Q. Can you elaborate on the foreclosure process and give an update on foreclosure activity in Franklin County?



A. When a person stops making payments on their mortgage note, their lender will send out a notice of default, and a certain period of time must pass before the lender can further pursue foreclosure. The notice of default lets the person know how much money is owed. If the person does not become current with the mortgage payments, including fees and interest, the lender will eventually file a paper in my office called a lis pendens, which acts as notification the lender intends to sue.



The borrower can respond and try to reach an agreement with the lender. If an agreement cannot be reached or the borrower ignores the lis pendens, the case will go to court. Eventually, if nothing can be mitigated or agreed upon in the court, the judge may enter a judgment setting a date for a foreclosure sale. At the point a judgment is entered by the court setting a sale date, the lender has to publish a notice in the paper. I assume you have seen many of these notices in the local paper over the past few years.



The clerk’s office is responsible for handling the foreclosure sales. On the clerk’s website, www.franklinclerk.com, you can go to quick links and click on foreclosure sales to see a list of cases set for sale. That list contains the names of the parties and amount of the judgment, and provides a link to the official records so you can look up a legal description of the property. The files are also available for public inspection in my office.



Anyone interested in bidding at the sale must do their own research. The order reflects a legal description of the property being foreclosed. With this description, you can find street address information at the property appraiser’s office or by visiting http://qpublic.net/franklin. The property tax information can be found at the tax collector’s office or by visiting http://franklincountytaxcollector.com. The clerk’s office assumes no responsibility for any encumbrances (judgments, mortgages, taxes, and other liens) on any property offered for sale. It is in your best interest to have a title search done by an attorney or a title company.



If you wish to bid on a foreclosed property, you must appear in person at our sale. The successful bidder is required to immediately deposit 5 percent of their final bid, unless the judgment states otherwise. This is a non-refundable deposit. The balance of the bid, documentary stamp tax (.70 per $100), Clerk’s fee for holding the sale ($70) and the Registry of Court fee (3 percent for the first $500, and 1.5 percent for each subsequent $100, of the total bid amount) must be paid by 11 a.m. the next business day unless the judgment states otherwise.



A certificate of sale is issued by the clerk provided all proceeds are paid in full. A certificate of title is issued by the clerk on the 11th day after the sale. The borrower has 10 days to object, and if objections are filed, the judge will rule as to the issuance of the certificate of title. We recently held a sale in which the lender failed to appear, and someone else bid an amount that was less than what the lender would have bid. In that case, an objection was filed, and the court has set a hearing on the matter. The clerk had no discretion in that sale and simply followed the lawful sale procedure. The clerk ‘s office cannot give legal advice. The court will have to rule on the objection.



As of the date of this article being prepared, the clerk’s office has filed 102 foreclosure cases in the first seven months of this calendar year, 2013. Many foreclosure cases from prior years are still active, which contributes to a high workload. In calendar year 2012, 180 foreclosure cases were filed. With five months left in this year, we could easily file a comparable number of cases. When I took office in 2005, I believe there were only 21 foreclosures filed that entire year, so you can imagine the increased workload my staff has dealt with and successfully handled.



If you have any questions or comments about this column, please forward them to: Marcia Johnson, Clerk of the Court, 33 Market Street, Ste. 203, Apalachicola, Florida, 32320 or by email to: mmjohnson@franklinclerk.com. Visit the Clerk’s website at www.franklinclerk.com.