Florida’s Foreclosure Law Stripping Homeowners of Property Rights
It began with an effort by Florida’s judicial leaders and state legislators to boost the state’s economy by sorting through the gargantuan foreclosure backlog and getting these homes back on the market. However, for those trying to hang onto their homes, it’s turned into what one reporter described as a “Kafkaesque nightmare,” referring to the complex, bizarre and illogical stories penned by German author Franz Kafka.
Our Miami foreclosure defense lawyers have noted state leaders have mostly turned their backs to the ramifications of tossing thousands of families out of their homes, only to return those foreclosed properties back to the banks and mortgage servicers, who must maintain and then sell them. Failure to maintain the properties has become a blight on neighborhoods, and they aren’t moving nearly as fast as they should.
But what’s worse is the fact that Florida’s entire court system has been compromised, because lawmakers effectively sidestepped property rights by effectively transferring billions of dollars in real estate assets from individual owners to large financial institutions. These were essentially the explicit orders from the state Legislature and the Florida Supreme Court, both more concerned with clearing the docket than protecting the rights of homeowners.
In order to further this purpose, the state has set up a “rocket docket” of foreclosure cases. Civil case judges handle only foreclosure matters, sometimes ruling on more than 100 motions in a single day. The rules that guide these courtrooms deviate from those followed in other civil court proceedings. Almost always, our attorneys have seen the cases skewed in favor of the banks – from beginning to end of the process – from hearings in defendant absentia to overlooking the banks’ loss of critical paperwork. The idea is simply to “flush these matters down the drain.”
In a recent example outlined in a report by the Center for Public Integrity, a case was described in which a police officer, his wife and two small children had their home foreclosed on, despite repeated objections due to the fact that the bank did not have the original promissory note. This is the one original document a bank must have in order to foreclose on a property, and it’s required (or should be required) when filing a case.
The officer, who had gotten behind on payments after suffering an on-duty injury, argued the bank couldn’t foreclose without it. When the bank did produce the purportedly “lost” note, it contained signatures that differed in ink color and paper that differed in size. The judge dismissed the discrepancies and allowed the document into evidence. Objections by the defense were overruled, and the court ruled in the bank’s favor.
Then, two days after trial, the officer got a letter from another company, saying it now owned the loan. In fact, the bank had sold it to them a full two months before the foreclosure trial began. The bank foreclosed on a property it did not own. When the officer returned to court with those documents in hand, the judge refused to retry the case. After an extensive back-and-forth, the officer has been able to have the sale postponed while he works toward a loan modification with the new owner.
But sanctions on the bank for illegal foreclosure? Or on the judge for allowing it? Not happening.
It’s worth noting that when the state won $335 million in a settlement for previous foreclosure fraud from the five largest banks in the country, about 10 percent of that was funneled into “expedition of foreclosure cases.” That means these same owners who were pummeled in the recession are again seeing their rights trampled.
The Florida Supreme Court issued this target: Disposal of 256,000 foreclosure cases over the course of the next three years. That’s 700 cases every single day, assuming everyone was working vacation days and weekends.
But it’s not impossible when you consider that one judge in Broward County reportedly closed nearly 800 foreclosure cases in a single day. In the first nine months since the new foreclosure law passed, nearly 194,000 foreclosure cases were closed. Most of those were judgments against homeowners.
Our South Florida foreclosure defense attorneys are here to help you fight back.
If you’re battling foreclosure in Miami or the surrounding areas contact Bruce Jacobs & Associates 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 “Debt Warriors with Bruce Jacobs,” discussing foreclosure topics that matter to YOU.