Oppenheim Law

Florida tops in delinquent mortgage loans, report says - Sun-Sentinel

News   •   Mar 22, 2012 11:58 EDT

8:35 p.m. EDTMarch 21, 2012

Florida has more delinquent mortgage loans backed by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae than any other state, according to a new report.

The Sunshine State had 292,000 delinquent loans by the government-sponsored agencies as of Dec. 31. Of those,166,000 have been late on payments for at least a year.

California, the largest state, in contrast, had 174,000 delinquent loans, with 37,000 late on payments for a year or more, the report by the Federal Housing Finance Agency said.

"It's staggering how much Florida is worse than the rest of the nation," said foreclosure attorney Roy Oppenheim of Weston.

Experts say the disparity lies partly in that Florida foreclosures must go through the court system, and courts have been backlogged for two main reasons: States delayed action while negotiating the $25 billion foreclosure settlement recently announced with big banks. And Florida cases were held up to clarify paperwork after the "robo-signing" scandal, in which agents signed papers without knowing the details in them.

Even so, Oppenheim said he was surprised how badly the Sunshine State stacked up.

"It's a bit of an embarrassment to the judicial system," Oppenheim said.

Even worse, the statewide foreclosure backlog on all loans — not just those backed by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae — now stands at about 364,000 cases. That includes more than 32,000 in Palm Beach County and about 44,000 in Broward County, the Office of the State Courts Administrator said Wednesday.

The current foreclosure backlog total is up from about 310,800 foreclosure cases backlogged in March 2011, including nearly 70,000 in Broward and Palm Beach counties, according to previous data supplied by the office.

The average number of days to process a foreclosure in Florida stood at 806 in the fourth quarter of last year, according to the latest data from foreclosure firm RealtyTrac. That's more than two years and two months on average to process a foreclosure.

That's also more than twice the average time it takes to process a foreclosure nationwide: 348 days, RealtyTrac said. Only two other states took longer than Florida to process foreclosures: New Jersey, at 964 days, and New York, at 1,019 days as of the fourth quarter last year, said RealtyTrac.

What's more, experts see no end in sight to Florida's backlog because of funding problems for courts.

While the Florida Legislature has made a special allocation for judges handling foreclosures, it cut back on other funds so much that the system will remain clogged for at least a another year, Oppenheim said.

dhemlock@sunsentinel.com, 305-810-5009

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