Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Courts Ease Case Backlog

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Courts Ease Case Backlog

Article excerpt

FORECLOSURES: Resources help, but 3.5 years' worth of work still remains

Courts throughout Florida are moving foreclosures through the system at a faster clip, with the current backlog of cases now the smallest since the housing crisis began.

But more than 250,000 pending defaults continue to clog financially strained judicial systems from Miami to Pensacola.

At the current pace, it will take another three-and-a-half years to clear the system completely.

Analysts attribute the recent progress to the new foreclosure fast-track law aimed at further home defaults. With home values on the rise, mortgage lenders are also hustling to move delinquent loans from their books to capitalize on the thriving market.

"The numbers have been reduced substantially this year, primarily due to legislation to expedite the process," said Jack McCabe, a Florida real estate consultant. "Now, everyone has their paperwork in order, and we're seeing these move at an incredible pace compared to the past five years."

As of Oct. 31, 11,880 foreclosures were pending in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court that encompasses Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties, according to a new report from the Florida State Courts Administrator.

That was down 16 percent from the first half of the year and 29 percent from an estimate on July 1, 2012, court records indicate.

Since the start of the state's fiscal year in July, 1,039 new foreclosure cases have entered local courts.

But during that time a special task force dedicated to handling these delinquencies was able to resolve 3,268 cases -- more than they cleared in the previous year.

The average pace of 932 local dispositions per month in September and October also greatly surpassed the court's resolution speeds earlier in the year, an indication those magistrates have ramped up their workload of late.

About 44 percent of the closed cases in Southwest Florida since summer were dismissed, either because the lender did not have the proper paperwork to proceed or some sort of loan modification was reached. Some of those defaults will likely circle back into the court system later.

Just one local foreclosure this fiscal year has been disposed of through a jury trial, while another 1,778 were settled by a judge. …

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