It is happening in Hernando County, Florida, and may be happening throughout the United States. Banks are taking homes without being required to confirm notice to homeowners of their court date.
If a homeowner does not show up in court for a foreclosure hearing, it is a guaranteed win for the bank. One way to increase the odds in favor of the bank, is to make sure that the homeowner doesn’t know that a court date has been scheduled.
In many serious legal matters, a defendant must be notified by certified mail, or be personally served by a court approved process server. However, it is perfectly legal to make no effort to insure that a homeowner in default actually receives notice of their day in court.
In an email from Jana Murphy, Director of Court Services/In-House Legal Counsel, Hernando County Clerk’s Office, this was confirmed. “There is no requirement that I am aware of under the Rules of Civil Procedure that state they have to do anything other than mail it (Notice of Hearing) to you regular mail,” she wrote.
Therefore, if for any reason, a homeowner misses a single letter that might be overlooked in a pile of “junk mail,” that event, could mean the difference between losing or keeping their home. And a home will be foreclosed on much faster, if the owner does not have an opportunity to bring a potentially home-saving change of circumstance to court.
Since these letters are generated by the lender’s attorney, and certified mail is not required, there is no motivation for these lawyers to actually send a Notice of Hearing to the homeowner.
“I think this sinks. People aren’t being given the right to fight for their property” said a Hernando County resident, who asked that I withhold her name. Her family did not receive any notice that a court date had been scheduled, and their home was auctioned off at a foreclosure sale.
Considering the multi-trillion dollar efforts made by our government and taxpayers to stop the epidemic of foreclosures nationwide, the requirement of a $5 dollar certified mail stamp that might save homes and would certainly slow down the process, has been overlooked.
Beyond that, we must consider the multiplying effects. It might be easier to rubber stamp foreclosure cases and turn homes back to the banks as fast as possible, but what if we didn’t? How do we know for sure, that if judges had the opportunity to influence the outcome of Homeowner v Foreclosing Lender, that it wouldn’t make a vast difference?
In this arena, a lot is riding on the price of a postage stamp. But the devil is in the details.
What may seem small in a massive system under collapse, for the homeowner who missed one letter in the mailbox, it is a life-changing event.
Homeowners need to check their mail carefully, and make regular contact with the attorney’s office to insure that they do not miss their opportunity to have their foreclosure case heard by a judge.
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Photo at top of page AP