Florida is one of the hardest hit states in the nation, with almost half a million foreclosures lawsuits in various stages of litigation. On December 28, 2009, the Florida Supreme Court mandated mediation for Floridians who are in danger of losing their homes through foreclosure. Chief Justice Peggy Quince directed each Chief Judge of the 20 judicial Circuits to issue an administrative order addressing how the managed mediation program will be handled in their respective Circuit. This Supreme Court Order strives to reduce the foreclosure overload that is currently clogging our court system and monopolizing limited judicial resources.
State guidelines must be followed when conducting foreclosure mediation in Florida. Mediation managers are required to schedule sessions no less than 60 days and no more than 120 days after the filing of the foreclosure case has occurred. Meetings are usually several hours and lenders are required to pay a $750 fee up front, which may be recovered in the final judgment if mediation fails and the suit proceeds to foreclosure. The house in default must be the homeowner’s primary place of residence and the loan must have originated under the federal truth-in-lending regulations. Exceptions to the mandatory foreclosure mediation will be granted where the borrower and the lender reach an agreement to forego mediation, mediation was previously unsuccessful, or the homeowner cannot be located.
Mediation enables troubled homeowners to meet with their lenders at the bargaining table to renegotiate the terms in their mortgage and address other issues and circumstances surrounding the borrower’s default. Mediation not only removes the fear the borrower has in communicating with the lender, but brings both parties together in an informal setting that will help decide if modifying the loan terms or if another remedy, such as short sale on the house or deed in lieu of foreclosure, is a more appropriate and reasonable solution.
The Mediator is an impartial and neutral third party who will bring a fresh perspective to the case at hand. In the managed foreclosure mediation cases, he or she must be Circuit Court certified and specially trained in foreclosure law and mortgage modification issues.
Before a homeowner can be eligible formediation, he or she must see a foreclosure counselor who is approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. After obtaining advice from such a professional, troubled borrowers have been found to be less likely to re-default on their mortgages.
The record volume of foreclosures in Florida is threatening to break its court system. With the new mediation requirement, the hope is that applicable cases will be directed away from the courts and handled in a more timely and efficient fashion.
If you or someone you know is facing foreclosure mediation, be sure to insist on a qualified, competent Circuit Court certified mediator with experience in foreclosure law and mortgage modifications.