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Fla. Democrats file bills to crack down on foreclosures

Calling Florida’s No. 1 ranking on foreclosures “shameful,” some lawmakers are pushing for reforms to the foreclosure law, hoping to help homeowners keep their properties.

At a Tuesday press conference, some Democrats in the Florida Legislature pushed for new changes to laws governing Florida’s hundreds of thousands distressed properties. They say the changes are necessary to protect homeowners from banks who have engaged in fraud.

“We are number one in the nation (for foreclosures) and that is absolutely shameful,” said Sen. Darren Soto, who is backing a number of bills aimed at changing the foreclosure process.

The bills, sponsored by Soto and other Democrats, face tough odds in the Republican-dominated Legislature. Bills sponsored by Republicans go in the other direction, hoping to speed up the state’s lengthy  foreclosure process and clear out a backlog of distressed properties. 

Those bills are moving through the Legislature, despite objections from some Democrats who say they favor banks at the expense of consumers.

“'We know that part of what created the problem were the shortcuts taken in the financial services industry,” said Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, standing in front of a group of homeowners and families.

Soto’s bills would address short sale issues, crack down on banks that use fraudulent documents and reduce the ability of lenders to go after homeowners for additional debt after a foreclosure.

Read more about Soto’s bills—SB 1236, SB 1226, SB1218 and SB 1228--here.

Soto is also asking the Legislature to direct $100 million in federal dollars toward “principal reduction” programs, which help reduce the amount of money homeowners owe on their mortgages.

Florida received more than $1 billion from the federal government in 2010 to help people save their homes through the Hardest Hit Fund program, but most of it has not been spent. The program has run into a number of hurdles and has been less effective in Florida than other states.