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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Bill filed to speed up foreclosures in Florida

3

January

A “faster foreclosures” proposal that faced sharp consumer outcry and protest last year has resurfaced in a more moderate form this year, with a new bill filed by Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, Thursday.

The bill, HB 87, offers a slew of changes to the civil procedures governing foreclosures in Florida—the state with the highest foreclosure rate in the country.

Most of the provisions appear to be aimed at speeding up and cleaning the foreclosure process, which currently takes  more 600 days to run its course in Florida.

The bill would require mortgage lenders to certify that they have the correct paperwork proving they have the right to foreclose. Paperwork problems gummed up the foreclosure system in Florida and across the nation in 2010 and 2011, leading to a massive $25 billion mortgage settlement with banks accused of using faulty documents to foreclose on homeowners.

The bill also gives condominium associations the ability to speed up the foreclosure process when a bank is moving too slowly. Condo associations have been forced to shoulder significant maintenance costs while banks carry out foreclosures. Banks have been accused of purposefully slowing down the process in order to limit their costs.

For their part, banks get a bit of a gift in the bill as well. If a lender forecloses on a home and later is sued for doing so wrongfully, the lender can only be forced to pay monetary damages. That means the homeowner can’t get his or her house back—a proposition that could be especially difficult if the bank has sold the home to an unsuspecting third party. Passidomo’s bill would theoretically eliminate that awkward hypothetical scenario, and free the bank from having to recoup a house it sold to another party after a faulty foreclosure.

The bill sheds some of the controversial provisions of the 2012 proposal, which passed the Florida House but died in the Senate last year. That bill led to a protest march on the state Capitol by homeowners and Occupiers, with a press conference headlined by now-state Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando.

A provision that would have allowed for faster foreclosures on homes that appeared to be abandoned and another measure reducing banks’ ability to go after homeowners for additional fees after a foreclosure have been scrapped from the new bill. The ‘abandoned home’ measure faced backlash from consumer advocates and the so-called ‘deficiency judgment’ measure was opposed by the banks.

The 2013 version of Passidomo’s foreclosure bill could be a high-profile one this legislative session, as the housing market begins to show signs of life but is plagued by a high number of pending foreclosures (the bill is retroactive and would apply to pending cases and current mortgages). Florida’s foreclosure rate continues to lead the nation, and hundreds of thousands of homeowners are behind on their mortgages.

[Last modified: Thursday, January 3, 2013 6:49pm]

    

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