ARONBERG FILES LEGISLATION SHIELDING HOMEOWNERS FROM FORECLOSURE
Greenacres Democrat teams with Rep. Soto in homeowners' defense bill
As Florida continues to lead in the nation's housing meltdown crisis, few advocates have emerged to protect homeowners from rapacious Wall Street lending institutions attempting to seize distressed homes under the legal radar screen.
That uneven playing field may soon level, however, under legislation filed this week by state Senator Dave Aronberg (D-Greenacres) . Senate Bill 1778 is aimed at protecting a homeowner's access to court while providing powerful new legal tools to ward off imminent eviction.
Similar legislation has been filed in the House of Representatives by Rep. Darren Soto (D-Orlando).
"Homeowners have seen their property values plummet thanks in large part to risky Wall Street behavior," said Aronberg, a passionate crusader for consumers' rights. "Meanwhile, the same institutions doling out big bonuses are now seeking to evict residents from their own homes without giving them their day in court. This bill gives Florida homeowners an equal footing and the legal means to defend their own property."
"There are two vastly different approaches emerging to handle our foreclosure crisis," noted Soto. "As the banks seek to avoid the judicial process altogether and foreclose upon over a half-million Floridians putting our economy in further tailspin, this bill provides a basic set of rights to assure Floridians are not kicked out on the street unnecessarily, and stabilizes property values."
The state of Florida has the second highest foreclosure rate, with an estimated 500,000 property owners currently in or having faced such legal action. In these high stakes battles, strapped homeowners are frequently at a distinct legal disadvantage when fending off deep-pocketed
banks unwilling to renegotiate mortgage loan terms, including interest rates and the reasonableness of the original conditions of the loan.
Under the Aronberg/Soto measure, the "Foreclosure Bill of Rights" would preclude banks or other mortgage brokers from foreclosing on homesteaded properties outside of judicial scrutiny. The measure would require court-ordered mediation and add stipulations that a lending institution would have to follow in order to foreclose, including an examination of whether any fraud had occurred in the issuance of a loan, such as inflated appraisals.
Other requirements include a "good faith effort" on the part of the lending institution to "renegotiate the loan at a principal equivalent to the actual market value" determined by a new appraisal accurately reflecting current market values, and assistance from circuit courts to defendants representing themselves in supplying legal forms and instructions at no cost.
"Despite some assistance from the federal government and an administrative order from the state Supreme Court, too many homeowners have been left to the mercy of the financial Goliaths of the banking and mortgage loan industries," said Aronberg. "This legislation gives Florida's 'Davids' a legal slingshot to even the odds."