I read this story in passed on to us in the business by the Florida Association of Realtors and felt it was worth re-posting on our blog.
Fla. Legislature: Foreclosure fight develops TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Feb. 10, 2010 –
The Main Street versus Wall Street fight that has consumed national politics for much of the last year has made its way to Florida with two lawmakers pushing a proposed “Foreclosure Bill of Rights” while bankers are shopping a bill to do away with legal proceedings in foreclosures altogether.
The battle is playing out on the watch of Senate President Jeff Atwater, a banker by trade, who suggested that any pro-bank legislation that puts people out of homes more quickly would likely be a long shot.
Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, and Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, announced Tuesday their “homeowners’ defense legislation” (SB 1778), which they say would pre-empt the possible eviction of tens of thousands of Floridians from their homes by requiring mediation, and for home loans to be renegotiated at current values. They said they filed the measure in response to an initiative, backed by the Florida Bankers Association, which would create a non-judicial foreclosure system that speeds up foreclosures to 90 days.
“It is fundamental to our economic recovery that we resolve the foreclosure crisis in the state of Florida and there are two vastly different visions out there,” Soto said during a news conference at the Capitol. “While the banks seek to avoid judicial process altogether, allow 90 days and show our Floridians the door with no incentive to settle, we’re here to say, ‘no.’ We will not allow a half million Floridians to be kicked out on the street. We will not allow bailout, spend-happy banks to dictate our agenda here in Tallahassee, and we will not allow the trampling of the rights of Floridians for mere convenience.”
Aronberg, who is running for attorney general, agreed, saying that removing judges from foreclosure proceedings would hurt vulnerable populations in Florida, particularly seniors and residents who don’t speak English.
“It’s something that’s very dangerous, especially with the language barrier,” Aronberg said during the news conference. “You could get a letter and not understand the letter, or you could be a senior citizen and have someone as your caretaker, and you would never even have been notified of that letter. And within 90 days, your home is gone.”
He said that the right to go to court is “something that is engrained, not in our culture here in Florida, but in our constitution,” and added that the bill would help the record number of residents who faced foreclosure last year in the state.
“This will help homeowners who have deflated home values and inflated mortgages, (those) who are at the mercy of these large institutions who helped create the economic crisis through their own reckless behaviors,” Aronberg said.
Separate analyses found recently that foreclosure court filings across the state rose last year by just more than 30,000 and overall foreclosures in Florida leaped 34 percent in 2009. The state posted the third highest rate in the nation for the year.
Numbers such as those are why Florida Bankers Association Director of Government Affairs Anthony DiMarco said the organization was proposing a move to a non-judicial foreclosure process, which he said is used in 37 states.
“Foreclosures are taking way to long,” DiMarco said in a telephone interview. “Courts are taking some 12 months to 24 months to get a foreclosure done. In the meantime, the houses may be sitting there becoming eyesores, and neighbors don’t like that (and) the condo associations and homeowners associations don’t like that because they’re not getting paid. Courts are backlogged because there are so many foreclosure cases sitting on the books.”
DiMarco said the association has not found a sponsor for its bill yet. He added that bankers are feeling the brunt of the foreclosure crisis from all sides, citing pressure from consumer advocates to ease up on evictions.
“We’re getting squeezed because people say we shouldn’t foreclose too fast and people like the condo associations and local governments say we’re taking too long because they don’t want to take care of property,” he said.
But Senate President Atwater, who is running for chief financial officer in part on his experience as a banker, indicated Tuesday that the foreclosure fight might be premature. Atwater said in an interview with the News Service that he’s wary of any idea that doesn’t give homeowners a chance to keep their house, though he didn’t rule out a system that tries to find ways to speed the process up.
“One of the first things any banker is taught is, you never want to take back the collateral. … You’re in the business to work with someone,” said Atwater, R-North Palm Beach. He rejected the idea that because of his profession the bankers may get more consideration.
If anything is done, “it will not be done in the spirit of benefiting the bankers,” the president said. “We’re not going to try to accelerate someone losing their home” without “some measure of fairness” to the homeowner.
However, Atwater also noted that condominium and homeowners associations have concerns, and they’re pelting lawmakers with complaints about delinquent or foreclosed units that no longer pay association dues, overburdening everyone else in the community.
Source: News Service of Florida, Keith Laing.
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