Report says Long Island foreclosure rates rise in March

A state foreclosure relief van stops in Freeport A state foreclosure relief van stops in Freeport earlier this month to provide advice to distressed homeowners. According to a new report nearly 6.7 percent of Long Island homes were in foreclosure in March. (May 18, 2012) Photo Credit: Uli Seit

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Long Island foreclosure rates rose in March compared to the same period last year, according to a report released Tuesday.

In Nassau and Suffolk counties, nearly 6.7 percent of homes with outstanding mortgage loans were in foreclosure, an increase of almost 1 percentage point compared with March 2011, data provider CoreLogic reported.

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    Suffolk County's 7.5 percent foreclosure rate is the second-highest in the state, and Nassau County ranks 11th, with a rate of 5.6 percent.

    Local real estate brokers and attorneys said they believe foreclosure filings will rise further.

    "The process is moving forward, and I think that's a good thing," said Barry Smolowitz, founder of the Suffolk County Pro Bono Foreclosure Settlement Project, which provides free legal assistance to distressed borrowers. "The process moving forward means that the bank and the homeowner will find a resolution. . . . At least it's not stagnant while interest and fees keep accruing."

    The nation's five largest mortgage lenders announced a $25-billion settlement with the federal government and 49 state attorneys general in February, after the lenders were accused of foreclosing without proper documentation. The agreement was expected to clear the way for more foreclosures.

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    The troubles of a major law firm representing lenders also seemed to cause a temporary lull, said David Schwartzberg, foreclosure counsel for Huntington-based Advantage Title.

    The Steven J. Baum P.C. law firm reached a settlement with New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman this year, agreeing to pay $4 million to resolve allegations that it brought improper foreclosure actions, according to the attorney general. The Baum firm ended most of its operations late last year.

    The cases handled by Baum's firm have been redistributed to other attorneys, and lenders seemed to delay new filings to let the new attorneys catch up, Schwartzberg said. However, the lenders now seem to be filing new actions, he said.

    "I've seen an uptick since around April," Schwartzberg said. "We've been busier on my end, which means the lenders are now getting files out again."

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