In my August post, I discussed two cases. In the Failla case, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the District Court’s opinion that “once the debtor decides to ‘surrender’ secured property… [w]hile the debtor need not physically deliver the property to the secured party, the debtor is precluded from taking any action which would interfere with the secured creditor’s ability to obtain legal title to, and possession of, the property through legal means.” Thereafter, the S.D. Bankruptcy Court held, in the Kurzban case, that “the Eleventh Circuit did not rule that a debtor’s decision to surrender lasted in perpetuity“.
As of October 1, 2018, a new statute which expands on the spirit of both the Failla and Kurzban cases will apply to all foreclosure cases filed on or after October 1, 2018. Specifically, Senate Bill No. 220 was signed into law by Florida Governor Rick Scott this month and will become effective as Section 702.12, Florida Statutes.
Section 702.12 will streamline the foreclosure process for mortgage lenders where bankrupt borrowers have filed an intention to surrender the lender’s property, not withdrawn that intention, and the Bankruptcy Court has entered a final order either granting the bankruptcy debtor(s) a discharge, or confirming a repayment plan that provides for surrender of the property. If these circumstances are present, the statute provides mortgage lenders with a rebuttable presumption that the borrower has waived any defenses to foreclosure. The statute further provides that the court shall take judicial notice of Bankruptcy Court orders upon the request of lender.
While Section 702.12 is a positive new law for mortgage lenders, the advice in my August post, still applies – Do NOT sit on your rights! Section 702.12(3), similar to the ruling in Kurzban, provides that the borrower is not precluded from raising a defense based on the mortgage lender’s action or inaction subsequent to the filing of the bankruptcy document which evidenced the borrower’s intention to surrender the mortgaged property to the mortgage lender.
Heather L. Ries is an attorney with the Financial Restructuring and Bankruptcy Department of the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP. Heather focuses her practice in matters related to bankruptcy, creditors’ rights, commercial workout and foreclosure disputes, and commercial litigation. You can contact Heather at 561-804-4419 or firstname.lastname@example.org.