Rhonda Swan, Palm Beach Post

The Legislature finally has passed a bill to ease Florida’s foreclosure crisis. The problem is, it’s a bad bill that Gov. Scott should veto.

Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, sponsor of House Bill 87, believes that giving banks the right to seek a quicker hearing would get the state’s 350,000 foreclosure cases resolved faster. Her approach might make sense if the banks weren’t causing the backlog by not acting on the cases they file.

Though some homeowners employ attorneys who are responsible for delays, the vast majority are at the mercy of lenders who set the timetable for how quickly cases move, or don’t move. It takes an average of two years to dispose of foreclosure lawsuits in Florida because too often lenders and servicers don’t want to assume the taxes, association dues and expenses to list a house for sale that they incur after taking possession. They also don’t want a glut of foreclosures depressing prices and furthering their losses. So they let cases languish. On Friday, the backlog prompted the Florida Supreme Court to order that trial courts hire magistrates, to move more cases.

HB 87 would let lenders seek a “show cause” hearing, forcing homeowners into court quickly to prove that they shouldn’t be foreclosed on. That would not light a fire under the banks.

Thousands of foreclosure cases stalled following a scandal in which lenders allegedly faked documents and improperly foreclosed on thousands of homeowners, some of whom were current on their mortgages. The nation’s five biggest banks agreed to a $25 billion settlement with federal regulators. The deal was supposed to force the lenders to lower interest rates, reduce principal or offer cash to struggling homeowners. That would actually lower the rate of foreclosures.

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