813 225 1918
1010 N. Florida Ave. Tampa, Fl 33602


Life LessonsIn the past couple of months, I have heard of the deaths of a number of my high school classmates. And right after an attorney friend of mine retired from the practice of law, his wife died suddenly and unexpectedly. Our best laid plans can be side-tracked by catastrophic illness, or becoming a caregiver for aging parents or a spouse, or finding your children back at home because of crushing college debt, which made them unable to afford that apartment or qualify for that house (or maybe even a car loan).

Rather than being upset or depressed by these developments, I chose to be inspired. Life’s curve balls remind me that I need to act on my passions, take the trip, talk to the kids and my brother, and keep up on Facebook with my vast network of dear cousins (first, second, third, fourth . . .) all around the world.

Family is important. These are the folks who knew you growing up, who knew your parents, who have heard the whispered family secrets, and share the culture of the life and times you lead. And your family is not only the blood relations, but also your tribe made up of friends and co-workers whom you have gathered around you in your life.

I am Facebook friends with some of my high school classmates, although we did not remain in each other’s lives once we were off to college and other adventures in life. Still, it is good to be reminded of how young and hopeful we were, how the world was a much less frightening place in those days, and how we just knew we were going on to bigger and better things as we left high school.

Here are the life lessons –

Don’t postpone joy. – Celebrate absolutely every occasion, at work, at home, with your family, your friends, your customers, your clients. I had examples growing up of those who not only didn’t celebrate each other, but who actively denigrated and criticized each other. The end result was the negative energy boomeranged back on them, and they became increasingly isolated from their support systems as time went on. They ignored or threw away an opportunity to know love and solace and, yes, celebration in their lives, and ultimately paid the price in loneliness and disappointment. Don’t leave yourself facing a life-altering experience that destroys your dreams and leaves you with too many regrets for the things you never did.

We each have a choice. – You can choose a positive or negative approach to life. But, know that you will have to live with the results. And, ultimately, if you don’t make a conscious choice, the Universe will make it for you, and aside from feeling out of control, you probably won’t enjoy the end results.

I came of age with the women’s movement, and I am all about empowering women. I particularly enjoy complementing random unknown women on elevators for the shoes, outfits, hair color they wore. When they smile, I know that I helped make their day better. The unspoken message is: You made a really good choice. You know what works for you. In other words, you are a competent and special person.

Recently, I drove 1 and 1/2 hours and 80 miles south to teach a two-hour class for community association managers. I had to get up very early, and drive in rush hour traffic to get there for my 9:30 a.m. class after I talked them out of scheduling me at 8:30 a.m. If you know me, you know I am not a 5 a.m. riser, and I do not enjoy driving in stop and go rush hour traffic. On the way down there, I stressed about whether I would get there in time; and although I had brought my breakfast with me, I was too occupied with defensive driving to eat it in the car, so I stressed about that. I was relieved to get to my destination just before 9 a.m., knowing I would have time to eat before I had to teach.

When I arrived, I discovered the class before me had started late, and that more than 25 people had signed up for the two classes, but instead, about half of them ate the hot breakfast, and then left. I ended up with about a dozen people in my class (which was on the subject of Leadership) and started about 20 minutes later than advertised.

I chose positive. First, I had plenty of time to eat my breakfast, and listen to the well-crafted program on communication which was first on the schedule. Secondly, the people who were in the room really wanted to be there, and were attentive, interactive and very appreciative of the information and message I conveyed. A number of the students came up to tell me how much they enjoyed the program, and the evaluations were very complimentary.

I told the story to a vendor friend with whom I am putting together another education program, and she smiled at me and said “You are just so positive!” as if it were a rare trait. Maybe it is, but you can change that.

I smiled at her and said “Lemonade. . . “ (as in “when life hands you lemons.. . .)

Bullying is NOT okay. – Unfriend anyone whose negativity creates toxicity in your life. Associating and participating with negative, critical and unhappy people definitely rubs off on you. Not only does it create a miasma of bad energy within your mind, so you don’t do your best or see the good in your life; but it also hurts you physically, by sapping your body’s strength, leading to muscle weakness, and opening the door for illness. Gossiping may seem like fun at the beginning, but remember, when you are not there you and your life are fair game for that gossip circle.

Everything happens for a reason. – It has consistently been my experience that although my carefully crafted plans do not always come to fruition, the end result is even better than it would have been on the other path. The change may lead to a more creative solution or a more productive idea, or a better job, or a new and exciting relationship. Or you may have time to eat breakfast, having safely arrived at my destination, and there will be bacon!

Express your love and appreciation every day. – Tell the people you love that you love them. Tell them as often as possible. Thank everyone for a job well done, or for their hard work, or because, by being there, they support the company or the family and thereby add positive energy to the environment.

Many years ago, early on in my practice, the firm lawyers all got together for a session on how to maximize your billing and be productive during the work day. A senior partner advised all of us to devote ourselves to our work, and suggested to anyone who had children that there would be time for those children later in life. That philosophy didn’t work out so well for him – He ended up divorced and without a role in his children’s lives.

If anyone advises you to put your work life first in all things, walk, no run away from that relationship. It is definitely possible to find the work/life balance. Do it!

When you create positive energy in your interactions, you also create it within yourself. It radiates out and becomes a magnet for the people with whom you come in contact. You will be a better version of yourself every time you choose to do so. It’s up to you.

Be loving everyone.


Community Association Attorney Ellen Hirsch de HaanEllen Hirsch de Haan has over 30 years of experience practicing homeowners and community association law. She regularly teaches classes on the subject to further educate homeowners and property managers alike. Ask to join our email list to learn more by contacting


mortgage-loan-modificationThe United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida has adopted uniform Mortgage Modification Mediation (MMM) procedures. This program applies to all bankruptcy Chapters and all types of real property, commercial and residential. The MMM process has been streamlined to reduce costs, save time, and make it easier for the parties to facilitate a loan modification while a bankruptcy case is pending. Unfortunately, the MMM process can be complicated for Creditors to figure out and there are many procedural steps that they must follow. If you are a Creditor and find yourself involved in a mortgage modification mediation then it is a good idea to contact your attorney.

A request for a mortgage modification mediation is made by Motion which is usually filed by the Debtor though the request can be made by any party, including a Creditor. A MMM motion will be considered timely if it is filed within 90 days of the filing of a case. The Court will generally enter an Order upon the filing of the motion and without a hearing directing MMM, which puts the burden on Creditors that oppose the MMM process to seek reconsideration of such Order within 14 days. If a party seems MMM outside of this 90 day period then the Court will consider the motion to be “out-of-time” and will set if for hearing. Oftentimes a Creditor will attend the hearing to try to prevent the mediation process from proceeding further and argue that the Debtor’s delay in beginning the mediation process was prejudicial to the Creditor.

Once MMM is ordered in a case, the next step will be for the parties to select a mediator The Court maintains a list of mediators who are qualified for this form of mediation and the parties are required to choose a mediator who is on this list In the event that the parties are unable to choose a mediator then the Debtor is permitted to select a mediator and the Creditor is permitted to object to the Debtor’s choice of mediator within 7 days. If such an objection is filed then the Trustee or Clerk will choose a mediator.

The parties to the MMM are required to use a secure online portal for the purpose of transmitting documents and written communications between the parties to the mediation. The purpose of the portal is to maintain a record of what has been requested and provided between the parties and to maintain the records in a convenient online location. Creditors must register to be able to access the Portal and are expected to be familiar with how the Portal works in regards to uploading and downloading documents and reviewing and requesting documents.

The next step in the process will be the mediation conference. The Creditor and counsel are ordinarily permitted to appear by phone at the conference. There may be multiple mediation conferences between the parties as there are often additional documents, explanations or disclosures that need to be provided after the first mediation.

The Bankruptcy Court will not force any modification and will make no adjudication except with the consent of both parties. Any signed agreement reached at mediation must be approved by the Bankruptcy Court before it is binding and enforceable. Most often when a modification offer is made and accepted, such modification will be a two-step process consisting of a temporary loan modification (usually 3-6 months) followed by a permanent loan modification in the event that the Debtor makes the temporary loan modification payments timely. Court Orders approving both stages of the loan modification are necessary in order to be binding on the modification

If the Debtor is proceeding under Chapter 13 then the Debtor will be required to amend or modify the Chapter 13 Plan to conform to the terms of the loan modification. In addition, a Chapter 13 Debtor who is seeking MMM through the Plan filed with the Court must also provide adequate protection payments to the Creditor of the lesser of the contractual monthly payment or 31% of gross disposable income (after deducting homeowner’s association fees).

Likewise, if the Debtor is proceeding under Chapter 13 and the mediation is not successful and no agreement is reached then the Debtor is required to amend or modify the Plan to conform to the Creditor’s claim, surrender the real property or provide for treatment “outside the Plan”. If the Debtor chooses to surrender the real property or otherwise treat it “outside the Plan” then the Creditor will have relief from the automatic stay on an in rem basis.

The Bankruptcy Courts for the Northern Districts and Southern Districts have also adopted uniform procedures for mortgage modification mediations in cases pending in these areas. The MMM procedures for these areas are similar to the Middle District procedures though there are some differences, especially in regards to timing and the requirements of Plan amendment and modification. Creditors are expected to understand the differences between the Districts in regards to their MMM procedures. Your attorney will be able to notify you of these differences and assist you in regards to how to proceed in these cases.

Please note that this is an overview of the mortgage modification mediation process in bankruptcy. The procedures in all Districts are lengthy and very specific and detailed. Failure to properly abide by these procedures may result in costs or sanctions being imposed so consult your attorney if you are a Creditor and find yourself involved in a bankruptcy mortgage modification mediation!


Brad Hissing is a Bankruptcy Attorney with over 26 years of experience in representing creditors, Trustees and other parties in bankruptcy cases. He has extensive experience in Creditors Rights and Insolvency matters in both consumer and Chapter 11 commercial cases. He can be reached at or by phone at (813) 676-9075.


repossession self-help collections

“Self-Help” refers to the collection method where property of a debtor may be taken without going to court. Traditionally, self-help can be taken if a debtor is in default for payment and without notice to the debtor. The usual methods of self-help are by “set-off” and repossession.

Set-off is a creditor’s right established by common law through the ages to apply property of the debtor it holds against an unpaid delinquent debt. Typically, this occurs in a case where a financial institution is holding funds in a checking or savings account. The funds may be taken and applied if the debt is in default.

Repossession involves the taking of property pledged as collateral toward payment of an outstanding debt. It is considered “self-help” because it can be done with court intervention. Repossessed property can be sold with the proceeds applied to the amount owed. The Uniform Commercial Code has established procedures for legal repossession and most state follow these guidelines. Repossession must be done without a “breach of the peace”, meaning there cannot be a disturbance. This is why most vehicles get taken in the middle of the night. Also, if the collateral is worth less than the amount owed the laws require notice following repossession and the sale of the collateral be “commercially reasonable”. The notice typically gives the debtor time of sale and the requirements to redeem the collateral. The sale is commercially reasonable if it is common for the type of collateral involved and is fair. It does not mean the best price possible is obtained. Notice of the deficiency amount owed may be required after the sale. If a creditor does not follow the legal requirements for notice and sale, the right to a deficiency will be forfeited.


Thomas K. Sciarrino, Jr., Esq. is a veteran collections attorney with 38 years of experience in handling Commercial Litigation, Collections, and Creditor’s Rights. He is the head of the collections department at Wetherington Hamilton, P.A. In addition to practicing law, he has also lectured on creditor’s right before various business and professional groups. He can be reached at (813) 676-9082 or by email at


Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Loading posts...