Florida Foreclosures Being Pushed Through by a Crowded Court System Lead to Errors and Problems in Miami and Statewide

Map_of_Florida_Regions_with_Cities.pngThe New York Times recently published an article on how the State of Florida is dealing with the record amount of foreclosure actions. More importantly though, the article points a few reasons why its important to hire an experienced foreclosure defense attorney when facing a foreclosure.

Florida set aside nearly $10 million to organize foreclosure-only courts across the state. These courts are run by retired judges. While these courts have certainly helped speed up the foreclosure process and freed up dockets for other types of civil cases, foreclosure defense lawyers have expressed some concerns about how these judges run their court rooms.

Foreclosure defense attorneys, including the attorneys at our firm, argue that many of these judges are so intent on cutting down the foreclosure caseload that they may be unfairly siding with lenders at the expense of homeowners. Many of these judges simply ignore contradictory evidence and allow lenders to foreclose on properties that they have yet to prove they own.

Another major issue with foreclosures is that its often difficult to prove who owns the note on a mortgage because of the amount of paperwork and transfers that resulted when banks sold these mortgages as if they were shares in a company. Judges are overlooking this and lender attorneys may be easily committing fraud due to how difficult it is to track ownership of some notes.

The Florida Attorney General’s Office has received many complaints regarding the alleged improper actions of lender attorneys. Some bank friendly foreclosure firms are even falsifying or improperly notarizing documents. Some are reporting incidents where papers supposedly drafted by the same person have extremely different signatures. Additionally, and as in the case involving GMAC, as reported in our blog, there are even bank representatives that are signing, and notarizing, papers in a wholly fraudulent and deceptive manner.

Consider Your Options. Contact Us Today.

We have been successful in defending many foreclosure cases when given an opportunity to develop a plan to properly defend the foreclosure.

If you are on the brink of foreclosure, need a real estate attorney, or just need to assess your legal rights, please contact our office today.

Miami Foreclosure News: More People are Falling Behind on their Mortgage Payments as Personal Bankruptcy Filings Increase BASENAME: miami_foreclosure_news_more_pe

for sign.jpgThe number of people falling behind on their mortgages for the first time is on the rise, according to CNNMoney.com. Additionally, personal bankruptcies are on the rise in Miami Dade County.

Specifically, 3.51% of borrowers were 30 days late in their own payments in the second quarter, up from 3.31% at the end of last year. The shift is a stark reversal from the steady decline in short-term delinquencies during 2009. Moreover, personal bankruptcy filings rose 74%, year over year, to 1,788 cases opened, and 5% over July. Bankruptcy filings are at the highest levels since Congress overhauled the bankruptcy laws in 2005.

These grim statistics serve as a sad reminder of our reeling economy. And the high rate of delinquencies and bankruptcies leave many experts wondering whether a new round of foreclosures is on the horizon.

Alvarez & Barbara, LLP, is a team of experienced and aggressive foreclosure defense attorneys. We use the legal system to help people save their homes — and we can stand up for you.

Many people wait too long before getting legal help. They delay in the hope that they can turn their financial situation around. If you are behind on your mortgage payments or are having trouble making your monthly payments, you need to take action now. The sooner you call us, the quicker we can start working to save your home. Get help today to assert your rights in these difficult times.
We have been successful in defending many foreclosure cases when given an opportunity to develop a plan to properly defend the foreclosure.

If you are on the brink of foreclosure, need a real estate attorney, or just need to assess your legal rights, please contact our office today.

July Foreclosure Rates Rise and the Housing Supply Increases Too in Miami and Across the State of Florida

imagesCA8IKSO0.jpgAccording to the South Florida Business Journal, foreclosure filings were up across South Florida in July. Additionally, more homes have flooded the market in the past 10 weeks sparking many questions about the effect of foreclosures on the marketplace.

Florida had the third-highest foreclosure rate in the country with one in every 171 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing in July. Moreover, there has been a 4.6% increase of homes for sale in South Florida since May 31st, and that represents the first two month rise since the housing bubble burst.

It is therefore important to consult, and hire, an experienced foreclosure defense attorney to defend your rights. An experienced foreclosure defense attorney will be able to assess and evaluate what defenses you may have during the foreclosure process, and aggressively advocate your positions in the foreclosure. And when given an opportunity to defend these cases properly, we have actually not only won those cases, but we have secured attorney fees in our favor.

In Miami-Dade County, 1 in every 138 homes fell into foreclosure in July. Foreclosures in Palm Beach County shot up 77% in July, to 3,759 from 2,121 the month before, and were up 41.7% from a year earlier. In Broward County, 1 in every 125 homes was in foreclosure in July. In Broward, there were 6,471 foreclosure filings in July, and that represented a 4.76% increase from June.

These numbers are particularly troubling to the real estate recovery. For the past two years, the housing supply had been plummeting. Indeed, there was a string of 24 straight months where the housing supply declined. However, and in addition to the increase in foreclosure filings in July, the past 10 weeks have also seen an increase in the amount of supply in the market, i.e. an increase in the number of homes for sale. This is a troubling sign as it illustrates that there is still considerable uncertainty in the real estate market.

This new trend could mean further declines in home values and asking prices. For buyers, more inventory means more homes to choose from, and more leverage when negotiating prices. For sellers, this means more price reductions and likely more time for the property to stay on the market before it is sold.

One possible explanation for the increased inventory is that banks are slowly starting to dump more distressed properties back on the market. These distressed properties will no doubt likely drive prices down, and also increase inventory. The result could be further price reductions in a market still searching for a bottom.
We have been successful in defending many foreclosure cases when given an opportunity to develop a plan to properly defend the foreclosure.

If you are on the brink of foreclosure, need a real estate attorney, or just need to assess your legal rights, please contact our office today.

Strategic Defaults are Under Assault by Bank of America, and others, and May Lead to a Rise in Deficiency Judgments

bank owned.jpgMany financial institutions, including Bank of America, are planning on getting tougher with those who do not try in good faith to work out a deal with the bank but who have the capacity to pay.

Proposals that are currently floating around, and being pushed by Fannie Mae, and others, include trying to encourage distressed homeowners to find alternatives to foreclosure by banning those who walk away from their home from getting new loans to purchase a home for seven years. Put differently, if it is determined that you stopped making mortgage payments despite having the capacity to do so, you may be banned from getting a new loan for up to seven years.

A strategic default is a decision by a borrower to stop making payments on a debt despite having the financial ability to make the payment. A Wall Street Journal report recently estimated that 1 in 5 mortgage defaults are “strategic”. Indeed, many are anticipating that the next wave of foreclosures will consist of more and more individuals seeking to walk away from homes that are currently underwater.

Another weapon that many financial institutions have in their arsenal to combat strategic defaults is the pursuit of a deficiency judgment. A deficiency judgment occurs when the financial institution has not only taken the home back, but has also sold the home. However, the proceeds of the foreclosure sale were not enough to cover the full amount of the original mortgage. That difference between the foreclosure sale, and the original mortgage, is often referred to as the deficiency.

If a bank, such as Bank of America, suspects that the borrower simply walked away from the mortgage despite having the financial capacity to pay, the bank will likely have an increased incentive to pursue the borrower and seek recovery of the deficiency by way of a deficiency judgment. It should be emphasized that if a deficiency judgment is properly recorded, it could remain in effect for up to 20 years in the state of Florida. That means that the bank could have up to 20 years to recoup each and every penny, plus interest, of the deficiency judgment.

It becomes important to consult with an experienced foreclosure defense attorney to understand your rights. We have been successful in defending many foreclosure cases when given an opportunity to develop a plan to properly defend the foreclosure.
If you are on the brink of foreclosure, and need to assess your legal rights, please contact our office today.

Miami Foreclosure Defense Lawyers: How the Foreclosure Process Is Initiated & Developing a Plan to Defend the Foreclosure

foreclosure gavel.jpgIn Florida, unlike many other states, banks must utilize the court system in all foreclosures. In other words, if a bank wants to take your home, they must file a lawsuit against you. As a result, the foreclosure process may actually afford the homeowner with additional opportunities, and time, to remedy the situation.

It should be noted that many Florida banks hired several high-priced lobbyists recently in an effort to persuade our legislators to implement non-judicial foreclosures in Florida. Fortunately, the high-priced assault on homeowners, and their legal rights, in Florida failed. Therefore, foreclosures in Florida will continue to move through our judicial system.

It is therefore important to consult, and hire, an experienced foreclosure Defense attorney to defend your rights. An experienced foreclosure Defense attorney will be able to assess and evaluate what defenses you may have during the foreclosure process, and aggressively advocate your positions in the foreclosure.

For instance, the very first thing that a bank must do to formally initiate a foreclosure proceeding against you is to properly file a foreclosure complaint. Recent changes to our Florida Rules of Civil Procedure mandates that the banks must provide certain verification, under the penalty of perjury, that they actually own the note in question in order to properly file a foreclosure complaint. Failure to do so may result in the dismissal of the bank’s case against you.

Additionally, often times banks are required to send you written notification of the default at least 30 days prior to the filing of the foreclosure lawsuit against you. Failure to adhere to this condition precedent may result in the dismissal of the bank’s lawsuit against you.

When a foreclosure lawsuit has been filed, a process server will typically come to your home to serve you with the necessary legal papers. Often times, the process server may leave the papers on your doorstep when no one was home, or leave it with a housekeeper, or other person, that does not reside at your home. While the aforementioned circumstances certainly present the opportunity to raise a valid defense that you were not properly served with the foreclosure complaint, it is of critical and paramount importance that you respond within 20 days nonetheless. Even if you believe that the papers were not properly provided to you, if you fail to respond within 20 days you will be in a default situation where your defenses may be all waived and it will be difficult for you to assert any valid defense that you may have to defend the case.

Therefore, and upon receipt of the foreclosure complaint, irrespective of the manner in which you received it, it is critical to consult with an experience foreclosure Defense attorney to begin the process and developing a plan to defend the case and save your home. We have been successful in defending many foreclosure cases when given an opportunity to develop a plan to properly defend the foreclosure.
If you are on the brink of foreclosure, and need to assess your legal rights, please contact our office today.

Real Estate Market Losing Steam as Hurricane Season Approaches

blowing palms.jpgReal Estate experts are anticipating that home sales will slow for the second half of the year. This is due in large part to the expiration of the $8,000 tax credit, for first time home buyers, that expired on April 30. However, those that signed purchase contracts prior to April 30th can still take advantage of that tax credit if they complete their transaction by June 30th.

Additionally, other factors will likely continue to contribute to the ongoing sluggish recovery in the housing market. For instance, the economic recovery that is currently taking place is largely a jobless one. In fact, since 2007, when the recession began, South Florida’s workforce has only recovered to about 90% of where it was before the recession began. Since South Florida’s economy was so dependent on the housing market, it will likely take some time for South Florida’s economy to recover given the ongoing real estate crisis that is impacting all of us on a daily basis here in South Florida.

Additionally, another potential problem for our local economy, an economy that is still very dependent on real estate development, is that many lenders are increasingly reluctant to make new construction loans to developers. Now that certain tax credits have expired, coupled with the increasingly sluggish real estate market, builders see stormy days ahead. Indeed, increasingly high unemployment rates, coupled with stringent mortgage lending guidelines, are keeping many prospective purchasers on the sidelines.

All of these factors contribute to the general consensus that our real estate market will continue to struggle to stand on its own without the assistance of government backed programs, like the tax credit for first time home buyers, or a sharp turnaround in the economy as a whole.

In South Florida, with the storm season under way, a natural catastrophe could tip the ongoing real estate crisis into further disarray. If high unemployment rates, and rapidly declining real estate values were not enough, then a strong hurricane directly hitting South Florida and causing extensive damage will only serve to worsen the ongoing real estate crisis here in South Florida.

If you are on the brink of foreclosure, and need to assess your legal rights, especially in light of the recent BP oil spill, please contact our office today.

Will the BP Oil Spill Cause Florida to Surpass Nevada and Arizona in Foreclosure Filings?

underwater home.jpgFlorida remains number three (3) in the country for number of foreclosure filings, according to national statistics reflecting foreclosure filing in May. Nevada and Arizona were the only states that had more foreclosure filings than Florida in the month of May.

In May, one in every 174 Florida properties were in danger of falling into a foreclosure. The May foreclosure rate was actually higher than the foreclosure rate in the month of April. In April, one in every 182 Florida properties were in danger of falling into foreclosure.

However, it should be noted that in South Florida saw fewer foreclosure this past May as compared with May of last year. But the worst is far from over regarding the foreclosure crises, especially for those with adjustable rate mortgages. Now, and as will be discussed below, the recent disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and massive oil spill, may impact future foreclosure filings as well.

On the other hand, while May saw less foreclosure filings this year as compared to last May, it still brought a spike in foreclosure filings as compared to April of this year. Put differently, there were more foreclosure filings in May than in April of this year. Overall, there were 7,700 foreclosure filings with one in every 127 properties receiving a foreclosure notice in South Florida.

The ongoing foreclosure crisis in South Florida may be further fueled by the oil from the Gulf of Mexico, especially if that oil makes its way onto South Florida’s beaches in a hurricane storm surge, or other natural catastrophe. If that were to happen, many homeowners would be faced with the difficult prospect of having to sell depressed property in a region that is beset by natural catastrophe.
If you are on the brink of foreclosure, and need to assess your legal rights, especially in light of the recent BP oil spill, please contact our office today.

Fraud at Countrywide Found Leading to the Foreclosure Crises in Miami and Beyond

foreclosure-thumb-280x216.jpgMore evidence has come to light of Countrywide’s fraud and misconduct during the height of the real estate boom. Federal charges were brought against Bank of America, who acquired Countrywide nearly two years ago, alleging fraud, insider trading, and a host of other unethical activities.

In an effort to address the federal charges, Bank of America agreed to pay $108 million to settle the various federal charges brought against Countrywide. The settlement was announced by the Federal Trade Commission, and the settlement is intended to refund money to approximately 200,000 borrowers. This is the largest mortgage industry settlement for the Federal Trade Commission and its history.

The Federal Trade Commission’s chairman, Jon Leibowitz, accused Countrywide of “callous conduct, which took advantage of consumers already at the end of their financial rope.” Countrywide’s unethical practices included requiring borrowers who were already late on their mortgage payments to pay additional fees of several thousand dollars at a time. In other words, Countrywide collected several thousands of dollars from many borrowers on the brink of foreclosure, and economic collapse.

Not only did Countrywide profit from making extremely risky loans during the height of the real estate boom, but they also attempted to cash in during the down time by taking advantage of the same individuals that they had lured into taking risky mortgages just a few years before they fell behind. So Countrywide profited by making risky loans, and then again by securing additional payment from borrowers who were overburdened by those loans.

Indeed, Countrywide was doing very little to prevent many foreclosures in large part because of the fees that they were securing from individuals on the brink of foreclosure. In short, it became more profitable for Countrywide to allow certain individuals to actually fall into foreclosure rather than help the struggling borrowers save their home. Often times, these default fees of several thousand dollars were significant barriers to loan modifications.

This is just another example of the ongoing mortgage crisis which has taken hold in South Florida. If you are on the brink of foreclosure, and need to assess your legal rights, please contact our office today.

Mortgage Crises Continues For Those With Adjustable Rate Mortgages in Miami and Beyond

scream.jpgThe worst of the real estate meltdown is far from over. While the economy is showing tenuous signs of recovery, unemployment rates remain at staggering highs. With this backdrop, millions of homes will likely go to foreclosure this year, and more so this year, than in years past, as many risky adjustable rate mortgages written in 2005 are about to be reset, and yet others explore “strategic defaults.” If you are currently facing foreclosure, or need additional information regarding your home mortgage, please contact our office today.

As we previously reported, there are multiple factors that typically drive foreclosures. Those factors include the overall economy, unemployment, and a host of other reasons. However, two new factors will likely fuel additional foreclosure filings for the rest of the year, and beyond.

First, many adjustable-rate mortgages will be reset during the course of the next few months. Many prospective home purchasers agreed to exotic mortgages in an effort to purchase homes that they likely would not have been to afford otherwise. In an effort to purchase that dream home, many home purchasers agreed to financing deals that provided for low monthly payments for a few years. But after that, the mortgage would readjust with a higher interest rate. And now, we are starting to see the next wave of adjustable mortgages reset which is about to further complicate the ongoing foreclosure crises we are experiencing here in South Florida.

Second, not only will unemployment and adjustable mortgage resets drive-up foreclosure filings here in South Florida, but many more people may opt to push forward with a foreclosure by way of a “strategic default.” As we previously explained, a strategic default is when a homeowner voluntarily decides to stop paying their mortgage because their home is worth less than their mortgage. In other words, the home is “under water” and the borrower believes that a strategic default may yield a better deal for them by requiring the bank to address the borrower’s concerns by way of a foreclosure.

The next chapter in the foreclosure crisis here in Miami, and beyond, will not only impact lower income borrowers who typically purchased mortgages they could not afford, often at the advice of pushy, and sometimes fraudulent, banks and brokers. But what we will soon start seeing, and what our firm has already begun to handle with much success in Miami, and beyond, is foreclosures starting to mount for borrowers who have prime mortgages that are solidly middle-class, upper middle-class and even the rich and famous.
The foreclosure crisis is an ongoing problem that impacts all segments of our society, and individuals of all walks of life. If you, or a loved one, are facing foreclosure, or are in need of a consultation with a real estate attorney regarding your rights, please contact our office today.

Foreclosures Fuel Decrease of Property Values for the 3rd Straight Year in Miami-Dade County

photo.jpgMiami-Dade County’s official estimate of taxable values released to local taxing authorities show a general decline in both residential and commercial real property values in Miami-Dade County for the third straight year.

The decline for the third straight year stems from multiple factors fueling the collapse of real estate values throughout South Florida. Additionally, South Florida continues to struggle with an economic downturn that has cost many their jobs and sent real estate prices spiraling downward.

According to Miami-Dade County’s Property Appraiser, the 2010 estimate of Miami-Dade County’s taxable value is $192,484,000,000. That figure represents a sharp 13.4% decline as compared with the 2009 figure of $222,141,817,140. Moreover, the new construction taxable value in Miami-Dade County is estimated at $2,626,000,000. And that figure is also a significant decline from the $8,379,000,000 of the previous year.

These drops in real estate value are the steepest since the once roaring real estate market collapsed a few years ago. This figures will also form the basis of Miami-Dade County’s budget, and the budgets of all local municipal budgets in Miami-Dade County. Therefore, there can be no doubt that this will be yet another difficult year for government budgets throughout South Florida, and we will likely see more critical cuts to services as well as major fee increases.

Although there is evidence to suggest that the real estate market has “bottomed out”, it still won’t help the many local governments in need of tax revenue to run their cities. Worse yet, the sharp declines in real estate values here in Miami-Dade County will only continue to worsen until the foreclosure crises has fully run its course.

Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina said the county’s projection — a 19 percent decline in his city’s taxable property value — was more than he expected, but not a shock. “It should be no surprise to any of us,” he said.
If you, or someone you know, is facing foreclosure, please contact our office today to assess your rights.