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Foreclosure rate is still high in Tampa Bay

Times have been tough for homeowners in Florida for several years now, and they don't appear to be improving just yet. Florida has been at the top of the nation's foreclosure list for six months in a row, and Tampa Bay has been one of the areas hit the hardest. While foreclosures in the rest of the country dropped by around 25 percent last month from where they were in February last year, foreclosure activity continues to rise in Tampa Bay.

The internet data firm RealtyTrac says Tampa Bay had the 4th-highest foreclosure rate last month. Foreclosure activities, including auctions, repossessions, and over 5,000 notices of mortgage default, rose 23 percent over February of last year. RealtyTrac says a great number of these can be a result of old defaults still lagging in the courts from years ago, as well as the banks' "robo-signing" scandal.

Some financial experts are saying the way for Florida to begin recovering from the mortgage crisis is to clear out the backlog of foreclosures. With the average foreclosure in Florida lasting two years, abandoned homes are pulling down the prices of other homes in their neighborhoods. A proposed bill would fast-track home repossessions in certain cases and get things moving again in foreclosure court.

However, many consumer advocates claim that rushing foreclosures through the courts don't give homeowners with financial problems enough time to prepare a defense. Homeowners wishing to stop foreclosure may need to explore additional options, such as consulting with a bankruptcy attorney.

Source: Tampa Bay Times, "Tampa Bay posts nation's fourth-highest foreclosure rate in February," Drew Harwell, Mar. 13, 2013

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