According to a recent article in the Orlando Sentinel, Florida is now leading the nation in foreclosures. Although foreclosures rates are declining throughout most of the nation, Florida’s rate is increasing. My casual review of the filings for Leon County indicates that there have been approximately 41 foreclosure filings in our community since October 1, 2012. Given that we’re only a little more than halfway through the month one can estimate a total of about 80 foreclosure actions for this month alone.
What is interesting to me is to contrast this with the number of tort cases (negligence) filed in the same period. My review indicates that only about 25 negligence cases were filed, a little more than half the number of foreclosures. In my mind these numbers provoke the question of how badly do we really need tort reform? Maybe what we really need is foreclosure reform? Yet, we’ve seen absolutely no action by either the legislature or the Governor’s office to reduce the foreclosure rate in Florida. In fact, according to an article in the December 15, 2011 edition of the Florida Bar News, a Senate panel spent time trying to figure out how to expedite foreclosures in our state. Earlier this year we saw a Republican Representative submit legislation that sought to expidite the foreclosure process in Florida. Fortunately, the proposed legislation never came up for a final vote and did not become law.
Moreover, the legislature counts on foreclosure filings to help fund budget shortfalls for the Court system. A recent a decline in foreclosure filings created funding problems for the Clerk of Court Offices. The State Courts Administrator was recently quoted as saying:
“I think they [foreclosure filings] are beginning to pick up. We are hoping they are, because things are running really tight for the last quarter [of the 2011-12 fiscal year],” Goodner said. “We are still so totally dependent on fees, we’ve had to put spending restrictions in place for the fourth quarter.“
You have to congratulate our elected officials. They’ve managed to convince us that our Courts are flooded with tort cases, when the reality is foreclosure actions are really much more numerous, all the while doing all they can to make foreclosures in Florida more attractive to lenders in order to fund the Court system. It’s a win-win situation for everyone. Well, everyone but the homeowners who loose their homes and their neighbors who see their own property values continue to decline as a result of the flood of foreclosed homes onto the real estate market. Oh, and the workers whose retirement savings are tied up in the foreclosed mortgages. Let’s not forget the communities where families become homeless or move away. Gee, isn’t it great to be number one?