Long Island ForeclosuresNew York Newsday is reporting that foreclosures fell on Long Island in December 2011 as compared with a year earlier, but don’t break out the bubbly quite yet.

As the article states:

California-based RealtyTrac said foreclosure-related filings in Nassau and Suffolk fell by 34 percent in December, to 527, from a year earlier. For all of 2011, the number of Long Island homes that received some type of foreclosure-related notice fell by 40 percent from 2010, to 7,811. The decline was particularly dramatic in Suffolk: 53 percent.

That sounds great, right? Not so fast.

The decline is based in part on homeowners fighting back against lenders and servicers, not on any improvement on the real estate market on Long Island. With borrowers armed to the teeth with more information than ever before about flawed paperwork and the failure of many lenders to prove that they own the mortgage in the first place, courts are more likely to throw out a foreclosure case.

RealtyTrac said the delays have lengthened the time a foreclosure case takes to reach conclusion. New York’s got the longest average of any state, clocking in at a whopping 1,019 days.

Some would call this a shell game, a process by which homeowners delay the inevitable and keep houses from cycling back into the sales market.

I take a longer view. This isn’t a question of who owns the loan, or of homeowners looking to stay in a house for as long as possible. Rather, it’s an issue of the honesty of the system. The banks have rules, just as do homeowners and consumers of all stripes. If I sue you, I’ve got to actually prove my case – merely making a claim isn’t good enough for the legal system.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could sue anyone in the world for $1 million and have a judge rubber-stamp it? Depends on which side of the lawsuit you’re on this time, doesn’t it?

The system isn’t going to be cleaned up overnight, and the foreclosure mess will continue for years to come. But Long Island homeowners facing foreclosure aren’t the ones to blame, nor are their lawyers.

We’re all just playing by the same rules. At least, we should be.

Image credit:  kolix