Florida’s “Fair” Foreclosure Act is No Such Thing

Legislation working its way through both the Florida House and Senate — that would effectively make it tougher for those going through the foreclosure process — is curiously named the Florida Fair Foreclosure Act.
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Our Miami foreclosure lawyers know that when you peel back the surface jargon, this bill is really nothing more than a strengthening of bankers’ position in foreclosure cases.

We would encourage every Floridian to take the time to become educated on these measures. If you find yourself as appalled as we are, we hope you will contact your representatives and let them know your strong objections.

The House version is HB87. It would enact numerous changes to current foreclosure laws. It would allow third-party lien holders, like homeowners’ associations, to be able to route foreclosures through an expedited process. The idea, apparently, is to give these entities a chance to clear the glut of foreclosures in their developments. The problem is that in doing so, it curtails the due process rights of those who happened to purchase their now-underwater home in an association. It takes away some of their most basic legal rights.

So how the drafters of this bill – or anyone who actually read it – could think it “fair” is beyond us.

Bill sponsor Rep. Kathleen Passidomo argues that it actually serves to protect ensurers by making sure that banks and lenders will have to prove that they actually own a mortgage before filing a foreclosure action. But all that really means is that the banks will have to prepare a certification attesting to the validity and truthfulness of the claim. In other words, we’re still taking them at their word for it. In fact, it’s the homeowner who will now have to prove that the banks aren’t being forthright.

This is despite the fact that banks have had their dishonesty proven over and over again in the form of fraudulent documents, forged notaries, fraudulent assignments, documents mysteriously or conveniently missing. Banks have literally had to pay billions in fines for these kinds of actions. And yet, all we are requiring is a signed certification from them saying that they’re telling the truth?

Also under this act, homeowners will be given just 20 days in which to challenge the bank on its claims. Given the complexity of these cases, that is not enough time in which to find and hire a lawyer, track the appropriate documentation and then find definitive proof of a wrongful foreclosure.

The chips are stacked against the homeowner from the beginning.

The state senate version of this measure, SB 1666, is quite similar.

While proponents say it is going to help clear the backlog of foreclosure cases, the reality is that this measure puts justice in the backseat.

While the banks say such measures are necessary because the backlogs are caused by homeowners dragging their feet, the reality is that banks are the culprits. They continue to fight loan modification agreements at every turn, they take their time in exploring settlement options and sometimes they don’t even bother showing up to court.

And homeowner associations eager to process the backlog of cases in their communities should know that they already have the power to demand status conferences and press a case forward in a timely manner. So it’s truly a non-issue anyway.

At the end of the day, the housing crisis was without question perpetuated by large financial institutions and the mortgage industry as a whole. That is really indisputable, as evidenced by the numerous big-ticket settlements that have been reached in the last several years.

That means that our focus should be on strengthening the protections available for homeowners – not lowering the bar for the banks.

To contact your representative or senator to voice your objections to these measures, visit: http://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/Find and http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/myrepresentative.aspx.

If you’re battling foreclosure in Miami or the surrounding areas contact Jacobs Keeley for a confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call (305) 358-7991. Also, don’t miss Miami Foreclosure Attorney Bruce Jacobs on 880AM/the Biz, every Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. on “Mortgage Wars,” discussing foreclosure topics that matter to YOU.

Additional Resources:
Florida’s ‘Fair Foreclosure Act’ Is Anything But Fair, Feb. 20, 2013, By Roy Oppenheim, U.S. News & World Report
More Blog Entries:
Florida Foreclosure Lawyers Debunk “$8.3 Billion Relief” Claim, March 10, 2013, Miami Foreclosure Lawyer Blog