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Government

Real Estate Lawyers Divided Over Foreclosure Speed-Up Bill

A bill to speed up Florida's foreclosure process is awaiting Gov. Rick Scotts' signature. If he signs it, one group of lawyers vows to file a constitutional lawsuit against it...but another group will be happy.

Florida is the top state for foreclosures and it’s one of the slowest to deal with them. The average case takes more than 800 days to settle twice as long as the national average. The foreclosure bill on the governor's desk would shorten the time and, according to supporters, hasten the housing recovery by clearing the foreclosure backlog. But opponents think the bill has gone overboard, particularly with language that makes foreclosure judgments final and unappealable -- even if they're based on mistakes or even fraud. St Petersburg real estate lawyer Matthew Weidner says it could be a nightmare for conscientious mortgage payers. Weidner says it will, "result in homes being taken and the inability of the court to return the home."

But there's another school of real estate lawyers that loves the bill. They represent community associations that levy regular fees on homeowners, and have not been getting them from properties mired in protracted foreclosures.

Ft Lauderdale lawyer Donna DiMaggio Berger says the associations have been forced to make up the difference by assessing the other homeowners.

"People who would not have otherwise lost their homes have been put on the path to foreclosure because they have been forced for years to make up the deficiencies of their neighbors", Berger said.

Berger's organization, the Community Action Network, is about to make the foreclosure bill's sponsor, Republican State Representative Kathleen Passidomo of Naples, its legislator of the year. Weidner says the bill's constitutional flaws are evident and a lawsuit will be filed the moment Governor Scott signs the bill.