“It’s designed to punch through that wall of silence that is surrounding these lenders,” Haworth says. “There are a number of these cases that are not hopeless, where there is some prospect of salvaging the homestead for these owners. I can’t force them to come up with a solution, but I can at least get them to talk.”
The lenders, however, have been slow to react. Haworth says his four-page memo, outlining all the changes, was disseminated seven months ago, in preparation for the changes that took effect in December, but that law firms are just now complying. Those that don’t, he says, won’t get a hearing date.
The new rules are intended to help the court navigate a nearly 600% rise in foreclosure cases since 2006. The 12th circuit, home to Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties, is handling more than 500 foreclosure cases each month. Only the 20th Judicial Circuit, which includes Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties, has seen foreclosure rates grow more.
The increased workload, coming at a time of budget and staff cuts, has made another of Haworth’s new rules popular with foreclosure attorneys, who heeded it immediately, and the court personnel who have to deal with all the paperwork: Attorneys must file foreclosure cases electronically, eliminating what had been an avalanche of paper. Late last year, before the e-filing mandate, judicial assistants were processing 70 pounds of foreclosure-related paperwork every day.
12th Judicial Circuit Foreclosures
- Manatee County —?,528 foreclosed properties, or 1 in every 110 housing units
- Sarasota County — 867 foreclosed properties, or 1 in 254
- DeSoto County — 36 foreclosed properties, or 1 in 402
Source: RealtyTrac, February