The Florida Homestead Foreclosure Conciliation Program was put in place with the goal of ensuring mediation and communication occurs between borrowers and lenders. The program will in effect delay foreclosures and it applies to foreclosure cases that were filed on or after Dec. 1 against homesteaded residential properties that are located in Sarasota, DeSoto, and Manatee counties.
If a foreclosure is filed, it will be required that lenders' attorneys need to invite homeowners to a conciliation, or mediation, conference that will occur to discuss possible alternatives to the foreclosure filing such as modifying payments, restructuring the loan, or arranging a short sale of the property. The offer can only be made to those homeowners who live in the homesteaded property, and the assistance does not apply to renters or investors. Homesteaded property is considered real property that is owned by people who have filed for a homestead exemption pursuant to Article VII, Section 6 of the Florida Constitution.
To provide further details, the new HFCP program requires that plaintiffs, such as banks and lenders, need to file the foreclosure complaint with a Notice to Homeowners Facing Foreclosure. Per the law, the plaintiffs need to then participate in the HFCP conciliation or mediation phone conference with the homeowners and also a lender representative in order for the parties to consider all realistic alternatives to foreclosure, such as a refi or mortgage modification. The law goes on to state that no action shall be scheduled for any type of summary judgment until a conciliation phone conference has occurred between the homeowner and lender, and also an Attorney’s Certificate of Compliance needs to be filed with the county clerk. One item to note is that if the certificate of compliance is not filed with the clerk, the court judge may cancel any summary judgment hearing and stop the foreclosure.
The conference needs to be scheduled, and in regards to the scheduling of the conciliation conference between the necessary parties, this law makes it the affirmative duty of the lender to determine whether or not the subject home or property is considered homesteaded. This conference needs to take place no later than 45 days after the foreclosure notice is filed with homeowners. If an agreement is reached between the homeowner and the lender at the mediation conference, they then need to proceed with setting a deadline for completion of the assistance, and this deadline needs to occur within 45 days from the date of when the conference took place. This will in effect delay the foreclosure filing.
The law also creates a new Mortgage Foreclosure Summary Judgment Checklist to be used in the Homestead Foreclosure Conciliation Program. The checklist was created to ensure that the court is notified that all requirements to dispose of the foreclosure filing by final summary judgment have been met. Things can’t proceed until all matters have been resolved. At that point a hearing can be scheduled when both the checklist as well as the Attorney’s Certificate of Compliance have been filed with the court. Read more ways to get mortgage or foreclosure assistance.
When the lender does not comply with this new law, court sanctions may occur or be administered, and they can include denying a bank or the lender the opportunity to appear telephonically or the case may also be assigned the lowest priority in the county for setting a hearing. On the other hand, if the property owner does not comply with the program, the lender will be entitled to file the certificate of compliance and proceed to disposition of the case, thus completing the foreclosure process.
Dial 1-800-625-2257 to get free foreclosure legal help from the Florida Homestead Foreclosure Conciliation Program.
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