The bill to expedite the foreclosure process has passed its second committee, the House Justice Appropriations Committee, by a 9-2 vote. Known as House Bill 87, this bill allows third-party lien holders to start foreclosure proceedings and rushes the final judgment of foreclosure if a legitimate defense is not filed. Objections from consumer advocates fear HB 87 would put the rights of homeowners at risk but the bill also includes consumer protection provisions including forcing banks and lenders to show proof of ownership of a mortgage before they can file suit. HB 87 also reduces the time the lender has to file for a deficiency judgment from five years down to one.
The other major cause of delay in Florida’s foreclosure cases is the paperwork. The average foreclosure case in Florida takes more than two years to complete and according to a court administrator, as of January 31st there was a backlog of 366,000 cases. Lawmakers have given Florida $10 million over the past 3 years to bring in retired judges to help clear the backlogged cases but foreclosure filings are not expected to come down to normal levels until the year 2016. The Legislative Budget Commission has used $5 million of Florida’s $8.4 billion share of a foreclosure fraud settlement to pay for more senior judges and technology upgrades to clear cases but it isn’t enough. Despite income from foreclosure fraud settlements with lenders, the state is requesting an additional $35 million over the next 3 years to pay for even more judges and technology. $200 million of the $8.4 billion settlement has been earmarked to help troubled homeowners through loan modifications and also to help Florida’s housing market.
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