First, a little background on the origin of Bartram v. US Bank. This began in 2006, when a foreclosure suit was initiated against Lewis Bartram. It was alleged by US Bank that he stopped making payments on a $650,000 mortgage in the aftermath of a divorce. In 2011, the former Mrs. Bartram initiated her own suit – this one to foreclose on her mortgage, and naming the bank, her former husband, and the homeowners’ association as the defendants. Shortly thereafter the foreclosure suit initiated against Lewis Bartram was dismissed when the bank failed to show up at a case management conference. The bank at the time did not appeal the dismissal.
Mr. Bartram filed a claim against the bank seeking a declaratory judgement against the foreclosure action initiated by his ex-wife, claiming that the statute of limitations had expired on the original default and that US Bank could not bring another action. Mr. Bartram argued that the clock began ticking on the five year statute of limitations regarding foreclosure as laid out in 95.11(2)(c) when he defaulted in January of 2006 – the point at which he was in default and the bank accelerated the loan.
The statute breaks down to this:
95.11 Limitations other than for the recovery of real property.—Actions other than for recovery of real property shall be commenced as follows:
(2) WITHIN FIVE YEARS.—
(c) An action to foreclose a mortgage.
That seems simple, right? However, the law can be a tricky beast, and sometimes the more simply a statute is worded, the more trouble it will cause. The trial court sided with Mr. Bartram, but that was reversed by the Fifth District Court of Appeal and sent it to the Florida Supreme Court with a certified question as to whether the acceleration of the loan starts the clock on the five year statute of limitations. The court rendered the opinion that the bank can file multiple foreclosure actions in succession, had them dismissed, only to refile at a later time.
However, the key in this case is not the date of the initial default, it is the continuation of the defaults as noted and cited in the court’s conclusion. The court concludes that the bank has the right to a separate foreclosure action if Mr. Bartram continued to default of his payments within the previous five years. The dismissal of the previous action gave Mr. Bartram the opportunity to make payments, which he did not do. In essence, each default acts as a reset button for the statute of limitations as they had previously in Singleton v. Greymar Associates twelve years ago.
If you are currently a Florida homeowners in foreclosure action and have had previous dismissals or have a zombie foreclosure on your hands, it would be in your best interests to set up a free initial consultation at our Fort Lauderdale or West Palm Beach. We’ll sit down, review your situation and the impact of the ruling, and offer our best advice.
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