Pennslyvania Governor Signs Mortgage Reform Measures

The state of Pennsylvania has as of late been ground-zero for much of the local effort to reform mortgage lending and foreclosure management practices; HW broke the story in April of an attempt by consumer groups in Philadelphia to wrest control of loss mitigation from investors and servicers. On Tuesday, Pennsylvania governor Edward Rendell signed five bills that he said would protect homebuyers, strengthen oversight of the mortgage industry and end key lending practices that leave homeowners vulnerable to foreclosure. The new laws require loan salespeople to be licensed by the state’s Department of Banking and allow the department to more quickly inform the public about enforcement activities against mortgage companies. The laws also restrict prepayment penalties, increase fines for misconduct by real estate appraisers, and require mortgage companies to notify the state when they intend to foreclose. Among the more interesting of the five bills is S.B. 486, which requires that a copy of every foreclosure notice be sent to the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency so that foreclosure activity can be monitored in real time/ Previously, foreclosure notices were sent only to the homeowner and filed in the borrower’s home county. A seperate bill, S.B. 483, bans prepayment penalties on on mortgages of $217,873 or less, another sea-change for subprime lenders in the state. It’s unclear if the ban extends to new mortgages only, or applies to existing mortgages in the state as well. A call to state representatives for comment was not returned by the time this story was published. “These new laws are crucial steps forward,” the Governor said, “but they are one component of a complex strategy to combat lending abuse and fraud.” State legislators are also considering a separate bill — not part of Tuesday’s package — that would require mortgage companies to verify and document a borrower’s ability to repay, as well as forcing new disclosures on certain loan features such as balloon payments, adjustable interest rates, prepayment penalties and whether the lender will escrow taxes and insurance.

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