Florida Foreclosure Aid Plans Falter

The Florida Supreme Court continues to devise programs in an effort to help homeowners in foreclosure, or so it would seem. The Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program initiative was announced in 2009 and a Florida Supreme Court Task Force was assigned to implement the program. The 52-page report by the Task Force has all the first source information and fact-finding that led up to them establishing the Mediation Program.

The task force included court administrators and defense people who warned that there was going to be a crisis. Attorney Matt Weidner of Tampa, Fla., who has been instrumental in representing clients during the foreclosure crisis, as well as fighting much of the wrongdoing, told AOL Real Estate:
"The findings of fact are what's leading to the collapse of this mediation program, and we all said from the beginning that this is not going to work. This goes back to us not knowing who owns these properties, so we don't even know who needs to come to the table at these mediations."

The courts were pressured to establish the mediation program at a great expense, and so far there is only a single-digit percentage of success stories. That's because there are relatively few plaintiffs coming to the table. Also, the named plaintiff in these cases isn't the real party in these interests, the party driving this, the investors should be the ones at the mediation table but they're just going through the motions.

"There's a fundamental inability to identify who owns anything," says Weidner. "It all gets back to that."

Attorney Tom Ice, of Ice Legal in West Palm Beach, agrees with Weidner, saying, "In our opinion, the banks merely go through the motions so they can check mediation off their list of required things to do, but are not seriously contemplating a modification."

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The mediation process is mandated for every foreclosure case filed. The banks have to fill out the forms indicating it's a homestead property. One of the requirements of the administrative order is that the plaintiff (the bank) is required to begin the process, which includes hefty fees.

"In virtually every case I've been to in mediation, the banks never provide the proper documents, which again permeates the entire process," says Weidner. "These documents are what shows they have the right to be at the table."

In many cases, the investors will not agree to the modification which is the best business decision because they then do not receive the FDIC or investment money. Weidner says the system is in lockdown because of system failure. These modifications don't address the homes that are vastly underwater or the principal reduction.

Because Ice, like Weidner, has had clients come to him after they were wrongly advised, to those who have not attending mediation, yet he says, "We actually recommend to our clients that they opt of the early mediation program. Nearly all of our successful settlements have occurred outside of mediation."
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