Attorney General Kamala D. Harris said Thursday that the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, a landmark package of legislation that extends key mortgage and foreclosure protections to California homeowners and borrowers, will take effect on January 1, 2013.
The new laws restrict dual-track foreclosures, guarantee struggling homeowners a reliable point of contact at their lender and impose civil penalties on fraudulently signed mortgage documents. In addition, homeowners may require loan servicers to document their right to foreclose.
“For too long, struggling homeowners in California have been denied fairness and transparency when dealing with their lending institutions,” said Attorney General Harris. “These laws give homeowners new rights as they work through the foreclosure process and will give Californians a fair opportunity to stay in their homes.”
Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Homeowner Bill of Rights into law to bring fairness, accountability and transparency to the state’s foreclosure process. As a result:
* There is a restriction on dual-track foreclosures, where a lender forecloses on a borrower despite being in discussions over a loan modification to save the home.
* Struggling homeowners are guaranteed lenders will provide them a single point of contact with knowledge of their loan and direct access to the banks’ decision makers.
* The statute of limitations to prosecute mortgage-related crimes is extended from one to three years, allowing the Attorney General’s office to investigate and prosecute complex mortgage fraud crimes.
* The Attorney General’s office can use statewide grand juries to investigate and indict the perpetrators of financial crimes involving victims in multiple counties.
* Purchasers of foreclosed homes are required to give tenants at least 90 days before starting eviction proceedings. If the tenant has a fixed-term lease of one year or less, the new owner must honor the lease unless the owner can prove that exceptions intended to prevent fraudulent leases apply.
* Local governments have additional tools to fight blight caused by multiple vacant homes in their neighborhoods.
The California Homeowner Bill of Rights marks a significant step in Attorney General Harris’ response to the state’s foreclosure and mortgage crisis. The Mortgage Fraud Strike Force was created in May 2011 to investigate and prosecute misconduct at all stages of the mortgage process. In February 2012, Attorney General Harris secured a commitment from the nation’s five largest banks of up to $18 billion for California borrowers.