Annual report pursuant to Section 13 and 15(d)

Commitments and Contingencies

Commitments and Contingencies
12 Months Ended
Dec. 31, 2014
Commitments and Contingencies Disclosure [Abstract]  

We are involved in various routine legal proceedings incidental to our business, some of which are covered by insurance. With respect to most pending litigation matters, our ultimate legal and financial responsibility, if any, cannot be estimated with certainty and our actual future expenditure to resolve those matters could prove to be different from the amount that we accrued or reserved. On a quarterly basis, our senior management and legal team conduct an in-depth review of all active legal claims and litigation matters and we record a legal or warranty accrual representing the estimated total expense required to resolve each such matter. We have reserved approximately $16.5 million related to non-warranty related litigation and asserted claims. In addition, our $22.1 million warranty reserve includes accruals for all warranty and construction defect claims that are similarly recorded in an amount we believe will be necessary to resolve those warranty and construction defect claims. Except as may be specifically disclosed herein, we currently believe that any reasonably possible additional losses from existing claims and litigation in excess of our existing reserves and accruals would be immaterial, individually and in the aggregate, to our financial results.
Joint Venture Litigation
Since 2008, we have been involved in litigation initiated by the lender group for a large Nevada-based land acquisition and unconsolidated development joint venture in which the lenders were seeking damages in two separate actions on the basis of enforcement of completion guarantees and other related claims (JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. KB HOME Nevada, et al., U.S. District Court, District of Nevada (Case No. 08-CV-01711 PMP Consolidated)). Our interest in this joint venture is comparatively small, totaling 3.53%, but we have vigorously defended and otherwise sought resolution of these actions. We are the only builder joint venture partner to have fully performed its obligations with respect to takedowns of lots from the joint venture, having completed our first takedown in April 2007 and having tendered full performance of our second and final takedown in April 2008. The joint venture and the lender group rejected our tender of performance for our second and final takedown, and we contend, among other things, that the rejection by the joint venture and the lender group of our tender of full performance was wrongful and constituted a breach of contract and should release us of liability with respect to the takedown and extinguish or greatly reduce our exposure under all guarantees. Pursuant to the lenders’ request and stipulation of the parties, on January 23, 2012, the Court dismissed without prejudice all of the lenders’ claims against Meritage in this consolidated lawsuit.
    On December 9, 2010, three of the lenders filed a petition seeking to place the venture into an involuntary bankruptcy (JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. South Edge, LLC (Case No. 10-32968-bam)). On June 6, 2011, we received a demand letter from the lenders, requesting full payment of $13.2 million, the lenders claimed to be owed under the springing repayment guarantee, including past due interest and penalties. The lenders claim that the involuntary bankruptcy filed by three of the co-lenders triggered the springing repayment guarantee. We do not believe the lenders have an enforceable position associated with their $13.2 million claim and do not believe we should be required to pay such amount because, among other reasons, the lenders breached their contract with us by refusing to accept the April 2008 tender of our performance and by refusing to release their lien in connection with our second and final takedown in this project and we do not believe the repayment guarantee was triggered by the lenders’ filing of the involuntary bankruptcy. As a result, on August 19, 2011, we filed a lawsuit against JP Morgan Chase Bank, NA (“JP Morgan”) in the Court of Common Pleas in Franklin County, Ohio (Case No. 11CVH0810353) regarding the repayment guarantee. In reaction to that lawsuit, on August 25, 2011, JP Morgan filed a lawsuit against us in the US District Court of Nevada, which is currently being prosecuted in the name of JP Morgan's agent, ISG Insolvency Group, Inc. regarding most of the same issues addressed in the Ohio litigation (Case No. 2: 11-CV-01364-PMP). The Ohio and the Nevada actions have been consolidated into a single action. On October 26, 2011, the Bankruptcy Court approved a Plan pursuant to which (i) the lenders have received all payments to which they are entitled, (ii) the project has been conveyed to Inspirada Builders, LLC, which is an entity owned by four of the co-venturers in the South Edge entity (KB Home, Toll Brothers, Pardee Homes and Beazer Homes), and (iii) the four co-venturer builders claim to have succeeded to the lenders' repayment guarantee claim against Meritage.
On September 4, 2012, the Court ruled on a motion for summary judgment that JP Morgan has standing to pursue its repayment guarantee claims against Meritage, and that Meritage was liable thereunder to JP Morgan and that the parties should be permitted to conduct discovery with respect to the amount of damages to which JP Morgan is entitled under the repayment guarantee. Following limited discovery, JP Morgan filed a motion for summary judgment with respect to damages, and on June 17, 2013 the Court granted the motion, ruling that Meritage owes JP Morgan $15,053,857. Later, on July 8, 2013, the Court entered Judgment in favor of JP Morgan in the amount of $15,753,344, which included an additional $699,487 for prejudgment interest that accrued between December 6, 2012 and the date of the Judgment. We immediately appealed the Court's rulings, which is still currently pending and on July 17, 2013 we posted a supersedeas bond in the amount of $16,050,604 staying enforcement of the Judgment. Pursuant to a stipulation between the parties, the bond amount included the amount of the Judgment and additional sums for a potential award of post-judgment interest and attorneys' fees on appeal. On February 14, 2014 the Court awarded JP Morgan an additional $877,241 for pre-judgment attorneys' fees. Meritage has appealed this Judgment as well, and per stipulation of the parties, has posted an amended bond in the total amount of $16,930,477 covering both judgments. We disagree with many of the conclusions and findings contained in the Court's order, and have challenged and will continue to challenge the ruling on appeal which is currently pending. In addition, we believe that the four co-venturers in the South Edge entity (KB Home, Toll Brothers, Pardee Homes and Beazer Homes) are liable to Meritage for any amounts that Meritage may ultimately be required to pay under the repayment guarantee, and we have filed claims against those builders to, among other things, recover from them any amounts Meritage may be required to pay under the arbitration repayment guarantee.
In March 2012, Inspirada Builders, LLC, (an entity owned by the above names four co-venturers) as Estate Representative of bankrupt South Edge, LLC (the original joint venture) filed demand for arbitration in the United States Bankruptcy Court in the District of Nevada against Meritage Homes of Nevada, Inc. There were two main demands against us contained in this filing. The first is a demand for $13.5 million, relating to alleged breaches of the Operating Agreement of South Edge, LLC, for not paying the amounts Meritage fully tendered but South Edge (at the direction of or as a result of acts or of the failure to perform by the above name co-venture members) rejected in 2008. The second demand was for $9.8 million relating to our supposed pro rata share of alleged future infrastructure improvement costs to be incurred by Inspirada Builders, LLC (which is the new owner of the project and which is owned by the four builders identified above) having purchased it through bankruptcy proceedings. The second demand was dismissed on June 27, 2013. The $13.5 million claim identified above represents the same alleged obligation that is the subject of the already repayment guarantee litigation between us and JP Morgan that is described above. Meritage has filed a response to Inspirada Builders' arbitration claims denying liability, together with cross-claims against the four above-named co-venture builders for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and indemnity. The balance of the parties' arbitration claims are currently pending but pursuant to a stipulation of the parties have been stayed pending resolution of our pending appeal of the Court's rulings in favor of JP Morgan in the federal court action. We do not believe there is any additional exposure to us related to this new claim beyond that already disclosed and discussed in this Legal Proceedings.
Lease Agreements
We lease office facilities, model homes and equipment under various operating lease agreements. Approximate future minimum lease payments for non-cancelable operating leases as of December 31, 2014, are as follows (in thousands):

Years Ended December 31,







Rent expense was $6.5 million, $6.4 million and $5.5 million in 2014, 2013 and 2012, respectively, and is included within general and administrative expense or in commissions and other sales costs on our consolidated statements of operations. Sublease income was $0.6 million, $1.6 million and $2.0 million in 2014, 2013 and 2012, respectively. Sublease income is included within other income/(loss), net on our consolidated statements of operations.
See Note 1 for contingencies related to our warranty obligations.