A bill to expedite the lengthy foreclosure process and eliminate blight in Ohio neighborhoods that has national implications has been re-introduced and has passed by a unanimous vote in the Ohio House of Representatives.
Ohio HB 134, a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by state representatives Cheryl Grossman (Republican) and Michael Curtin (Democrat), is a new version of Ohio HB 223, originally introduced in June 2013 by Grossman and Curtin. That bill passed unanimously in the Ohio House in April 2014 but was hung up in the Ohio Senate for eight months, where it was suddenly killed without explanation shortly before the end of the general assembly in December.
This time, the bill's sponsors hope for a different outcome. Grossman said after last week's Ohio Senate session that they would likely be tweaking the bill to improve its chances of passing in a Senate vote.
Among other provisions, Ohio HB 134 allows the mortgagee to bring a summary foreclosure action against a vacant and abandoned residential property, allows a court to declare a foreclosed property as vacant and abandoned if it meets certain criteria, authorizes the mortgagee to enter and secure a property that has been declared vacant and abandoned, and establishes new procedures for the sheriff's sale of a residential property for subsequent sales if it doesn't sell on the first attempt.
The bill is intended to expedite the foreclosure process in Ohio, where the average time to complete a foreclosure is two to three years, and therefore reduce blight – which invites larger problems such as lower property values, squatters, vandalism, and violent crime, and results in entire neighborhoods being decimated. The goal of the bill is to reduce the time it takes to complete a foreclosure down to about six months.
"When properties become blighted, it becomes problematic for the entire neighborhood," Grossman said. "I think it has been pretty well acknowledged across the country what a problem these properties are. Ohio is not unique. It's a nationwide problem."
Grossman said she invited Curtin to return as a co-sponsor for the bill to make it bipartisan, because "this is not just a Republican problem or a Democrat problem." She said that some nationwide organizations such as the Mortgage Bankers Association are using their bill as a model throughout the country, and that many people have reached out to her and other representatives about what a problem the lengthy foreclosure process is in Ohio and how pleased they are that there is legislation pending to address the problem.