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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words …

On August 17, 2009, the Task Force On Residential Mortgage Foreclosure, created by the Florida Supreme Court, issued its final report on the “foreclosure crisis” affecting condominium and homeowners’ associations throughout the state.

The full report can be viewed at http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/pub_info/documents/Filed_08-17-2009_Foreclosure_Final_Report.pdf

The following quote, taken directly from the report, succinctly sums up what community associations are presently dealing with. Here is what the Task Force said:

Picture this: the biggest road out of town. Now imagine it is rush hour. In a thunderstorm. Add that it is also a hurricane evacuation. A lane is closed due to construction delayed by budget impacts. Imagine the traffic jam.

The clearest description of the impact of the foreclosure crisis and the following recession on Florida’s courts can be summarized by that picture. Imagine every car a case. The General Jurisdiction Courts of our State have a certain amount of judicial infrastructure, just like there is a certain amount of room on the road. There is a certain capacity of judges, of court staff, of clerks, of filing space, of hearing time, or courtrooms, even of hours in the day. Year in, year out, that capacity flexes with the caseload traffic to afford reasonable, prompt, efficient and fair justice.

The enormous increase in foreclosure filings has overwhelmed those resources in many circuits and represents a traffic jam that the infrastructure cannot meet in a timely and efficient manner without support and traffic management.

I would add to the above quote that at a time when the evacuation route is jam-packed with cars, imagine further that more and more roads are continuing to be closed as the traffic jam gets worse. Unfortunately, that’s the scenario facing our courts when the Legislature insists on cutting funding of the courts. The largest expense of the court system is in personnel, so in a time of burgeoning foreclosure caseloads, the courts are actually being forced to lay off staff. Too many foreclosure cases and not enough people to handle them. Indeed, we hear the daily mantra from frustrated clients asking what is taking so long with these cases? Well, truly, this is a “perfect storm.” The storm has caused a huge backlog in the court system which significantly delays the time it takes to complete a foreclosure lawsuit.

All is not lost, however. Associations need not sit idle on the sidelines once a mortgage foreclosure action is filed and seems to stall. Directors need to monitor these cases and can often, with the assistance of counsel, file motions with the court to force banks to either foreclose or pay assessments, ask for case management conferences where the court can set some deadlines for action, or the association might even notice the case for trial, which will force the bank to move forward. In fact, this tactic is working. Several judges in districts throughout the state have entered Orders requiring banks to take some action with their foreclosure cases and in some instances, pay assessments to the association during the pendency of the foreclosure.

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