Banks, Not Homeowners, Should Be Target of Florida “Foreclosure Reform”

15 Jan Banks, Not Homeowners, Should Be Target of Florida “Foreclosure Reform”

Predictably, the same Republican establishment who handed President Obama his victory last November again demonstrates its failure to connect with Floridians.

Recently, Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, has reintroduced her failed speedy foreclosure law (HB 87) in the Florida legislature yet againsaying, “We need to make the sure the process is as efficient as possible while at the same time giving the borrower their due process rights. . . Unfortunately, if you don’t have an income or you can’t afford to pay anything, the property can’t just sit in limbo forever.”

Passidomo’s statement is uninformed and dangerous (In 2011, she stated that the outfit worn by an 11 year old girl was a cause of her gang rape by 18 juveniles in Texas).

The vast majority of Florida homeowners experiencing foreclosure, a number predicted by Realty Trac to rise in 2013, know that they are facing foreclosure DESPITE having the ability and desire to pay their mortgages. Many middle class Americans who got behind on their mortgages are now in a position to resume those payments. Unfortunately, they find that their mortgage servicer has erected a wall of confusion and lies preventing a reasonable modification of their home loan.

Keep in mind that, as a condition to the hundreds of billions of bailout dollars given to the mortgage industry under the TARP program, mortgage servicers obligated themselves to analyze customers for reasonable modifications, and implicit in that obligation is the servicer’s duty to act in good faith. Well, anyone who has attempted a modification can attest that mortgage servicers rarely show good faith in analyzing mortgage mods.

Passidomo and the GOP is creating a phantom crisis. The “backlog of foreclosures” does not exist and never has in Florida. Over the last five years, the number of foreclosure cases filed in Florida has skyrocketed for sure, but at the exact same time, the number of all other types of civil suits has dropped dramatically – both numbers a reflection of a poor economy. Additionally, the “600-day average age of a Florida foreclosure” that is often thrown out there by bank supporters is misleading. That number is skewed by the voluntary delay by banks under investigation for foreclosure fraud and by a small percentage of cases that have been around for more than four years because the banks cannot foreclose but refuse to dismiss. The truth of the matter is that the vast majority of foreclosures are not contested, and they should take no longer than 120 days to complete from beginning to end.

So, despite the proselytizing by bank-sponsored legislators, there has been NO INCREASED BURDEN on Florida’s judicial system.

Bank-sponsored legislators and Supreme Court judges have already used the phantom judicial crisis to create Foreclosure Divisions in our court system specifically designed to ignore well-established rules of civil procedure and case law. Specifically, retired senior judges have been brought in to harass homeowners and their lawyers so that real, elected judges do not have to make tough decisions that could affect their reelection. If these retired judges just dismissed foreclosures that fail to meet the same requirements as any other civil suit, (a) there would be no “backlog” and (b) banks would eventually learn how to prosecute a foreclosure.

The result of Foreclosure Division has been the bastardization of Florida’s civil court system and has reinforced in the minds of Floridians that all are not equal in the eyes of the law in The Sunshine State.

In reality, Passidomo and her Republican colleagues are supporting the most corrupt industry in American history. Just last month, HSBC became the latest bank to be fined billions of dollars for skirting U.S. sanctions banning banks from conducting business with Iran and other terrorist states. The sanctions mean nothing to the banking industry, and no bankers will go to jail.

If the Republican legislators continue to choose the interests of the mortgage industry over the interests of Floridians, the GOP will not just lose the state in national elections. Conservative control of Tallahassee will come to an end.

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Chip Parker is the managing partner of Parker & DuFresne, P.A., where he represents Northeast Florida businesses and consumers facing bankruptcy, and homeowners facing foreclosure. His firm files more homeowners in the Mortgage Modification Mediation Program than any other law firm in Northeast Florida. Parker is the recipient of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid's prestigious Award for Outstanding Pro Bono Service. Mr. Parker is an active member of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys and National Association of Consumer Advocates.
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