Tampa Bay posts nation's fourth-highest foreclosure rate in February

The only regions to post higher rates last month also were in Florida: Miami, Orlando and Ocala.
Published March 13 2013
Updated March 14 2013

TAMPA — Tampa Bay posted the nation's fourth-highest foreclosure rate last month as the sludge of bad home loans continues to gum up local courts, RealtyTrac data released today show.

More than 5,000 notices of mortgage default, foreclosure auction or repossession were sent across Tampa Bay last month, a 23 percent jump over last February, data show.

For the sixth month in a row, Florida posted the nation's highest foreclosure rate — one in every 282 homes. The Sunshine State housed seven of the 10 hardest-hit cities, including Miami, Orlando and Ocala, which ranked first through third.

Much of this foreclosure flurry, attorneys said, centers on years-old defaults delayed by legal slowdowns and the "robo-signing" scandal, leaving many distressed homeowners on edge or living in their homes without making monthly mortgage payments.

Clearing the backlog, Realtors said, is key to a true recovery, as supplies of for-sale homes tighten and foreclosures drag down prices for neighboring homes. The average Florida foreclosure takes more than two years to resolve.

The flood has overwhelmed courts in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties, which last month were dragged down by more than 54,000 pending foreclosures, state court data show. One Pinellas judge said this week that she was seeing cases from as far back as 2007.

Yet across the country, much of the mess from the housing bust appears to be waning. New foreclosures across the country last month dropped 25 percent from last February, data show, and nationwide bank repossessions plunged to a 65-month low.

"At a high level, the U.S. foreclosure inferno has been effectively contained," RealtyTrac vice president Daren Blomquist said in a statement. "But dangerous foreclosure flareups are still popping up in states," especially those that have lengthy court delays.

Florida lawmakers could soon consider HB 87, a "faster foreclosures" bill sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, that would fast-track cases if lenders meet certain requirements.

But attorneys, consumer advocates and others said speeding the cases through "rocket dockets" would prevent homeowners from mounting a proper defense.

Drew Harwell can be reached at dharwell@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8252.