Florida lawmakers push foreclosure bill through
A foreclosure bill (House Bill 87) that’s awaiting the governor’s signature passed in the Florida Legislature in the last days of the session. Opponents argued the legislation was all about fast-tracking foreclosures with minimal judicial review. The amendment calls for reducing the number of hearings and the time a homeowner has to fight a foreclosure. A homeowner would have up to 45 days to build a defense before a key hearing to determine if a case should move forward or the lender should take the house back.
“People are going to have to move very quickly,” Weston foreclosure defense attorney Roy Oppenheim said. “It is going to put more burden on people to get lawyers. This is going to help my practice but hurt the homeowner.”
The legislation is retroactive, so it would apply to hundreds of thousands of pending cases. Oppenheim wonders if Scott would accept retroactivity. The governor cited a retroactivity clause as his reason for vetoing a bill that would have dramatically changed the state’s alimony law.
The foreclosure bill authorizes the hiring of retired judges to deal with the case backlog now gripping the state’s trial court system. That worries Oppenheim, who argues the specially appointed judges won’t be accountable to the electorate so nothing could stop them from ruling based on political favoritism.
“They can do whatever they want in the speedy trial,” he said. “It is going to become a mockery of our constitutional system.”
The bill requires lenders to produce a mortgage note or sworn evidence showing they are the holder of the note at filing. Oppenheim said that rule could give the defense attorney early ammunition to prove the plaintiff isn’t the note holder and isn’t entitled to foreclose. He said foreclosures often involve securitized trusts as holder of the mortgage. Yet many times the mortgage was not deposited into the trust at the appropriate time, which negates a trust’s right to foreclose.
Roy Oppenheim is Florida’s leading real estate and foreclosure defense attorney. He left Wall Street for Main Street and, in 1989, founded Oppenheim Law , Weston Title and the South Florida Law Blog with his partner and wife, Ellen. His entrepreneurial spirit and passion for helping to defend homeowners’ led Roy to start “In the Trenches” where he speaks out for the people and their constitutional rights. Prominently known as a legal blogger and often quoted in the media, Roy can be found in the newsroom on Twitter at @OpLaw and on Facebook.