Florida Gov. Rick Scott is facing heavy lobbying from both sides of the fast-track foreclosure bill that arrived on his desk this week.
Response in support of the plan, HB 87, narrowly outpaces those fighting the bill, which passed both chambers during the 2013 legislative session after years of debate and compromise.
Calls in favor of the legislation stood at 632 on Thursday, with opposition calls at 563.
Scott has until June 12 to take action on the bill, or he can allow it to become law without his signature. He’s been asked by homeowner advocates and Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, to veto the legislation on grounds that it violates historic property rights laws and puts more onus on homeowners to prove why they shouldn’t lose their house.
“In the middle of the game this law would change the rules of current engagement of existing trials before judges,” said South Florida foreclosure defense attorney Roy Oppenheim, who opposes the bill. “This will only create more uncertainty and a host of new issues will ultimately arise.”
Proponents of the bill say it will streamline Florida’s meandering foreclosure process, making it easier to foreclose on abandoned and vacant homes while helping homeowners by reducing the amount of time a bank can pursue a borrower for unpaid debt from five years to one year.
Community association groups are especially in favor of the plan because it allows them as a secondary lien holder to ask for a fast-track foreclosure.
“Everyone I know in community associations supports this bill and the reason is that many of them are one or two assessments away form becoming foreclosure victims themselves,” said attorney Donna DiMaggio Berger, executive director of the Community Advocacy Network, in an interview earlier this month. “This helps them because they can force the banks’ foreclosure along by forcing a show cause order.”
This was the fourth consecutive year Florida lawmakers debated a fast-track foreclosure bill.
Oppenheim is a member of the group Florida Consumer Justice Advocates, which hired powerful lobbyist Ron Book to argue against the proposal.
Scott’s office said it is reviewing the legislation, and Oppenheim believes he’s not sold either way on the bill.
“I think this bill is completely in play in terms of the governor, and I think he will make a grave mistake about how many people will hold this against him if it becomes law,” Oppenheim said.
by Kimberly Miller