The last day of the Florida legislative session saw the quiet death of several bills that would speed the foreclosure process for some homes. The sponsors hope the legislation will help spur economic recovery in the state and plan to try again next session.
Florida has suffered a heavy blow from the real estate crisis of the last few years. At times, it has been among the top states for mortgage delinquencies, foreclosures and falling real estate values.
The real estate market has been crippled by a glut of foreclosed properties with an estimated 368,000 foreclosure cases working their way through the Florida courts. In February, RealtyTrac noted an increase of almost 53 percent for South Florida foreclosure filings compared with the same period in 2011.
These properties in foreclosure inhibit the improvement of real estate prices. Uncertainty over when foreclosed properties will sell within a neighborhood, and at what price, depresses the selling price of all properties.
An Added Burden on Borrowers
Many consumer advocates complained that the proposed legislation to speed the foreclosure process limited consumer rights and reduced borrower protections in the case of wrongful foreclosures.
The current language of the bill would speed the foreclosure process by allowing a bank or other lender to request a “show cause” hearing and receive an immediate ruling from a judge on whether a legitimate defense existed.
The legislation also reduced the time a lender could seek to collect a deficiency balance on a foreclosed property from five years to one year. This was one provision that consumer advocates approved.
Overall the proposed changes to Florida’s foreclosure law would have benefited the banks and lenders. This bill made it farther that past efforts partially due to people’s frustration with the foreclosure process.
Many borrowers are currently left with few real options outside of filing bankruptcy, which may allow some to remain in their home and for others, complete protection from a deficiency balance.
Source: Palm Beach Post, “Fast foreclosure bill may return“, Kimberly Miller, Mar. 19, 2012.