Florida Courts Dump Struggling Foreclosure Mediation Program

Florida’s statewide mediation program for residential foreclosure cases did not survive 2011. In less than three years, the program that some hoped would address the crushing number of foreclosures in the state produced a dismal record of helping people or solving problems.

In dumping the program, Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Canady wrote, “The Court has reviewed the reports on the program and determined it cannot justify continuation of the program.”

A statewide report produced in January 2011 showed barely six percent of homeowners engaged in the mediation program were able to resolve their mortgage problems, according to the Palm Beach Post. The state study revealed that mediators were able to contact borrowers referred to them by the courts less than half of the time. Among those contacted, barely a third bothered to come in for a session.

There are 20 Circuit Courts in the state. Only seven of those courts were included in the report. Some had not been using the program long enough to have results that could be studied.

Mediation experts told the Palm Beach Post that many borrowers may have ignored the solicitation from court mediators because they already had a deal worked out with their lender. Other borrowers may not have replied because they were simply overwhelmed with letters and phone calls or they left town.

The mediation was paid for by the banks at $750 per case, but the borrower had to take foreclosure counseling and divulge all of their financial information. That proved to be a stumbling block for the program because many borrowers did not want the bank to know that much about their finances, according to the story in the Palm Beach Post.

Possible settlements through mediation included short sale, deed-in-lieu of foreclosure or, in a best-case scenario, a loan modification. By most accounts, the program failed to provide financial relief to homeowners and it struggled to move logjammed foreclosure cases through the system.

The chief justice’s order included a reiteration that the court’s job is “prompt and efficient administration of justice.” To that end, the order included language that said Circuit Court judges must “…adopt or employ any measures permitted by statute or court rule to manage pending and new residential mortgage foreclosure cases, including referral of cases to mediation on a case-by-case basis.”

The fate of the short-lived program had been known for months. According to the Miami Herald, a task force of judges recommended ending the program in October because of its poor success rate.

O. Reginald (“Reggie”) Osenton is the Owner and President of Osenton Law Offices, P.A. If you need a Brandon bankruptcy lawyer, Tampa bankruptcy lawyer, or Tampa bankruptcy attorney, call 813.654.5777 or visit Brandonlawoffice.com.