- Terelle Jerricks
Sacramento — California’s Legislature voted, July 2, to pass the Homeowner Bill of Rights.
The California Foreclosure Reduction Act — Assembly Bill 278 and Senate Bill 900 — passed 53–25 in the Assembly and 24–13 in the Senate. The bill, introduced by Attorney General Kamala Harris and championed by homeowners and consumer advocates, awaits Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature.
Since the 2008 housing bubble began deflating, some half million homeowners have landed in foreclosure and another 1 million have lost their homes. For many, it was the result of bad decisions, but others, who may have encountered
other issues, could have kept their homes if a lender would rework the mortgage.
The law will institute reforms to bank foreclosure practices. One significant aspect of the law is that it ends the “dual track” process, in which banks foreclose on homeowners while they are negotiating for a loan modification. Instead, the law requires banks to give homeowners a “yes” or “no” answer with regard to their loan modification application before continuing a foreclosure. If denied, banks also must send a letter to the borrower describing the reason for a denial and advising them of his or her right to appeal that denial.
The law also protects against “robo-signing,” requiring banks to provide a single point of contact to borrowers.
Banks who fail to comply would be subject to litigation by homeowners. The law enhances enforcement powers and allows the attorney general to use special grand juries to prosecute multi-jurisdictional financial crimes.
Many of the provisions in the legislation were embodied in the National Mortgage Settlement that 49 Attorneys General signed with the five big banks earlier this year. The legislation extends the impact of the Settlement so that all homeowners in California, regardless of which bank services of their loan, have the same protections and rights.