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Are there zombies in your neighborhood?

The real estate bubble and the mortgage crisis hit Florida hard. Many borrowers were left with mortgages they could not pay, or that required them to struggle to make their home payments and other bills. This crisis cascaded into thousands of foreclosures being filed as lenders moved to take the property back to satisfy the loans.

But because Florida has judicial foreclosure, which provide greater protection for borrowers, the process can be slow. And the mess created by the real estate bubble, with haphazard paper trails and later robosigning of court documents, meant the proceedings have dragged out in some cases for years.

This has led to the phenomenon that has been dubbed "Zombie Foreclosure." When borrowers abandon a property, the lender may not immediately secure the home, and maintenance problems may develop. Some homes attract squatters or criminal activity, as the grass becomes long and weeds grow in the driveway.

In some cases, the borrowers may have found themselves so far underwater that they decided it made more economic sense to simply walk away, rather than struggle with making loan payments on a property that had fallen sharply in value.

If you find yourself in this position, a bankruptcy can often be used to remove the deficiency balance that remains, and this can allow you to move on with your life. While filing a bankruptcy should be carefully considered, it is not the end of the world. It should be seen as a way to begin the future free of overwhelming debt.

Orlandosentinel.com, "Zombie foreclosures fill Central Florida," Charles Minshew and Mary Shanklin, February 14, 2015

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