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On the Fast Track at Last: Ohio Passes Foreclosure Bill

Handshake One BHThe fast track foreclosure bill which would reduce foreclosure timelines from two to three years down to as low as six months has finally passed in the Ohio State Legislature.

It took nearly three years and several rewrites and amendments, and it ultimately took being rolled into a larger bill, HB 390 (Sales tax-exempt sale of natural gas by municipal gas company), before it passed in the Ohio State Senate this week.

As the problems caused by vacant and abandoned properties have gained national attention in the last couple of years, Ohio lawmakers have fought to pass this legislation, which would greatly reduce the amount of time a property remains vacant.

Reducing the foreclosure timeline would cut down on problems presented by vacant properties such as the spreading of blight, lowering of property values, vandalism, squatters, and violent crime that these properties often attract.

“I'm very pleased,” said Ohio Rep. Cheryl Grossman, one of the sponsors of the bill. "Ohio is ranked No. 2 in the nation as far as foreclosures, and this is going to create very positive solutions to problems that exist across our state. We heard examples of it taking up to three and a half years to take care of a blighted property. What happens in that scenario is any neighbors in that neighborhood that maintain their homes have to deal with a boarded-up home. It certainly decreases property values, and then crime occurs there on a very frequent basis.”

The less time a property stays vacant, the less it will deteriorate, which will improve the marketability of a property when it eventually goes up for sale, according to Robert Klein, chairman of and co-founder of Ohio-based property preservation company SecureView.

“I think this bill is absolutely going to change the industry, because what this bill does is when a property goes vacant and is abandoned, instead of taking two years or three years for the property to go to foreclosure, it will allow the mortgage servicer to get possession of the property while it's still in decent shape,” Klein said. “Maybe not the best of shape, but it's in decent shape, and will be able to market the property.”

“I think this bill is absolutely going to change the industry.”

Robert Klein, Chairman, SecureView

The passage of the fast track foreclosure bill was nearly three years in the making. The idea for the bill was first proposed by Columbus City Attorney Rick Pfeiffer, and Ohio HB 223 was introduced to the Ohio Senate in June 2013 by Grossman, a Republican, and Ohio State Rep. Michael Curtin, a Democrat. The bill passed unanimously in the Ohio House in April 2014, but then an amended version of the bill failed to make it out of the Ohio State Senate Finance Committee when it was introduced there eight months later in December 2014. A new version of the bill, Ohio HB 134, was introduced early in 2015 by the same two joint sponsors, Grossman and Curtin. That bill passed by a vote of 88-0 in the Ohio House of Representatives in November 2015, and took another six months to pass in the Senate.

Five Star Institute President and CEO Ed Delgado, who called vacant and abandoned properties a “community crisis of national proportion,” said of the Ohio fast track foreclosure legislation, “This bill will take steps to ensure that these magnets for crime will be more quickly rehabilitated and promote the safety of neighborhoods across the state.” Delgado, speaking on the topic of finding solutions for neighborhood blight and vacant properties at the National Property Preservation Conference in Washington, D.C. last November after the bill passed in the Ohio House, called it “an important template toward the introduction of a national course of solution for vacant and abandoned properties.”

“I think that this is a huge step forward. I'm aware that our legislation, even prior to its passage yesterday, has been used as model legislation for other states. People that have attended national meetings in D.C. have shared with me several times that this bill has been part of the discussion and presentation on how to deal with these problems,” Grossman said. “There were absolutely no opponents on the bill, and there was wonderful collaboration of people involved with blighted properties in a lot of different ways who all understood what an important bill this is for us to pass in the legislature.”

Click here to view Ohio HB 390 in its entirety. The section on foreclosures begins on page 70.

Editor's note: The Five Star Institute is the parent company of DS News and DSNews.com.

About Author: Brian Honea

Brian Honea's writing and editing career spans nearly two decades across many forms of media. He served as sports editor for two suburban newspaper chains in the DFW area and has freelanced for such publications as the Yahoo! Contributor Network, Dallas Home Improvement magazine, and the Dallas Morning News. He has written four non-fiction sports books, the latest of which, The Life of Coach Chuck Curtis, was published by the TCU Press in December 2014. A lifelong Texan, Brian received his master's degree from Amberton University in Garland.
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