Is Florida the Next Non-Judicial Foreclosure State?

15 Aug Is Florida the Next Non-Judicial Foreclosure State?

 

If the mortgage industry has its way, the passage of a new bill floating around Tallahassee will ensure that Floridians will be displaced from their homes without legal representation or due process. In typical Orwellian style, this bill is entitled the Fair Foreclosure Act – it’s anything but . . .

Florida often makes the national news when it comes to foreclosures, and it’s never positive. According to a recent 24/7 Wall Street study, three of the ten housing markets most likely to collapse in 2012 are in Florida. Naples, Miami and Ft. Lauderdale all make the top 10, and the rest of the Sunshine State isn’t far behind.

In its preamble, the FFA actually says, “Once suit has been filed, the public interest is served by moving foreclosure cases to final resolution expeditiously in order to get real property back into the stream of commerce.” Of course, it is this glut of foreclosed homes flooding the real estate market that has all but ensured its collapse. REO properties typically sell far below market value, and when so many REOs exist, it drives the overall market to new lows. The vicious cycle is complete as more homeowners suffer increased losses from a down market.

So the bill’s stated purpose is flawed right from the outset, but getting our homes back into the “stream of commerce” really isn’t the purpose of the Fair Foreclosure Act. Its sole design is to take Floridians’ property without due process or equal protection under the law.

Florida has a proud history of whoring for the mortgage industry, and while states across the country are fighting to restore honor and integrity to our judicial system, Florida has taken a different approach. In Florida, the Supreme Court and our elected state officials are doing what they can to ensure their benefactors . . . the banks . . . get what they want.

Remember Foreclosure Court? It unconstitutionally employed retired senior judges to act as mortgage mercenaries – ramrodding defective foreclosures through the judicial system despite national ridicule. I am actually shocked it fell victim to Governor Scott’s massive spending cuts. That must have been a mistake.

Then, with the addition of Pam Bondi as our new Attorney General, the mortgage industry took firm control of our prosecutors as well. Ms. Bondi all but killed any investigation into foreclosure fraud, and fired two assistant prosecutors who gained national attention for piecing together a massive conspiracy by the mortgage industry to defraud our state court judges in foreclosure cases.

BUT, these acts of treason pale in comparison to the Fair Foreclosure Act, which proposes to do the following:

  • Where the amount of principal and interest equals or exceeds 120% of the just value of the home, it will allow the mortgage company to foreclose without going through the judicial process. That means no foreclosure complaint, no defense, no due process, no justice. It will be as easy to take your home as it is to repo a car.
  • It will repeal Florida Statutes § 57.105, which awards attorney fees to homeowners who successfully defeat mortgage companies in court. At the same time, it assesses attorney fees against a homeowner and his lawyer (in equal parts) if the mortgage company prevails. The design here is to stop consumer lawyers from taking any more foreclosure cases by making it impossible to make money and even personally expose the lawyer to penalties. Consumer lawyers will have no upside potential and all downside risk.
  • It will eliminate the right of a homeowner to set aside a wrongful foreclosure, even if the plaintiff committed fraud in the process of taking the home. The ONLY recourse would be awarding money damages. This language is to appease the title companies by retroactively ratifying all that foreclosure fraud that has taken place over the last decade. Once the bank takes your home, you’ll never get it back, no matter what.

The typical knee-jerk response is always that these homeowners are people who “got in over their head.” But such banking propaganda ignores the fact that 1 in 2 houses in Florida have no equity. So, according to bankers, half of Floridians are irresponsible homebuyers. Wall Street and greedy bankers created this horrible mess, but they want no part of shared sacrifice in cleaning it up. Middle class America didn’t cause this problem, and Middle class America shouldn’t pay for it.

We Floridians suffer from foreclosure fatigue, and the FFA will send us all over the edge.

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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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