Like the never ending horror franchise, deficiency judgments are back. A Florida deficiency judgment occurs when a bank pursues the remaining balance on a mortgage either after a foreclosure or, in theory, after a Florida short sale. Most banks are currently too busy to process deficiency judgments because they are dealing with foreclosures and short sales. Due to the large costs associated with pursuing deficiency judgments, few homeowners who were foreclosed upon will be pursued. Those people whose mortgages were owned by trusts will probably not face a deficiency judgment because of the large costs. Unfortunately, if a community bank owns the mortgage the story might be a little different. Most community banks still have the loans on their books so they will pursue the deficiencies. Also, some community banks have started to buy deficiency judgments for pennies on the dollar for the express purpose of acting like a collection agency. This is good news to keep in mind because, in these situations, the banks will be eager to settle.
While we have addressed the deficiency judgment issue for years now, the Sun-Sentinel has now also reported on the danger of what will soon happen. In two or three years, when big banks catch up with their foreclosures, we will see a flood of such deficiency judgments. The main targets of the big banks will be strategic defaulters. Strategic defaulters are the folks who could afford their mortgages but defaulted because they are so underwater that it didn’t make any sense to pay. Not every strategic defaulter has to worry though. A deficiency judgment can only be entered in foreclosure cases. Short sales cannot lead to a judgment being entered against you unless the bank decides to file an action and litigate in court. An action would require the bank to pay attorneys and other fees with no guarantee of success and scrutiny of their documents, which might lead to sanction if fraud is uncovered.
There is still some time left before we are inundated with deficiency judgments. Nevertheless, everyone going through the foreclosure or short sale processes needs to be on their guard. We here at Oppenheim Law have seen a recent up tick in banks pursuing deficiency judgments. Steps can be taken now that will help protect people against this worst-case scenario, as we have successfully been doing in the last few years.