Foreclosure & Bankruptcy

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What is Foreclosure? What are Mortgage Liens and how are Mortgages Foreclosed in Florida?

Homeowners threatened with losing their home through a bank foreclosure may benefit from our services. For example, when you buy a home, you usually get a bank loan and agree to repay it with monthly payments. If you fail to make the payments, the bank can start a foreclosure action, which enables them to sell your home to pay off the loan. Foreclosure laws are very detailed and strict about the process the bank must follow. We can explain your options to avoid a foreclosure sale, and help you to decide the best course of action for your situation.

Florida is a lien theory state where the real property acts as security for the underlying loan. The document that places the lien on the property is called a mortgage. In Florida, the lenders go to court in what is known as a judicial foreclosure proceeding where the court must issue a final judgment of foreclosure. The property is then sold as part of a publicly noticed sale. The court with jurisdiction over a foreclosure is known as theCircuit Court. A complaint is filed inCircuit Court along with what is known a lis pendens. A lis pendens is a recorded document that provides public notice that the property is being foreclosed upon. 

Attorney Shanthy Balachanthiran will aggressively defend and litigate all residential and commercial foreclosure actions brought by primary and secondary lenders, condominium and homeowner associations and mechanics liens, and help negotiate and execute mortgage loan modifications and workouts. At Bala Law, wee fight unfair banks and predatory lending practices, while working with you and your family on a number of possible solutions to your financial circumstances including the following:

  • Cancel out the Note and Mortgage
  • Quiet the Title on the subject property
  • Negotiate a loan modification with the bank
  • Give you time to sell your home for a fair price
  • Give you an opportunity to Refinance your home at a fair rate
  • Stay in your home during the entire duration of the foreclosure / loan modification process giving you the chance to save money for modified loan or your next move
  • Help you Negotiate a court-ordered repayment plan
  • File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Protection

For most Florida families, their home is their biggest asset. Contacting an experienced litigation attorney with significant experience in foreclosures and quiet title actions can make all the difference when it comes to the protecting your most valuable asset and the future financial well-being of you and your family. Don’t just walk away from your mortgage! Get a complimentary consultation to evaluate all available options. Call us today at (239) 823-4541 to schedule a foreclosure law appointment. 

Please refer to the FDIC Consumer Resources  website for more information. 

How long does it take to foreclose a property in Florida? Is there a right of redemption in Florida?

Depending on the court schedule, it usually takes approximately 180-200 days to effectuate an uncontested foreclosure. This process may be delayed if the borrower contests the action, seeks delays and adjournments of hearings, or files for bankruptcy. 

Florida has a statutory right of redemption, which allows a party whose property has been foreclosed to reclaim that property by making payment in full of the sum of the unpaid loan plus costs. There is a time limit to undertake such redemption. 

Are deficiency judgments permitted in Florida?

Yes, a deficiency judgment may be obtained when a property in foreclosure is sold at a public sale for less than the loan amount that the underlying mortgage secures. This means that the borrower still owes the lender for the difference between what the property sold for at auction and the amount of the original loan. 

What are your options if you cannot make your house payments?

  • Forbearance: You are allowed to delay payments for a short period, with the understanding that another option will be used afterwards to bring the account current.
  • Reinstatement: When you are behind in your payments but can promise a lump sum to bring payments current by a specific date. 
  • Repayment Plan: If your account is past due, but you can now make payments, the lender may agree to let you catch up by adding a portion of the past due amount to each current monthly payment until your account is current. 
  • Modify Your Mortgage: The lender can modify your mortgage to extend the length of your loan (or take other steps to reduce your payments). One solution is to add the past due amount into your existing loan and finance it over a longer term, or lower your current interest rate for a specified period of time. 
  • Sell Your Home: If catching up on payments is not possible, the lender might agree to put foreclosure on hold to give you some time to attempt to sell your home. 
  • Property Give-Back: The lender can allow you to give back your property – and then forgive the debt. However, give-backs negatively affect your credit record, although not to the same degree as a foreclosure. The lender might require that you attempt to sell the house for a specific time period before agreeing to this option, and it might not be possible if there are other liens against the home.

Foreclosure Avoidance Counseling:  HUD-approved housing counseling is available to provide you with the information and assistance you need to avoid foreclosure.  You may be eligible for a special Making Home Affordable loan modification or refinance, to reduce your monthly payments and help you keep your home.  If you need help understanding the Making Home Affordable programs, you can use this search tool to find a counseling agency in your area that will provide you with free foreclosure prevention services. If you are eligible for the loan modification or refinance program, the counselor will work with you to compile an intake package for your servicer.  Foreclosure prevention counseling services are provided free of charge by nonprofit housing counseling agencies working in partnership with the Federal Government. These agencies are funded, in part, by HUD. There is no need to pay a private company for these services.

Please click on the link to find a list of HUD-approved housing counseling agencies in Florida. https://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/fc/index.cfmwebListAction=search&searchstate=FL&filterSvc=dfc

The laws that govern Florida foreclosures are found in F.S. 702.01 et. seq. Please visit the following website for more information: http://www.leg.state.fl.us 

What is bankruptcy and how does it work?

Bankruptcy helps people who can no longer pay their debts get a fresh start by liquidating assets to pay their debts or by creating a repayment plan. Bankruptcy laws also protect financially troubled businesses. This section explains the bankruptcy process and laws. Filing bankruptcy can help a person by discarding debt or making a plan to repay debts. A bankruptcy case normally begins when the debtor files a petition with the bankruptcy court. A petition may be filed by an individual, by spouses together, or by a corporation or other entity.   All bankruptcy cases are handled in federal courts under rules outlined in the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. There are different types of bankruptcies. The most common types of bankruptcies are as follows:

  • Individuals may file a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, depending on the specifics of their situation.
  • Businesses may file bankruptcy under Chapter 7 to liquidate its assets or Chapter 11 to reorganize.

Seeking the advice of a qualified lawyer is always strongly recommended because bankruptcy has long-term financial and legal consequences. Call us today at (239) 823-4541 for a complimentary bankruptcy consultation. 


What are the different types of bankruptcy?

  • Chapter 7 (Individual): 
    • One of the primary purposes of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is to discharge certain debts to give an honest individual debtor a "fresh start." The debtor has no liability for discharged debts. In a chapter 7 case, however, a discharge is only available to individual debtors, not to partnerships or corporations. 11 U.S.C. § 727(a)(1). Although an individual chapter 7 case usually results in a discharge of debts, the right to a discharge is not absolute, and some types of debts are not discharged. Moreover, a bankruptcy discharge does not extinguish a lien on property.
    • A chapter 7 case begins with the debtor filing a petition with the bankruptcy court serving the area where the individual lives or where the business debtor is organized or has its principal place of business or principal assets. 
      • In addition to the petition, the debtor must also file with the court: (1) schedules of assets and liabilities; (2) a schedule of current income and expenditures; (3) a statement of financial affairs; and (4) a schedule of executory contracts and unexpired leases. Fed. R. Bankr. P. 1007(b). 
      • Debtors must also provide the assigned case trustee with a copy of the tax return or transcripts for the most recent tax year as well as tax returns filed during the case (including tax returns for prior years that had not been filed when the case began). 11 U.S.C. § 521. 
      • Individual debtors with primarily consumer debts have additional document filing requirements. They must file: a certificate of credit counseling and a copy of any debt repayment plan developed through credit counseling; evidence of payment from employers, if any, received 60 days before filing; a statement of monthly net income and any anticipated increase in income or expenses after filing; and a record of any interest the debtor has in federal or state qualified education or tuition accounts. Id. 
      • A husband and wife may file a joint petition or individual petitions. 11 U.S.C. § 302(a). Even if filing jointly, a husband and wife are subject to all the document filing requirements of individual debtors.  
      • The courts charge a $245 case filing fee, a $75 miscellaneous administrative fee, and a $15 trustee surcharge. Normally, the fees must be paid to the clerk of the court upon filing. With the court's permission, however, individual debtors may pay in installments. 28 U.S.C. § 1930(a); Fed. R. Bankr. P. 1006(b); Bankruptcy Court Miscellaneous Fee Schedule, Item 8. 
      • The number of installments is limited to four, and the debtor must make the final installment no later than 120 days after filing the petition. Fed. R. Bankr. P. 1006. 
      • For cause shown, the court may extend the time of any installment, provided that the last installment is paid not later than 180 days after filing the petition. Id. 
      • The debtor may also pay the $75 administrative fee and the $15 trustee surcharge in installments. If a joint petition is filed, only one filing fee, one administrative fee, and one trustee surcharge are charged. Debtors should be aware that failure to pay these fees may result in dismissal of the case. 11 U.S.C. § 707(a).
      • If the debtor's income is less than 150% of the poverty level (as defined in the Bankruptcy Code), and the debtor is unable to pay the chapter 7 fees even in installments, the court may waive the requirement that the fees be paid. 28 U.S.C. § 1930(f).In order to complete the Official Bankruptcy Forms that make up the petition, statement of financial affairs, and schedules, the debtor must provide the following information:  (1) A list of all creditors and the amount and nature of their claims; (2) The source, amount, and frequency of the debtor's income; (3) A list of all of the debtor's property; and (4) A detailed list of the debtor's monthly living expenses, i.e., food, clothing, shelter, utilities, taxes, transportation, medicine, etc.
    • Married individuals must gather this information for their spouse regardless of whether they are filing a joint petition, separate individual petitions, or even if only one spouse is filing. In a situation where only one spouse files, the income and expenses of the non-filing spouse are required so that the court, the trustee and creditors can evaluate the household's financial position. Among the schedules that an individual debtor will file is a schedule of "exempt" property. The Bankruptcy Code allows an individual debtor (4) to protect some property from the claims of creditors because it is exempt under federal bankruptcy law or under the laws of the debtor's home state. 11 U.S.C. § 522(b).    
    • The debtor should consult attorney Shanthy Balachanthiran to determine the exemptions available in Florida. 
    • Filing a petition under chapter 7 "automatically stays" or stops  most collection actions against the debtor or the debtor's property. 11 U.S.C. § 362. But filing the petition does not stay certain types of actions listed under 11 U.S.C. § 362(b), and the stay may be effective only for a short time in some situations. The stay arises by operation of law and requires no judicial action. As long as the stay is in effect, creditors generally may not initiate or continue lawsuits, wage garnishments, or even telephone calls demanding payments. The bankruptcy clerk gives notice of the bankruptcy case to all creditors whose names and addresses are provided by the debtor.
    • Between 21 and 40 days after the petition is filed, the case trustee (described below) will hold a meeting of creditors. During this meeting, the trustee puts the debtor under oath, and both the trustee and creditors may ask questions. The debtor must attend the meeting and answer questions regarding the debtor's financial affairs and property. 11 U.S.C. § 343. 
    • If a husband and wife have filed a joint petition, they both must attend the creditors' meeting and answer questions. Within 10 days of the creditors' meeting, the U.S. trustee will report to the court whether the case should be presumed to be an abuse under the means test described in 11 U.S.C. § 704(b).
    • It is important for the debtor to cooperate with the trustee and to provide any financial records or documents that the trustee requests. The Bankruptcy Code requires the trustee to ask the debtor questions at the meeting of creditors to ensure that the debtor is aware of the potential consequences of seeking a discharge in bankruptcy such as the effect on credit history, the ability to file a petition under a different chapter, the effect of receiving a discharge, and the effect of reaffirming a debt. Some trustees provide written information on these topics at or before the meeting to ensure that the debtor is aware of this information. 
    • In order to preserve their independent judgment, bankruptcy judges are prohibited from attending the meeting of creditors. 11 U.S.C. § 341(c).In order to accord the debtor complete relief, the Bankruptcy Code allows the debtor to convert a chapter 7 case to a case under chapter 11, 12, or 13 (6) as long as the debtor is eligible to be a debtor under the new chapter. However, a condition of the debtor's voluntary conversion is that the case has not previously been converted to chapter 7 from another chapter. 11 U.S.C. § 706(a). Thus, the debtor will not be permitted to convert the case repeatedly from one chapter to another.
    • Please go to the following link for a list of approved credit counseling agencies in Florida: https://www.justice.gov/ust/eo/bapcpa/ccde/CC_Files/CC_Approved_Agencies_HTML/cc_florida/cc_florida.htm
  • Chapter 7 (Business)
    • A chapter 7 bankruptcy case does not involve the filing of a plan of repayment as in chapter 13. Instead, the bankruptcy trustee gathers and sells the debtor's nonexempt assets and uses the proceeds of such assets to pay holders of claims (creditors) in accordance with the provisions of the Bankruptcy Code. Part of the debtor's property may be subject to liens and mortgages that pledge the property to other creditors. In addition, the Bankruptcy Code will allow the debtor to keep certain "exempt" property; but a trustee will liquidate the debtor's remaining assets. Accordingly, potential debtors should realize that the filing of a petition under chapter 7 may result in the loss of property.
    • To qualify for relief under chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code, the debtor may be an individual, a partnership, or a corporation or other business entity. 11 U.S.C. §§ 101(41), 109(b). Subject to the means test described above for individual debtors, relief is available under chapter 7 irrespective of the amount of the debtor's debts or whether the debtor is solvent or insolvent. An individual cannot file under chapter 7 or any other chapter, however, if during the preceding 180 days a prior bankruptcy petition was dismissed due to the debtor's willful failure to appear before the court or comply with orders of the court, or the debtor voluntarily dismissed the previous case after creditors sought relief from the bankruptcy court to recover property upon which they hold liens. 11 U.S.C. §§ 109(g), 362(d) and (e). In addition, no individual may be a debtor under chapter 7 or any chapter of the Bankruptcy Code unless he or she has, within 180 days before filing, received credit counseling from an approved credit counseling agency either in an individual or group briefing. 11 U.S.C. §§ 109, 111. There are exceptions in emergency situations or where the U.S. trustee (or bankruptcy administrator) has determined that there are insufficient approved agencies to provide the required counseling. If a debt management plan is developed during required credit counseling, it must be filed with the court.
    • One of the primary purposes of bankruptcy is to discharge certain debts to give an honest individual debtor a "fresh start." The debtor has no liability for discharged debts. In a chapter 7 case, however, a discharge is only available to individual debtors, not to partnerships or corporations. 11 U.S.C. § 727(a)(1). Although an individual chapter 7 case usually results in a discharge of debts, the right to a discharge is not absolute, and some types of debts are not discharged. Moreover, a bankruptcy discharge does not extinguish a lien on property.
    • A chapter 7 case begins with the debtor filing a petition with the bankruptcy court serving the area where the individual lives or where the business debtor is organized or has its principal place of business or principal assets. (3) In addition to the petition, the debtor must also file with the court: (1) schedules of assets and liabilities; (2) a schedule of current income and expenditures; (3) a statement of financial affairs; and (4) a schedule of executory contracts and unexpired leases. Fed. R. Bankr. P. 1007(b). Debtors must also provide the assigned case trustee with a copy of the tax return or transcripts for the most recent tax year as well as tax returns filed during the case (including tax returns for prior years that had not been filed when the case began). 11 U.S.C. § 521. Individual debtors with primarily consumer debts have additional document filing requirements. They must file: a certificate of credit counseling and a copy of any debt repayment plan developed through credit counseling; evidence of payment from employers, if any, received 60 days before filing; a statement of monthly net income and any anticipated increase in income or expenses after filing; and a record of any interest the debtor has in federal or state qualified education or tuition accounts. Id. A husband and wife may file a joint petition or individual petitions. 11 U.S.C. § 302(a). Even if filing jointly, a husband and wife are subject to all the document filing requirements of individual debtors. 
    • The courts must charge a $245 case filing fee, a $75 miscellaneous administrative fee, and a $15 trustee surcharge. Normally, the fees must be paid to the clerk of the court upon filing. With the court's permission, however, individual debtors may pay in installments. 28 U.S.C. § 1930(a); Fed. R. Bankr. P. 1006(b); Bankruptcy Court Miscellaneous Fee Schedule, Item 8. The number of installments is limited to four, and the debtor must make the final installment no later than 120 days after filing the petition. Fed. R. Bankr. P. 1006. For cause shown, the court may extend the time of any installment, provided that the last installment is paid not later than 180 days after filing the petition. Id. The debtor may also pay the $75 administrative fee and the $15 trustee surcharge in installments. If a joint petition is filed, only one filing fee, one administrative fee, and one trustee surcharge are charged. Debtors should be aware that failure to pay these fees may result in dismissal of the case. 11 U.S.C. § 707(a).
  • Chapter 11:
    • A chapter 11 debtor usually proposes a plan of reorganization to keep its business alive and pay creditors over time. 
    • Chapter 11 is typically used to reorganize a business, which may be a corporation, sole proprietorship, or partnership. A corporation exists separate and apart from its owners, the stockholders. The chapter 11 bankruptcy case of a corporation (corporation as debtor) does not put the personal assets of the stockholders at risk other than the value of their investment in the company's stock. A sole proprietorship (owner as debtor), on the other hand, does not have an identity separate and distinct from its owner(s). Accordingly, a bankruptcy case involving a sole proprietorship includes both the business and personal assets of the owners-debtors. Like a corporation, a partnership exists separate and apart from its partners. In a partnership bankruptcy case (partnership as debtor), however, the partners' personal assets may, in some cases, be used to pay creditors in the bankruptcy case or the partners, themselves, may be forced to file for bankruptcy protection.
    • The debtor (unless a small business debtor) has a 120-day period during which it has an exclusive right to file a plan. 11 U.S.C. § 1121(b). This exclusivity period may be extended or reduced by the court. But in no event may the exclusivity period, including all extensions, be longer than 18 months. 11 U.S.C. § 1121(d). After the exclusivity period has expired, a creditor or the case trustee may file a competing plan. The U.S. trustee may not file a plan. 11 U.S.C. § 307.A chapter 11 case may continue for many years unless the court, the U.S. trustee, the committee, or another party in interest acts to ensure the case's timely resolution. The creditors' right to file a competing plan provides incentive for the debtor to file a plan within the exclusivity period and acts as a check on excessive delay in the case.
    • A chapter 11 case begins with the filing of a petition with the bankruptcy court serving the area where the debtor has a domicile or residence. A petition may be a voluntary petition, which is filed by the debtor, or it may be an involuntary petition, which is filed by creditors that meet certain requirements. 11 U.S.C. §§ 301, 303. A voluntary petition must adhere to the format of Form 1 of the Official Forms prescribed by the Judicial Conference of the United States. Unless the court orders otherwise, the debtor also must file with the court: (1) schedules of assets and liabilities; (2) a schedule of current income and expenditures; (3) a schedule of executory contracts and unexpired leases; and (4) a statement of financial affairs. Fed. R. Bankr. P. 1007(b). If the debtor is an individual (or husband and wife), there are additional document filing requirements. Such debtors must file: a certificate of credit counseling and a copy of any debt repayment plan developed through credit counseling; evidence of payment from employers, if any, received 60 days before filing; a statement of monthly net income and any anticipated increase in income or expenses after filing; and a record of any interest the debtor has in federal or state qualified education or tuition accounts.11 U.S.C. § 521. A husband and wife may file a joint petition or individual petitions. 11 U.S.C. § 302(a). 
    • The courts are required to charge a $1,167 case filing fee and a $550 miscellaneous administrative fee. The fees must be paid to the clerk of the court upon filing or may, with the court's permission, be paid by individual debtors in installments. 28 U.S.C. § 1930(a); Fed. R. Bankr. P. 1006(b); Bankruptcy Court Miscellaneous Fee Schedule, Item 8. Fed. R. Bankr. P. 1006(b) limits to four the number of installments for the filing fee. The final installment must be paid not later than 120 days after filing the petition. For cause shown, the court may extend the time of any installment, provided that the last installment is paid not later than 180 days after the filing of the petition. Fed. R. Bankr. P. 1006(b). The $550 administrative fee may be paid in installments in the same manner as the filing fee. If a joint petition is filed, only one filing fee and one administrative fee are charged. Debtors should be aware that failure to pay these fees may result in dismissal of the case. 11 U.S.C. § 1112(b)(10).
  • Chapter 13: 
    • A chapter 13 bankruptcy is also called a wage earner's plan. It enables individuals with regular income to develop a plan to repay all or part of their debts. Under this chapter, debtors propose a repayment plan to make installments to creditors over three to five years. If the debtor's current monthly income is less than the applicable state median, the plan will be for three years unless the court approves a longer period "for cause." (1) If the debtor's current monthly income is greater than the applicable state median, the plan generally must be for five years. In no case may a plan provide for payments over a period longer than five years. 11 U.S.C. § 1322(d). During this time the law forbids creditors from starting or continuing collection efforts.
    • Chapter 13 offers individuals a number of advantages over liquidation under chapter 7. Perhaps most significantly, chapter 13 offers individuals an opportunity to save their homes from foreclosure. By filing under this chapter, individuals can stop foreclosure proceedings and may cure delinquent mortgage payments over time. Nevertheless, they must still make all mortgage payments that come due during the chapter 13 plan on time. Another advantage of chapter 13 is that it allows individuals to reschedule secured debts (other than a mortgage for their primary residence) and extend them over the life of the chapter 13 plan. Doing this may lower the payments. Chapter 13 also has a special provision that protects third parties who are liable with the debtor on "consumer debts." This provision may protect co-signers. Finally, chapter 13 acts like a consolidation loan under which the individual makes the plan payments to a chapter 13 trustee who then distributes payments to creditors. Individuals will have no direct contact with creditors while under chapter 13 protection.
    • Any individual, even if self-employed or operating an unincorporated business, is eligible for chapter 13 relief as long as the individual's unsecured debts are less than $394,725 and secured debts are less than $1,184,200 (and they have not filed under chapter 13 or any other chapter if, during the preceding 180 days, a prior bankruptcy petition was dismissed due to the debtor's willful failure to appear before the court or comply with orders of the court). 11 U.S.C. § 109(e). These amounts are adjusted periodically to reflect changes in the consumer price index. A corporation or partnership may not be a chapter 13 debtor. Id.
    • A chapter 13 case begins by filing a petition with the bankruptcy court serving the area where the debtor has a domicile or residence. Unless the court orders otherwise, the debtor must also file with the court: (1) schedules of assets and liabilities; (2) a schedule of current income and expenditures; (3) a schedule of executory contracts and unexpired leases; and (4) a statement of financial affairs. Fed. R. Bankr. P. 1007(b). The debtor must also file a certificate of credit counseling and a copy of any debt repayment plan developed through credit counseling; evidence of payment from employers, if any, received 60 days before filing; a statement of monthly net income and any anticipated increase in income or expenses after filing; and a record of any interest the debtor has in federal or state qualified education or tuition accounts. 11 U.S.C. § 521. The debtor must provide the chapter 13 case trustee with a copy of the tax return or transcripts for the most recent tax year as well as tax returns filed during the case (including tax returns for prior years that had not been filed when the case began). Id. A husband and wife may file a joint petition or individual petitions. 11 U.S.C. § 302(a). 
    • The courts must charge a $235 case filing fee and a $75 miscellaneous administrative fee. Normally the fees must be paid to the clerk of the court upon filing. With the court's permission, however, they may be paid in installments. 28 U.S.C. § 1930(a); Fed. R. Bankr. P. 1006(b); Bankruptcy Court Miscellaneous Fee Schedule, Item 8. The number of installments is limited to four, and the debtor must make the final installment no later than 120 days after filing the petition. Fed. R. Bankr. P. 1006(b). For cause shown, the court may extend the time of any installment, as long as the last installment is paid no later than 180 days after filing the petition. Id. The debtor may also pay the $75 administrative fee in installments. If a joint petition is filed, only one filing fee and one administrative fee are charged. Debtors should be aware that failure to pay these fees may result in dismissal of the case. 11 U.S.C. § 1307(c)(2).In order to complete the Official Bankruptcy Forms that make up the petition, statement of financial affairs, and schedules, the debtor must compile the following information:
      1. A list of all creditors and the amounts and nature of their claims;
      2. The source, amount, and frequency of the debtor's income;
      3. A list of all of the debtor's property; and
      4. A detailed list of the debtor's monthly living expenses, i.e., food, clothing, shelter, utilities, taxes, transportation, medicine, etc.