Florida Court Says Foreclosure Law Firms Can’t Charge for Serving “Unknowns”
Written by Emil Fleysher | October 3, 2012 | Foreclosure
A foreclosure law firm violated state law by charging homeowners for summonses served on “John and Jane Doe” and other unknown parties who may have claims on the property. It is common practice for law firms to serve foreclosure paperwork on homeowners, as well as separate summonses for “unknown tenant,” or “unknown spouse,” even if the borrower is single and is not renting out the property. The borrower is usually billed for the additional summonses at about $45 each.
Law firms have said the practice is necessary because they need to sue every person or entity who may have a claim on the home in order to ensure clear title at the end of the suit. Circuit Judge Lucy Chernow Brown said in a ruling last week there is no legal basis or justification for issuing a summons made out to an unknown party, and that attempts to collect payment on those summonses violates the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act and the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
The ruling was made in the 2009 class action lawsuit of Loxahatchee resident Rory Hewitt vs. the Law Offices of David J. Stern. Brown’s ruling conflicts with an earlier ruling by Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Thomas Barkdull in a similar class action, in which he held the summons fees were reasonable. Attorneys representing the 1,900 homeowners in the Hewitt class action are hopeful this will ultimately have a statewide impact.
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