Florida's share of the nation's foreclosure crisis increased during the fourth quarter of last year compared with the same time in 2010 as other hard-hit states, such as California, shed some of their housing burden.
According to a report last week by the Mortgage Bankers Association, Florida carried 24.2 percent of the foreclosures nationwide, up a percentage point from the end of 2010, while California's foreclosure share dropped nearly 3 percentage points to 10.2 percent.
Economists from the Washington-based group attribute Florida's stubbornly high foreclosure inventory to its judicial foreclosure procedure, which requires a judge's approval for all cases. California is one of 29 states where repossessing a person's home does not have to go through the courts.
About 14 percent of Florida home loans are in foreclosure, by far the highest in the nation. New Jersey comes in second at 8.2 percent. Of the 16 states with the highest percentages of foreclosures, all but Nevada require a judicial proceeding.
The fight to streamline Florida's foreclosure system and more quickly clear its backlog of an estimated 368,000 cases is raging in Tallahassee, where homeowner advocates have rallied against a bill they fear will reduce homeowner rights.
The proposal would reduce the bank's deadline to seek a deficiency judgment from five years to two years. It is scheduled to be heard this week in the House Judiciary Committee before going to the full floor for a vote.
The Mortgage Bankers Association report did have some good news for Florida. The percentage of homeowners who had missed at least one mortgage payment but were not yet in foreclosure was at 8.63 at the end of the fourth quarter, down slightly from 8.97 during the previous quarter.
Florida's peak delinquency rate was 12.66 percent in 2009.
Nationally, the mortgage delinquency rate is 7.6 percent. That's down from 8.2 percent from the same time last year and from a peak of 10 percent in early 2010. The long-term pre-recession average delinquency rate was about 5 percent.
"The improvements we've seen are clearly tied to the improvements in the economy," said Jay Brinkman, chief economist for the association. "If anything, the delinquencies are improving faster than we are seeing the job market improve."