SOUTHWEST, Fla.-- Floridians who walked away from their homes hoping also to walk away from their debt may still be on the hook for what they owe. Bankruptcy attorneys say they're seeing more and more banks filing for something called a deficiency judgment.
A deficiency judgment comes when the amount the bank sold your property for is less that what you borrowed. The bank files a lawsuit now they want you to pay the difference or the deficiency.
In the state of Florida, creditors like banks have up to five years to file for a deficiency judgment. Now some Floridians who lost their home in foreclosure or by short sale years ago are just now receiving those judgments.
Many of the people now receiving those judgments never received what's called a "written waiver of deficiency judgment" meaning the bank waives its right to the money owed. Attorneys believe now that banks need to raise capital, they're exercising their right to go after homeowners for that money.
Bankruptcy attorneys say if you don't have that waiver and didn't declare bankruptcy and get the debt dismissed, you could still be on the hook for the money.
Bankruptcy Attorney Carmen Dellutri explained to us what that could mean for a former homeowner, "If a creditor had a deficiency judgment against me, they could try to garnish my wages. They could go after bank accounts. they could go after any equity in my vehicles and do what they call a replevin action."
Dellutri told us it doesn't stop there. "They could put a lien on any real estate other than my homestead. So if I had a vacant lot in Cape Coral, they could put a lien on that."
Dellutri says Florida's laws make it very easy for creditors to take action once they have received a ruling from a judge. "It's instantaneous. It is fast. The most likely one is garnishment of the bank accounts. In Florida we have a very simple garnishment statute where a bank account can be garnished rather quickly and you have to fight to get your money out of it."
Bankruptcy attorneys say the banks don't have to file for that judgment right away, so they're seeing people who lost their home as long as two years ago come to their office trying to figure out how to deal with this issue.