional who shorted the lender on his dream home, but a political leader who does exactly the same thing is simply the victim of a bad economy.
Another client of ours came into the office last week to discuss his case and finances. He and his wife had purchased their "dream home" in Salt Lake County several years ago for $210,000 and had learned that the current value was roughly $165,000.
I asked him if he was considering a short sale. He mentioned that while the payments were difficult to make, he and his wife had never defaulted on a loan, they really enjoyed the home and were committed to doing anything they could to keep it. He will never run for political office, let alone serve on the U.S. Senate.
Greg Skordas is an attorney in Salt Lake City with a practice consisting mainly of criminal defense, litigation and professional licensing cases. He is a former chief deputy of the Salt Lake County Attorney's Office, where he worked as a prosecutor from 1987 until 1995.