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State Spotlight: Florida’s Supreme Court Ruling is a Win for Servicers

Gavel Three BHThe Florida Supreme Court recently ruled that servicers may file new foreclosure actions against borrowers who won foreclosure cases more than five years ago if the borrowers defaulted again within five years of the first case's dismissal. The case, Lewis Brooke Bartram v. U.S Bank National Association was decided in favor of the mortgage servicers as borrowers argued a five-year statute of limitations should apply.

The court’s ruling, authored by Justice Barbra Pariente, determined that when foreclosure actions are dismissed, servicers and borrowers return to their pre-foreclosure complaint status. This allows homeowners to continue to pay back their loans in installments, rather than all at once.

The ruling also gives back servicers’ right to seek acceleration and foreclosure based on the mortgagor's subsequent defaults saying, “Accordingly, the statute of limitations does not continue to run on the amount due under the note and mortgage."

The decision affirms a Fifth District Court of Appeal ruling in the case and is consistent with the Florida Supreme Court's 2004 opinion in Singleton v. Greymar Associates.

In Singleton, the court ruled successive foreclosure actions based on separate periods of default were not barred by res judicata, the principle that a case that has already been adjudicated cannot be pursued again by the same parties. The court ruled that two separate defaults are considered two different breaches of the mortgage contract and can be brought as two different actions.

Chief Justices Jorge Labarga and Justice Peggy Quince, Justice Charles Canady, and Justice James Perry agreed with the decision and Justice Ricky Polston and Justice Fred Lewis concurred in result.

Despite agreeing with the decision, Lewis stated that he was not comfortable with the expansion of Singleton to "potentially any case involving successive foreclosure actions."

"I fear [continued expansion] will come at the cost of established Florida law and Floridians who may struggle with both the costs of owning a home and uncertain behavior by lenders," said Lewis.

To read the full court decision, click HERE.

About Author: Kendall Baer

Kendall Baer is a Baylor University graduate with a degree in news editorial journalism and a minor in marketing. She is fluent in both English and Italian, and studied abroad in Florence, Italy. Apart from her work as a journalist, she has also managed professional associations such as Association of Corporate Counsel, Commercial Real Estate Women, American Immigration Lawyers Association, and Project Management Institute for Association Management Consultants in Houston, Texas. Born and raised in Texas, Baer now works as the online editor for DS News.

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