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By most accounts, the stock market is up; the economy is stronger; unemployment is down; and the real estate market is on an uptick. So where are foreclosures, which were the cause or a major contributing factor to the downturn of the aforementioned markets and the epicenter of the Great Recession?

Without a doubt, foreclosures have decreased since the seismic levels of the Great Recession. While this is true, the courts' foreclosure dockets are still relatively active.

However, the Florida Legislature passed a series of new laws and the Florida Supreme Court implemented new rules of court with the goal of streamlining foreclosures and specifying specific ground rules for the legal process from beginning to end. Judges also set aside specific time periods for foreclosure matters to be heard in their courtrooms that helped to manage their dockets more efficiently. The end result is lenders are held to stricter standards.

It is not only the actions of the Legislature and the courts that hold the lenders to stricter standards. The federal government also weighed in and implemented specific regulations lenders must abide by or risk heavy fines. In particular the Feds created the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, which seeks to protect consumers' interest in the financial sector. As it relates to foreclosures, the CFPB requires lenders to end what is termed "dual track foreclosures." Dual track foreclosures are foreclosures where the defendant is in the process of being reviewed or has been approved for loss mitigation, i.e., a loan modification, deed in lieu, or short sale, yet the foreclosure continues, hence the term dual track.

Dual-tracking can have disastrous consequences for the defendant. At the very least the defendant will be served with foreclosure documents, or, worse, their property can be sold at a foreclosure sale. The regulations under the CFPB requires the lender to hold all foreclosure proceedings in the event there is an active review or approval.

It should be noted, while the lenders are held to this standard by the federal government, it is at the judge's discretion whether to discontinue the foreclosure proceedings upon request by the lender.

So what exactly is the status of foreclosures today? The Legislature, courts, and the federal government have implemented various laws, rules, and regulations respectively that hold the lender to stricter standards. Fortunately, that has provided some semblance of organization and proficiency for the practice, but foreclosure filings have yet to move back to levels prior to the Great Recession. Nonetheless, foreclosures are trending downward, and with the implementation of the stated changes, foreclosures are certainly moving toward the years when the numbers were more manageable.

Karen A. Thompson


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Title Annotation:Letters
Author:Thompson, Karen A.
Publication:Florida Bar News
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Sep 1, 2016
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