California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law the final provisions of the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, legislation heavily championed by Attorney General Kamala D. Harris.
“California has been the epicenter of the foreclosure and mortgage crisis. The Homeowner Bill of Rights will provide basic fairness and transparency for homeowners, and improve the mortgage process for everyone,” said Harris.
The governor signed:
• Assembly Bill 2610 by Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, which requires purchasers of foreclosed homes to give tenants at least 90 days before starting eviction proceedings. If the tenant has a fixed-term lease, the new owner must honor the lease unless the owner demonstrates that certain exceptions intended to prevent fraudulent leases apply.
• Senate Bill 1119 by Joe Simitian D-Palo Alto requires landlords to disclose notices of default to potential renters or face a voided contract and be forced to refund the renter up to twice the actual damages along with prepaid rents, security deposits or other costs. Tenants who decide to rent retain related rights under other law related to foreclosure properties.
• Senate Bill 1474 by Senator Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, which gives the Attorney General’s office the ability to use a statewide grand jury to investigate and indict the perpetrators of financial crimes involving victims in multiple counties.
• Assembly Bill 1950, by Assemblymember Mike Davis, D-Los Angeles, which extends the statute of limitations for prosecuting mortgage related crimes from one year to three years, giving the Department of Justice and local District Attorneys the time needed to investigate and prosecute complex mortgage fraud crimes.
• Protections for borrowers and struggling homeowners, including a restriction on dual-track foreclosures, wherein a lender forecloses on a borrower while working on a loan modification with the borrower to save the home.
• A guarantee for homeowners facing foreclosure: a single point of contact at their lender who has knowledge of their loan and direct access to decision makers.
• The right of homeowners to require loan servicers to document servicers’ right to foreclose.
• Tools for local governments to fight blight caused by vacant homes in neighborhoods.
The Homeowner Bill of Rights effectively codifies for state law many of the provisions negotiated in the recent $25 billion National Mortgage Settlement between 49 states, Washington, D.C. and leading lenders.
Harris secured $18 billion of the national settlement for California homeowners and she assembled a Mortgage Fraud Strike Force to investigate crime and fraud associated with mortgages and foreclosures.
All aspects of the California Homeowner Bill of Rights will take effect on Jan. 1, 2013.