Foreclosure, foreclosure, foreclosure! It seems that no matter who you are or where you live, foreclosures have become a part of our everyday landscape. In the fallout of bad loans and a deepening economic crisis, an unprecedented amount of Americans now face losing their homes to foreclosure. We see it in newspapers, hear it on the news, and see signs in our neighborhoods. Despite the election of a new President and the intiation of new plans to save homes, foreclosures are still on the rise.
There are two different types of foreclosure, judicial and non-judicial. While non-judicial foreclosures are handled by a private trustee of the lender, during a judicial mortgage foreclosure, the procedure must be finalized by a court order. Whether a foreclosure is judicial or non-judicial can depend on the laws of a jurisdiction (visit www.CourtReference.com to find explanations of courts and court procedures by state). However, areas that require a judicial procedure have seen the court docket filled with up to several hundreds of foreclosure cases per day. In Lee County, Florida, which is one of the hardest hit counties for foreclosures, the court faces almost 1,000 foreclosure cases per day.
The Lee County court has been so bombarded with the number of foreclosure cases that have even asked retired judges to return to assist with numerous foreclosure proceedings. However, the additional judges still have not been enough to hear the thousands of foreclosure cases sitting on the court docket. As a result, the court has adopted a new method of resolving foreclosure cases called “rocket docket.” With the rocket docket system, a foreclosure case hearing can take as little as 20 minutes. If you are a defendant in a foreclosure case in Lee County, you will essentially be asked two questions: Are you behind on your mortgage payements and do you live in your home? Cases where the a defendant admits to being behind on their payments likely result in a judgement of foreclosure and a requirement to vacate the house within 60 days if they cannot work out a plan with the bank.
There is not much room for factual arguments or problem solving in this”rocket docket” procedure. It is is a fast and simple procedure that often leaves the homeowners feeling that they didn’t quite have their day in court. After all, how much can really be explained in 20 minutes. Yet, the court rationalizes that if the homeowner in fact has not paid their mortgage, there is not much left for the court to do but grant the foreclosure. Many believe this is the best way to get these matters resolved quickly and put the homes back on the market because staying in a home they cannot afford is not necessarily the solution either. In the end, perhaps it is simply that the court is finding a more efficient way to do its job, and it is really the responsibility of the banks/lenders to create actual solutions to the mortgage mess.