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Feuer’s foreclosure bill passes
By WeHo News staff, West Hollywood, California
California lawmakers Monday passed legislation that provides homeowners with some of the nation's strongest protections from foreclosure and rapacious bank practices such as seizing a home while the owner negotiates to lower mortgage payments.
Homeowners received protection against predadtory lender practices this week. Photo by Weho News.
A pair of bills came out of the Assembly and Senate that will assist homeowners who are “underwater” on their mortgages to help them stay in their homes by making California the first state to prohibit lenders from "dual tracking," or negotiating with clients to modify a mortgage to make mortgages affordable while simultaneously pursuing foreclosure.
After years of distress in the housing and mortgage markets, during which lenders seized nearly a million California houses, legislators Monday sent a pair of Assembly and Senate bills to Gov. Jerry Brown designed to help financially troubled borrowers stay in their homes.
The legislation also outlaws robo-signing, the improper or faulty processing of foreclosure documents.
It allows state agencies and private citizens to sue financial institutions for compensation civil damages of up to $50,000 if lenders willfully, intentionally or recklessly violate the law.
However, no lawsuit could go forward if the bank or servicer first fixes the problem with documentation or procedures.
The legislation, SB 900 and AB 278, also simplifies relationships between homeowners and lenders by requiring the companies to assign a single representative to the homeowners’ account, thereby making bureaucratic run-arounds more difficult.
Called the “Homeowners’ Bill of Rights,” the legislation was co-authored in the Assembly by Assembly Member Mike Feuer (D-West Hollywood).
“Today, the Legislature took a historic step to tackle the foreclosure crisis that continues to devastate families and neighborhoods throughout California,” he said after passage.
“The measures include important consumer protections that will help distressed communities and prevent families from needlessly confronting future foreclosures. I am proud to be an author of these measures, and I urge the Governor to sign both bills.”
West Hollywood Assembly member Mike Feuer authored one of the bills. Photo by WeHo News.
Governor Brown has signaled his intent to sign them.
The Assembly voted 53-25 in favor of the pair of bills that came out of the conference committee, and the Senate passed the bills on a 25-13 vote on Monday.
The bills are part of a Homeowner Bill of Rights legislative package sponsored by California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris and written by Democratic lawmakers.
Modeled on a multi-state, $25-billion settlement of a foreclosure lawsuit against five large banks, the package of measures extends protections to homeowners by locking the provisions into the state’s code.
"Passing these key elements of the Homeowner Bill of Rights represents a significant step forward for struggling homeowners," Atty. General Harris said in a statement.
"These common-sense reforms will require banks to treat California homeowners more fairly and bring more transparency and accountability to their practices in our state. Responsible homeowners will have a better shot to keep their homes."
Attorney General Harris sponsored six bills as part of the package with the intent to guarantee:
- Basic standards of fairness in the mortgage process, including an end to dual-track foreclosures
- Transparency in the mortgage process, including a single point of contact for homeowners
- Community tools to prevent blight after banks foreclose upon homes
- Tenant protections after foreclosures
- Enhanced law enforcement to defend homeowner rights – paid for by fees imposed on banks
- A special grand jury to investigate financial and foreclosure crime
Assembly member Feuer is a joint author of AB 278 and served as a member of the conference committee that met to craft the bill package.