State courts must deal with nearly 1 million foreclosure cases over the next three years. They need money from the Florida Legislature, not a bad bill.
House Bill 87, filed by Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, would make it easier for banks to foreclose by allowing lenders to seek an expedited hearing. Borrowers would have to prove they have a defense against foreclosure. But lenders are the reason foreclosure cases take an average of more than two years to resolve. Why make it easier to foreclose?
In many cases, lenders take their time because they don’t want to assume the taxes, association dues and other costs associated with taking ownership. In others, they lack the proper documents to prove standing to foreclose.
“There doesn’t seem to be any motivation on the part of the plaintiffs to move the cases forward, and, as you can imagine, there is no motivation on the part of the (homeowners) to move the cases,” State Courts Administrator Lisa Goodner told a Senate committee last week. “The other challenges we have are paperwork problems.”
Ms. Goodner asked for an additional $9.9 million per year through 2016 to increase the use of technology and the number of case managers. She said the money could come from the $200 million legislators took from Florida’s share of the National Mortgage Settlement. House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville convinced Attorney General Pam Bondi to give the Legislature authority over that money, promising that it would go toward foreclosure issues. This is their chance to make good on that promise.
Rep. Passidomo says her bill would allow interested parties, such as homeowners and condo associations, to initiate a foreclosure. Associations, though, already have the ability to foreclose, and have been doing so at a higher rate since the Great Recession to get outstanding maintenance fees.
Palm Beach County Chief Judge Peter Blanc said court rules require that non-jury cases be disposed of in 12 months “With all of these properties tied up in the courts,” he said, “it has an impact on the economy and on our effort to recover.” He recently issued an administrative order requiring bank attorneys to provide status updates on foreclosure cases three years or older. The court plans to schedule block trials.
The state has a backlog of 366,250 foreclosure cases. Ms. Goodner expects 680,000 more to be filed by 2016. Give the courts money to move those cases.
for The Post Editorial Board