Nonjudicial foreclosure bill dies in House committee

Article Courtesy of The Palm Beach Post

By Kimberly Miller

Published April 13, 2010

Proposed legislation that would allow banks to foreclose on Florida homes without going to court died in a House committee Monday, giving supporters scant hope for success this year.

"We knew this was a big change in Florida law and we were asking a lot for it to happen in one session," said Anthony DiMarco, executive vice president for government affairs for the Florida Bankers Association. "When you have this kind of policy change, it can take more than one year."

The House's Criminal & Civil Justice Policy Council ended its Monday session without hearing HB 1523, which would allow lenders to skip court proceedings unless the borrower requests the foreclosure go through the legal system. It was the final committee stop for the bill, which is similar to the Senate's proposal in SB 2270.

Under the House plan, the lender would be required to meet with a borrower, if requested, and the borrower would not be liable for the unpaid portion of the loan if he or she acts in good faith during the non-judicial foreclosure.

The banks support the change because they say it will speed the estimated statewide backlog of 500,000 foreclosures through the system.

But opponents say it takes away a homeowner's basic right to due process, giving to much power to lending institutions.

Attorney Ken Direktor of Becker & Poliakoff's West Palm Beach office, said banks often want to slow down foreclosures so as not to have the liability on their books and to avoid paying delinquent association fees or liens.

"In a non-judicial foreclosure, we don't have the ability to go to the judge and say the banks are dragging their feet," said Direktor, whose firm represents several condominium and homeowner associations. "It gives banks complete control."

There is a narrow chance the proposal could still be heard if the house speaker pulls it out of committee and brings it to a full House vote, or if the Senate's version is approved by the House, said Jacob Pewitt, legislative assistant to the bill's House sponsor Rep. Tom Grady, R-Naples.

"It would require some procedural work," Pewitt said. "But there is a small potential for life."