Florida's growing nightmare: Crumbling foreclosures in legal limbo, ignored by banks
Want to live next door? A house in FishHawk Ranch in Lithia stands vacant and in disrepair, with open windows and a rancid pool. The home's been vacant for a year and went into foreclosure in 2008. But no auction has gone forward. (Tampa Bay Times photo: Daniel Wallace.)
Wake up and good morning. Two major Florida newspapers this past weekend point out that banks increasingly are repeatedly canceling the sales of foreclosed homes on the courthouse steps and, by so doing, are ignoring the upkeep on those properties for months if not years. The result? Deteriorating homes across Florida neighborhoods, devaluing properties and eroding Floridians' already taxed confidence.
Tampa Bay Times real estate reporter Mark Puente chronicled the plight in this region with this story of growing eyesores in FishHawk Ranch. Writes Puente: "The houses sit idle as banks have been slow to seize them in the final stage of the foreclosure process, the public auction." Read more here.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports a similar nightmare in a multi-part investigation in southeast Florida. "Banks that made reckless home loans have been tiptoeing away from foreclosures in a tactic designed to cut their losses. Read more here. In other words, if banks don't technically "own" the homes they foreclose upon, then the banks figure they don't have to maintain them. Here's more about the investigative series.
What is Florida these days, some sorry example of kindergarten gone wild? Where are the court judges demanding resolution of thousands of foreclosure cases sitting in limbo because banks cancel one courthouse sale after another? Where are the bank regulators cracking down on financial institutions shirking their responsibilities?
Maybe the regulators are too busy being fired and downsized by Florida Gov. Rick Scott who, never a fan of state oversight of much of anything, is gutting his own financial regulatory department. Read more here. I guess we do reap what we sow. Is anybody in charge any more?
-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times