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As one of the hardest hit states in the foreclosure crisis, California homeowners have had their fair share of mortgage debt troubles. Robo-signing, unlawful foreclosures, sinking property values and high numbers of abandoned homes have all plagued California residents over the last few years. As the mortgage lending industry continues to be policed by federal regulatory agencies, there is some sign of improvement. However, California lawmakers are considering a new bill package that is aimed at better protecting homeowners and increased regulations for lenders.

Nearly 500,000 Californians that have lost their home to foreclosure since 2008, a driving force behind the new bill package being pushed by California Attorney General, Kamala Harris. The bill package includes a total of 11 new bills, five of the more notable bills overlap as Assembly and Senate bills.

Assembly and Senate Bill Package

In response to the robo-signing and unlawful foreclosure practices that many lenders have been found guilty of, Assembly Bill 2425 and Senate Bill 1471 increase the due process rights of borrowers. Under these bills, lenders would be required to provide homeowners at risk of foreclosure with a point of contact prior to initiating any proceedings against the property. Penalties will be imposed on any lender found guilty of signing off on foreclosures without properly following procedures. Borrowers will also be allowed to challenge foreclosure proceedings in court if they choose to do so.

Assembly Bill 1602 and Senate Bill 1470 would call to extend the protections contained in the national mortgage settlement to all California homeowners. Lenders would be prohibited from filing default notices on properties that are currently being reviewed for alternative solutions to foreclosure. These bills also call for lenders to be able to provide documentation proving the right to foreclose on the property before proceedings could be initiated.

Assembly Bill  1950 would allow for prosecutors a four year window of opportunity to pursue charges against lenders for foreclosure-related crimes. Lenders would also be required to pay a $25 fee for each default notification that is filed, money that will be used to fund mortgage investigations by the attorney general's office.

The remaining three overlapping bills of importance in this package address a variety of issues from increased attorney general rights to the rights of advanced notification for renters of a foreclosed property. In these bills, lenders cannot evacuate a home of a renter unless advanced notification of the foreclosure was provided. Renters will be allowed more time to vacate the premises, rather than receive an abrupt eviction notice. Cities will also be given the power to impose penalties on owners of abandoned or distressed foreclosures, in effort to defend against the negative consequences of some foreclosures. Finally, the attorney general will be allowed to create a special grand jury to conduct investigations into financial and mortgage-related crimes.