A landmark $26 billion settlement with large banks over robo-signing and a measure moving through the Florida Legislature could help bring the state's bloated, groggy foreclosure machine roaring back to life.
Dozens of protesters from across the state traveled to Tallahassee this week to rally against new legislation that would provide a fast-track for some foreclosures in Florida courts. HB 213, dubbed the "Florida Fair Foreclosure Act," is one of several moves Tallahassee is pushing to unclog the state's swollen foreclosure apparatus.
"I came to support people who are losing their homes — including me," said Frantz Duchet, a Pompano Beach homeowner. He was one of several Floridians who boarded free charter buses this week as they made the 500-mile drive from South Florida to Tallahassee, picking up foreclosure victims and activists along the way.
Proponents of faster foreclosures point out that Florida has the nation's largest backlog of troubled home loans, and one of the longest repossession time lines — 676 days. They argue the state needs to clear its overloaded court system and sell off its glut of abandoned homes in order to bring the market back to normalcy.
Critics of the proposed speed-up say the measures reflect an attempt by the banking industry to force Floridians out of their homes without due process. They believe faster foreclosures could lead to more fraud, more homelessness and more price-declines for Florida's troubled housing market.
Sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, HB 213 would provide several options for lenders looking to fast-track foreclosures. For example, the measure would allow expedited foreclosures for homes that appear to be abandoned, based on interviews with neighbors and other requirements. With new federal regulations banning the state from transitioning to a non-judicial foreclosure system, HB 213 is a pared-back alternative for speeding up the home-repossession process.