If bankers get their way, Floridians facing foreclosure could be kicked out of their homes in as little as three months.
The Florida Bankers Association, the 400-member-strong lenders’ lobby, has presented state legislators with a bill to upend decades of Florida law and establish “non-judicial” foreclosures in Florida by July 1.
What’s a non-judicial foreclosure? Banks would accelerate foreclosures against defaulting homeowners by bypassing the courts. Judges would no longer rule on foreclosure cases.
Some states — 37 in fact — already grant that fast-track foreclosure authority, including California, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. But Florida, with its plethora of vacation and retiree homes, has always been big on homeowner rights.
If you’re a financially strapped Florida homeowner — 62,719 Tampa Bay properties got foreclosure notices last year — the 53-page bill contains worrisome signs:
• Non-judicial foreclosures must conclude in no less than three months and no more than a year. Most Florida foreclosures take a year to 18 months to work through the courts these days, longer if a lawyer fights a successful rear guard action. So in 90 days banks can theoretically auction the home out from under you.
• The Florida Supreme Court’s newly endorsed mandatory mediation for lenders and homeowners would effectively go bye-bye. The bill provides only for informal meetings between creditors and debtors.
• Even after homeowners are evicted, banks can still pursue them for unpaid mortgage debt. But banks will waive that right if homeowners avoid trashing or stripping the house before the new owner takes over.
The bankers association has titled the bill The Florida Consumer Protection and Homeowner Credit Rehabilitation Act. Association president Alex Sanchez views the bill as a way to break a foreclosure crisis partly caused by mortgage fraud.