Is The New Florida Foreclosure Law Working?
As many Tampa homeowners know, the Florida Legislature passed a law last spring aimed at expediting the foreclosure process. Over the last year, the slow pace of the Florida foreclosure process garnered attention at both the state and national levels as Florida courts continued to struggle with foreclosure backlogs while many other states cleared theirs. It was largely that media attention that drove the Florida Legislature to pass a new Florida Foreclosure law aimed at streamlining Florida foreclosure suits. The law promised to clear the court backlogs and jumpstart Florida’s sluggish economy. Now, several months after the passage of the law many are wondering if the law is actually working.
Recent reports show that the foreclosure filing rate has declined since the passage of the law. In fact, Florida foreclosure filings fell sharply around the state in the month of August 2013. For example, the Sarasota Herald Tribune reported that banks filed a mere 889 foreclosure actions in Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties combined during August. This represents a decrease of 27 percent from July 2013. Moreover, Augusts’ numbers represent a 21 percent decrease from just one year ago.
On the surface, the low filing numbers seem to reason that the new legislation has been counterproductive. However, it is important to realize that the decrease in filings may be directly attributable to new requirements contained in the law. It is likely that Lenders are not yet prepared to comply with the new filing requirements that now apply. For example, the new law requires banks to provide documents that previously were not required prior to filing suit. Accordingly, banks, lenders and debt servicers are forced to update their procedures and systems as they transition toward complying with the law’s new requirements. As a result, homeowners can expect a continued lull in foreclosure filings until the banks catch up. Some experts believe there will be a spike in suits coming in November or December.
The bottom line is that owners need to be aware of the impending spike in foreclosure filings. If you are currently delinquent on your payments, you should take measures now to ensure you have adequate time to defend against a foreclosure. Under old laws, delinquent borrowers had a good deal of time to remain in their homes and defend against a foreclosure. However, with new laws on the books, the opportunity for delinquent borrowers to defend against foreclosures for an extended period of time will diminish. Accordingly, delinquent homeowners should act now to learn more about their loss mitigation options.
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Mr. Hoek is also a licensed real estate agent with Smith and Associates in Tampa, Florida, and is a principal of Florida Property Title Services, LLC. Mr. Hoek is actively involved in both the Tampa Bay community and real estate market. He can be reached by phone at (813) 251-2701 or via email at Andrewhoek@dewittlaw.com.
James Jacob is a Law Clerk in the Tampa Office of DeWitt Law Firm, P.A. Mr. Jacob can be reached at Jake@dewittlaw.com.