The special foreclosure courts in HIllsborough county are shutting down the end of this week. Does this mean the foreclosure crisis is finally at an end? Not exactly.
In 2010, the Florida legislature approved legislative funding to the Florida court system to help eliminate the backlog in foreclosure cases. Filing fees shot up from approximately $300 to $900 – $1900 for foreclosure plaintiffs. A budget surplus of $100 million in the court trust fund existed. In Hillsborough County alone, this money was used to hire and assign six judges solely to foreclosure cases. Their goal was to eliminate 62% of the backlog which existed last year. I’m not positive, but this goal may have been met, I know it was on target a few months ago. However, the legal challenges to the cases have increased dramatically, and foreclosures are slowing. Due in large part to the defective affidavit backlash, foreclosure filings dropped off a cliff early last fall and have remained low to date. The $100 million surplus has turned into a $72.3 million deficit. In May, Governor Scott had to approve last minute funding to keep our courts open.
Today, I found out that In three days time, these six judges are going to have to find other work as the foreclosure special divisions in Hillsborough County are shutting down because funding was pulled.
The current case load will be returned to the regular division judges. The wait for hearing time is expected to dramatically increase. A boon to a foreclosure defense attorney like myself and my clients who need that time to work out solutions. Good news for those homeowners who are getting the shaft in the so called rocket dockets established in a few counties in Florida (provided a judgment hasn’t yet been entered). Not so good for other civil cases or plaintiffs in foreclosure cases who want to move their cases forward. Also, don’t be surprised if huge backlogs are blamed on the court system by year end and a move is made once again by the banks and lenders to turn Florida into a non-judicial foreclosure state where there is no oversight whatsoever. Could this have been the banks’ plan all along?