We are often contacted by new clients who have found out that they have surplus funds available to them because some third-party surplus company has contacted them. The company tells the client that they can help them to retrieve the surplus funds from the court. All the client has to do is to sign over their interest to the company. This should be a big red flag from the start. But that aside, how did this surplus company find out about the surplus to begin with? The client had no idea that the surplus funds were there.
The short answer is Public Records. The Clerk of Court for each county in Florida has a list of surplus funds that can be accessed by just about anyone with a computer. For instance, Sumter County, Florida has a web page: https://www.sumterclerk.com/surplus-funds-list that gives both a list of Foreclosure Sales Surplus and a list of Tax Deed Sales Surplus. All this company has to do is click the links to the downloadable PDF for each of them and they have a brand-new potential client list.
What can they do with this list? There are names of the property owner(s) along with case numbers. Once the company has that information, they can look the case number up on the Clerk of Court’s website, find more names and addresses, etc. These companies will go to the County Property Appraiser’s website to find out some information pertaining to the property and the sales of it. They can then look you up through different websites that are similar to old phone books to get even more information. They will sometimes even look on sites like Ancestry.com to find out relative’s information if the original owner is deceased. There are even websites that post obituaries (https://www.legacy.com/) that will give names of relatives who may not know they are entitled to the surplus.
How can you protect yourself when you are contacted by one of these third-party surplus companies? The first thing you should do is to NOT sign anything that assigns your right to the surplus funds to anyone. The second thing you should do is to contact a qualified attorney who regularly handles surplus cases. While there is nothing you can really do about the public records, you can protect yourself and family members by hiring an attorney who is well versed in the laws surrounding both Foreclosure Surplus and Tax Deed Surplus.
There are many different nuances surrounding both Tax Deed Surplus and Foreclosure Surplus laws. There are even different statutes that control each type of surplus claim. If you assign your rights to the surplus to someone else, they will not be looking out for your best interests, but their own. If you hire a qualified surplus lawyer, he will be representing you in court and he will be held to the high standards set forth by the Florida Bar and the State of Florida.
Here at the Haynes Law Group, P.A. we understand the law and will fight for the maximum surplus you are entitled to. Give me a call for a free consultation and evaluation of your claim. I handle Foreclosure Surplus and Tax Deed Surplus cases all over the state of Florida and I do not get paid unless you do.