Florida Appellate Court Rulings Could Resurrect Thousands of Dismissed Foreclosure Cases

On February 14, the Herald-Tribune published an article titled Rulings could breathe new life into dead foreclosure cases.

Rulings could breathe new life into dead foreclosure cases

It took seven years for Florida’s court systems to erase a backlog of nearly half a million home defaults left over from the Great Recession.

But just as that logjam is clearing, a pair of recent appellate court rulings could bring thousands of seemingly dead foreclosure cases back to life, all at a time when court systems are losing state funding to process them.

If upheld, the decisions could resurrect dismissed foreclosures dating back nearly a decade, potentially swamping court systems with yet another pool of default filings.

For unsuspecting homeowners, the ruling by the 5th District Court of Appeals in Daytona Beach, and another by the state’s 3rd District appellate court, could ultimately prompt evictions — sometimes years after cases were thought to have been decided.

Attorneys fear the decisions could strip borrowers of their primary defense in foreclosures — and perhaps change how defaults are fought in Florida.

But the cases could have widespread repercussions for banks, too.

Unless the decisions are reversed by the Florida Supreme Court, federally insured banks will lose their ability to go after the collateral — the homes — tied to hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of delinquent loans. Experts say that could create a possible drag on the financial system in Florida and beyond.

The rulings also come as circuit courts throughout Florida are dismantling foreclosure task forces that had tackled recession-era backlogs, delegating the cases to traditional civil dockets and lengthening the foreclosure process.

“This is the biggest battle of this whole foreclosure mess yet because of the consequences to the court system,” said Matt Weidner, an area foreclosure defense attorney.

“It is the most catastrophic thing that could happen.”

Foreclosure lawsuits carry a five-year statute of limitations, a deadline designed to force repossessing banks to push cases forward in a timely manner.

Even so, mortgage foreclosures in Florida take an average of 944 days to complete once initiated — one of the longest foreclosure timelines in the nation, court records show.

Typically, the five-year period begins when a bank petitions a court to accelerate a delinquent mortgage note after borrowers miss several payments.

In mortgage contracts, lenders can demand remaining loan balances when borrowers fail to make payments, “accelerating” the repayment time period.

But with the 5th District appellate decision in U.S. Bank v. Bartram, the court stated that every time a foreclosure case is voluntarily dismissed by a bank, its acceleration clause is withdrawn — meaning the start of the statute of limitations never begins.

The ruling also stated that the statute of limitations resets for every missed borrower payment, which, in turn, constitutes a new contract breach.

As a result, lenders that already have lost foreclosure cases could refile them, said Peter Ticktin, a prominent South Florida foreclosure attorney.

“The law is in a state of flux right now — nobody knows what’s going on,” Ticktin said. “What this law is basically saying here is: ‘Flip a coin. Heads, the bank wins. Tails, the homeowner loses.’ ”

The 5th District’s decision has been somewhat contradicted by a ruling in the 3rd District appeals court, in a case titled Deutsche Bank v. Beauvais.

As a result, the Florida Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments on the merits of the cases this summer.

If the state’s highest court sides with the 5th District, some attorneys fear it will hinder homeowners’ ability to fight foreclosures. The statute of limitations is often borrowers’ primary defense.

The five-year window also became a primary consumer protection tool during the late-2000s financial crisis, when bank fraud was rampant and mortgages and foreclosures were executed using shoddy paperwork.

As a result, banks were often forced to dismiss foreclosure cases they had filed because of paperwork mistakes, missing documents or fraudulent signatures.

This became known as the “robo-signing” scandal.

But if statute-of-limitations rules are revised, lenders could file new foreclosure suits in many of those botched cases, experts say.

It is hard to determine just how many such cases could find their way back to courthouses. Of the 7,025 cases resolved in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court — which covers Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties — since July 2013, about 57 percent were disposed of by a judge or jury ruling, according to the Florida courts administrator.

The remaining 3,044 local foreclosures, though, could potentially have the statute of limitations reset.

“It’s going to have a hard impact on the poor homeowners, who thought they were in the clear, and now this thing rears its ugly head again,” said Scott Petersen, a Sarasota-based real estate attorney who has studied the respective appellate court decisions closely.

The possible changes come as local court systems throughout the state have significantly reduced foreclosure backlogs, prompting state lawmakers to disband many special task forces comprising retired judges and special magistrates and created to clear logjams.

In the 12th Circuit, the seven specialists that make up the region’s task force are to be let go by July 1. When that occurs, nearly 6,000 area foreclosures that are pending will be pushed back into traditional civil courtrooms.

“I guess they declared victory, and now they view it as a mop-up effort,” said 12th Circuit Judge Lee Haworth, who helped spearhead the foreclosure reduction initiative in Florida. “This will put a lot of pressure on our civil judges.”

Haworth said he worries the rulings could further strain court systems at a time when they can least afford that added strain.

“It gives the banks another shot at foreclosure,” Haworth said. “This will open a whole lot of litigation.”

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About Safeguard 
Safeguard Properties is the mortgage field services industry leader, preserving vacant and foreclosed properties across the U.S., Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands and Guam. Founded in 1990 by Robert Klein and headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, Safeguard provides the highest quality service to our clients by leveraging innovative technologies and proactively developing industry best practices and quality control procedures. Consistent with Safeguard’s values and mission, we are an active supporter of hundreds of charitable efforts across the country. Annually, Safeguard gives back to communities in partnership with our employees, vendors and clients. We also are dedicated to working with community leaders and officials to eliminate blight and stabilize neighborhoods. Safeguard is dedicated to preserving today and protecting tomorrow.  Website: www.safeguardproperties.com.



Alan Jaffa

Alan Jaffa is the chief executive officer for Safeguard, steering the company as the mortgage field services industry leader. He also serves on the board of advisors for SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Alan joined Safeguard in 1995, learning the business from the ground up. He was promoted to chief operating officer in 2002, and was named CEO in May 2010. His hands-on experience has given him unique insights as a leader to innovate, improve and strengthen Safeguard’s processes to assure that the company adheres to the highest standards of quality and customer service.

Under Alan’s leadership, Safeguard has grown significantly with strategies that have included new and expanded services, technology investments that deliver higher quality and greater efficiency to clients, and strategic acquisitions. He takes a team approach to process improvement, involving staff at all levels of the organization to address issues, brainstorm solutions, and identify new and better ways to serve clients.

In 2008, Alan was recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business in its annual “40-Under-40” profile of young leaders. He also was named a NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® finalist in 2013.


Chief Operating Officer

Michael Greenbaum

Michael Greenbaum is the chief operating officer for Safeguard. Mike has been instrumental in aligning operations to become more efficient, effective, and compliant with our ever-changing industry requirements. Mike has a proven track record of excellence, partnership and collaboration at Safeguard. Under Mike’s leadership, all operational departments of Safeguard have reviewed, updated and enhanced their business processes to maximize efficiency and improve quality control.

Mike joined Safeguard in July 2010 as vice president of REO and has continued to take on additional duties and responsibilities within the organization, including the role of vice president of operations in 2013 and then COO in 2015.

Mike built his business career in supply-chain management, operations, finance and marketing. He has held senior management and executive positions with Erico, a manufacturing company in Solon, Ohio; Accel, Inc., a packaging company in Lewis Center, Ohio; and McMaster-Carr, an industrial supply company in Aurora, Ohio.

Before entering the business world, Mike served in the U.S. Army, Ordinance Branch, and specialized in supply chain management. He is a distinguished graduate of West Point (U.S. Military Academy), where he majored in quantitative economics.



Sean Reddington

Sean Reddington is the new Chief Information Officer for Safeguard Properties LLC. Sean has over 15+ years of experience in Information Services Management with a strong focus on Product and Application Management. Sean is responsible for Safeguard’s technological direction, including planning, implementation and maintaining all operational systems

Sean has a proven record of accomplishment for increasing operational efficiencies, improving customer service levels, and implementing and maintaining IT initiatives to support successful business processes.  He has provided the vision and dedicated leadership for key technologies for Fortune 100 companies, and nationally recognized consulting firms including enterprise system architecture, security, desktop and database management systems. Sean possesses strong functional and system knowledge of information security, systems and software, contracts management, budgeting, human resources and legal and related regulatory compliance.

Sean joined Safeguard Properties LLC from RenPSG Inc. which is a nationally leading Philintropic Software Platform in the Fintech space. He oversaw the organization’s technological direction including planning, implementing and maintaining the best practices that align with all corporate functions. He also provided day-to-day technology operations, enterprise security, information risk and vulnerability management, audit and compliance, security awareness and training.

Prior to RenPSG, Sean worked for DMI Consulting as a Client Success Director where he guided the delivery in a multibillion-dollar Fortune 500 enterprise client account. He was responsible for all project deliveries in terms of quality, budget and timeliness and led the team to coordinate development and definition of project scope and limitations. Sean also worked for KPMG Consulting in their Microsoft Practice and Technicolor’s Ebusiness Division where he had responsibility for application development, maintenance, and support.

Sean is a graduate of Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts and received his Masters in International Business from Central Michigan University. He was also a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force prior to his career in the business world.


General Counsel and Executive Vice President

Linda Erkkila, Esq.

Linda Erkkila is the general counsel and executive vice president for Safeguard and oversees the legal, human resources, training, and compliance departments. Linda’s responsibilities cover regulatory issues that impact Safeguard’s operations, risk mitigation, enterprise strategic planning, human resources and training initiatives, compliance, litigation and claims management, and mergers, acquisition and joint ventures.

Linda assures that Safeguard’s strategic initiatives align with its resources, leverage opportunities across the company, and contemplate compliance mandates. Her practice spans over 20 years, and Linda’s experience covers regulatory disclosure, corporate governance compliance, risk assessment, executive compensation, litigation management, and merger and acquisition activity. Her experience at a former Fortune 500 financial institution during the subprime crisis helped develop Linda’s pro-active approach to change management during periods of heightened regulatory scrutiny.

Linda previously served as vice president and attorney for National City Corporation, as securities and corporate governance counsel for Agilysys Inc., and as an associate at Thompson Hine LLP. She earned her JD at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Linda holds a degree in economics from Miami University and an MBA. In 2017, Linda was named as both a “Woman of Influence” by HousingWire and as a “Leading Lady” by MReport.


Chief Financial Officer

Joe Iafigliola

Joe Iafigliola is the Chief Financial Officer for Safeguard. Joe is responsible for the Control, Quality Assurance, Business Development, Accounting & Information Security departments, and is a Managing Director of SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Joe has been in a wide variety of roles in finance, supply chain management, information systems development, and sales and marketing. His career includes senior positions with McMaster-Carr Supply Company, Newell/Rubbermaid, and Procter and Gamble.

Joe has an MBA from The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), and holds a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University’s Honors Accounting program.


AVP, High Risk and Investor Compliance

Steve Meyer

Steve Meyer is the assistant vice president of high risk and investor compliance for Safeguard. In this role, Steve is responsible for managing our clients’ conveyance processes, Safeguard’s investor compliance team and developing our working relationships with cities and municipalities around the country. He also works directly with our clients in our many outreach efforts and he represents Safeguard at a number of industry conferences each year.

Steve joined Safeguard in 1998 as manager over the hazard claims team. He was instrumental in the development and creation of policies, procedures and operating protocol. Under Steve’s leadership, the department became one of the largest within Safeguard. In 2002, he assumed responsibility for the newly-formed high risk department, once again building its success. Steve was promoted to director over these two areas in 2007, and he was promoted to assistant vice president in 2012.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve spent 10 years within the insurance industry, holding a number of positions including multi-line property adjuster, branch claims supervisor, and multi-line and subrogation/litigation supervisor. Steve is a graduate of Grove City College.


AVP, Operations

Jennifer Jozity

Jennifer Jozity is the assistant vice president of operations, overseeing inspections, REO and property preservation for Safeguard. Jen ensures quality work is performed in the field and internally, to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations. Jen has demonstrated the ability to deliver consistent results in order audit and order management.  She will build upon these strengths in order to deliver this level of excellence in both REO and property preservation operations.

Jen joined Safeguard in 1997 and was promoted to director of inspections operations in 2009 and assistant vice president of inspections operations in 2012.

She graduated from Cleveland State University with a degree in business.


AVP, Finance

Jennifer Anspach

Jennifer Anspach is the assistant vice president of finance for Safeguard. She is responsible for the company’s national workforce of approximately 1,000 employees. She manages recruitment strategies, employee relations, training, personnel policies, retention, payroll and benefits programs. Additionally, Jennifer has oversight of the accounts receivable and loss functions formerly within the accounting department.

Jennifer joined the company in April 2009 as a manager of accounting and finance and a year later was promoted to director. She was named AVP of human capital in 2014. Prior to joining Safeguard, she held several management positions at OfficeMax and InkStop in both operations and finance.

Jennifer is a graduate of Youngstown State University. She was named a Crain’s Cleveland Business Archer Award finalist for HR Executive of the Year in 2017.


AVP, Application Architecture

Rick Moran

Rick Moran is the assistant vice president of application architecture for Safeguard. Rick is responsible for evolving the Safeguard IT systems. He leads the design of Safeguard’s enterprise application architecture. This includes Safeguard’s real-time integration with other systems, vendors and clients; the future upgrade roadmap for systems; and standards designed to meet availability, security, performance and goals.

Rick has been with Safeguard since 2011. During that time, he has led the system upgrades necessary to support Safeguard’s growth. In addition, Rick’s team has designed and implemented several innovative systems.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Rick was director of enterprise architecture at Revol Wireless, a privately held CDMA Wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana, and operated his own consulting firm providing services to the manufacturing, telecommunications, and energy sectors.


AVP, Technology Infrastructure and Cloud Services

Steve Machovina

Steve Machovina is the assistant vice president of technology infrastructure and cloud services for Safeguard. He is responsible for the overall management and design of Safeguard’s hybrid cloud infrastructure. He manages all technology engineering staff who support data centers, telecommunications, network, servers, storage, service monitoring, and disaster recovery.

Steve joined Safeguard in November 2013 as director of information technology operations.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was vice president of information technology at Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana. He also held management positions with Northcoast PCS and Corecomm Communications, and spent nine years as a Coast Guard officer and pilot.

Steve holds a BBA in management information systems from Kent State University in Ohio and an MBA from Wayne State University in Michigan.


Assistant Vice president of Application Development

Steve Goberish

Steve Goberish, is the assistant vice president of application development for Safeguard. He is responsible for the maintenance and evolution of Safeguard’s vendor systems ensuring high-availability, security and scalability while advancing the vendor products’ capabilities and enhancing the vendor experience.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was a senior technical architect and development manager at First American Title Insurance, a publicly held title insurance provider based in southern California, in addition to managing and developing applications in multiple sectors from insurance to VOIP.

Steve has a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University in Ohio.