New Bill Aims to Slash Mortgage Payments

TALLAHASSEE — Foreclosure is a harsh reality for thousands of Floridians these days, but a new bill could slash mortgage payment amounts.

Orlando Democrat Rep. Darren Soto’s “Foreclosure Bill of Rights” would pressure banks to charge monthly payment amounts based on what homes are worth now and not what they were worth when they were purchased.

“The banks would get their money and the homeowners — in the short run — would get a lower payment,” Soto said. “But obviously they’d have to start paying more or start satisfying that lien if they wanted to get out sooner rather than later.”

In return for the lower payments, banks would put a lien on the property, which means eventually the homeowner would still have to pay the full value of the mortgage.

The lower payment could help many homeowners avoid eviction. But when it comes time to sell the home, if it’s not worth more than it is now, the homeowner could owe thousands of dollars on the lien.

“There are so many foreclosures; there are so many short sales going on right now people are having difficulty getting through to their lenders,” said real estate agent Penny Herman. “As I read in national newsletters, you know, banks are backlogged. So, if it were an easy fix, it would have been done by now.”

In December, the state Supreme Court ordered all current foreclosure cases be re-negotiated with a neutral third party.

But the current bill in the Legislature would let homeowners ask for mediation as soon as they fall behind on their payments, with the goal being to avoid foreclosure in the first place.

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