California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced Wednesday that Governor Edmund G. Brown signed two provisions of the much-debated Homeowner Bill of Rights into law.
The Homeowner Bill of Rights so far consists of a series of related bills containing provisions that prohibit certain practices by lenders that have been attributed to the state's foreclosure crisis. Chief among the banned practices are robo-signing (signing of fraudulent mortgage documents without review) and dual-track foreclosure (starting foreclosure proceedings while the homeowner is in negotiations to save the home). The bill imposes civil penalties on perpetrators of these activities. In addition, it guarantees struggling homeowners a single point of contact at their lender who has knowledge of their loan and direct access to decision makers.
""Californians should not have to suffer the abusive tactics of those who would push foreclosure behind the back of an unsuspecting homeowner,"" said Brown. ""These new rules make the foreclosure process more transparent so that loan servicers cannot promise one thing while doing the exact opposite.""
The laws will go into effect at the start of 2013. Borrowers can access courts to enforce their rights under the legislation.
The Homeowner Bill of Rights also contains a number of bills currently outside of the conference committee process. These other bills enhance law enforcement responses to mortgage and foreclosure-related crime. In addition, some bills are designed to help communities fight neighborhood blight resulting from foreclosures and provide enhanced protection for tenants in foreclosed homes.
The bill, unveiled by Harris in February, builds upon reforms negotiated in the national mortgage settlement between leading lenders and 49 states. Harris secured up to $18 billion for California homeowners in the agreement, some of which was used to establish a Mortgage Fraud Strike Force intended to investigate crime and fraud associate with mortgages and foreclosures.
""The California Homeowner Bill of Rights will give struggling homeowners a fighting shot to keep their home,"" said Harris. ""This legislation will make the mortgage and foreclosure process more fair and transparent, which will benefit homeowners, their community, and the housing market as a whole.""