Locke Lord QuickStudy: Restrictions on Residential Foreclosure Activities and Court Proceedings Due to COVID-19

Locke Lord LLP
June 3, 2020

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has extended Florida’s residential foreclosure moratorium for a second time; this time until July 1, 2020.  Executive Order 20-137 was issued on June 1, 2020 and officially extends Executive Order 20-94 which immediately halted the filing of new residential foreclosure actions in all Florida state courts.  Florida courts also remain in “Phase 1” of the state’s gradual plans to return to pre-pandemic functions and remote operations and hearings are being utilized throughout Florida’s courts.

Previously, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Canady issued Administrative Order AO20-23 on May 21, 2020.  The administrative order directed the chief judges in all 20 of Florida’s circuits to design a plan to begin a systematic return to in-person court proceedings.

Currently, courts across the state are in “Phase 1” of four defined phases. “Phase 4” culminates with a full return to normal court operations.  Phase 1 suspended all jury trials and limited in-person hearings to only essential court hearings.  The majority of court hearings, including foreclosure matters, are considered “non-essential” and are being held using electronic methods such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams.  Some courts, however, are not holding foreclosure hearings at all or are refraining from entering foreclosure orders during Governor DeSantis’ foreclosure moratorium.

“Phase 2” will expand the types of hearings that can be held in-person, while using protective face coverings and practicing social distancing.  The chief judges across the state must provide an operational plan to the Florida Supreme Court before moving into Phase 2.  There is no timeline for the move to Phase 2.  

In Palm Beach County, for example, Chief Judge Marx has developed a plan for Phase 2, but will remain in Phase One until there are no confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 in a court facility within a 14-day period, all local or state restrictive stay-at-home orders have been rescinded, there is evidence of improving COVID-19 health conditions over a 14-day period, an increase in the availability of COVID-19 tests, and emerging antibody testing.

In Broward County, Administrative Order 2020-44-Temp entered May 28, 2020 states that the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit will continue operations via remote technological means through July 2.  And, except as may be authorized by Chief Judge Tuter, no in-person hearings will take place during this time.  Broward County also continues to cancel all residential foreclosure trials.

Remote operations and hearings can be expected in all Florida courts for the foreseeable future, especially in foreclosure actions and other non-essential proceedings.  Between remote proceedings and the Governor’s moratorium, lenders and loan servicers can expect delays through at least the end of June for all residential foreclosure proceedings.

Organizations that plan for their recovery and are rebuilding for the future will be better positioned for a post-pandemic world. Please visit our Adapt. Adjust. Advance. Resource Center often for up-to-date information on navigating these and other important legal considerations in the postpandemic reality.