Personal Bankruptcy Petitions Drop in March

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The tri county area has had significant decrease in bankruptcy petitions during March 2015.

Personal bankruptcy filings have dropped 16 percent between February and March throughout South Florida.  This is according to the Sun Sentinel with data that was released in Miami by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.  There were 2,389 new bankruptcy petitions filed by South Florida residents in February but only 2,008 files in March. Personal bankruptcies have lowered by 32 percent, dropping from the 2,969 filed in March 2010.  This drop shows that consumers are handling their finances better than they did a year ago.

The tri-counties in South Florida show a decrease in bankruptcy filings.  In lead with the most petitions is Miami-Dade County with 979, followed by Broward County with 680, and finally Palm Beach County with one 349 petitions.  The Associated Press reports that the drop in bankruptcy petitions may be the result of home foreclosure cases that have been stalled in South Florida courts.  According to the news source, foreclosure courts were established across the state last year to prevent those hearings from overwhelming the regular circuit court system.

If you have questions about Foreclosure, Loan Modification, Bankruptcy, Short Sale, or other alternatives, please feel free to call my office at 888-886-0020, send an e-mail to emil@fleysherlaw.com, or complete the contact form below.

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February Shows Mayor Improvements for Foreclosures

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South Florida has shown massive decline in new foreclosure filings during February.

A 35 percent decrease in new foreclosure filings can be seen in Broward and Palm Beach counties, showing how the improving economy and higher home prices are benefiting homeowners. In February 2014 Palm Beach County had 342 new filings, February 2015 only 223. Last year Broward County had 690 new filings in February but in 2015 there have only been 448 new filings. However, Florida still has the third highest foreclosure rate across the country with one in every 570 properties facing some kind of foreclosure process.  RealtyTrac reports that although Palm Beach and Broward counties are still seeing some adversity, the overall foreclosure numbers, which include bank repossessions and scheduled auctions, are expected to drop below pre-crisis levels.

New foreclosure filings have decline substantially during this past year. This is mostly due to the improving economy, job advancement, and the increase in home prices. The majority of the foreclosures in the court system right now are leftover from the height of the housing collapse.  South Florida attorneys agree that judges are working tirelessly through the backlog, and are aggressively setting dates for trials and auctions.  A Boca Raton attorney stated that homeowners could respond to a foreclosure lawsuit and put a series of delays that would leave the case sitting for two or three years but that is no longer happening as judges are pushing those cases forward. Data provided by RealtyTrac also shows that February’s figures were the lowest since the housing collapse in July 2006.

If you have questions about Foreclosure, Loan Modification, Bankruptcy, Short Sale, or other alternatives, please feel free to call my office at 888-886-0020, send an e-mail to emil@fleysherlaw.com, or complete the contact form below.

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Reset of Loans Causes Increase in Home-Equity Payments

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As Heloc payments are being reset, the risk of defaults has increase immensely.

As interest-only periods expire on loans begun during the housing bubble era, 3.3 million homeowners will be facing higher payments during the next four years on home-equity lines of credit, according to RealtyTrac.   The Heloc loans that totaled at $158 billion are requiring principal paydowns beginning this 2015 through 2018.  There is rising threat over the amount of new defaults due to the new monthly bills increasing an average of $146. This is especially concerning to those homeowners who already have properties underwater.

According to S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values, home prices have gone up 4.5 percent in the last year in 20 major cities. The threat is magnified because slowing price appreciation gives homeowners less hope of gaining equity.  Home prices are 16 percent below their July 2006 high, after recovering 29 percent from the post-bubble low in March 2012, the index shows.

Nearly $88 billion of the Heloc debt that began during the last house bubble is backed by homeowner’s who owe more the 125 percent of the resale value of the property and therefore have less incentive to keep up the with payments. Although the reset that took place in 2014 didn’t increase the default, the expectancy for defaults is high due to the increase of payments whose loans are already underwater. RealtyTrac estimates the peak will be 62 percent in 2016.

There are several states that have a high amount of properties that are seriously underwater and that will have borrowers facing a payment increase.   RealtyTrac reports that Nevada is at 84 percent, Arizona at 74 percent, and Illinois and Florida matching at 71 percent. However, the state of California has the largest amount of loans that will be scheduled for reset- 645,872 to be exact.  Out of those properties, two-thirds of them are seriously underwater with an average Heloc payment increase of $215.

If you have questions about Foreclosure, Loan Modification, Bankruptcy, Short Sale, or other alternatives, please feel free to call my office at 888-886-0020, send an e-mail to emil@fleysherlaw.com, or complete the contact form below.

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‘70s Pop Star Files Bankruptcy

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As accountant and attorney fees have accumulated, 1970s pop star and teen idol Dave Cassidy has filed for bankruptcy.

The 64-year-old former teen idol pop star David Cassidy has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Fort Lauderdale where he owns a waterfront property.  Mr. Cassidy reported debts included credit cards bills of almost $40,000, a mortgage of nearly $300,000, and a substantial amount in accountant and attorney fees. Judge Raymond Ray is assigned to the case. Cassidy’s assets and debts are estimated to be between $1 million and 10 million.

Although the petition was deemed incomplete due to 16 documents not being presented, the filing did state that Mr. Cassidy owes money to several attorneys and accountants.  One attorney who assisted Mr. Cassidy in a settlement over a race horse he owned with his former partner is owed more than $17,000, an accounting firm in Boca Raton is owed close to $15,000, another Fort Lauderdale attorney is owed more than $11,000 and a Fort Lauderdale accountant is owed at least $10,000.  This is not including his American Express credit card of well over $20,000 and maintenance fees on the Villa at Polo Towers in Las Vegas where he frequently performed who is owed $1,420.

The attorneys who are owed money are not too worried because they believe the law is on their side and Mr. Cassidy does have a multimillion dollar home on the water front. David Cassidy is known for his 1970s television show “The Partridge Family”, and hit songs like “I Woke Up In Love This Morning” and “I Think I Love You”.  In Broward County alone, Mr. Cassidy has been a defendant and in 12 cases.  Sue Shifrin, his wife, has filed for divorced after his third DUI arrest last year.

If you have questions about Foreclosure, Loan Modification, Bankruptcy, Short Sale, or other alternatives, please feel free to call my office at 888-886-0020, send an e-mail to emil@fleysherlaw.com, or complete the contact form below.

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No Foreclosure If No Default Notice Received

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The banks mailing error, was enough for a jury to side with the homeowner and stop a foreclosure.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the homeowner over Deutsche Bank in a foreclosure case over the notice of default.  The property that the bank was trying to recover is in Port St. Lucie, one of the cities hit the hardest by the housing bubble; however, the hay the broke the camel’s back came from the mailing address which the notice of default was sent to. The homeowner’s attorney argued that the bank did not send the notice of default to the property address as stated on the terms of the mortgage, thus violating it but instead sent the notice of default to a PO Box.

Although the property was unoccupied at the time, the appeals court agreed that there was a violation of contract and has asked the case to be moved to the trial court for dismissal for prejudice for noncompliance with the mortgage’s acceleration. Fourth District Judges Carole Taylor, Robert Gross, and Spencer Levine all sided with the homeowner in an unsigned opinion. The homeowner’s other defense, the argument that the bank presented a backdated mortgage assignment and did not prove standing to foreclose, was not addressed.

If you have questions about Foreclosure, Loan Modification, Bankruptcy, Short Sale, or other alternatives, please feel free to call my office at 888-886-0020, send an e-mail to emil@fleysherlaw.com, or complete the contact form below.

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When Mortgage Transfers Go Array

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When the bank fails to connect the dots in a mortgage note transfer, the homeowners win out.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled against HSBC Bank USA in a foreclosure case for lack of standing.  The defendants, Donna and Marc Murray, appealed a final foreclosure judgment against the bank with the argument that they failed to validate that the mortgage originator transferred its rights.  Judge Melanie May wrote on behalf of the unanimous panel “In this foreclosure puzzle, one of the pieces is missing”.

The Murrays had their original mortgage note with Option One Mortgage Corp., who did business as Sand Canyon Corp.  HSBC filed for foreclosure in February 2009 when the homeowner became delinquent on their loan claiming they own and hold the mortgage. However, the mortgage from Option One was not assigned to HSBC Bank USA until April of the following year, and even after that, the note itself was still payable to the servicer.

When Sand Canyon completed the mortgage assignment the following year, they backdated it to 2007, providing HSBC all the back-up they needed to claim its entitlement to enforce the mortgage terms as a “non-holder in possession with the rights of a holder”.  Palm Beach Circuit Senior Judge Howard Harrison presided over the bench trial.  “They got the mortgage. They got the records. They got the servicing. They got the whole thing. They just don’t have the endorsement, and is that fatal?” Harrison asked. “In other words do you have to go and get, and then start over again? That’s the question. I don’t know the answer.”

Ultimately Judge Howard Harrison ruled in favor of HSBC.  The homeowners argued that HSBC did not connect the dots as Option Once changed names, ownership and branding in the in-between years with several other companies servicing as depositor and servicers. What they court could not ignore is the fact that the mortgage note still remained payable to Option One without a legal transfer to the bank. The court went one step above and created a one-page diagram as an appendix listing all the corporate hands on the mortgage and leaving a dotted line representing “the missing piece in the chain of transfers.”

If you have questions about Foreclosure, Loan Modification, Bankruptcy, Short Sale, or other alternatives, please feel free to call my office at 888-886-0020, send an e-mail to emil@fleysherlaw.com, or complete the contact form below.

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Landlords Gain As Demand For Rental Properties Increase

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Landlords enjoying this time, as homeownership falls drastically and demand for rental properties increase.

In a report provided by the U.S. Census Bureau in Washington, D.C. the amount of properties that are inhabited by renters grew by 2 million last year.  The number of available properties to rent has fallen 7 percent in the fourth quarter; the lowest is has been since 1993.  Since the job market has picked up more young people are about to leave their parent’s home and start their lives.  But the parents aren’t the only ones benefitting from their kids leaving the nest, single-family home and apartment landlords are now able to increase rents as demand rises and supply is a slow to meet it.

According to the Census date the rate of homeownership has dropped to the lowest point since 1994. Owner-occupied households have dropped by 354,000 from a year earlier.  The rate of ownership by people 35 and under is at the lowest it has been since 1982.  The rate has fallen 35.3 percent, 1.5 percent just in the last year.  The number of total households – 1.66 million – is the largest since 2005, according to Jed Kolko, the chief economist for Trulia Inc.

The vacancy rate for owner-occupied properties declined 0.2 percentage points to 1.9 percent.  There was a $20.6 billion increase in 2014 as U.S. renters paid over $441 billion for houses and apartments as less and less Americans owned their homes and landlords with limited inventory increased their prices, states the data provided by Zillow Inc.

If you have questions about Foreclosure, Loan Modification, Bankruptcy, Short Sale, or other alternatives, please feel free to call my office at 888-886-0020, send an e-mail to emil@fleysherlaw.com, or complete the contact form below.

 

 

 

 

 

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Bankruptcy Attorney Suspended for Overcharging Clients

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A bankruptcy attorney was suspended for taking advantage of his clients by over charging legal fees and embezzling funds.

The biggest bankruptcy attorney in Pennsylvania is now being accused of overcharging hundreds of his clients and misspending thousands of dollars.  One victim, Sharon Kaluzny, had to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy after a tough divorce and caring for sick parents forced her to close down her hair salon in 2006.  Ms. Kaluzny paid Mr. Mazzei a $1,000 up front when they met at his Tarentum office in Pennsylvania.  The bankruptcy court later did an investigation where Mr. Mazzei failed to fully disclose all of his fees to the court as required by law.

In 2011, when Kaluzny though she was almost done paying off all of her debts she finds out that this was not the case.  Kaluzny blames the miscalculation on Mr. Mazzei, which he denied, and then he forces her to do a second bankruptcy where she’d have to pay thousands of dollars more in legal fees that ultimately caused her to have her truck repossessed. The investigation conducted by the bankruptcy court found that the fees paid by Sharon Kaluzny were “in excess of the amounts stated in both cases.”

During the second bankruptcy, Kaluzny was forced to give up a rental property.  The tenant however, was still paying Mazzie $900 in rent which was kept in the firms account.  According to the investigation carried out by the bankruptcy court, this act is defined as “comingling of funds”.  A law professor from the University of Pittsburgh who is an expert on legal ethics stated that one of the most serious offenses for a lawyer is the comingling of funds.

Ms. Kaluzny was not the only victim taken advantage of by Mr. Mazzei.  The bankruptcy court’s chief judge cited 260 cases where Mazzei charged “fees totaling over $260,000 yet he failed to perform the services he represented to clients he would perform”.  He was also charged with “wrongfully retaining money”, “abusing the system”, and “filing false statements”. The states Supreme Court disciplinary board also did their own separate investigation and found Mazzei mishandled thousands of dollars he received from clients and he embezzled thousands from a credit counseling service in retainer fees.

Mazzei received a 3 year suspension of his law license.

If you have questions about Foreclosure, Loan Modification, Bankruptcy, Short Sale, or other alternatives, please feel free to call my office at 888-886-0020, send an e-mail to emil@fleysherlaw.com, or complete the contact form below.

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Florida “Zombie” Foreclosures Are The Highest Throughout The Nation

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Even after a 35 percent decrease in “zombie” foreclosures, Florida continues to lead the nation with the highest number of “zombie” foreclosures.

Throughout the U.S., Florida has the highest number of “zombie” foreclosures. “Zombie” foreclosure is a term used for properties that are under foreclosure but have been abandoned. There are only 36,000 pending “zombie” foreclosures, which is a 35 percent decline from this time last year. However, other states such as California, Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Maryland, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are also experiencing a high number of “zombie” foreclosures.  This kind of foreclosure accounts for about one fourth of all foreclosures in Florida.

“Zombie” foreclosures pose a great problem for the banks that have ownership of the property and are trying to put them back on the market.  Many of these homes have overgrown lawn, many damages, and the utilities may have been turned off for months or perhaps even years.  Although these “zombie” foreclosures have been down from a year ago, they still represent a large share of foreclosures nationwide. There are more than 142,000 foreclosed properties that have been abandoned nationwide, reported RealtyTrac.

Daren Blomquist, the vice president of RealtyTrac, stated that “zombie” foreclosure are normally the problem cases still “stuck in the pipeline”, and they are more common in the states with a longer foreclosure process.  Mr. Blomquist also stated “The increase in zombie foreclosures is actually a good sign that banks and courts are finally moving forward with a resolution on these properties that may have been sitting in foreclosure limbo for years”.

New York had the most “zombie” foreclosures at the end of last month with more than 19,000. This is at the metropolitan level.  Others metro areas near the top of the list were, Tampa, South Florida, Orlando, Jacksonville, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

If you have questions about Foreclosure, Loan Modification, Bankruptcy, Short Sale, or other alternatives, please feel free to call my office at 888-886-0020, send an e-mail to emil@fleysherlaw.com, or complete the contact form below.

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Clerical Error Costs Bank Foreclosure Case

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Clerical errors, both by the bank and by the court, have caused lengthy foreclosure cases to be dismissed.

A clerical error cost Bank of America a four year foreclosure case when it should have been something clear-cut.  In 2009 the plaintiff was granted a final judgment against the defendant Heather Epstein, who moved out of the property the following year, and Bank of America took over the property with a new certificate of title.  However, problems soon arose when the mortgage and all subsequent documents had an incorrect legal description of the property.

Court documentation points towards the bank having knowledge of the clerical error after the Broward County property appraiser’s office rebuffed the certificate of title and negated to transfer the title due to not being able to match the legal description.  It took the bank two years to start taking action in order to fix the problem, leaving Epstein as the documented owner while facing the condo association bills.

The trial court denied, without prejudice, a motion filed by Bank of America in 2012 to decimate the foreclosure judgment and the certificate of title in order to have the legal description discrepancy corrected, but because of Florida’s rule of civil procedure which only allows a one year period to annul judgments due to errors.  However, in 2013 when the Bank made a second attempt stating that the incorrect legal description could affect the rights of a neighboring property, the trial court allowed it urging Epstein to appeal.

Judge Cory Ciklin and Judge Alan Forst both agreed with Fourth DCA Judge Burton Conner when he stated that Bank of America would need to start the foreclosure action against Epstein because the court could of corrected the legal description issue before the foreclosure judgment but not after. This is both good news and bad news for Epstein because although she will regain control over the property, she will need to battle it out in court to figure out who is liable for the past due upkeep and maintenance after she vacated the property.

Another case of clerical slipups, this time by the court and not the bank, cost Wachovia Mortgage FSB its foreclosure case against Jose Montes and Catalina Solano of Courtyard Homes at the Grove in Weston. Wachovia file the original promissory note before the trial but when the note could not be found in the court file, the defendants challenged the bank’s evidence and won the involuntary dismissal. Adding insult to injury, a week later a court clerk found the note and mailed it back to the bank. It took over a year to resolve the appeal.

If you have questions about Foreclosure, Loan Modification, Bankruptcy, Short Sale, or other alternatives, please feel free to call my office at 888-886-0020, send an e-mail to emil@fleysherlaw.com, or complete the contact form below.

 

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