Florida may be in the Southernmost part of the United States, but it was and still is the center of the foreclosure crisis. Even today, thousands of Floridian homeowners are served with foreclosure papers every month. Florida is a judicial foreclosure state, meaning that foreclosures have to proceed through through the court system in order to be completed. This combination of judicial foreclosure and the severity of the foreclosure crisis has created what is consistently the nation's largest backlog of foreclosure cases; a problem which Florida's government had not addressed until recently.
While other judicial states address the foreclosure crisis by forcing banks to offer loan modifications instead of foreclosure, Florida's latest “solution” is to make it much easier for banks to complete the foreclosure process, to clear the foreclosure backlogs. Florida passed a bill, referred to as HB 87, that formally set this plan into action on June 7, 2013. Some banks began testing options to advance foreclosures faster in light of HB 87.
In early 2013, we were fighting against JP Morgan Chase Bank's lawyers for one of our clients. Chase had officially filed a foreclosure lawsuit against his property in February 2013, and filed an order with the judge to make the case proceed faster. During this rushed process, Chase moved illegally several times, and we cited these actions to protect our client.
Chase Makes Their Own Rules
In February 2013, when Chase began the foreclosure proceedings, they had neglected to attach several important documents to the original foreclosure complaint. These documents were necessary to prove that Chase had the right to foreclose on the homeowner's property. This was only the beginning of Chase's questionable tactics – it was obvious that Chase was in a rush to foreclose on our client's property. On March 6, 2013, we filed an extension to respond to Chase's foreclosure filing.
In April, Chase filed the Notice of Filing an Original Note and Mortgage, but they neglected to give the defendant, and our office a copy of this notice as required by the Rules of Civil Procedure. This was Chase's second major mistake in its attempt to expedite this foreclosure action.
On May 3, we filed a motion to dismiss Chase's original foreclosure complaint, and a hearing was scheduled for late July 2013. By Florida law, the case cannot proceed until this motion is heard by the judge. Chase could not proceed with foreclosure until the hearing took place.
On May 7, despite Defendant's outstanding Motion to Dismiss the court granted Chase an order to show cause for entry of final judgment (“the Order”) (in other words, Chase requested a Final Summary Judgment), and set a hearing for June 6, 2013. In Florida, this particular hearing is the final step before a bank can auction a house. . Chase failed to comply with the Court's Order which required Chase to serve a copy of the Order to the Defendant (30) days before the hearing.scheduled June 6, 2013. Instead of 30 days, Chase served this notice to us on May 23; only 14 days before the scheduled hearing! The other major issue with this is that the court made an error in granting an order in the first place, since we had filed a motion to dismiss 4 days earlier. However, the attorneys for Chase knew about this and should have advised the Court accordingly. Officers of the court are required to advise the Courts of any outstanding issues of material fact.
On June 6, despite Chase's errors or deliberate omissions, the court entered the final judgment of foreclosure, and a foreclosure auction was scheduled for August. Obviously, there were numerous errors with nearly every step of Chase's foreclosure action; to use legal terms, they didn't have proper authority to hold the foreclosure auction,. On July 3, we filed a Motion to Vacate the Final Judgment or Foreclosure and Cancel the Foreclosure Auction Sale, based upon these errors.
How Our Client Won
By the end of July, upon realizing that we were serious about proceeding with our Motion to Vacate to a hearing Chase decided to retract its actions, and agreed with us that these actions were null and void. The court officially canceled the foreclosure auction and vacated the final judgment of foreclosure, giving our client and us the victory against Chase. It also sent a signal to Chase and banks everywhere that if foreclosure is to be carried out, then it should be carried out properly. It also helped remind Chase that we'll do everything we can to protect our clients from losing their homes.