Foreclosure bill heads to Senate floor

By on February 28, 2012

A Senate proposal to speed up foreclosures passed swiftly through a Senate Committee on Monday over the objections of angry homeowners whose testimony was reduced to sound bites, reports Michael Peltier of the News Service of Florida.

By a 6-4 vote, the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee passed the measure (SB 1890), which backers say is needed to speed up the foreclosure process on abandoned homes. The bill, which passed out of Senate Judiciary Committee last week, now heads to the floor.

“This is bigger than just one industry,” said Mark Wilson, president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “As our economy tries to recover, we recognize there is a lot of pain in the foreclosure process but the delay in the foreclosures is drawing out that pain throughout the entire economy.”

Critics say the measure goes too far to protect banks and mortgage lenders from challenges by homeowners who feel, in many cases, there was fraud in the process.

And on Monday, they continued to feel the system was against them, because most didn’t get much time to tell their story to lawmakers, who did, however, listen to a banking industry lobbyist.

“We’re being stonewalled,” said Sarasota resident Maia Shaffer, who traveled to testify and didn’t get to speak.

One of the most contentious provisions would reduce the time in which a bank could try to go after a foreclosed-on homeowner for a “deficiency judgment,” which is a court order that requires the former homeowner to pay the bank for the outstanding amount on the loan over the value of the property.

The bill would reduce the time that a bank has to get such an order on a homeowner from five years to one year.

Consumer advocates also are worried that the modified process will rely more on affidavits submitted and the foreclosure paper trail than on testimony, making it more difficult for homeowners to refute the lender’s line. .

“(The bill) turns it into a document process and as you know there have been a lot of problems with documents,” said Lynn Drysdale, an attorney for Jacksonville Area Legal aid. .

Sen. Steve Oelrich, R-Cross Creek, said he couldn’t vote for the measure and chided members for trying to push something so controversial through the Legislature during the final weeks. Oelrich said his constituents worry that fraudulent lending documents may come back to improperly throw some people out of their homes.

“I’ve been a sheriff,” Oelrich said. “I don’t want to be the Sheriff of Nottingham,”

Both House and Senate bills continue to be works in progress. The House bill, HB 213, is on the special order calendar – ready for debate on the floor. At least four amendments have been filed. The Senate version is also headed for the floor.

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