Calfornia Senate Approves Foreclosure Warning Bill

The California Assembly appears to have passed its first major piece of legislation surrounding the nation’s housing mess, passing a bill designed to give homeowners both more and earlier warnings that their mortgages were moving into default. The measure, SB1137, passed by a wide 32-8 vote Wednesday and is headed to Calif. governor Arnold Schwarzenegger; local media reported Thursday morning that the governor was expected to sign the bill into law shortly. Unlike many other housing and mortgage-related proposals being debated by California legislators in response to a decimating housing crisis affecting key areas within the state, SB1137 enjoyed broad bipartisan support as well as backing from mortgage bankers. The legislation was sponsored by Sens. Don Perata (D-Oakland), Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro) and Michael Machado (D-Linden), and goes beyond federal laws surrounding how to handle foreclosures. The bill will require lenders and servicers to contact borrowers to schedule telephone or in-person meetings on restructuring options before beginning the foreclosure process, as well as requiring a 60-day notice to be given to tenants of buildings facing foreclosure before they can be removed from a rental housing unit; it also establishes fines of up to $1,000 a day for owners of foreclosed properties that fail to adequately maintain them. The provision requiring servicers to contact borrowers before starting the foreclosure process will have a 60-day implementation period before it goes into effect, once the bill is signed into law. Consumer groups hailed the passage of the bill, but used its passage as an opportunity to rail against what they saw as the “neutering” of other housing-related proposals by the state’s Senate Banking Committee. “Earlier this session, the Assembly passed a number of bills that would have reined in abuses in the subprime market,” the Center for Responsible Lending said in a press statement Wednesday. “One week ago, the Senate Banking Committee gutted or killed all but one of those mortgage-related bills, with only AB529 from Assemblymember Alberto Torrico (D-Fremont) making it out in its original form.” Democratic lawmakers in the California Senate have vowed to resurrect debate on some of the previous mortgage-related measures before August, according to published reports.

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