With all the recent media attention that Stopa Law Firm has received, I’ve gotten a TON of positive feedback from clients and prospective clients in Florida and many other states. Thank you to everyone who has encouraged the fight against the systemic fraud being perpetuated by banks every day.
I’ve also gotten some criticism, too, allegedly because what I’m doing by defending homeowners facing foreclosure is “harming the economy.” The criticism typically goes something like this: “Your clients are living for free, dragging down the value of my property, and you’re helping them do it.”
Respectfully, people who say things like this are wrong. It’s not a matter of opinion – they’re wrong. And I can prove it.
First off, my clients care about their homes. Whether they’re living in them or renting them out, my clients haven’t abandoned their homes – they’re maintaining them. My clients’ homes aren’t the vacant houses you see with foot-high grass that haven’t been inhabited in a year. My clients are living in their houses (or, in some instances, renting them out), and actively trying to keep their houses via a loan modification. I dare anyone to explain, in any intelligent way, how the economy is harmed when people live in their homes, maintain their homes, and try to enter a loan modification. Who is harmed here? Some CEO at a bank who gets an $800,000 bonus instead of $850,000? Please.
Nothing my clients are doing reduces the value of their neighbors’ houses. You know what affects that value of these homes? Abandoned houses. And why are houses abandoned? Because banks scare people into leaving their homes, making it easy for them to obtain a foreclosure judgment, but then banks don’t schedule a foreclosure sale because they don’t actually want the home. What results is the property sits in limbo – the homeowner stopped paying and abandoned it long ago, but the bank won’t set the foreclosure sale, so nobody else can buy the property, either. The homeowner is not living in it, and the bank doesn’t own it … the property just sits, empty, abandoned, for months, even years.
Don’t believe me? Go check the public records. I’ve been doing that recently in Pinellas County, and it’s scary what I’ve found.
For instance, there was a foreclosure sale scheduled tomorrow, July 13, 2010, in Case No. 08-2426-CI-08. But the sale isn’t going forward because the bank cancelled the sale – for the third time. In fact, the Court entered final judgment in September, 2009, yet the foreclosure sale has still not taken place. It’s not because the homeowner has put up a fight, either – the homeowner never appeared in the case and lost by default – the bank just refuses to proceed with the foreclosure sale. Sound impossible to believe? Don’t take my word for it – here’s a cut-and-paste of the docket, from the clerk’s website:
|Reset Original Sort||Link To||Activity Code||Date||P/D||Docket Entry||Ver|
|1||DUMB||07/07/2010||CLERK||FORECLOSURE SALE CANCELLED: PER FAX(KENB)||N|
|2||FAXC||07/07/2010||PLAINTIFF||FAX COPY OF CORRESPONDENCE: REQUEST CANCEL SALE||F|
|3||DATC||06/15/2010||PLAINTIFF||ORD RESCHED SALE CLW FOR: 071310 OR16947PG2397-002||F|
|4||MOTN||06/15/2010||PLAINTIFF||MOTION FOR NEW SALE DATE||F|
|5||MOTN||06/14/2010||PLAINTIFF||MOTION FOR NEW SALE DATE||F|
|6||DUMB||03/04/2010||CLERK||FORECLOSURE SALE CANCELLED: NO REP AT SALE||N|
|7||ORGR||03/03/2010||PLAINTIFF||ORDER GRANTING MOITON TO SUBSTITUTE PARTY PLAINTIFF||F|
|8||NOTH||02/01/2010||PLAINTIFF||NOTICE OF HEARING 030210 9:00 (TELEPHONIC)||F|
|9||DATC||02/01/2010||PLAINTIFF||ORD RESCHED SALE CLW FOR: 030410 OR16822PG1961-001||F|
|10||REFE||01/27/2010||PLAINTIFF||RE-OPEN FEE PAID – $50.00||N|
|11||MOTN||01/25/2010||PLAINTIFF||MOTION FOR NEW SALE DATE||F|
|13||MOTN||01/15/2010||PLAINTIFF||MOTION SUBSTITUTE PARTY||F|
|14||ASIG||10/28/2009||PLAINTIFF||ASSIGNMENT OF JUDGMENT OR16739PG1512-001||R|
|15||DUMB||10/23/2009||CLERK||FORECLOSURE SALE CANCELLED: PER FAX(KENB)||N|
|16||FAXC||10/23/2009||PLAINTIFF||FAX COPY OF CORRESPONDENCE: REQUEST CANCEL SALE||F|
|17||PBNS||10/09/2009||PLAINTIFF||PUBLISHERS AFFIDAVIT NOTICE OF SALE||F|
|18||NSGC||09/28/2009||CLERK||NOTICE OF SALE/COPY TO GULF COAST BUS REV||F|
|19||HOMC||09/17/2009||PLAINTIFF||SALE SCHEDULED IN CLEARWATER FOR: 102309 OR16705PG0007-006||F|
|20||HOME||09/17/2009||PLAINTIFF||FINAL JUDGMENT OF FORECLOSURE/JDMT AMOUNT $ 112143.45||F|
|22||ATTY||09/17/2009||PLAINTIFF||ATTORNEY COVER LETTER RCVD BY COURT 091009||F|
|23||NOTH||08/13/2009||PLAINTIFF||NOTICE OF HEARING 091709 9:30||F|
|24||CCOU||05/01/2009||PLAINTIFF||CORRESPONDENCE TO COURT RE: FROM COURT-RESET HEARING||F|
|25||CCFP||05/01/2009||PLAINTIFF||CERTIFICATION-COMPLIANCE W/FORECLOSURE PROC||F|
|26||NOTH||02/20/2009||PLAINTIFF||NOTICE OF HEARING 043009 9:30 (TELEPHONIC)||F|
|27||NOTH||12/22/2008||PLAINTIFF||NOTICE OF HEARING 043009 9:30 (TELEPHONIC)||F|
|28||DEBT||09/15/2008||PLAINTIFF||AFFIDAVIT OF INDEBTEDNESS||F|
|29||FEES||07/10/2008||PLAINTIFF||AFFIDAVIT OF ATTORNEY FEES||F|
|30||FILE||06/30/2008||PLAINTIFF||NOTICE OF FILING ORIGINAL NOTE AND MORTGAGE||F|
|32||DEFA||05/08/2008||CLERK||DEFAULT ENTERED /NAVITALAI UHATAFE/UNKNOWN SPOUSE NKA||N|
|33||MODE||05/07/2008||PLAINTIFF||MOTION FOR DEFAULT||F|
|34||ARMY||05/07/2008||PLAINTIFF||AFFIDAVIT AS TO MILITARY SERVICE||F|
|35||DUPE||05/02/2008||PLAINTIFF||UNKNOWN TENANTS IN POSSESSION||F|
|38||DROP||05/02/2008||PLAINTIFF||NOTICE OF DROPPING :||F|
|39||SURN||03/10/2008||CLERK||SUMMONS RETD NOT SERVED JOHN DOE||F|
|40||SURN||03/10/2008||CLERK||SUMMONS RETD NOT SERVED JANE DOE||F|
|41||SURS||03/10/2008||CLERK||SUMMONS RETD SERVED NAVITALAI UHATAFE 022108||F|
|42||DUPE||03/10/2008||CLERK||022108 N/K/A KALANI UHATAFE||F|
|43||SURS||03/10/2008||CLERK||SUMMONS RETD SERVED UNKNOWN SPOUSE OF NAVITALAI UHATAFE||N|
|44||NOTC||03/06/2008||PLAINTIFF||NOTICE OF SCRIVENERS ERROR RE: PARTY PLTFF||F|
|45||SUPP||02/20/2008||CLERK||SUMMONS TO PROCESS SERVER – PICK UP HEAVEN SENT (4)||N|
|46||LPRF||02/20/2008||PLAINTIFF||LIS PENDENS RECORDING FEE PAID – $5.00||N|
|47||02CI||02/20/2008||PLAINTIFF||CIRCUIT CIVIL FILING FEE PAID $255.00||N|
|48||NOLP||02/19/2008||PLAINTIFF||NOTICE OF LIS PENDENS OR16157PG0506-001||F|
|49||CCST||02/19/2008||PLAINTIFF||CIVIL COVER SHEET||F|
|50||COCS||02/19/2008||PLAINTIFF||COMPLAINT AND COPY(S)||F|
|51||SECT||02/19/2008||PLAINTIFF||THIS CASE ASSIGNED BY CLERK TO SECTION 008 BY 3777 – RANDOM MF||N|
Lest you think this is an aberration, it’s not. Check for yourselves. Every day, whether it’s in Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Miami, or anywhere in between, banks are obtaining foreclosure judgments throughout Florida, then refusing to set the foreclosure sales. This is what causes houses to remain abandoned and not maintained. This is what drags down property values and harms the economy, not my clients. The banks are causing houses to be abandoned, not my clients. So next time you see a house that’s abandoned, don’t blame me. And certainly don’t blame my clients. Chances are, the bank owns the property – or scared the owner into moving out, got a foreclosure judgment, but doesn’t want to set a foreclosure sale, so the remains abandoned indefinitely.
Am I the only one who thinks this is absurd? How can banks get away with this? Why are judges so quick to enter foreclosure judgments, and throw their neighbors on the streets, when banks are so slow to set foreclosure sales? Why do my clients get cricitized in the media (which refuses to report about banks’ refusals to enter loan modifications), yet banks cause properties to be abandoned all over Florida and get off scot-free? This is yet another illustration of how banks are harming the economy to help themselves. Banks don’t care if the property is abandoned – if they don’t want to pay the insurance or property taxes, they won’t set the foreclosure sale.
Here’s an idea for you, banks: if you don’t want the properties, I’ve got 400(+) clients who will take them, maintain them, and make good use of them. Better yet, if you’re not going to set the foreclosure sale, don’t scare away the homeowner. Let the homeowner continue living in the home, maintaining the home, taking care of the home – just as my clients are doing.
This is exactly why Chief Judge Peter Blanc’s comment quoted below is so absurd, not to mention the fact that aiming to move real estate deviates from the traditional role of the American system of justice. Oh, and many of these homes are not vacant or dilapidated!
“It is important to clear the foreclosure cases so that vacant and dilapidated homes can go back on the market, presumably increasing neighborhood property values.”
It is disappointing to read such an outlandish statement from a person in a position of authority.
When a property has been abandoned, the homeowner has essentially turned over the keys – “here you go, bank.” In those cases, the bank wins the foreclosure case by default, without so much as a hearing, and can schedule the sale and put the property on the market immediately – IF IT SO CHOOSES. But that’s precisely the problem. All too often, the banks are choosing not to schedule the foreclosure sale, much less put the property on the market.
Do you really think people would be abandoning their homes if they thought they could live in them? That makes no sense. People leave because they think they’ve lost their house, and the banks are the ones who are leaving it vacant. Maybe the banks aren’t sufficiently equipped to deal with the volume of inventory, but that’s just another reason why people shouldn’t leave.
Idle bank owned vacant homes became such a problem down in Miami non-profits began moving families in need of shelter into them. Waste not want not.
I don’t know whether to feel discouraged that the original homeowners had to leave their homes because the bank foreclosed on houses they did not want or encouraged that the houses were put to good use. Both, I suppose.
I’m from Dayton Ohio and before Florida became it, we were no 1 in foreclosures! I have friends who lost their property over 2 years ago, the Bank picked them up at the auctions for almost nothing….. but then they didn’t transfer the property into their name! My friend came home recently to find a warrant for his arrest for not taking care of the property he’d lost 2 years ago! Dayton actually, about 2 years ago, initiated a “shaming program” trying to get the Banks to do something with their foreclosed on properties. They posted the info on the Banks repo-ing the properties on the properties front doors saying they should at least do something about boarding them up and keeping the weeds down. The news article is probably still out there somewhere… try a search for Dayton shaming program…. there was a news video about it. At any rate, to date, the Banks have done nothing. Guess what’s coming Florida? Not a damn thing from the Banks except more dirty paperwork, more homelessness and more job loss. Welcome to Detroit and the Midwest’s lifestyle. But there is some good news for Dayton, squatters are moving into the abandoned houses! And if they just mow the lawn and act like nice neighbors, nobody cares! In fact….. they’re welcome. They’re the honest, hard working folks who were screwed by the Banksters….. they’re what ya call… neighbors you can depend on. I haven’t yet heard of even one instance where any one of the squatters snuck up behind anybody and stuck a knife in their back yet. What’s that term going around so often… oh yea… moral hazard. Have ya ever noticed how those that scream the most are off-times the perpetrators? Et too Brutee?
An arrest warrant for a property he lost two years ago. Crazy. But sadly, I’m not surprised.
Eventually, everyone is going to realize that what my clients are doing (trying to keep their houses) is better than what the banks are doing (causing houses to be abandoned). I just hope that happens before Florida turns into Detroit.
Thanks for sharing, John.
Mark, great post. There are so few people who will tell it like it is these days. The more I audit, and blog, and talk to people about what’s going on, truly, the more absurd things look. Do you have any theories, at least that you’re comfortable posting, about what’s REALLY going on underneath all of this nonsense? I have several ideas, but I’d be interested in hearing what you think.
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