Florida Courts Petition for Nearly $10M to Clear Foreclosure Backlog

By: Carrie Bay DSNEWS.com 3/30/2010

Florida has been aptly dubbed one of the nation’s foreclosure hotspots, regularly posting foreclosure rates among the highest four of all the states for several years now – and its courts have a wall of foreclosure cases to back up those numbers.

In a so-called judicial state like Florida – and a good many others across the country – a foreclosure must get a judge’s stamp of approval. But the backlog has gotten so bad in the Sunshine State, that it’s pushed the Florida State Courts Administration to ask legislators for $9.6 million to bring in additional case managers and judges to help clear the still-growing glut of case files.

A recent study by Barclays Capital concluded that Florida has one of the most swollen pipelines of foreclosure cases in the nation, with Miami in particular having liquidated just 18 percent of its delinquent loans – the lowest percentage in the country. By comparison, Barclays said Las Vegas, which has the largest share of loans that are seriously delinquent, has pushed about 38 percent through liquidation.

Estimates from Florida’s court administrators put the number of pending foreclosure cases at 500,000.

According to the Palm Beach Post, it’s routine in Florida for foreclosures to take more than a year to settle, leaving properties to deteriorate, association fees to go unpaid, and families to be in limbo.

The local newspaper says judges there fear that without additional resources to clear the cases, the bottleneck will continue to drag down home values, which aren’t expected to stabilize until the backlog of distressed properties can be moved through the system.

“We want to be good partners in the economic recovery, not part of the problem,” Peter Blanc, chief judge of the 15th Judicial Circuit Court in Palm Beach County, told the Palm Beach Post. “We want to get properties through the courts and back onto the market. The numbers are just overwhelming.”

The Florida Bankers Association in January succeeded in lobbying lawmakers to introduce a bill that would clear the way for non-judicial foreclosures unless the borrower requests an appearance in court. Under the legislation, foreclosures could be concluded in as little as 90 days.

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