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June 20, 2021 - Where To Go For Federal Rent Assistance

Good Morning!

I hope this newsletter finds you and your family doing well. Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there!

Today I want to let you know where you can apply for federal rent assistance. This is a critically important time for Florida renters for a few reasons. First, the National Low Income Housing Coalition is estimating that 600,000 Floridians are currently behind on rent. Second, the federal eviction ban is set to expire at the end of this month, meaning landlords will be able to move forward with evictions in most counties. Third, the Congress and the Biden Administration have approved massive rent assistance through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, with $871 million allocated for Florida tenants.

Where To Go For Rent Assistance

In Florida, the rental assistance is going to be distributed through the Department of Children and Families. An online application is available at www.ourflorida.com. If the online application is not a good option for you, you may apply by phone by calling 833-493-0594. You may be eligible for rent assistance if you meet the following criteria:

  • Rent your home, apartment, or other residential dwelling in Florida.
  • Earn an income at or below 80% of the area’s median income (AMI).
  • Have qualified for unemployment, experienced a loss of income, incurred significant costs or faced financial hardships due to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.
  • Are at risk of losing your home, experiencing housing instability or are living in unsafe or unhealthy conditions.

Fannie Mae has a useful online tool to find out what your area’s median income is. to try it out.

Both the landlord and the tenant can apply. The landlord can only accept the assistance if they agree to accept the funds in full satisfaction of any claims against you. If the landlord will not agree to that, they cannot get the assistance and it will be sent directly to the tenant. The program will provide payment assistance for up to 12 months’ past due rent starting from March 13, 2020 and later. The maximum allowable assistance for one household through the duration of the program is $15,000.00.

The purpose of this free newsletter will always be to provide helpful information to you and your family regarding your rights under our consumer laws.

Have a safe, restful Father’s Day!

Best Regards,

Ryan C. Torrens

Consumer litigation attorney

 

 www.TorrensLawGroup.com

Facebook:RyanforFL

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this email does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. Ryan Torrens is only licensed to practice law in the State of Florida. Instead, all information, content, and materials available in this email is for general informational purposes only.

June 13, 2021 - The Homeowners Assistance Fund

Good Morning

I hope this newsletter finds you and your family doing well. Today I’d like to make sure everyone knows about the Homeowner Assistance Fund and its benefits.

The recently enacted American Rescue Plan Act provides up to $9.961 billion in housing relief for our country’s most vulnerable homeowners, including $676 million for the State of Florida. According to the Fund’s website, the funds may be used for mortgage payments, homeowner’s insurance, utility payments, and other housing-related expenses.

The funds are to be disbursed to our struggling homeowners by the states. This process has been painfully slow and this is especially worrisome since the foreclosure moratorium is scheduled to lapse at the end of this month.

To qualify for assistance, a homeowner will need to state in writing that they have suffered a financial hardship since January 21, 2020 and have an income less than 150% of the area’s median household income. The problem: applications are not even available yet.

In Florida, the program will be administered by the Department of Economic Opportunity. CLICK HERE to sign up for e-mail updates so you will know when progress has been made and the application is available for submission. CLICK HERE to read a fact sheet about the housing assistance options that will be made available through the Homeowner Assistance Fund.

The purpose of this free newsletter will always be to provide helpful information to you and your family regarding your rights under our consumer laws.

Have a safe, restful Sunday!

Best Regards,

Ryan C. Torrens

Consumer litigation attorney

 

www.TorrensLawGroup.com

Facebook: RyanforFL

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Disclaimer: The information provided in this email does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. Ryan Torrens is only licensed to practice law in the State of Florida. Instead, all information, content, and materials available in this email is for general informational purposes only.

June 7, 2021 - Your right to a copy of your home appraisal

Good Morning!

I hope this newsletter finds you and your family doing well. Today I’d like to focus on your right to a copy of any appraisal completed before you purchase a home.

To state the obvious, Florida’s real estate market is hot right now. Despite the excitement a strong market can generate, you should always protect yourself before entering into a real estate transaction.

Perhaps most importantly, you will want to make sure that the asset you are buying (your new home) is actually worth what you are paying for it. This is why an appraisal is so important.

Of course, mortgage lenders want an appraisal done to make sure their collateral (the home) holds sufficient value to make sure they can recover their investment if the borrower defaults and the lender has to foreclose.

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (“ECOA”) requires your mortgage lender to provide you with a copy of any appraisal or other valuation completed in connection with any first mortgage. A copy of the appraisal or valuation must be provided to you at least 3 days prior to closing.

Make sure you have your opportunity to review the appraisal before purchasing your home. It’s your right. You can review this portion of the ECOA by CLICKING HERE.

The purpose of this free newsletter will always be to provide helpful information to you and your family regarding your rights under our consumer laws.

Have a great Monday!

Best Regards,

Ryan C. Torrens

Consumer litigation attorney

 

 www.TorrensLawGroup.com

Facebook:RyanforFL

 Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Disclaimer: The information provided in this email does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. Ryan Torrens is only licensed to practice law in the State of Florida. Instead, all information, content, and materials available in this email is for general informational purposes only.

May 23, 2021 - When Debt Collectors Invade Your Privacy

Good Afternoon!

I hope this newsletter finds you and your family doing well. Today I’d like to discuss how many debt collectors are illegally disclosing your private information to others. I will then discuss what you can do to protect the integrity of your private, confidential information held by debt collectors.

First things first. Two key laws regulate the conduct of debt collectors: the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) and the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (“FCCPA”).

The FDCPA is a federal law and only applies to debt collectors, not your original lender. The FCCPA essentially serves as a Florida state companion law to the federal FDCPA. Do not underestimate the power of the FCCPA, however, as it applies to any person or company attempting to collect a debt, even your original lender.

Both of these laws make it illegal for a debt collector to disclose your personal information to third parties in connection with the collection of any consumer debt. When a debt collector violates these laws, you can be entitled to statutory damages and recovery of attorney’s fees and costs. Most lawyers who accept these cases take them on a contingency-fee basis so you do not actually incur any out-of-pocket costs or attorney’s fees.

A seminal opinion was released on April 21, 2021 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. This case, Hunstein v. Preferred Collection and Management Services, Inc., confirms yet again that it is a violation of federal law for a debt collector to disclose your personal information to a third-party without your consent. In Mr. Hunstein’s case, a debt collector disclosed his personal information regarding an alleged medical debt to a mailing vendor the debt collector used to mail collection letters. This was done without Mr. Hunstein’s consent. In Hunstein, the Eleventh Circuit confirmed that Mr. Hunstein brought a proper lawsuit for a violation of the FDCPA for this illegal conduct of the debt collector.

If you have any debts that are currently being pursued by a debt collector, make sure that you never authorize (verbally or in writing) the debt collector to disclose your personal information to third parties. Consent is a defense for the debt collector, so if you provide consent then the collector will be allowed to provide your personal information to other companies.

If you learn that a debt collector has provided your personal information to a third-party without your consent, you may very well have a case against the collector. Sometimes collectors even include a waiver of the alleged debt as a part of a settlement, so never hesitate to exercise your legal rights when a debt collector has illegally disclosed your private information to others.

The purpose of this free newsletter will always be to provide helpful information to you and your family regarding your rights under our consumer laws. I hope today’s newsletter has accomplished that objective.

Have a safe, restful Sunday!

Best Regards,

Ryan C. Torrens

Consumer litigation attorney

 

www.TorrensLawGroup.com

Facebook: RyanforFL

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Disclaimer: The information provided in this email does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. Ryan Torrens is only licensed to practice law in the State of Florida. Instead, all information, content, and materials available in this email is for general informational purposes only.

May 30, 2021 - Right To Know What You Owe

Good Morning!

Under the federal Truth-in-Lending Act, you have the right to a mortgage payoff statement from your mortgage servicer within seven business days from the date you request it.

If your mortgage servicer fails to comply, you can sue for damages (remember interest is added on each day – called the per diem) as well as recover your attorney’s fees and costs.

If you need a mortgage payoff statement, I would do the following:

  • Call your mortgage servicer and let them know you need to submit a written payoff statement request. Ask the representative for the designated address and fax number for these requests. Many servicers have a designated address and fax number for payoff statement requests. If you do not send it to the right address, your payoff request can be deemed invalid;
  • Mail, via certified mail, a written request for payoff statement to the designated address for payoff statements and send a copy by fax as well. Then mark your calendar for 7 business days after the date the servicer receives your request;
  • If your mortgage servicer fails to provide your mortgage payoff statement within seven business days, as required by federal law, you can follow up with your mortgage servicer or you can contact a qualified consumer attorney to consider bringing suit against your mortgage servicer. The attorney directory of the National Association of Consumer Advocates (“NACA”) can be found by CLICKING HERE Remember that most attorneys who handle these cases do so on a contingency-fee basis, meaning that the mortgage servicer pays for your attorney’s fees and costs and you do not have to come out of pocket for these expenses.

The purpose of this free newsletter will always be to provide helpful information to you and your family regarding your rights under our consumer laws.

Have a safe, restful Sunday!

Best Regards,

Ryan C. Torrens

Consumer litigation attorney

 

www.TorrensLawGroup.com

 Facebook:RyanforFL

 Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Disclaimer: The information provided in this email does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. Ryan Torrens is only licensed to practice law in the State of Florida. Instead, all information, content, and materials available in this email is for general informational purposes only.

May 17, 2021 - The Banks Love Their Junk Fees

Good Morning:

I hope this newsletter finds you and your family doing well. Today I’d like to discuss a very disturbing trend we are seeing with the excessive fees large banks and mortgage companies are charging to our homeowners’ mortgage accounts. I will conclude by offering a few suggestions for how you can protect yourself, the integrity of your mortgage account, and your home.

As a foreclosure defense attorney, a standard approach I take is to demand certain documents in the discovery process of the case, specifically the mortgage payment and loan transaction histories so I can carefully review each of the charges imposed on the homeowner’s mortgage account. I am seeing fees being charged to homeowners’ mortgage accounts that are excessive and, in some cases, illegal.

Let me give you just a couple examples:

  • Multiple “property inspection” fees being billed to the homeowner’s mortgage account within a one-month period even though the property is owner-occupied and already properly maintained; and
  • “Advance fees” showing up on the homeowner’s mortgage statements even though the homeowner is current on the mortgage.

While some of these fees are small ($11 – $20 each), they add up fast and can result in your loan falling behind and can even end up putting you in foreclosure. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself and your home:

  • Read this handout<span “> from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) on your rights with respect to your mortgage account. This short handout also briefly describes what information your mortgage company is obligated to provide to you;
  • Read your monthly mortgage statements carefully every month.This way, if you find an improper fee, you can address the problem right away before it escalates into a serious situation; and
  • If you do find a fee that you believe may be improper, contact your mortgage company right away by phone. If they still refuse to remove the fee, you have a couple different avenues to get the illegal fees removed:

Option 1:  File an online complaint with the CFPB. You can find the online complaint form by clicking HERE.

Option 2: Call a competent consumer protection attorney to discuss a potential lawsuit against your lender. A lawsuit may be able to get the fee removed and you may be able to recover damages as well as your attorney’s fees and costs. Many consumer attorneys accept these cases on a contingency-fee basis so you do not have to pay any out-of-pocket costs or attorney’s fees. As long as the case is settled successfully or a verdict is reached in your favor, the lender will usually pay the attorney’s fees and costs directly to your lawyer, meaning you do not have to pay any fees out of your own pocket. I am a proud member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates (“NACA”) and their online attorney directory can be found by clicking HERE.

You have an absolute right to an accurate accounting of your mortgage account and to the correct application of your mortgage payments. You have rights and you shouldn’t hesitate to invoke those rights when your lender is violating the law. I hope this information is helpful to you and your family.

Have a great week!

Best Regards,

Ryan C. Torrens

Consumer litigation attorney

 

www.TorrensLawGroup.com

Facebook:RyanforFL

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Disclaimer: The information provided in this email does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. Ryan Torrens is only licensed to practice law in the State of Florida. Instead, all information, content, and materials available in this email is for general informational purposes only.

May 2, 2021 - Foreclosure Ban Extended until 2022!

Good Morning:

I hope this newsletter finds you and your family doing well. In this newsletter, I want to provide an update on where things stand with the federal foreclosure ban.

It is estimated that approximately 10 million Americans are currently behind on their mortgage payments. While there is no longer a state foreclosure ban, the Biden administration has extended the federal ban on federal-backed mortgages to June 30, 2021. Federal-backed mortgages will typically be mortgages backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Veterans Administration (“VA”), or the Federal Housing Administration (“FHA”). This means that mortgage companies cannot file foreclosure cases on federally-backed mortgages until July 1, 2021 at the earliest. In our law practice, we have noticed that most of the mortgage companies are following the federal ban even if the mortgage is not federally-backed.

Even more significant, though, is the proposed rule the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) has announced that would both expand the scope of the federal foreclosure ban and further extend the ban through the end of this year. The CFPB is seeking public comment on the rule through May 11, 2021 and then will determine if the proposed rule becomes final. The proposed rule, as currently drafted, would broaden the scope of the federal foreclosure ban to include all mortgages secured by the borrower’s principal residence.

This would include private mortgages, which comprise approximately 30 percent of our country’s residential mortgage market. The proposed rule would also streamline the underwriting process for mortgage modifications and would provide additional protections to our consumers. You can read the fact sheet released by the CFPB here.

The CFPB has also created a single website containing a ton of helpful information for our renters and homeowners who currently need assistance with their rent or mortgage. You can review this site by clicking here.

I hope this information is helpful to you and your family. Have a safe, restful Sunday!

Best Regards,

Ryan C. Torrens

Consumer litigation attorney

 

www.TorrensLawGroup.com

Facebook:RyanforFL

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Disclaimer: The information provided in this email does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. Ryan Torrens is only licensed to practice law in the State of Florida. Instead, all information, content, and materials available in this email is for general informational purposes only.

February 22, 2021 - Let's Stop the HOA Abuse

Good Evening:

 Someone is knocking on your door. You answer the door to see it’s a sheriff. Your kids start shuffling in behind you, wondering why the sheriff is there. Your family is being evicted.
 
You’ve never missed a mortgage payment. How is your family being kicked out of the home you love? Your homeowners association (“HOA”) has foreclosed on you over a dispute about $300 in HOA dues. The $300 problem became a $3,000 problem when you tried to work it out and the HOA attorneys kept tacking on attorney’s fees. Despite the ten years of mortgage payments ($1,500 per month, totaling $180,000), you are losing your home to the HOA. This is the tragic reality for families all across our state.
 
Click here to see the number of HOA foreclosures filed in just Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco counties just over the last 90 days. Many homeowners in Florida do not even realize they can lose their home to an HOA. Your home may be your castle, but in an HOA community, it is more like a sandcastle. Everything you’ve built can come crashing down in one fell swoop, often over a nominal amount of money.
It’s time for a change. It is understandable that a bank can try to foreclose when the mortgage is in default, but no Florida family should be kicked out of their home because of a missed assessment or because the HOA claims you do not have their preferred kind of grass in your yard. That is ridiculous.
 
The list of HOA abuses is staggering. Take the case of an HOA in Altamonte Springs, Florida refusing to allow an Air Force veteran to have his PTSD dog, claiming he was overweight. Fortunately, both the trial court and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the association.
 
Take the Texas case where an HOA foreclosed on an active-duty soldier’s paid off $300,000 home while he was serving in Iraq. His home was sold for $3,500 on the courthouse steps while he was defending our nation. This patriotic family only recovered their home back after taking the HOA to court.
 
The list of abuses goes on and on and on.
 
We must act and act now! It is not enough to just complain about this situation. The longer we wait, the more Florida families will be kicked to the streets by their HOA.
The power is in our hands! Through old-fashioned citizen action, we can change the laws in this state, either through legislative reform or a ballot initiative, and reign in or even abolish HOAs in this state. Frankly, enough is enough.
 
We are looking for fellow Floridians who are fed up with HOA abuses in our state and are willing to dedicate time and energy to reforming our HOA laws. The abuses are so staggering that I believe even consideration of a constitutional amendment to ban HOAs in this state would be in order.
 
We are looking to form a coordination committee with the purpose of starting a non-profit advocacy group to advance this important cause. Anyone interested in joining this movement should contact us at ryan@torrenslawgroup.com.
 
The naysayers will say this is impossible. They will say the HOAs and their allies are too powerful. That’s okay. Most things worth doing in life are hard. I’m ready for this fight. I hope you are too. Let’s be bold and courageous. Let’s do this for all the victims of HOA abuse all across our state.
 
It’s time to get to work. The longer we wait, the more families will be kicked to the street by their HOAs.
 
 
Best Regards,
Ryan C. Torrens
Consumer litigation attorney
 
Disclaimer: The information provided in this email does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. Ryan Torrens is only licensed to practice law in the State of Florida. Instead, all information, content, and materials available in this email is for general informational purposes only.
February 15, 2021 - This Form Could Protect You From Eviction

Good Morning:

 Are you at risk of eviction? If so, you are certainly not alone. It is now estimated that at least 20 percent of Florida renters are behind on rent. There is literally one piece of paper that could keep a roof over your head until the end of March. Let me briefly explain:
 
The federal government has extended the eviction moratorium until March 31, 2021. However, do not be misled by this. If a landlord files an eviction and you do nothing, you could still be evicted if the court does not hear anything from you. You have to be proactive when you have been sued. You cannot just do nothing.
 
Now comes the “one piece of paper” mentioned above. The Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) has released a COVID-19 declaration for those at risk of eviction. This single document could keep you in your rental through the end of March and if the moratorium is extended again, even longer. So if you are at risk of eviction, exactly what should you do?
 
First, Carefully Read The CDC Declaration
You should first carefully read the CDC declaration. Please keep in mind that you are signing this declaration under penalty of perjury, and if you are caught lying on this declaration, you could be prosecuted and sentenced to prison. The declaration has seven statements listed that you must confirm, under penalty of perjury, are true.
Second, Sign The Declaration
Once you confirm that you can truthfully attest to each of the statements contained in the declaration, you should promptly sign and date the declaration. Also, any other tenants (such as your spouse, if applicable) should sign the declaration as well (if they can truthfully attest to each of the statements in the declaration).
 
Third, Deliver The Declaration
Make sure to keep a copy of the signed and dated declaration in a safe place. Deliver the original declaration to your landlord, file a copy with the Clerk of Court for your eviction case, and save a copy for your records. To locate your local Clerk of Court, visit this website. If you receive a notice from the court providing that your eviction case has been called up for a hearing, make sure to attend and have a copy of your CDC declaration ready!
Please remember that this CDC declaration is not going to keep you in your rental forever. At most, it may get you a little more time. For many of Florida’s renting families, time is everything right now.
 
Finally, if you have any friends or family who are at risk of eviction, please share this with them so they can complete the declaration and protect their families!
I hope the information in this newsletter is helpful to you and your family. Best wishes for a healthy, safe Sunday.
 
Best Regards,
Ryan C. Torrens
Consumer litigation attorney
Disclaimer: The information provided in this email does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. Ryan Torrens is only licensed to practice law in the State of Florida. Instead, all information, content, and materials available in this email is for general informational purposes only.
August 26, 2020 - Your Mortgage Forbearance Is Over. Now What?
Good Evening!
I hope you are doing as well as possible during these challenging times. For this week’s newsletter, I want to focus on COVID-19 forbearances for federally-backed home mortgages and how to make sure you protect yourself when the total forbearance amount comes due.
About 75 percent of all home mortgages in the United States are backed by the federal government. This includes Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans as well as loans backed by the Veterans Administration (“VA”) and the Federal Housing Administration (“FHA”).
Wandering if your home loan is federally-backed? CLICK HERE to find out if your home loan is federally-backed by typing in your property address.
If your home loan is federally-backed, under the CARES Act, you are entitled to postpone your mortgage payments for up to 360 days if you have been impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is called a forbearance. You would contact your mortgage company to apply for the federal forbearance program.
Remember, a forbearance simply means the payments are being postponed, not forgiven. You will eventually have to make the payments, which is where I turn next. What are your options when your forbearance comes due?
Option 1: Request Forbearance Extension
If your home mortgage is federally-backed and you have been impacted by the COVID-19 virus, you have the right to a 180 day mortgage forbearance and to request an extension of another 180 days for a total of 360 days.
Option 2: Make All Payments At Once
When your forbearance plan comes to an end, you have the right to pay all of the past due payments at one time. For most folks, this will not be a realistic option. If it is possible for you, consider this option as it can save you money on accrued interest and will catch you up on your mortgage right away.
Option 3: Loan Modification
You can also see if your lender can re-work your loan through a mortgage modification where you would pay a little more each month to slowly repay those postponed payments. Sometimes with a mortgage modification you can qualify for a lower interest rate than what you have now. You would need to contact your mortgage company to apply for a modification.
Option 4: Put Postponed Payments At End of Loan
Important: if your home loan is federally-backed, the lender cannot force you to pay the postponed payments all at once when your forbearance expires. At a minimum, the lender must agree to place the postponed payments to the end of your loan. Remember: if you sell your property one day, these payments, which have now been placed to the end of your loan, would need to be paid.
When you receive notice that your forbearance is ending, remember you need to take action. You will either need the bank to agree to place the postponed payments at the end of the loan, apply for an extension of your forbearance, make all the payments at once, or apply for a modification of your loan. If you do nothing, the mortgage company will eventually declare you in default and file a foreclosure lawsuit against you.
Here’s a few tips if you have applied for a mortgage forbearance:
Tip No. 1: Keep Written Documentation
Demand that your mortgage company mail or fax you written confirmation of your forbearance plan. If your mortgage company fails to update your account to reflect the forbearance plan, you may need to use these written records later.
Tip No. 2: Keep An Eye On Your Mortgage Statements
I am afraid the large mortgage servicers may not have systems in place to quickly update homeowners’ mortgage accounts to reflect these forbearances, so keep an eye on your monthly mortgage statements. If the statements do not reflect that your account is under forbearance, call your mortgage and make sure your forbearance plan has been put into place.
Tip No. 3: Stop Auto-Payments for Your Mortgage
If your mortgage payments were deducted automatically from your checking account prior to the forbearance, make sure to remove yourself from auto-debit or the mortgage company will keep debiting your checking account.
Tip No. 4: Make Sure Taxes and Insurance Are Paid
If you pay your taxes and insurance separate from your mortgage payment, make sure to keep up with your taxes and insurance, if this is possible for you. If you do not, the lender most likely will pay for them and the expenses to your loan. Often the force-placed insurance policy the lender will put on your home is much more expensive than the policy you would get on your own.
Tip No. 5: Make Sure To Keep Your Homeowners Association Paid
Even if you are on a mortgage forbearance, please do everything in your power to keep your homeowner’s association or condominium association assessments paid. They can foreclose on you for past due assessments and these can be much more difficult to defend against than mortgage foreclosure cases.
Tip No. 6: Keep An Eye On Your Credit
Head over to www.annualcreditreport.com and pull your free credit reports. Due to the pandemic, you can now pull free credit reports (one from each bureau – Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union) once a week. If you were current on your mortgage before the pandemic and you are now on a mortgage forbearance, the mortgage company must continue to report you as current.
If you were already falling behind on your payments prior to the pandemic and you are now on a mortgage forbearance, your mortgage company is permitted to report that you are on a forbearance. If you were current on your mortgage payments prior to the pandemic and you are now on a mortgage forbearance, the mortgage company is required to report the covered payments as current and is not permitted to report the payments as late or delinquent.
If your mortgage company is illegally reporting you as delinquent while you are on a forbearance agreement, CLICK HERE for helpful information from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) on how to properly dispute this information on your credit reports.
I hope the information in this newsletter may be helpful to you and your family. Thank you for reading! Have a wonderful Sunday evening.
Best Regards,
Ryan C. Torrens
Disclaimer: The information provided in this email does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. Ryan Torrens is only licensed to practice law in the State of Florida. Instead, all information, content, and materials available in this email is for general informational purposes only.
August 13, 2020 - Gov. DeSantis's Fake Moratorium
Good Morning!
I hope you and your family are doing as well as possible during these challenging times. For this week’s newsletter, I’d like to address Governor Ron DeSantis’s limited moratorium on foreclosures and evictions and to provide some helpful suggestions if this new, limited moratorium impacts you and your family.
Previously, evictions and foreclosures in Florida were halted under the governor’s order. The moratorium was set to expire yesterday, August 1, but on Wednesday, July 29, the governor amended the executive order to extend it to September 1, 2020. Right away, the news agencies in Florida reported that the governor had “extended the moratorium.” However, many of those news agencies failed to report the new limitations on the moratorium. Let me explain and then I will provide a few useful suggestions for our homeowners and renters who are at risk due to the governor’s actions.
On Wednesday, the governor amended the existing executive order, so it now reads:
A. I hereby suspend and toll any statute providing for final action at the conclusion of a mortgage proceeding under Florida law solely when the proceeding arises from non-payment of mortgage by a single-family mortgagor affected by the COVID-19 emergency.” (Emphasis Added)
“B. For purposes of this section, adversely affected by the COVID-19 emergency means loss of employment, diminished wages or business income, or other monetary loss realized during the Florida State of Emergency directly impacting the ability of a single-family mortgagor to make mortgage payments.”
The executive order has nearly identical language for renters and evictions. So what does this really mean? I can tell you that this amended language gives banks, landlords, and their lawyers a green light to move forward with foreclosures and evictions where the alleged default pre-dates the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, I have a 2018 residential foreclosure case in Charlotte County where I am representing the homeowners. The trial had been cancelled due to the previous executive order signed by Gov. DeSantis. On Friday, we received an order setting the case for trial at the end of August because the Court concluded that the case is not covered under the amended executive order.
If you only fell behind on your mortgage or rent during the COVID-19 pandemic, it looks like this amended executive order still protects you. However, our homeowners and renters who fell behind before the COVID-19 pandemic hit are now at risk of foreclosure and eviction, respectively.
How about our homeowners who fell behind before COVID-19 hit but worked out a loan modification with the bank, only to see it fall apart because they lost their job due to COVID-19? I would argue they would remain protected under this amended executive order, but surely the lawyers for the banks would argue otherwise.
So what should you do if you find out your foreclosure or eviction case is going forward but you have been financially impacted by COVID-19? Here’s a few suggestions:
You may want to consider filing a “Motion to Continue” the hearing and an attached affidavit explaining how you have been financially impacted by COVID-19. This motion would need to be filed with the Clerk of Court and a copy mailed to the attorney for the bank, mortgage company, or landlord. The motion would then need to be scheduled for a hearing unless the judge decides to rule on the motion without a hearing.
You may also want to consider filing a Motion for Mediation and ask the judge to order you and the bank (or landlord) to mediation (of course, a virtual or telephonic mediation) so you have a good opportunity to discuss all of your options with your lender or landlord and its lawyer. A mediation is a voluntary settlement meeting where the parties get together, along with an impartial mediator, to try to reach a settlement and resolve the case. If it is a foreclosure case, you may have options for a loan modification or options to get more time in the property, a waiver of the debt, and cash relocation assistance. If it is an eviction case, you may be able to work out a repayment plan with the landlord or another workable solution.
If you end up having to argue a motion like this in Court, even if it’s on the telephone or video, I would suggest booking a court reporter, especially if you do not have an attorney. It sometimes helps to keep the judge fair and honest as they know they are on the record and a transcript can be produced. You can be a sitting duck if you are there without a lawyer and without a court reporter to take down a record of what’s been said. You can simply do an internet search for local court reporter services and you will be able to find one easily. Just give them a call and provide the details for your hearing.
As I’ve said many times before, I do not believe this to be the appropriate forum for policy discussion and/or arguments as it detracts from the central point of this newsletter: to provide helpful, free information to our consumers on an ongoing, regular basis. I know we have readers of this newsletter of all political persuasions and I am very proud of that.
I have been thinking of new ways we may be able to help get this important information out to the public. In this connection, starting this Wednesday, August 5, 2020 at 8:00 p.m., I will be starting a weekly Facebook Live event called “Ask Ryan,” where I will discuss issues important to Florida’s consumers. The topic for this Wednesday’s discussion will be “Gov. DeSantis Gives Green Light For Foreclosures and Evictions: What You Need To Know.” During the first half of the session, I will give a presentation on what you need to know and then, for the second half, I’ll open it up for questions.
I hope you can join us. I think we should all be considering how we can be part of the solution and hopefully these Facebook Live events will be helpful to our fellow Floridians who are in need of this information about their consumer rights.
Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter. If you would like to subscribe to our weekly newsletter, please click HERE and you can sign up. I hope you have restful, safe Sunday.
Best
Ryan Torrens
Consumer Litigation Attorney
Disclaimer: The information provided in this email does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. Ryan Torrens is only licensed to practice law in the State of Florida. Instead, all information, content, and materials available in this email is for general informational purposes only.