The following article featuring excerpts by Roy Oppenheim, Oppenheim Law was originally posted in the Palm Beach Post and written by Kimberly Miller.
By Kim Miller
In a month-long period beginning June 1, about 110 so-called deficiency judgments were filed against Palm Beach County homeowners by a Texas-based debt collection company called Dyck O’Neal. The same firm filed more than 300 cases in Broward County and nearly 200 in Miami-Dade County.
Foreclosure defense attorneys believe a change in Florida law that set a one-year deadline to file to collect the unpaid debt spurred the rash of lawsuits this summer. The previous deadline was five years.
Under deficiency judgment rules, banks, or companies they sell mortgage debt to, can go after the difference of what a home sold for at auction and what was still owed by the homeowner.
In many instances found by The Palm Beach Post, the lawsuits seek more than $100,000 from former homeowners _ money that can be reclaimed by garnishing wages, liens, or claiming rights to investment properties.
Although deficiency judgments have always loomed as a threat, they have been very rarely sought by lenders who were still overwhelmed by foreclosures and felt it was useless to go after homeowners who had few resources.
But the economy has improved in recent years. Lenders may see more of an opportunity to collect.
“These people have started over and thought this was behind them, but it’s like the night of the walking dead. It’s a new nightmare coming after them,” said South Florida foreclosure defense attorney Roy Oppenheim.
After seeing nearly no deficiency judgments since the housing crisis began, Oppenheim said he’s been contacted in the past two months by about 50 people served summonses by Dyck O’Neal.
“To me, these people are vultures,” said Miami resident Chris Ossman, who was served this summer with a deficiency judgment lawsuit seeking about $84,000. “I imagine they are looking for people getting back on their feet who they think they can get some money from.”