The moratorium Governor DeSantis issued on evictions and foreclosures in April has now expired. Unfortunately, Floridians are still being hit hard by the pandemic, and many have yet to return to work, which means it is still very difficult for them to pay their rent or their mortgage. While this may seem like the worst-case scenario, there are some options for Floridians. Read on below to learn what those options are, and what you should do if you are facing foreclosure.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
One reason DeSantis gave for allowing the moratorium to expire was that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now has the ability to freeze some evictions. To be eligible, tenants must submit a declaration form to their landlords stating that they have experienced a significant loss of household income, and that they have taken great measures to obtain government assistance.
A spokesperson for DeSantis stated that one reason for the expiration of the order was so that tenants could avoid confusion regarding whether they are eligible for CDC’s eviction order, or the state-wide moratorium. Lawyers and court staff in the state have had to come to their own interpretations of the law to determine which one would prevail.
Texas has avoided this problem by requiring landlords to notify tenants about the CDC’s eviction order, and to give them the specific declaration form they must fill out. Florida has not implemented any of those same rules.
Still, even with the CDC’s eviction order, it still does not protect single-family homeowners who do not have a federally-backed mortgage, as the federal government order does not apply to foreclosures. The approximately 70 percent of homeowners who do have a federally-backed mortgage are still likely eligible for programs available through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that protect homeowners from foreclosure.
It is clear that without the state-wide moratorium in place, owners of single-family homes, and those that rent them, are most at risk for facing foreclosure or eviction.
Boca Raton’s Answer
One city in Florida, Boca Raton, is offering its own rental assistance and foreclosure prevention programs. After receiving approximately $317,322 in relief funds from the Florida Housing Corporation (FHFC), Boca Raton has approved a program that can help either tenants who are facing eviction or homeowners who are in fear of foreclosure. The program will also help individuals with their homeowners’ association fees, penalty fees, late fees, and court costs for the time period of March 1, 2020 to November 30, 2020. The maximum amount allowed for each household is $5,800.
To be eligible for the program, renters must:
- Have a current lease agreement,
- Have been current with their rent before March 1, 2020,
- Be a minimum of 30 days behind with their rent, and
- Cannot have liquid assets that are greater than $25,000 in value.
Homeowners that want to use the program to avoid foreclosure must:
- Have a mortgage issued by an FDIC-insured lender as balloon payments, private mortgages, and home equity lines of credit are not eligible,
- Have been current with their mortgage before March 1, 2020,
- Cannot have liquid assets that exceed $25,000 in value, and
- Cannot have an assessed property value over $350,000, according to the appraiser’s most recent valuation.
Homeowners can also ask for assistance with association dues they have fallen behind in paying, as long as they are also asking for assistance with their mortgage payments. Assistance is not available for those that only need help with their association dues. Although this is an assistance program that Boca Raton has created, all homeowners in other locations should check with their own municipality to determine if there is help available.
What to Do if You Are Facing Foreclosure
While certain Floridians may be able to take advantage of assistance programs, the sad truth is that these will not apply to everyone in the state. So, what can you do if you are facing foreclosure?
- Understand the law: Florida is a judicial foreclosure state, which means if your lender wants to foreclose, they must file a lawsuit against you to gain approval from the court before proceeding. Many lenders may be more forgiving at this time but even if they are not, it will still take a while to foreclose on the home, which may give you the necessary time to reach a solution.
- Read your agreement: Not all mortgages are created equally, so it is important to read yours through and understand it. Is there a right of redemption that allows you to reverse a foreclosure through a grace period? Can a deficiency judgment be issued against you in the event of foreclosure? Understanding these terms will give you an idea of what to expect.
- Contact your lender: Your lender will most definitely proceed with the foreclosure process if you do not contact them. They will assume you are not interested in possible alternatives and so, will simply foreclose on the home. Homeowners are often surprised at how willing their lender is to work with them because truthfully, lenders do not want the hassle of the foreclosure process. Nor do they want your home. As difficult as it may seem, call them and ask if there are any possible alternatives to foreclosure.
- Look into government programs: The federal government also has certain programs available to help homeowners facing foreclosure. For example, the Making Home Affordable program offers loan modifications and refinancing packages for individuals that qualify.
If you feel that you have exhausted your options, or you are not sure where to turn, contact a foreclosure defense lawyer who can help.
Our Foreclosure Defense Lawyers in Florida Can Help
No one wants their home foreclosed on, but the good news is that it may not have to happen to you. At Loan Lawyers, our Fort Lauderdale foreclosure defense attorneys understand the defenses available in these cases and we will use them to help you save your home. Call us today at (954) 807-1361 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation and to learn more about how we can help.
Loan Lawyers has helped over 5,000 South Florida homeowners and consumers with their debt problems, we have saved over 2,000 homes from foreclosure, eliminated more than $100,000,000 in mortgage principal and consumer debt, and have recovered over $10,000,000 on behalf of our clients due to bank, loan servicer, and debt collector violations. Contact us for a free consultation to see how we may be able to help you.