Make us your home page
Instagram
Susan Taylor Martin

Bankruptcy filing stalls foreclosure on rundown home

For months, the house on 18th Street NE had been the talk of St. Petersburg's upscale Harbor Isle neighborhood.

Bought in early 2007 for a suspiciously high amount, the house sat vacant and increasingly rundown. So neighbors were pleased when a Pinellas judge issued a final judgment of foreclosure Jan. 29 and ordered the house sold at public auction on March 12.

"It certainly hasn't helped to have a deserted house next door," says Jim Weber, who hoped it would soon be in the hands of new owners who would live there and take care of it.

Those hopes are dashed for now.

Last week, the current owner filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 13 of the bankruptcy laws, a move that automatically cancels the auction and puts the foreclosure on hold. In addition, one of the owner's business partners — a convicted thief and fraudster — has leased out the house and may be able to collect rent payments for months while the bankruptcy case proceeds.

Though the circumstances are unusual, experts say this kind of scenario could become more common as foreclosure cases continue to rise.

"It sounds like what they're doing is stalling so they can collect rent," says Don Golden, a bankruptcy lawyer in Tampa.

The lakefront house has raised eyebrows in Harbor Isle ever since it sold in February 2007 for $650,000 — $250,000 more than it had sold for just a few months earlier even though the Florida real estate market already was in the doldrums.

The most recent buyer was James Conard, who had been paralyzed in a motorcycle accident and was living in an apartment for the low-income disabled. Nonetheless, Conard obtained 100 percent financing.

At the time, Conard was working with Victor Clavizzao, a loan officer who had served years in prison for wire fraud and grand theft. The St. Petersburg Times has chronicled Clavizzao's dealings, which include buying millions of dollars worth of Pinellas County real estate in the names of other people — including some who had no idea they were listed as buyers.

In a story last spring, Conard said Clavizzao encouraged him to buy the house as an investment. Conard said he got enough cash from the loan to cover the first few payments and invest $20,000 in a sandwich shop Clavizzao had bought. But Conard was unable to rent the house for anything near the $3,500 a month Clavizzao told him he could get. The place remained vacant and went into foreclosure proceedings in August.

Nearby residents watched with dismay as the lawn turned weedy and the pool pea-soup green. Then a young man and woman showed up last week, telling neighbors they were leasing with an option to buy "from a guy named Victor," according to Patti Barlow, who lives next door. The man, who had rented from Clavizzao before, said Clavizzao offered to give him a deal if he fixed up the house. "I said, "Be careful because you may be throwing your money away,' " Barlow recalls.

The couple moved in over the weekend, prompting neighbors to call police twice to report "suspicious persons." On Saturday, Clavizzao arrived and told an officer that he and James Conard owned the house and were renting it to the couple.

Police took Clavizzao at his word and "chalked it up as a neighborhood dispute" requiring no further action, said St. Petersburg police spokesman Bill Profitt.

But neighbors accuse Clavizzao of once again gaming the system, aided by Conard's bankruptcy filing. "Victor has been doing this for years,'' says Sally Bauscher, a real estate agent who lives nearby. "He should be in jail."

Clavizzao, on probation from a recent grand theft conviction, could not be reached for comment. Nor could Conard, who in his Feb. 28 bankruptcy filing listed a $637-a-month income from Social Security and debts totalling $1.1-million, including the $650,000 loan on the Harbor Isle house.

Debtors in bankruptcy proceedings can keep their property, but only if they make the payments. Unless Conard makes regular mortgage payments, the lender could ask the court to lift the stay so foreclosure proceedings could resume.

Mortgage companies can also file a complaint with the court if fraud is suspected. "I've been waiting for that to happen more," says Golden, the bankruptcy lawyer. "A lot of these 'stated-income' loans weren't legitimate and weren't always upfront and honest about what the income really was."

However, Golden notes, it can be months from the time a stay is lifted until a house is sold. In the meantime, the owners or rental tenants can continue their occupancy even if they don't pay a cent or do anything to keep up the property — a prospect that worries neighbors who see their own property values declining.

"It's not helping anything," Weber says of the ratty-looking lawn next door. "Thank goodness I'm not selling now."

Susan Taylor Martin can be contacted at susan@sptimes.com.

Bankruptcy filing stalls foreclosure on rundown home 03/03/08 [Last modified: Thursday, March 13, 2008 12:46am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Will new laws protect condo owners from apartment conversions and rogue associations?

    Real Estate

    Danny Di Nicolantonio has lived in St. Petersburg's Calais Village Condominums for 33 years. Annoyed at times by the actions, or inaction, of the condo board and property managers, he has complained to the state agency that is supposed to investigate.

    That has left him even more annoyed.

    A bill passed by the Florida Legislature would affect places like The Slade in Tampa's Channelside district, where cCondominium owners have battled a plan to convert homes into apartments.
[Times file photo]
  2. Walmart opens first Pinellas County in-house training academy

    Retail

    Seminole — It had all the hallmarks of a typical graduation: robe-clad graduates marching in to Pomp and Circumstance, friends and family packed together under a sweltering tent and a lineup of speakers encouraging the graduates to take charge of their future.

    New Walmart Academy graduates are congratulated Thursday morning by associates during a graduation ceremony at the Walmart store, 10237 Bay Pines Boulevard, St. Petersburg. The Walmart location is one of the company's training academies where managers complete a one week retail course. David Shultz and Richard Sheehan, both from St. Petersburg, get high fives from the crowd.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  3. Lawsuit: Florida contractor fakes death to dodge angry homeowners

    Human Interest

    SEMINOLE — For weeks, Glenn Holland, 67, crawled out of bed before the sun rose to look for a dead man.

    Last year Glenn and Judith Holland said they paid a contractor thousands of dollars to renovate their future retirement home in Seminole. But when they tried to move in on Dec. 14, they said the home was in shambles and uninhabitable. They sent a text message to contractor Marc Anthony Perez at 12:36 p.m. looking for answers. Fourteen minutes later, they got back this text: "This is Marc's daughter, dad passed away on the 7th of December in a car accident. Sorry." Turns out Perez was still alive. Now the Hollands are suing him in Pinellas-Pasco circuit court. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  4. Owners to level Port Richey flea market but may rebuild

    Public Safety

    PORT RICHEY — The owners of the recently shuttered USA Flea Market have agreed to demolish all structures on the property, leaving open the possibility of rebuilding the weekend shopping attraction, according to Pasco County officials.

    Pasco County officials shut down the USA Flea Market after it received hundreds of citations for health and code violations.
  5. Kimmins Protégé-Mentor Program a crash course on business know-how

    Business

    TAMPA

    Williams Landscape Management Company was founded 30 years ago with one employee.

    Marisela Linares and Jorge Castro listen to speakers during a workshop at the Kimmins Contracting Corporation on Wednesday, June 7, 2017.   Kimmins Contracting Corporation is handling road construction projects Jeff Vinik's company as he remakes the Channel District. To do some outreach, the company is partnering with three minority contractors, but it's a unique partnership with Kimmins not only giving them the opportunity, but taking them through a series of workshops. It's essentially providing training to the subcontractors so they will be in position to get other contracts.