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Florida Courts tackle their foreclosure backlog

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By : John Smith    99 or more times read
While new filings fell again in April, Courts in Palm Beach County, Florida are making a serious effort to catch up on their backlog of foreclosures pending. That will help clear the fuzz in the statistics, especially since new foreclosure notices for April 2010 were down 47% year-on-year, to a satisfactorily lower monthly total of 1,529. The improvements are similar when comparing year-on-year trends for the first four months this year – this time initial notices were down 30% to 7,764.

The current backlog the County Courts face is a lot scarier. It stands at about 53,500, just 1,500 less than earlier this year.

“I am literally working night and day on these,” said Judge Meenu Sasser (Foreclosure Division Head for the 15th Judicial Circuit that includes Palm Beach County in its remit). “I’m hopeful that by the end of 2010, a significant portion of the backlog will be cleared.”

State legislators have approved additional funding of $6 million to add more Senior Judges, Magistrates and Case Managers to the 15th Judicial Circuit Team, and these are some of the daunting tasks that will confront them.

  • While Palm Beach County’s total foreclosures are down from last year, they are still more than double to 2004 total.

  • Martin County has about 2,320 pending foreclosure cases.

  • St. Lucie County’s backlog was not available at the time of writing, but stood at more than 11,000 earlier this year.

Chief 15th Circuit Judge Peter Blanc expects his Court to receive $646,000 out of the $6 million grant. “Backlogged cases are not good for either side,” he told me. “And we have a lot of people who aren’t party to the foreclosure that are affected, such as homeowners associations,” Blanc said.

“The numbers have gone down but are still incredibly high for this division [too],” added Steven Levin, Chief Judge of the 19th Judicial Circuit, which comprises Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and Okeechobee counties. “We are attacking the crisis as best we can.”

More complete figures for April 2010 are expected later this week, and the jury’s still out on whether the gently lowering rate of first foreclosure notices will be sustained. This is partly because nobody seems quite sure why this is happening in the first place.

“I don’t know that anyone is convinced this is a permanent turnaround,” an insider with a leading bank confided with me. “It’s driven by the willingness of lenders to agree to mortgage modifications, and there’s a limit to what we can do in that respect”.
Perhaps it’s more a matter of desperate borrowers becoming proactive about their futures?

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