Joseph R. Gosz (AM Holt)
Claiming a botched foreclosure auction, two homeowners successfully filed an objection in Broward Circuit Court to block the sale of a Cooper City home.
Stuart and Evelyn Finkelstein say their lender’s tactics during the auction discouraged competitive bidding, leaving them facing a potential six-figure default judgment.
“The same objection could potentially be made in hundreds or perhaps thousands of foreclosures,” said Joseph R. Gosz, the Miami attorney representing the Finkelsteins. “The procedure used in many foreclosure auctions results in noncompetitive auctions that fetch shockingly low sales prices.”
The 4,033-square foot house on more than a quarter acre sold for $5,200 through the website RealAuction.com on July 16.
But that’s after lender James D. Evans rejected a $400,000 short-sale offer from a potential buyer of the Country Glen property, the Finkelsteins say.
When the property went to auction, Evans essentially outbid other participants with a posted maximum bid of $555,000, Gosz argued. The lender’s bid was visible to all potential buyers—a factor that handicapped other participants, he said.
“In order for foreclosure sales to be reasonable, the auctions must be competitive,” argued Gosz, founder of the Gosz Professional Limited Co. “In order to be competitive, plaintiff’s max bid should either not be disclosed or the system should not permit automatic bidding by plaintiffs.”
At an Aug. 14 hearing, Judge Joel Lazarus sided with the Finkelsteins. He sustained their objection, vacated the sale and ordered a new auction for Sept. 23.
The order was the latest in a lawsuit that has wound its way through the legal system for years.
Evans won a foreclosure judgment against the Finkelsteins in November 2012 for nearly $668,000, including more than $62,000 in interest and about $46,600 in attorney and court fees. He’d given the couple a $160,000 mortgage and paid off an existing first mortgage of nearly $333,000 on their behalf. Gosz said the couple put the money into a carwash, Best Valet LLC.
The court upheld the foreclosure judgment in 2013, and the Finkelsteins lost a motion for rehearing.
But when Evans completed the auction that yielded $5,200 last July, the couple was back in court to challenge the deal.
They’ll first have to get past Evans’ attorney, who’s fighting the order that vacated the sale.
On Aug. 25, Robert Slatoff of Frank Weinberg & Black in Boca Raton filed a motion for rehearing. No date was set by deadline, and Slatoff did not return calls for comment.
But in his filing, Slatoff dismissed the defendants’ arguments, saying the auction process used for this deal is the same one used in more than 30 counties. He said the Finkelsteins never made a payment on the loan and yet called the sale “noncompetitive and unreasonable … without any explanation.”
“The defendants have done everything possible to delay the foreclosure, including filing what ultimately could only be termed a bad faith bankruptcy, two appeals and multiple motions to stay, pending appealing to both this court and the Fourth DCA, without posting a bond,” Slatoff wrote in court documents.