California attorney general Kamala Harris announced Wednesday that the state Assembly and Senate each passed components of the California Homeowner Bill of Rights designed to protect homeowners from scams.
The Homeowner Bill of Rights has been the subject of much debate since its unveiling in February. Many groups have weighed in on the dispute, including a branch of the California Mortgage Bankers Association and the Federal Housing Finance Agency The other bills are either under review by the Legislative Conference Committee on the California Foreclosure Crisis or are waiting to be heard in the legislative houses.
One of the approved bills, AB 1763/SB 1474, allows the use of special grand juries to prosecute financial crimes that occur across multiple jurisdictions. Under current California law, crimes involving fraud victims across the state require separate grand juries and separate charges filed in each county where the crime was committed.
""The attorney general is currently engaged in the investigation of significant crimes,"" said Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley), author of SB 1474. ""Unfortunately, county-by-county grand juries do not work well in dealing with large-scale wrongdoing in multiple jurisdictions. With this bill, the attorney general can investigate multijurisdictional crimes-it will provide protection when Californians need it the most.""
AB 1763 and SB 1474 both passed out of their respective houses unanimously and with bipartisan support.
Also passed was AB 1950, which enhances the attorney general's enforcement powers by extending the statute of limitations on mortgage-related crimes to three years. Because the foreclosure process takes so long, California's current one-year statute of limitations was considered too short of a window for homeowners to take action against scams.
""AB 1950 equips the attorney general to do her job: to go after the bad actors that have taken advantage of homeowners,"" said Assemblymember Mike Davis (D-Los Angeles), the bill's author. ""It accomplishes this by providing the attorney general with appropriate time to investigate and prosecute those who prey on California homeowners.""
AB 1950 passed out of the Assembly in a 46-18 vote.
For Attorney General Harris, the passage of the two bills could give the state more options and greater power to pursue those engaging in fraudulent activities.
""California was the epicenter of the mortgage and foreclosure crisis, and scammers have been preying on vulnerable citizens who simply want to keep their homes,"" she said. ""These bills will aid our efforts to prosecute and convict these criminals.""