Posted on Monday, November 22, 2010
Peter Ticktin, the South Florida attorney who has received national attention as a foreclosure defense expert, has something in common with his clients: He is fighting the bank to keep his house.
Deutsche Bank National began foreclosure proceedings on Ticktin's Boca Raton home in 2007 after the lawyer and his wife fell behind on their loan. The couple haven't made a mortgage payment since December 2006 and continue to live in the 3,920-square-foot house in Paradise Palms.
Ticktin has fought Deutsche Bank using the same strategy that he's been able to use for his clients: uncovering sloppy paperwork and poorly prepared mortgage files. In the Ticktins' case, Deutsche Bank didn't have their mortgage note, a problem that has surfaced in tens of thousands of foreclosure defense cases nationwide.
Deutsche Bank dropped its foreclosure action in February after the Ticktins' attorneys claimed they didn't have enough information to respond because there was no note. The bank refiled the foreclosure last month, saying it has original affidavits showing it has the right to foreclose.
"It's embarrassing that I'm in foreclosure. But I now understand my clients better than some lawyers who never had a problem in their lives," said Ticktin, whose firm is handles 3,000 foreclosure defense cases at two Florida offices, one in Deerfield Beach and one in Tampa.
He said he's confident he and his attorney, Jamie Sasson, can defend against the action. "[Deutsche Bank] doesn't have the paperwork," Ticktin said.
Deutsche Bank is represented by the Fort Lauderdale law firm of Marshall C. Watson, one of four practices under investigation by the Florida attorney general for questionable documents. Watson attorney David Echavarria said the firm had no comment.
Court filings claim the Ticktins owe $572,294, plus other fees, on the mortgage they took out in 2004. Palm Beach County property records list the current market value as $305,909.
Ticktin said his financial troubles began in 2004, after he became CEO of the Pony Express delivery business when the company's previous owner, Paul R. Johnson, was facing criminal and civil charges. That year's active hurricane season killed the operation's customer base, "and I lost my life savings," Ticktin said.
The Florida Bar suspended Ticktin's law license for 91 days for simultaneously doing legal work for Pony Express and Johnson, although the bar ruled he had done nothing dishonest. The bar is investigating him for devising a payment option that has his clients take out second mortgages to pay their foreclosure defense legal fees.
Ticktin has said that his research shows there are no rules prohibiting the unusual payment method and that his contracts state the second mortgages take effect only if he succeeds in having foreclosure proceedings dismissed or the original mortgage reduced.
As he struggled to pay his bills five years ago, Ticktin said he was forced to borrow from friends and, ultimately, filed bankruptcy. "I've learned first hand what the bad economy is all about," he said. He and his wife began rebuilding Ticktin's practice in 2005, concentrating on foreclosure defense, growing it to 60-person firm, including 19 attorneys.
A recent decision by the 4th District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach said judges needed to demand proof that banks own and hold the mortgages on properties they want to repossess. A three-judge appellate panel overturned an earlier judgment by a Palm Beach County circuit judge that allowed the U.S. Bank National Association to foreclose on a Boca Raton home even though the lender didn't show the original note or other proof of ownership.
By Diane C. Lade, Sun Sentinel