As state lawmakers in Columbus prepared to debate a proposed six-month housing foreclosure moratorium yesterday, Keith Sadler was arrested and carried out of the Lucas County Courthouse for disrupting a sheriff s sale of foreclosed homes.
Mr. Sadler s home wasn t up for auction, but the member of the Toledo Foreclosure Defense League blew a whistle to stop the sale and told officials they were involved in legalized robbery.
In Lucas County, foreclosures jumped 20 percent through April 30 from a year earlier, Bernie Quilter, court clerk, said.
There were 1,680 filings in the first four months of 2009 compared to 1,399 at the same time last year.
We haven t had any slow- down, Mr. Quilter said.
If the pace continues, it will be the biggest increase since the foreclosure crisis began locally in 2006, when foreclosure filings soared by a third to 3,285. Foreclosures have increased consistently, rising 6 percent in 2007 and 17 percent in 2008.
Foreclosures now account for 55 percent of all noncriminal lawsuits filed in Lucas County, up from 41 percent four years ago.
Such filings are on track to top 5,000 for the first time in Lucas County, Mr. Quilter said.
With little Republican support, the Ohio House late yesterday voted to enact a six-month time-out for Ohio homeowners facing foreclosure at an accelerating pace.
But that clock has a long way to go before it begins to tick. The law would not take effect until Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland affixes his signature, and it has to get past the GOP-controlled Senate.
We ve had 13 straight years of increases in foreclosures, the most we ve had in state history, Rep. Mike Foley (D., Cleveland), one of the bill s primary sponsors, said. There were 85,000 foreclosure filings last year. It looks like the numbers are going to be even greater in 2009 than in 2008.
The foreclosure moratorium bill, which passed 54-43, would halt most residential mortgage foreclosure proceedings for six months and impose a $750 fee on lenders for new court filings on top of existing court fees to fund a statewide database and fuel programs to prevent or mediate foreclosures.
Property owners would have to make at least half their normal monthly mortgage payments during the moratorium. Failure of owners to live up to their end of the bargain would open the door for banks and other lenders to ask the courts to restart foreclosure proceedings.
Credit unions and small banks with less than $2.5 billion in assets would be exempt from the moratorium.
House Republicans argued that the moratorium unconstitutionally infringes on the terms of existing mortgage contracts and overreaches at a time when many courts are making progress through mediation that ultimately leads to agreements that keep owners in their homes.
They argued that the court-filing fee and a new $1,000 annual registration fee for mortgage servicers would be passed on to home-owners who do pay their loans on time.
Over 92 percent of Americans are current in their mortgages, Rep. Bill Coley (R., West Chester) said. Over 98 percent of Americans are not in foreclosure. I m asking you to remember the vast majority of people in this state who are not in foreclosure and are not delinquent in their loans.
The moratorium would not apply to foreclosures initiated on vacant homes. A controversial provision that would have allowed judges to modify the terms of existing mortgage contracts was struck from the bill before it reached the House floor.
It remains to be seen whether the Senate will address the bill before it recesses as expected by June 30 for the summer. Opponents argue that a fall vote with the mandatory 90-day waiting period for the law to take effect would mean a moratorium may not be in place until 2010 at the earliest.
Rep. Peter Ujvagi (D., Toledo) argued that foreclosures have hit his city district hard and will become a cancer that only will spread if not treated now.
The moratorium only goes into place if the borrower begins to pay half of the amount of the mortgage and continues to pay half the mortgage, he said. There will be many instances where foreclosures are going to proceed. This is not just some socialistic, communistic, anti-free-enterprise approach. It s a reasonable approach to address an issue.
Mr. Sadler was charged with disorderly conduct and released last night from the Lucas County jail on $1,100 bond. His initial court appearance is scheduled for 9 a.m. today.
He told The Blade he is on disability and had just received a foreclosure notice for his Stony Ridge house in Wood County s Troy Township. He chose to protest in Lucas County because it has more foreclosures than his home county, he said.
He was one of two protesters who showed up at the 10 a.m. sale. The other protester fled during Mr. Sadler s arrest after declining to give his name to a reporter.
Late yesterday afternoon, 20 members of the anti-foreclosure group demonstrated in front of the jail, calling for Mr. Sadler s release, the resignation of Sheriff James Telb, and an end to home foreclosures and bank bailouts.
Spokesman Nic Botek described the group s political orientation as radical-anarchist.
Staff writers Gary T. Pakulski, Carl Ryan, and Mike Sigov contributed to this report.