On April 2nd, Governor DeSantis entered an Order that started Florida’s foreclosure and eviction “moratorium.”  The Governor extended that three times (on May 14th to June 2nd, on June 1st to July 1st, and on June 30th to August 1st). But rather than simply extend it a fourth time, the Governor made significant changes in his most recent July 29th Order.

As covered in our blog, the first Order only suspended and tolled statutes “providing for mortgage foreclosure [and eviction] cause[s] of action.” In the most recent July 29th Order, Governor DeSantis suspended and tolled any statutes “providing for final action at the conclusion of a mortgage foreclosure [or eviction] proceeding under Florida law solely when the proceeding arises from non-payment of mortgage by a single-family mortgagor [or non-payment of rent by a residential tenant] adversely affected by the COVID-19 emergency.” (Emphasis added.) The Order defines “adversely affected by the COVID-19 emergency” as “loss of employment, diminished wages or business income, or other monetary loss realized during the Florida State of Emergency directly impacting the ability of a [single-family mortgagor or residential tenant] to make [mortgage or rent] payments.” The Order only lasts through 12:01 A.M. on September 1st.

Unlike before, new residential foreclosure and eviction suits can now be filed. Pending cases can proceed. But “final action[s]” cannot be taken for people “adversely affected” by COVID-19. The final action in foreclosures and evictions are, at worst, when a writ of possession is issued. That is after a judgment is entered and, for foreclosure, after a sale is completed. So arguably under this new Order, cases can proceed to judgment, but sheriffs cannot remove people from their homes who are “adversely affected by [] COVID-19” until September 1st.

Many companies are breaking the law and you could be entitled to recover money when they do.

According to a body of federal law designed to protect consumers, lenders, and our entire banking system, a printed credit or debit card receipt provided at the point of sale/transaction cannot show any portion of the expiration date of your card nor can it show more than the last five digits of your card number. This includes ATM receipts. But it does not apply to handwritten or emailed receipts, nor does it apply to those that contain an imprint or copy of the actual card.

If you don’t keep receipts, please start paying attention to any receipt provided to you at the point of sale/transaction and let us know if you find one that violates the law.

The press is reporting that Governor DeSantis’ April 2nd Order suspends all foreclosures and evictions. After all, that’s what he said at a recent press conference. (Watch the video clip here.) But what the Governor said is not what the Order states.

This is from the April 2nd Order:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, RON DESANTIS, as Governor of Florida, by virtue of the authority vested in me by Article IV, Section (1 )(a) of the Florida Constitution, Chapter 252, Florida Statutes, and all other applicable laws, promulgate the following Executive Order to take immediate effect:

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or “CARES Act” became law on March 27, 2020. Out of 335 pages, just over one page pertains to owners of single-family homes, townhouses, and condos. About a page and a half pertains to people who own and rent multi-family investment properties. And, there is about a page and a half on evictions. The great majority of the Act addresses unemployment, medical issues, and appropriation of funds to various government agencies. There is also a sizable section on $500,000,000,000 in loans, guarantees, and investments that the Treasury Secretary gets to dole out.

I’ve posted the applicable sections below but first, here is my summary of the key points for homeowners and tenants:

  • All of the protections apply only to properties that have “Federally backed mortgage loans.”

Last updated on April 5, 2020.

COVID-19 is rapidly changing our court system and the rule of law.  Almost every day courts are issuing new administrative orders. I will continue posting as new developments unfold. As it stands, all state and federal courts are processing cases but there are several limitations.

The most significant development is the push to allow witnesses to be sworn in, and testify, remotely. There is also an effort to allow witnesses to sign declarations, bypassing testimony altogether. (I provide links to these orders below.) Allowing evidentiary hearings with witnesses appearing remotely is a profound change from standard face-to-face witness examination. Examining witnesses in person allows a lawyer to observe non-verbal cues and utilize changes in space to enhance the effectiveness of the exam. Numerous trial workshops and books address this. Think of the famous scene from A Few Good Men (see the end of this video followed by this one) where Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee uses spacial distancing, and more, to crush Colonel Nathan Jessep on cross examination. Online witness examinations will destroy the ability to utilize certain techniques. But as I was taught, great lawyers find new ways to innovate and serve their clients. I suspect advances in technology will create opportunities for new techniques to emerge as well. For example, technology has allowed us to conduct background checks during jury selection. Over the years, I’ve done many depositions remotely and have already developed several techniques suited for this format. I’ll continue to brainstorm and roll play as the transition to online trials and depositions advances.

In addition to being rated a “Legal Elite” by Florida Trend Magazine and a “Super Lawyer” by Thomson Reuters, Evan has been designated “AV Preeminent” by Martindale-Hubble. According to Martindale.com, this is “[t]he highest peer rating standard.” It is only “given to attorneys who are ranked at the highest level of professional excellence for their legal expertise, communication skills, and ethical standards by their peers.”

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This foreclosure case was the result of a bank force-placing insurance with its wholly-owned subsidiary for exorbitant profit. Our client had his own insurance with some of the best companies in the world and continued to make his timely, full payments. But the bank rejected those payments and continued to demand our client pay for insurance he did not need.

From our very first meeting, our client was adamant about his claims. He’s a retired businessman, having worked his way up from being a car washer to owning several car dealerships. He could afford his payments and kept damn good records of the entire history of his dealings with the banks and insurance companies.

We needed some time to review multiple issues in the case so our first filing was a motion for enlargement of time. After filing an answer, we propounded request for admissions, request for production, and interrogatories. Two months later, the bank responded late to our request for admissions and filed a motion to enlarge the time for them to respond to all our discovery. A few days later, we asked the other side how much time they needed to respond. They immediately propounded their own discovery and filed a notice that the case was ready for trial! The following day, we agreed to thirty-five days for them to respond to our discovery. They obtained a trial date of June 1, 2016, and Plaintiff set the deposition of our client for May 9th.

We will be joining the efforts to support the Bahamian people. Our office will be dropping off supplies at the Rotary Club as part of a coordinated effort with the Law Firm Freedland Harwin Valori, P.L. The Rotary will be sending shipments this weekend, weather permitting. You can drop off these items Monday through Friday from 8:30 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. at our office 2719 Hollywood Blvd #B-224 Hollywood, FL 33020 or by going directly to a Rotary drop-off location: https://rotary6990.org/club-locations/
Please help us by donating as much of you can of the below items:
  • Rubber Gloves

As detailed below, there were never any issues with this loan until a new servicer took over. At no point in time was this client unable to pay her mortgage payments. But for the bank and its debt collector/servicer, this case should never have been filed.

Our client has lived in her condominium for over 20 years. She’s had a full-time job with the same company for over 23 years, making approximately $63,000 per year. Her mortgage payment is $662.56 per month. Underwriting standards dictate that housing debt is generally affordable so long as it does not exceed 28% of a person’s income. Our client’s housing debt is 10% of her income. For many years, until the incidents leading up to this case, our client’s mortgage payments were auto debited from her checking account without issue. She had no issue affording this loan, ever.

And, she has always paid her taxes and her association dues, which includes insurance. There were no escrows.

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