Parts of Harris' Homeowner Bill of Rights clear committee

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Jun 28, 2012


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline) - Two central elements of California Attorney General Kamala Harris' so-called Homeowner Bill of Rights passed a special two-house conference committee this week.

The 4-1 vote Wednesday sends the bills to both the state Assembly and Senate for an expected vote next week.

The two bills approved by the committee are the Foreclosure Reduction Act and the Due Process Rights Act.

The FRA restricts the process of "dual-tracked" foreclosures.

The DPRA guarantees a reliable contact for struggling homeowners to discuss their loan with and, for the first time, imposes civil penalties on the practice of fraudulently signing foreclosure documents without verifying their accuracy, otherwise known as "robo-signing."

The proposed legislation also includes meaningful enforcement for borrowers whose rights are violated.

"I am gratified by this vote, which represents one more step toward our goal of achieving a Homeowner Bill of Rights for California," Harris said in a statement.

"The mortgage and foreclosure crisis in our state demands urgent efforts to help Californians keep their homes. The legislature will now have the opportunity to cast a vote on behalf of California's struggling homeowners."

The full Homeowner Bill of Rights -- which aims to better protect homeowners from scams -- includes additional provisions to reduce blight, ensure appropriate law enforcement response to mortgage fraud and crime, and protect tenants.

The bills containing these protections are also advancing through the Legislature, Harris' office said Wednesday.

The California Labor Federation called this week's vote a "historic day" for the state's working people and homeowners.

"Despite the power the big banks and their lobbyists wield in Sacramento, the Homeowners Bill of Rights was voted out of conference committee and set on a clear path to become the law of California," Art Pulaski, the federation's executive secretary-treasurer, said in a statement Wednesday.

"With California still struggling from the devastating impact of the housing crisis, this legislation puts some power and control back into the hands of homeowners."

He continued, "In a time of deep budget cuts and ongoing recession, this victory restores hope that our state can rise above the politics of decline that's eroding our middle class."

Harris has said her bill of rights builds on the nationwide mortgage settlement, making those reforms permanent and extending them to all Californians -- not just those hurt by the five banks.

In February, federal officials and 49 state attorneys general, including Harris, reached a $25 billion agreement with Wells Fargo and Co., JPMorgan Chase and Co., Citigroup Inc., Ally Financial Inc. and Bank of America Corp. over their alleged improper foreclosure practices.

Of the $25 billion, California claimed the largest portion of the pot -- $18 billion.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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