Florida has a zombie apocalypse that eclipses any episode of the hit television series, The Walking Dead on A&E. It’s a reality show that involves tens of thousands of Floridians whose fate continues to eat at them long after they suffered from the Great Recession.
Instead of zombies trying to eat their brains, it’s the banks eating away at home and condo owners in the form of “Zombie Foreclosures.”
Florida has lead the nation in the number of foreclosures for the past three years and ranks number three in the nation for the longest foreclosure times. Florida foreclosures take an average of 944 days to complete, more than twice the national average.
Florida State Representative Katie Edwards (D-Plantation) filed HB965 in an effort to put the fire to the feet of banks and lenders who initiated foreclosure proceedings in the court, but have dragged their feet in pursuing closure of the foreclosure. The result is leaving the properties in a state of decay and deterioration or more infamously known as “Zombie Foreclosures” and “Zombie Titles”.
There’s an economic reason why banks delay. Most properties are underwater and under current state law, financial institutions do not have to pay for property taxes or home/condo owners’ dues, until they legally reclaim the property via the courts.
So those home/condo owners are liable to pay association dues and taxes on properties they no longer live at. More troubling, the associations are stuck with the deficits stemming from the outstanding fees that add up to tens of thousands of dollars. Those deficits are typically assessed on those home/condo owners who are diligently paying their mortgages, association dues and taxes - so now they're being assessed higher fees.
Rep. Edwards said in a recent press release, “Mortgage lenders are directly to blame for Florida’s foreclosure crisis and it’s falling on the backs of Floridians. Lengthy foreclosures and minimal responsibility for amounts owed by foreclosing lenders has forced associations to pass staggering amounts of unpaid delinquent assessments on established homeowners,” Rep. Edwards said.
She continued, “Roughly 21 percent of foreclosed properties sit vacant for years while lenders avoid paying taxes and maintenance assessments by delaying the taking of the title to the property. This is bad for Florida and my bill aims to stop it.”
Unfortunately, Rep. Edwards’ bill died during the 2015 session. The Republican led legislature must be mindful of populist politics. Meaning, what benefits the banks, often comes at the expense of ordinary citizens. It easily becomes the David vs. Goliath genre that reads so well in mainstream news and social media.
Florida’s zombie apocalypse can be averted and the Florida Legislature can prevent the banks from turning thousands of innocent Floridians into the financial walking dead.
Go to www.PatrickSlevin.com for more thought-provoking insights.