January 4, 2013
by Roger D. Bear
Florida Foreclosure Attorneys, PLLC – USFN Member (Florida)
Last year the Florida legislature enacted some changes to Florida Statute 701.04 relating to estoppel letters on mortgage loans. The changes became effective on January 1, 2013.
Under the old law, mortgagors could request and receive from the mortgagee, within 14 days, an estoppel letter about their loan. Generally, only the mortgagor was able to receive this information from the mortgagee. Due to the privacy requirements of the federal Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, some mortgagees refused to provide estoppel letters to anyone other than the mortgagor.
However, persons other than the mortgagor may have a legitimate interest in knowing the loan information. These other parties include an heir or devisee through probate, a surviving spouse who was not on the note, or a junior lienholder that has foreclosed on the property against the mortgagor.
The revised law (http://laws.flrules.org/2012/49) now allows an estoppel letter to be requested by: (1) the mortgagor; (2) a record title owner of the property; (3) a fiduciary or trustee lawfully acting on behalf of a record title owner; or (4) any other person lawfully authorized to act on behalf of a mortgagor or record title owner of the property.
As under the old law, the mortgagee is required to provide the estoppel letter within 14 days after receipt of a written request.
If the request is made by anyone other than the mortgagor, they must provide a copy of the instrument proving title in the property ownership interest or lawful authorization.
If the requestor is not the mortgagor, the estoppel letter does not have to contain an itemization of the unpaid balance of the loan secured by the mortgage, but it must include a per-day amount for the unpaid balance.
The new law provides that the mortgagee or servicer of the mortgagee, acting pursuant to the request, is not liable to any person because of the release of the requested information, other than the obligation to comply with the terms of the estoppel letter. A mortgagee is authorized to provide the information required under this law to a person authorized to request the financial information notwithstanding laws that would otherwise prohibit the disclosure of the information.
As a result of this change in the law, it will allow a record title owner of a property, a fiduciary or trustee lawfully acting on behalf of a record title owner, or any other person lawfully authorized to act on behalf of a mortgagor or record title owner of the property access to information in order to pay off a mortgage.
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