Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Measure to Speed Home Seizures

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Measure to Speed Home Seizures

Article excerpt

BILL IN STATE HOUSE: Opponents say it would hurt more than help

A foreclosure fast-track bill aimed at breaking the legal logjam clogging state courts is gaining momentum in the Florida Legislature.

The measure would streamline the foreclosure process in Florida - - which now takes nearly three years -- by allowing secondary lienholders to initiate home defaults.

The bill also would reduce the time courts have to begin reviews and would force banks to have all pertinent paperwork together before filing a foreclosure action.

But House Bill 87 also has attracted strong opposition, led by homeowners and advocates for the poor.

"We cannot force a bank to negotiate with homeowners," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples. "We cannot make them modify a loan or approve a short sale. What we can do is to make sure when things fall apart, and they go to foreclosure, it is done right."

The bill and its opponents have put Florida's battered housing market back on center stage in Tallahassee, as lawmakers consider how to handle a crisis that has lingered for six years.

Passidomo's bill comes as foreclosure backlogs have swelled in the state's 20 circuit courts.

As of Oct. 31, 16,446 foreclosures were pending -- a four-year backlog -- in the 12th Judicial Circuit, which includes Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties.

That is up about 1,000 cases from two years ago, and down a net of just 183 foreclosures since June 30, when new mortgage guidelines were installed to expedite the process, according to the state courts administrator.

At the same time, Florida's backlog of 377,272 foreclosures also is growing, as lenders begin resuming the cases put on hold for much of 2011 by fraudulent "robo-signing" issues.

A Herald-Tribune review in January also revealed the problem has been exacerbated by repeat foreclosures circling through the system.

Twelfth Circuit Judge Lee Haworth is confident the local backlogs will decline if adequate funding to operate a special foreclosure task force is provided. …

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