ELYRIA – The foreclosure crisis has become such a burden on the county`s legal system that the county`s judges plan to hire two magistrates whose sole responsibility will be handling foreclosure cases.
Court Administrator Tim Lubbe said the new magistrates – who could cost $84,000 each, including benefits – will be paid for by raising the current $225 filing fee on foreclosures next year. He said the new cost hasn`t been determined, but it could be in the neighborhood of $500 per filing.
Extra money from the increase also will be used to hire two new employees in county Clerk of Court Ron Nabakowski`s office and to upgrade the computer systems of the county sheriff`s civil division – all to deal with foreclosures.
The increased filing fee will probably be lower than the $750 charged in Cuyahoga County, which also has magistrates dedicated to handling foreclosures, Lubbe said.
Foreclosure rates have skyrocketed around the nation. In Lorain County, the rate has jumped from 413 foreclosures in 1995 to more than 2,200 so far this year, Nabakowski said. He estimates that at least 2,425 foreclosures will be filed with his office by year`s end.
The problem is so bad, Nabakoski said at a Friday conference at Lorain County Community College on the foreclosure crisis, that one out of every 47 homes in the county will face foreclosure this year, worse than last year`s rate of one out of every 52 homes.
Lorain County Bar Association President Kreig Brusnahan said the problem is only going to worsen because of adjustable rate mortgages and other lending issues that make keeping up with monthly payments difficult for many borrowers.
“We`re at the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
Nabakowski has complained in the past that his office is suffering from a civil case backlog because of the spike in foreclosures this year. Lubbe said the six general division judges, who each have between 200 and 250 foreclosure cases on their dockets at any given time, have had the same problem.
Lubbe said the intricacies of foreclosure cases require time to deal with, something the judges and their staff attorneys don`t always have because of the rest of their dockets. Foreclosures account for between 25 and 33 percent of a judge`s active caseload.
Nabakoski said he hopes the additional staff will make handling foreclosures easier for the county, but he continues to worry that foreclosures will continue to rise as long as people take on more debt than they can reasonably handle.
“Hopefully, we`re getting better at mitigating the problem,” he said.
State Rep. Matt Lundy, D-Elyria, told the conference attendees that educating Ohio residents on making responsible financial decisions is as important as improving regulation in the lending industry.
“They only look at the payment,” Lundy, a former mortgage lender, said. “They don`t look at the details and, as we know, the devil is in the details.”