No man’s life, liberty, nor property is safe while the legislature is in session.
-Judge Gideon Tucker
Foreclosure filing fees jacked up to $1,900
In an apparent effort to stem the tide of foreclosure cases, and stauch the bleeding budget at the same time, the Florida Legislature this year jacked up court fees in foreclosure cases – up to $1,905 just to file the case, if the case is for more than $250,000. (Most of them are.) The new fees are effective June 1, 2009.
New extortionate fees for defendants, too
Sticking it to the banks? Well, not so fast. If the foreclosure defendant has a counterclaim – say, they want to countersue the lender for fraud or other violations of the law related to lending – they have to pay a filing fee, too. And it’s also $1,900. The money for both fees go straight into the state’s general fund.
High fees prevent homeowners from protecting their legal rights
This is an outrage. Charging any filing fees for counterclaims, in my view, is ridiculous. Charging $1,900 to someone who’s in foreclosure – already in financial distress? Every member of the legislature that voted for this provision should be horsewhipped in public, just before being turned out of office. Why? Because few, if any, foreclosure defendants can possibly afford to pay that much to bring a claim that the lender has engaged in fraud or some other illegal conduct. (For that matter, few could afford the old counterclaim fees of $295, imposed last year.) This new filing fee effectively prevents foreclosure defendants from enforcing their legal rights in foreclosure actions if the lender has broken the law.
Homeowners get stuck coming and going
Even the initial filing fee, the one paid by plaintiff, ultimately hurts homeowners because in cases where the foreclosure is not contested, that filing fee as a “cost” that is added to the amount of the lien assessed against the home. If there’s any equity left in the house – not currently common, but once was and someday will be again – that filing fee comes out of the homeowner’s pocket, not the plaintiff’s.
Unfortunately, it looks like we’re stuck with this, although there may be some ways to mitigate or even avoid the impact altogether – such as filing separate actions instead of counterclaims, or perhaps removing cases to federal court where possible. In the meantime, we’ll be left wondering how the legislature is going to screw homeowners next year.
The Florida Foreclosure Fee Schedule
Here’s a copy of the new fee schedule for all court filings. This one is for Putnam County, but it’s the same one that will apply across the state.