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Foreclosures Continue Rising in South Florida

Thu Apr 16, 2009 by on Florida Law News

Miami Herald

mhatcher@MiamiHerald.com

The number of foreclosures in Miami-Dade and Broward continued rising last month, as mounting job losses crippled borrowers’ ability to make monthly payments and lenders lifted previous foreclosure moratoriums and resumed legal action against delinquent accounts.

In Miami-Dade County, lenders filed 3,043 initial foreclosure actions against homeowners and reclaimed 819 homes through foreclosure. Hundreds more were scheduled for auction at the courthouse, according to a monthly foreclosure report from Irving, Calif.-based RealtyTrac.

Filings were up 15 percent over last year, but jumped 50 percent from February. In all, one in every 182 homes in the county were in some state of the foreclosure process.

In Broward, foreclosures were up 17 percent over last year but unlike in Miami-Dade, dropped 14 precent from the previous month. Lenders filed 1,175 new foreclosures and 966 homes returned to bank ownership. In all, one in every 175 homes were affected.

Many lenders suspended foreclosures in the first half of the year as they waited for the Obama administration to release details of a national foreclosure prevention initiative. In February, it launched the Making Home Affordable Plan, which is expected to help as many as 9 million borrowers avoid foreclosure by refinancing or modifying their current mortgages.

Roy Oppenheim, a Weston attorney who offers foreclosure defense and other foreclosure prevention services, said unemployment was increasingly driving the new foreclosure figures.

”One in six families are either unemployed or underemployed and people just don’t have the money to pay,” Oppenheim said.

Oppenheim said he frequently turns away homeowners seeking refinances or modifications because even with a lower monthly payment, many still don’t have the means to cover taxes, property insurance and homeowner association fees.

Further, he said, banks were having difficulties fully implementing the Making Home Affordable programs because they lacked the staff to man the phones and counselors sufficiently trained to deal with the issues.