Zombie Foreclosures Continue to Haunt Florida

One in five homes in the foreclosure process are zombies, according to RealtyTrac which says that Florida leads the list with roughly 55,000 homes that are abandoned by their owners and in a state of legal limbo.  Despite economic recovery in much of the nation, the foreclosure issue is not going away any time soon.  What do zombies mean if you are looking to list your property?  Most likely if there is one on your street, you will not be able to sell your home.  If you do, you’ll get much less than you were hoping for due to the proximity of the zombie foreclosure.  Zombie foreclosures not only lower property values of surrounding homes, but they also lead to lost property tax revenue – a double whammy for anyone considering listing a real estate property. You can also get more information from attorneys for family law claims.

RealtyTrac’s most recent data on zombie foreclosures also reported that about 21 percent of the 141,406 total foreclosures reported in Q2 were of the zombie variety.  What makes a foreclosure a zombie?  This type of foreclosure occurs when a lender goes through all the steps of a foreclosure, but fails to complete the last step of registering the deed to move title from the borrower to the lender.  The owner then deserts the property leaving it abandoned which leads to an unkempt eyesore, making the surrounding properties less appealing. If you want to know how to stage your house for a fast sell, with the help of a real estate agent, click here.

One of the reasons that Florida is on the top of this list is because it is a judicial foreclosure state.  That means that in order to foreclose on a property a bank must go through the court process which takes a long time.   While new laws set out to protect borrowers and prevent servicers from reacting to foreclosures at the same rate they typically would, there are other ways service providers can provide assistance to borrowers while working directly with their business partners to prevent such a high vacancy rate.

Working with a qualified lawyer is the first step you should take if you are facing a foreclosure or currently involved in one.  A well informed homeowner can be counseled by a foreclosure attorney who can provide guidance in terms of what options are available to you and communicate with involved parties to find the best resolution and reduce the time period of the foreclosure sale right of redemption.  In some cases, this time period can be shortened from six months to as little as 30 days.

Servicers may also work directly with a lawyer who will contact the borrower.  For example, when a company has made an attempt to serve the borrower papers and finds the property to be vacant, they are often times legally required to search for the borrower.   This process will not eliminate zombie foreclosures, but does help expedite the foreclosure or proceed to workout.  By enlisting the help of an attorney from the start, you can be proactive and address the issue before vacancies increase and prevent zombie foreclosures from spreading.

If you find you are the victim of a zombie foreclosure, there may be a number of remedies available to you. Contact the Tampa foreclosure attorneys at McIntyre Thanasides Bringgold Elliott Grimaldi & Guito, P.A. today.

Mortgagors and the FDCPA, A Changing Landscape

For some time now, a majority of the District Courts have held that the transaction in which a mortgagor forecloses on a residential mortgage was not a ‘bill collection’ within the meaning of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The court in Glazer v. Chase Home Finance LLC, broke from the reasoning of a majority of the districts in finding that a mortgage foreclosure at its core is an action to collect a debt and the fact that the debt may be a secured debt was of no consequence in the analysis.

The Court found that each and every foreclosure action of any type; private, public, judicial or non-judicial is done for the ultimate purpose of securing payment on the debt and as well, to collect court costs, interest and fees. With this analysis complete, it is now clear that a shift seems to be underway in expanding the scope and coverage of the FDCPA. This could be a tacit tip of the hat to the recent settlement with the big mortgage lenders.

Moving forward Lender’s Firms now need to concern themselves with good faith compliance with the FDCPA and understand the ramifications of violations in an equitable proceeding such as a residential foreclosure. This should be interesting to watch this develop and see how long it takes any of the other districts to change their position.

Florida still ranks No. 1 in delinquent mortgages

Over the past year, on average, debt among Florida residents has greatly decreased. In fact, average debt dropped from $181,241 during the last three months of 2011 to $176,337 during the last three months of 2012. However, while this can be looked at in some ways as a positive, the fact remains that Florida ranks the highest in terms of mortgage delinquencies. Additionally, residents still also continue to struggle with student loan debt and many are also having financial issues when it comes to tackling credit card debt.

When speaking of mortgage delinquencies, on a national level the rate is 5.19 percent. In Florida, the rate is more than double the national average at 12.47 percent. The state ranks No. 1 in terms of homeowners being behind on mortgage payments, which puts them in direct threat of foreclosure.

Student loan debt also continues to be a problem. Just like other states, with the Great Recession, many found themselves out of work. Hoping to give themselves a competitive advantage, many of these people decided to go back to school. However, this was done at the same time that the country saw an increase in for-profit colleges and the cost of tuition rising. This led to many taking out thousands in student loans, only to graduate — and in many cases — still not be able to find a job due to the economy.

In talking about these types of debts, many wonder if they should file for bankruptcy. And while every situation is different, only being able to make minimum monthly payments on credit cards, falling behind on financial obligations and missing a mortgage payment are all definite signs that it is time to talk with bankruptcy attorney.

Source: Sun Sentinel, “Credit card debt, mortgage balances drop sharply in South Florida”, Donna Gehrke-White, Feb. 12, 2013

Our firm can provide information on the different types of debt relief solutions that may be available. To learn more, visit our Tampa bankruptcy page.

Florida residents: Take charge of out of control debts

Avoiding debt is top of mind for many Florida residents. Many budget and make purchases based on their needs and any discretionary income. However, there are those who ended up accidentally falling into debt during and after the Great Recession and many who are now living in constant fear of losing their homes and wage garnishments.

In order to get out of debt, the first thing is to realize exactly what debt is and how it works. In the simplest terms, people take on debt when they borrow money to buy something they would not be able to afford all at once. A perfect example of this is a college education or a house. These two purchases are normally considered OK.
However, there are those too who use credit cards to make purchases they otherwise could not afford. This becomes tricky when high interest rates leads to larger payoffs. Others too also get into the dangerous behavior of borrowing more debt in order to pay for other debts.

When it comes to credit card debt, many like to think that it is younger Americans who are not responsible with their money or simply do not understand how debt works. However, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, it is actually older Americans who have seen the largest uptick in debt. This alone is proof that no one is immune to debt.
Of course the advice is to only purchase what can be afforded, and for those larger purchases like a college education or a home, make sure that the monthly payments will be manageable. But, for those already living with massive amounts of debt, know there are options available.

For example, if medical bills have gotten out of control and credit card debt is continuing to pile up, and if these bills are putting a homeowner in jeopardy of losing their home, now is the time to talk with an attorney with experience handling bankruptcy and other debt relief options. Regardless of the situation, an attorney can evaluate the situation and provide insight into options.

Source: Consumer Affairs, “How to determine how much debt is too much”, Mark Huffman, March 26, 2013