iStock_000015122897XSmall.jpgOn May 20, 2009, President Obama signed into law the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009 (the “Act”). The Act was created during the height of the foreclosure crisis as a temporary measure to protect tenants who entered into a lease without realizing a property was in foreclosure. The Act provided that lenders and third-party purchasers who took title to a property at a foreclosure sale must provide a tenant with a minimum of 90 days’ notice, prior to seeking a writ of possession and evicting the tenant.

Sunset Provision of the Act

The Act was scheduled to expire on December 31, 2012, but the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act extended the sunset provision to December 31, 2014. There was much speculation within the legal community regarding whether the Act would be extended again. On November 21, 2013, the Senate introduced Bill 1761, titled “Permanently Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2013,” which sought to indefinitely extend the protections afforded under the original Act, as well as provide tenants with a private right of action against lenders and third-party purchasers who failed to comply with the Act. However, Senate Bill 1761 never progressed forward, and the Act expired on December 31, 2014.

What Happens After the Sunset?Continue Reading What to Expect Following the Sunset of the Protecting Tenants at Foreclose Act

Nationwide, one out of every five homes in foreclosure are abandoned — equating to a total of 170,000 abandoned homes, according to recent studies. Florida accounts for 33% of that figure, or about 55,000 abandoned homes. Florida cities, in fact, represent 85 out of the top 100 cities based on total number of owner-vacated foreclosures. Lee County’s city of Cape Coral is #13 on that list, with over 2,200 owner-vacated foreclosures.

To combat the security problems that can arise from vacant homes and the potential blight on neighborhoods and communities, counties and municipalities across Florida have responded by passing Abandoned Property ordinances. These ordinances place registration, inspection and maintenance obligations on lenders during the mortgage foreclosure process. Lee County recently passed its Abandoned Property Ordinance, which took effect January 2014:

When Registration is Required for Lenders

The lender obligations under the ordinance are triggered in a number of instances, but most commonly, lenders will need to register their properties when either a notice of foreclosure is filed or a notice of default is given to the property owner. Lenders should be cognizant that a mere default letter to the borrower — without filing a foreclosure lawsuit — requires the lender to register the property.

Additionally, lenders who have acquired title through a deed in lieu of foreclosure or a foreclosure sale are required to register their respective properties, even if they held title prior to January 1, 2014 – i.e., lenders who acquired title prior to the ordinance’s enactment are not exempt.

The ordinance does not distinguish between commercial and residential properties. For example, a commercial lender who has provided a notice of default to a property owner or who has acquired title through a foreclosure sale is required to register the property with the County. Nor does the ordinance distinguish between institutional lenders and private lenders.

What Registration Entails

Continue Reading Lenders Beware: Lee County Passes Abandoned Property Ordinance

Good Intentions

In passing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Congress created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The purpose of the CFPB was to safeguard consumers against fraud and other predatory practices by financial institutions.

The CFPB recently issued a final rule which will require residential mortgage lenders to begin

underwater mortgage small.jpgIt’s no secret that the U.S. economy remains in critical condition. Florida, along with several other states, suffered more than most during the recession, and Florida continues to suffer. Florida’s economic woes stem, in part, from the “foreclosure crisis” caused by people taking on more debt than they could afford when buying homes.  According to the August 9, 2012 edition of Gulfshore Business Daily, Florida had the nation’s third-highest foreclosure rate in July 2012. As reported by CNN, in some California communities, the unusually large number of foreclosures over the last few years has resulted in vacant homes, declining property values, and the corresponding loss of property tax revenues. The same holds true here in Florida and, in the absence of a replacement revenue source, local governments dependent on property tax revenues have had to cut costs and services to try to meet budgets. Faced with this situation, local governments in several parts of the country are considering the use of an unorthodox tool to solve the problems caused by “underwater” mortgages and homes — eminent domain.

It came from California…

Many people are familiar with the use of eminent domain to acquire private property for public use, such as the widening of a public road. The Wall Street Journal reported that San Bernardino County and two other California communities are considering the use of eminent domain to acquire home loans that are current, but “underwater.” (A home or loan is “underwater” if the amount owed exceeds the value of the home serving as collateral.) The City of Chicago, Illinois, and Suffolk County, New York have also considered use of eminent domain in this manner, though on August 14, 2012 Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, announced his opposition.

How would it work?Continue Reading Will Local Government Use Eminent Domain to Condemn Underwater Mortgages or Homes in Florida?

construction money.jpgFlorida’s Construction Lien Law is intended to provide a balance of protections for owners, contractors, subcontractors and material suppliers. Commercial landlords and lenders should be aware of recent changes to the Construction Lien Law which, in certain circumstances, have tipped the scale against their interests.

One of the most common problems faced by a commercial landlord is when a tenant’s contractor (or a subcontractor, supplier or laborer) records a construction lien against the landlord’s interest in the property. Such lien encumbers or “clouds” the landlord’s title to the property and can prevent the sale or refinancing of the property. It can also create a default under the landlord’s mortgage.Continue Reading Recent Changes to Florida's Construction Lien Law: Commercial Landlords and Lenders Beware