California Unveils Homeowner Bill of Rights

February 29, 2012

California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris has announced the California Homeowner Bill of Rights designed to protect homeowners from unfair practices by banks and mortgage companies and to help consumers and communities cope with the state's urgent mortgage and foreclosure crisis. Joined by Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, Attorney General Harris announced her sponsorship of six bills designed 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
"California communities and families are being devastated by the mortgage and foreclosure crisis. We must ensure the deceptive practices that caused it never happen again," said AG Harris. "The California Homeowner Bill of Rights will provide basic fairness and transparency for homeowners, and improve the mortgage process for everyone."
The legislation builds on the California commitment announced by Attorney General Harris earlier this month, which is expected to result in $18 billion of benefits for California homeowners. That agreement included reforms for mortgages owned by the five banks that were signing parties. The California Homeowner Bill of Rights will strengthen those protections, make them permanent, and apply them to all mortgages in the state.
"I want to congratulate the Attorney General on the victory she won on behalf of the people of California," said Speaker John A. Perez. "Our state has suffered greatly as the result of bad actors in the banking and financial industries, and this settlement holds them accountable as we continue the difficult work of recovering the housing market and stemming the tide of foreclosures, evictions and auctions."
If passed, the following bills would:
Assembly Bill 1602/Senate Bill 1470: The Foreclosure Reduction Act of 2012Authors: Assemblymen Mike Eng and Mike Feuer; Senators Mark Leno, Fran Pavley, and Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg
►Require creditors to provide documentation to a borrower that establishes the creditor's right to foreclose on real property prior to recording a notice of default.
►Require creditors to provide documentary evidence of ownership, the chain of title to real property, and the right to foreclose, at the time of the filing of a notice of default.
►Prohibit creditors from recording a notice of default when a timely-filed application for a loan modification or other loss mitigation measure is pending.
►Prohibit creditors from recording a notice of sale when a timely-filed application for a loan modification or other loss mitigation measure is pending.
►Prohibit creditors from recording a notice of sale while a borrower is in compliance with the terms of a trial loan modification or after another loss mitigation measure has been approved.
►Require creditors to disclose why an application for a loan modification or other loss mitigation measure has been denied.
►Require that notices of foreclosure sales be personally served, including notices of foreclosure sale postponement.
►Provide homeowners with a private right of action in instances in which the requirements set forth in the legislation are not followed
Assembly Bill 2425/Senate Bill 1471: Due Process Reform Legislation
Authors: Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell; Senators Mark DeSaulnier and Fran Pavley
► Require creditors to provide a single point of contact to borrowers in the foreclosure process who will be responsible for providing accurate account and other information related to the foreclosure process and loss mitigation efforts.
►Require creditors to provide a dedicated electronic mail address, facsimile number and mailing address for borrowers to submit information requested as part of a loan modification, short sale or other loss mitigation option.
►Authorize borrowers to challenge the unlawful commencement of a foreclosure process in court. 
►Impose a $10,000 civil penalty on the recordation or filing of "robosigned" documents, defined as documents that contain information that was not verified for accuracy by the person or persons signing or swearing to the accuracy of the document or statement.
►Require that certain documents be recorded in a county recorder's office.
Assembly Bill 2314/Senate Bill 1472: Blight Prevention Legislation
Authors: Assemblywoman Wilmer Carter; Senator Fran Pavley
► Prevent blight enforcement actions from being taken against new purchasers of blighted property for 60 days, provided that repairs are being made to the property.
►Require banks that release liens on foreclosed property to inform local code enforcement agencies of the release so that demolition of blighted property can proceed.
►Increase fines against owners of blighted property from $1,000 per day to $5,000 per day, and allow the imposition of the costs of a receivership over blighted property to be imposed directly against the owner of blighted property.
Assembly Bill 2610/Senate Bill 1473: Tenant Protection Legislation
Authors: Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner; Senator Loni Hancock
►Require purchasers of foreclosed homes to honor the terms of existing leases and give tenants at least 90 days notice before commencing eviction proceedings.
Assembly Bill 1950: Enhancement Of Attorney General Enforcement
Author: Assemblyman Mike Davis
►Impose a new $25 fee to be paid by servicers upon the recording of a notice of default. The fee would be deposited into a real estate fraud prosecution trust fund that would support the Attorney General's efforts to deter, investigate and prosecute real estate fraud crimes, including the work of the Mortgage Fraud Strike Force.
►Extend the statute of limitations from one year to four years from the date of discovery for violations of law commonly occurring in connection with foreclosure-related scams, including acting as a real-estate agent without a license and charging up-front fees for loan modification services.
Senate Bill 1474/Assembly Bill 1763: Attorney General Special Grand Jury
Authors: Assemblyman Mike Davis; Senator Loni Hancock
►Authorize the Attorney General to impanel a special grand jury for the purposes of investigating and indicting multi-jurisdictional financial crimes against the state.

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