Foreclosure Fast-Track Bill Goes to Governor Scott

The Florida Legislature sent a bill to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk that is intended to accelerate the process of home mortgage foreclosures. The crash in the Florida housing market was one of the worst in the nation.

Supporters of the legislation, HB 87, said that it will reduce the backlog of pending foreclosures and help the state’s housing industry.

On the last day of the Legislature’s 60-day session, the Senate passed the bill on a 26-13 vote. It recently cleared the House on an 87-26 vote.

Whether Scott will sign the bill is not clear. A spokesperson would only say that the governor’s office is reviewing the bill.

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, said the bill would make banks demonstrate more thoroughly their ownership of a mortgage on which they file foreclosure. It also would enable parties other than mortgage holders, such as condo associations, to ask courts to accelerate foreclosure proceedings.

Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, was a prominent critic of the measure. He said it erodes longstanding property rights and does nothing to protect Floridians from losing their homes to fraud. Latvala countered that the bill has more safeguards for consumers than for banks.

One important provision would reduce the time limit for banks to try to get deficiency judgments against foreclosed homeowners from five years to one year. A deficiency exists when a foreclosed home is sold for less than the original homeowner owed on it.

Soto said that banks are deliberately slowing foreclosures in an attempt to prevent a glut of houses from hitting the market, which could cause another price crash. He said that for this reason, the bill would not produce its intended result.

A group called Jurists Engaged in Title Integrity said that the bill would put more burden on homeowners, limiting their time to demonstrate legal issues with foreclosures brought against them.

Meanwhile, the national housing market appears to be improving. The March figure for repossessed homes in the U.S. fell to a five-year low. The number was down 3 percent from February and down 21 percent from March, 2012, according to foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc.

Having an experienced bankruptcy attorney on your side during a home foreclosure is vital. This bill, if signed by Gov. Scott, would only increase the importance of this choice. Weaknesses in a lender’s foreclosure case are difficult to spot, and this bill would force defendants to bring these issues to the court’s attention much faster.

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