Bill speeding up Florida foreclosures clears house despite objections

04/29/13 Janelle Irwin
WMNF Drive-Time News Monday | Listen to this entire show:

A bill that would speed up foreclosures in Florida is one step closer to the governor’s desk. The measure sponsored by Naples Republican Kathleen Passidomo passed the House Monday 87-26.

“The mortgage foreclosure cases need to be moved along to final resolution expeditiously in order to get the property back into the stream of commerce.”

The bill would shorten the amount of time banks can collect money from homeowners from five years to one and would require them to produce the bank note when the file foreclosure paperwork. The measure passed with all but two Republicans present at the time of the vote supporting it. Palm Harbor Representative Carl Zimmerman was one of 16 Democrats to support it.

“We have a number of homes that were foreclosed – I’m sorry, that weren’t foreclosed – that were abandoned as long as four years ago and they sit abandoned today. And we need to accelerate this process. There’s a condominium complex that I know of where all of those owners are paying the dues for those people that have abandoned their property because the bank won’t take it over.”

Critics argue the measure would rob homeowners of due process. Charles Gallagher is an attorney in St. Petersburg. He and others started a non-profit and hired a lobbyist to fight the bill in Tallahassee. He said the measure would force a homeowner to prove their property shouldn’t be foreclosed on.

“What we’re doing is we’re replacing the burden of proof with – making the defendant disprove certain issues and it’s contrary to all of Florida and really national jurisprudence to make someone disprove allegations. I mean, imagine if someone’s accusing you of trespassing – instead of saying you must prove your case [that] I’ve trespassed, the burden is now upon the person saying, ‘no, I wasn’t there.”

Gallagher is also worried about a provision of the bill that would rob homeowners of their right to challenge a foreclosure ruling.

“There’s no way to come back and undo them. So, right now where appellate courts have the right to vacate these judgments and put people back into the houses if there was a fraudulent foreclosure, this new act would prohibit that. It would make the certificates of title final and not allow any kind of challenge in the context of putting someone back in their house.”

The bill also speeds up the foreclosure process by taking cases off the regular docket. Gallagher said that could also cause some problems for homeowners.

“They are looking to retired judges or senior judges to come in and clear the backlog. And these judges are getting paid a certain per diem amount – $350 per day – and their mandate is to charge through the files and we think that there’s an issue of due process being lost when the charge to them is to clear the deck, clear the dockets. The real issue here is due process … due process is what we’re sacrificing when you’re asking judges to spin through cases – judges that are not elected nonetheless.”

The measure hasn’t reached the full Senate yet, but has cleared two committee stops. Gallagher said he is prepared to challenge the bill if it is signed into law.

“This is the fourth time they’ve tried to modify the law on these issues and every year it failed. This year there’s been a new motivation among the two sponsoring folks – Passidomo for the House and Latvala for the Senate and both of them have indicated their unusual resolve to make sure these things get forward and get passed at all costs.”

The Senate’s version of the bill is sponsored by Pinellas County Republican Jack Latvala. It’s now in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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Republicans, i.e. the rich just want to get richer by stealing everything from people. They will buy the foreclosed properties very cheap from the banks for cash. Banks also hold on to the properties and rent them for high prices and play games to create another bubble.