Much of Florida's residential real estate is situated within communities managed by homeowner's associations (HOA) or condominium associations (COA). Due to the importance of these associations, the Florida Legislature has enacted statutory laws dealing with almost any issue in connection with these associations. Sections 718 and 720 of Florida Statues govern most laws in this regard. These laws are rather complex, very technical, and must be followed to the letter of the law by both the associations and their members.
HOA's have an immense amount of power to ensure compliance with community rules, the most important of which is the payment and collection of homeowner or condominium fees from members. HOA's have the power to foreclose your home for assessments owed. It is recommended that you speak to an attorney immediately to avoid losing your rights and your home.
Frequently Asked Questions in Foreclosure Cases
Q: WHAT MUST YOU DO WHEN SERVED WITH A LAWSUIT?
A: When you are served with a lawsuit in Florida, in most cases you will have only 20 days to file a response with the Clerk of Court in the County where you are served. If you fail to do so, the plaintiff may be able to obtain a judgment after 20 days, and you may lose the case by default. If you are served with a lawsuit, contact us immediately. We can help you avoid a default judgment.
Q: WHAT TO DO IF YOUR DOOR LOCKS ARE CHANGED BY THE LENDER WHILE IN FORECLOSURE?
A: Banks are increasingly hiring field agents to visit properties during foreclosure actions to "weatherize" and protect it from damage. As a part of this process, bank agents will ascertain if there is anyone living on the premises. If they determine that the property is abandoned, under the terms of most mortgages, they have the right to change locks and protect the property by taking any reasonable acts necessary. Please note that until and unless there is a foreclosure of the home, and a subsequent sale, you are the title owner with the exclusive right to occupy and sole control and ownership of the property. As such, if a lender/ plaintiff changes your locks on the mistaken belief that the property is abandoned, you have every right to remove and replace their locks with your own. However, you are advised that it is best if you contact the lender first to let them know you are still in possession of the property, and that you are changing the locks back.
Q: CAN A LENDER DEDUCT WHAT'S OWED TO IT FROM MY PERSONAL BANK ACCOUNT?
A: During the bank foreclosure process, you may not be able to pay the monthly payments on your mortgage loan. Please beware that some banks may be able to deduct their mortgage payments automatically and without your consent from your personal bank account in cases where the lender is also the financial institution where your bank account is located. To avoid surprises, it would be best to change your bank account to another financial institution so that your personal funds are not wiped out overnight, which could lead to additional financial stress.
Q: CAN YOU CHALLANGE A FORECLOSURE CASE AGAINST YOU BECAUSE THE LENDER FAILED TO GIVE YOU CERTAIN DISCLOSURES AT CLOSING?
A: At the time of closing on your mortgage loan, the bank must give you several disclosures under the Truth in Lending Act, and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. Please review your loan documents to ensure that these were provided to you when you purchased the property. If not, you may be able to challenge the bank's ability to foreclose.
Q: CAN YOU JUST STOP PAYING YOUR ASSOCIATION FEES NOW THAT YOU ARE IN FORECLOSURE?
A: Sometimes you will be faced with the predicament of whether to pay your homeowner's association (HOA) assessments and fees or to just let them go as you did your mortgage. It is imperative that you know that the HOA can obtain its foreclosure of your home faster than a lender. Usually, the HOA does not have the trouble of showing that it holds or owns any mortgages on the property. They would merely have to show that the payments were not paid in accordance with the HOA covenants and bylaws, and that notices were sent to you in accordance with the law.
Q: WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOUR HOUSE DOES EVENTUALLY REACH FORECLSURE?
A: One option is to consider filing bankruptcy, if you qualify. To file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your income cannot be over the State median income. The latest median family income can be found on the following U.S. Department of Justice website: www.justice.gov/ust/eo/bapcpa/20101101/bci_data/median_income_table.htm