Code Enforcement My True Care Departments for Counties and Municipalities across the United States have been grappling with the increased workload created by the rising number of vacant and abandoned properties due to the continuous pursuit of foreclosures by mortgagees (banks, lenders, and lien-holders). ForeclosureListings.com confirmed that the “national foreclosure rate in January 2010 was one foreclosure filing for every 466 U.S. households; the most severe problems continue in the West and Florida. Unemployment, economic hardship, negative equity, and credit availability drive the foreclosures.
Suppose a property owner was in default with their mortgage payments and could not satisfy the outstanding debt or bring the mortgage and any exceptional penalties current during the pre-foreclosure stage. In that case, they were surely going to be faced with having to leave their home. In some cases, property owners who were upside down in their mortgage or through financial hardship found themselves in a position where expenses were just too overwhelming and may have chosen to walk away from their homes, no matter how difficult it was for them and their families. In a time when most jurisdictions, tiny local governments, are also dealing with the difficulties created by financial dilemmas and hardships that are reducing the workforce and resources, the rising foreclosures have taken their toll on code enforcement departments that are tasked with trying to keep neighborhoods and communities from becoming blighted, unsafe, and depreciated.
The problems that were created by sitting vacant residential properties, such as vandalism, unsafe open structures, and stagnant swimming pools, to name a few, created immense expense as communities were tasked with securing and abating these problems without assistance from any property owners or residents. Often, the property owners who were responsible for maintaining their homes during this difficult time felt it unfair that they were still required to provide for regular upkeep of their properties or face code enforcement penalties while the abandoned foreclosed homes next door were neglected and left to bring down the value of their homes and detract from their neighborhoods.
According to the latest report from RealtyTrac, a company that monitors the trends of foreclosures across each state, “Florida posted the nation’s second-highest state foreclosure rate in November 2009 with one in every 165 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing during the month. Florida took the No. 2 spot from California, which posted the nation’s third-highest foreclosure rate.” As a result, it became common for community members and leaders around the State of Florida to feel that the mortgagees were slow to take responsibility for these assets and put pressure on county and local governments to address these properties without using their tax dollars.
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Foreclosure Procedure in the State of Florida
There are a few different types of foreclosure procedures in the United States. According to Erate.com, “One common type of foreclosure is the ‘deed instead of foreclosure’ arrangement. Often called ‘strict foreclosure,’ the bank claims the title and possession of the property back to satisfy the debt. The other most common type is the proceeding known simply as ‘foreclosure’ or ‘judicial foreclosure.’ Here, the property is exposed to auction by a county or court official.
The winning bidder receives a deed to the property. Banks and other lenders usually bid on the property in the amount of the owed debt, and if no other buyers step forth, they will receive the title to the property. Other states employ another type of foreclosure, called ‘non-judicial’ or ‘statutory’ foreclosure. In this case, when a borrower fails to make payments, the lender may be issued a notice of default and intent to sell. If the borrower does not solve the default with payments or other means, the property will be sold at public auction.” In Florida, foreclosures are handled as judicial procedures processed through the court system. This process can take some time, five months or more, beginning with the lender advising a mortgagor that they are in default and recording a notice of Lis Pendens.
The homeowner will be served notice of complaint, which provides notice of intent to foreclose and contains the total debt. The property owner gets to have an opportunity to appear in court to answer the complaint; however, if the court rules against the property owner, a judgment of foreclosure will be issued. After the decision has been entered, a writ will be issued by the court authorizing a sheriff’s sale. Usually, if the property owners remain inside the home, they would be considered trespassing. If the property is sold by judicial sale, a Certificate of Title will be issued to the new property owner or returned to the mortgagee Work Reveal.