Scott signs foreclosure bill

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Paul Owers

Published June 11, 2013


Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill Friday designed to speed up foreclosures in Florida, but critics say the measure is unfair to homeowners.

HB 87 requires homeowners to respond more quickly to foreclosure filings and gives community associations more power in the process. 
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, also requires lenders to have their paperwork in order before filing a foreclosure complaint. And it cuts the time period in which banks can seek a deficiency judgment against homeowners to one year from five.

It takes an average of nearly 900 days to complete a foreclosure in Florida, one of the longest time lines in the nation, according to RealtyTrac Inc. Supporters of the bill said the delays resulted in vacant homes that have hurt property values.

Florida's housing market is important to our economy's continuous recovery and this bill will aid in that effort by placing abandoned homes, caught up in the foreclosure backlog, back onto the market," Scott wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Kenneth Detzner.

But Roy Oppenheim, a foreclosure defense lawyer based in Weston, blasted the law.

He said it places a bigger burden on judges and hurts the due process rights of homeowners, forcing them to prove in their initial court pleadings that they don't deserve to lose the properties.

"The legislature stuck its nose into the judicial branch unconstitutionally and improperly," Oppenheim said.

Defense lawyers are expected to challenge the law in court.

But Donna DiMaggio Berger, a Margate lawyer for community associations, applauded the bill, saying it was long overdue.

Condominium associations across Florida were devastated financially during the housing bust when owners fell into foreclosure. That forced the remaining owners to make up shortfalls in monthly maintenance dues, and many of those owners became delinquent on their mortgages as a result, Berger said.

Associations were at the mercy of banks, Berger said.

"It's a very happy day for us," she said. "There's a lot to like, unless you're a foreclosure defense attorney."

The foreclosure bill was one of 34 that Scott signed Friday.

One measure gives landlords more power to evict tenants. Another requires check-cashing companies to report checks worth $1,000 or more to a new state online database.

The check-cashing database, intended to prevent workers' compensation fraud, is not expected to be funded until 2014. Among the other bills signed on Friday, HB 390 prohibits organizations from holding themselves out as veterans service organizations if they're not.