Court allows lenders to restart foreclosures any time

The state Supreme Court ruled in a 10-year-old foreclosure case.

The state Supreme Court ruled in a 10-year-old foreclosure case.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled that mortgage lenders can restart a suspended foreclosure at any time instead of within five years after a borrower defaults.

The court ruled that the five-year statute of limitations for foreclosure cases is dynamic, not static, resetting each month a mortgage borrower remains in default.

Michele Stocker, an attorney in Fort Lauderdale who represents mortgage lenders, told the Tampa Bay Times the state Supreme Court’s decision “effectively removes the unfair notion that people can live in a home for free after an extended period of time. It could help clear out the backlog of cases that have been sitting around for a while.”

The ruling arose from the 10-year-old case of Lewis Bartram, who defaulted on a $650,000 loan secured by a home in Ponte Vedra Beach.

U.S. Bank began foreclosure proceedings against Bartram in 2006, but the case languished because the bank’s law firm, a foreclosure mill headed by attorney David Stern, went out of business.

Bartram got a court to dismiss the foreclosure case in 2011 because his attorneys argued that the five-year statute of limitations prevented U.S. Bank from completing the foreclosure it started in 2006.

But U.S. Bank appealed that decision, and in 2014, the state’s Fifth District Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the lender, which led Bartram’s unsuccessful appeal to the Florida Supreme Court.

Estimates of the value of the state Supreme Court’s ruling to lenders range as high as $400 million of debt secured by Florida real estate. [Tampa Bay Times] Mike Seemuth

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