Legislation

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Legislature Approves Bills to Protect Tenants

May 31, 2012
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced two bills to help tenants who suddenly find themselves with the possibility of being displaced because of a foreclosure passed the Assembly and Senate. The bills are part of the Attorney General’s proposed California Homeowner Bill of Rights.

Assembly Bill 2610 (Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley) and Senate Bill 1473 (Senator Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley) will require purchasers of foreclosed homes to give tenants at least 90 days before starting eviction proceedings.

“Tenants are unsuspecting victims in the mortgage and financial crisis,” said Attorney General Harris. “They pay rent on time but may suddenly find themselves forced to move. These bills will give tenants important rights and fair treatment when they live in a rental that is under threat of foreclosure.”

Under the bills, if the tenant has a fixed-term lease, the new owner must honor the lease unless the owner demonstrates that certain exceptions intended to prevent fraudulent leases apply.

Currently, there are incongruities within state law, and between state and federal law, regarding eviction proceedings following a foreclosure. AB 2610 and SB 1473 would correct these confusing laws. All provisions in the bill will remain in effect until December 31, 2019.

“Too often, California tenants are the unwitting victims when a home they are renting is foreclosed on,” said Senator Hancock. “The inconsistency between state and federal law has left renters confused and, at times, misled about their legal protections. This bill provides common sense solutions to help protect California citizens caught in the crossfire of the mortgage foreclosure crisis.”

“The mortgage crisis and resulting foreclosures have directly impacted more than 200,000 California renters in 2010 alone,” said Assemblymember Skinner. “The Renters’ Right Act of 2012 protects families in rental housing by providing basic protections and legal rights in the face of unjust foreclosure-related evictions.”

SB 1473 passed the Senate on a 25 to 13 vote and AB 2610 passed the Assembly on a 54 to 13 vote.

The bills are part of the California Homeowner Bill of Rights. Other portions of the package are being considered in a Joint Legislative Conference Committee, including elements to restrict unnecessary foreclosures and protect the due process rights of borrowers and homeowners.

The California Homeowner Bill of Rights also includes:

DUE PROCESS AND FORECLOSURE REDUCTION ACT: SB 900 (Leno) & AB 278 (Eng). These bills are being considered by a Joint Legislative Conference Committee.

BLIGHT PREVENTION LEGISLATION: AB 2314 (Carter) & SB 1472 (Pavley and DeSaulnier). These bills have passed the Assembly and Senate, respectively, and now will be heard in the other house.

GRAND JURY LEGISLATION: AB 1763 (Davis) & SB 1474 (Hancock). These bills have passed the Assembly and Senate, respectively, and will now be heard in the other house.

AG ENFORCEMENT LEGISLATION: AB 1950 (Davis). This bill passed the Assembly, and will now be heard in the Senate.

For more information on the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, go to www.oag.ca.gov

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Passage of Bills in California Homeowner Bill of Rights Package

May 30, 2012
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the Assembly and Senate each passed important components of the California Homeowner Bill of Rights that will help protect homeowners from scams.

The bills enhance the Attorney General’s enforcement powers and allow the Attorney General to use special grand juries to prosecute multi-jurisdictional financial crimes. The Mortgage Fraud Strike Force established by the Attorney General has been investigating and prosecuting a wide range of crimes related to mortgages, foreclosures and real estate.

“California was the epicenter of the mortgage and foreclosure crisis and scammers have been preying on vulnerable citizens who simply want to keep their homes,” said Attorney General Harris. “These bills will aid our efforts to prosecute and convict these criminals.”

These are two of the six bills in the California Homeowner Bill of Rights. Other portions of the package are being considered in a Joint Legislative Conference Committee, including elements to restrict unnecessary foreclosures and protect the due process rights of borrowers and homeowners.

AB 1763 (Assemblymember Mike Davis, D-Los Angeles) and SB 1474 (Senator Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley) would allow the Attorney General to convene a special grand jury to investigate and indict the perpetrators of financial crimes involving victims in multiple jurisdictions. Both bills passed out of their respective houses unanimously with bipartisan support.

The special grand jury would convene in cases involving fraud or theft that occurs in more than one county and where all potential charges are against a single defendant or multiple defendants working together.

Crimes of a financial nature often occur in multiple jurisdictions. Under current law, crimes where the fraud victims are all over the state require separate grand juries and charges filed in each county where the defendant committed the crime. This legislation would provide for the option of a special grand jury that can investigate financial crimes beyond the scope of single-county grand juries.

“The Attorney General is currently engaged in the investigation of significant crimes,” Senator Hancock said. “Unfortunately, county-by-county grand juries do not work well in dealing with large-scale wrongdoing in multiple jurisdictions. With this bill, the Attorney General can investigate multijurisdictional crimes – it will provide protection when Californians need it the most.”

In addition, AB 1950, by Assemblymember Davis, will extend to three years the statute of limitations on mortgage related crimes. The current statute of limitations of one year can make it difficult to prosecute crimes such as the prohibition on charging up front fees for loan modification services. Because the foreclosure process is so protracted, some homeowners may not even realize that they have been the victim of a scam before it is too late for prosecution.

“AB 1950 equips the Attorney General to do her job; to go after the bad actors that have taken advantage of homeowners. It accomplishes this by providing the Attorney General with appropriate time to investigate and prosecute those who prey on California homeowners,” said Assemblymember Mike Davis. The bill passed out of the Assembly on a 46 to 18 vote.

The California Homeowner Bill of Rights also includes:

DUE PROCESS AND FORECLOSURE REDUCTION ACT: SB 900 (Leno) & AB 278 (Eng). These bills are being considered by a Joint Legislative Conference Committee.

BLIGHT PREVENTION LEGISLATION: AB 2314 (Carter) & SB 1472 (Pavley and DeSaulnier). These bills have passed the Assembly and Senate, respectively and now will be heard in the other house.

TENANT PROTECTION LEGISLATION: AB 2610 (Skinner) & SB 1473 (Hancock). These bills will be heard in the Assembly and Senate by the end of the week.

For more information on the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, go to www.oag.ca.gov

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris' Bill to Combat Human Trafficking Unanimously Passes out of State Senate

May 29, 2012
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced that a bill she is sponsoring to ensure that those convicted of human trafficking crimes involving minors will not be able to keep the financial benefits reaped from those crimes unanimously passed out of the state Senate.

“The trafficking of human beings is an unseen problem in California and throughout the country,” said Attorney General Harris. “I am proud to sponsor legislation that will undercut the trafficking of human beings throughout our state.”

Senate Bill 1133, authored by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), ensures that those convicted of human trafficking crimes involving minors will not be able to keep the financial benefits reaped from those crimes. This bill expands on the current list of assets that the perpetrator must forfeit and provides a formula to redirect those resources to community groups that aid victims of human trafficking. It passed the Senate floor 36 to 0.

“Sex trafficking of minors is a horrendous crime that is driven by the prospect of lucrative profits,” said Senator Leno. “This legislation aims to deprive convicted criminals of the financial resources and assets that would allow them to continue luring young people into the sex trade. In turn, proceeds from those forfeitures would rightfully be used to help victims begin to repair their lives.”

Attorney General Harris has been committed to combating human trafficking throughout her career. Human trafficking in California first became a felony in 2005 with the California Human Trafficking Victims Protection Act that the Attorney General co-sponsored when she served as the District Attorney of San Francisco.

Attorney General Harris has also served on the California Alliance to Combat Trafficking and Slavery Task Force and the Department of Justice is currently updating the report “Human Trafficking in California,” which was released by the task force in 2007. The updated report is expected to be issued this summer.

The Attorney General is sponsoring a second human trafficking bill this session. Assembly Bill 2466 (Preservation of Assets for Victims of Human Trafficking), by Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield (D-San Fernando Valley) will require that more victims of human trafficking receive restitution. Under California law, victims are entitled to mandatory restitution; however there are no laws to help prevent human trafficking defendants from liquidating and hiding their assets before conviction. Assembly Bill 2466 would allow a court to order the preservation of the assets and property by persons charged with human trafficking. The bill passed the Assembly unanimously earlier this month and is pending in the Senate.

Human trafficking is estimated to be a $32 billion industry, the world’s third most profitable criminal enterprise behind drugs and arms trafficking. Human trafficking involves the recruitment, smuggling, transporting, harboring, buying, or selling of a person for purposes of exploitation, prostitution, domestic servitude, sweatshop labor, migrant work, agricultural labor, peonage, bondage, or involuntary servitude. While human trafficking often involves the smuggling of human beings across international borders, numerous Americans are trafficked around the United States ever year. Human trafficking strips people, especially women and children, of their freedom and violates our nation’s promise that every person in the United States is guaranteed basic human rights.

For more information, go to the Attorney General’s human trafficking web site at www.oag.ca.gov/human-trafficking

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Joins Central Valley Law Enforcement Leaders in Support of California Homeowner Bill of Rights

May 17, 2012
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

FRESNO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today was joined by Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims, Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin, Tulare County Sheriff Bill Wittman, and Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer at a press conference in support of the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, which contains law enforcement tools to help prevent blight and other crimes associated with the foreclosure crisis.
Attorney General Harris also presented Attorney General Awards to distinguished officers from the Visalia Police Department, Fresno Police Department, the California Highway Patrol (Madera area), Kings County District Attorney’s Office and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The press conference occurred after at a regional “zone” meeting, where law enforcement leaders discussed common challenges and collaboration. Zone 5 includes law enforcement agencies from Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced and Tulare counties.

“As I meet with law enforcement leaders around the state, I repeatedly hear of their frustrations dealing with the aftermath of our foreclosure crisis and crime that is associated with it,” said Attorney General Harris. “I am gratified by the support of these Central Valley law enforcement leaders for the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, and look forward to the public safety enhancements it will bring.”

“Attorney General Harris’ proposed legislation provides increased enforcement capabilities, due process for homeowners, and gives local law enforcement additional tools to avoid blight as a result of empty homes left vacant as a result of foreclosures. I am pleased to be able to join her and support the California Homeowner Bill of Rights,” said Sheriff Margaret Mims of Fresno County.

“All Californian’s should be appreciative of these bills the Attorney General is trying to pass as they will help prevent foreclosure abuses, especially here in Merced where we ranked among some of the nation’s highest foreclosed homes,” Merced Sheriff Mark N. Pazin said.

“As the Sheriff of Tulare County, I have seen firsthand the devastating effects of the mortgage crisis, not only in Tulare County but across the State of California. In Tulare County alone, between 2008 and 2011 there were over 11,000 foreclosures. The California Homeowner Bill of Rights will assist homeowners and law enforcement agencies by providing additional resources and tools to identify and fight a multitude of crimes related to mortgage fraud, real estate fraud, and loan scams. I fully support the California Homeowner Bill of Rights,” Tulare County Sheriff Bill Wittman said.

The California Homeowner Bill of Rights, which would bring transparency and fairness to California’s broken mortgage process, is under consideration in the Legislature and includes proposals to help law enforcement respond to mortgage fraud and to crime associated with the foreclosure crisis.

These bills would empower communities to crack down on blight and the resulting crime, would support law enforcement responses to mortgage fraud by extending the statute of limitations, and would empower the Attorney General to empanel a special grand jury to target multi-jurisdictional financial crimes.

The California Homeowner Bill of Rights will also extend to all borrowers many of the same reforms negotiated for in the recent national mortgage settlement. The legislation includes protections against the dysfunctional “dual-track” foreclosures process, guarantees of a single point of contact for distressed homeowners, and an increase in penalties for robo-signing. The multistate mortgage settlement brought a commitment of up to $18 billion for California homeowners and foreclosure victims from banks.

Foreclosure-related estimates for each county in the zone are:

Fresno County:
Number of foreclosures 2008-2011: 27,837
Estimated amount of California commitment: $311,015,043

Kern County:
Number of foreclosures 2008-2011: 35,893
Estimated amount of California commitment: $374,504,344

Kings County
Number of foreclosures 2008-2011: 2,139
Estimated amount of California commitment: $24,288,347

Madera County
Number of foreclosures 2008-2011: 7,005
Estimated amount of California commitment: $84,307,143

Mariposa County
Number of foreclosures 2008-2011: 238
Estimated amount of California commitment: $6,761,727

Merced County
Number of foreclosures 2008-2011: 18,229
Estimated amount of California commitment: $215,723,069

Tulare County
Number of foreclosures 2008-2011: 11,269
Estimated amount of California commitment: $119,124,870

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Issues Statement on May Revision

May 14, 2012
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today issued the following statement on the Governor’s May Revision:

“The state Department of Justice stood firm for over a year against the nation’s largest banks on behalf of California homeowners harmed by the foreclosure crisis. This effort resulted in an agreement that will provide billions in relief to California homeowners who are experiencing hardship. The agreement also required the banks to pay an additional $410 million to get homeowners the expert help they need to keep their homes.

The Governor’s May Revision, however, proposes to redirect this $410 million from the state’s homeowners to other budget purposes. While the state is undeniably facing a difficult budget gap, these funds should be used to help Californians stay in their homes. I plan to work with the Governor and Legislature toward a balanced budget that honors our obligations to California’s homeowners.”

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Testifies at Legislative Conference Committee in Support of California Homeowner Bill of Rights

May 10, 2012
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today testified in support of the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, a package of legislation designed to protect homeowners from unfair practices by banks and mortgage companies and to help families and communities cope with the state’s urgent mortgage and foreclosure crisis.

Attorney General Harris testified at the joint Legislative Conference Committee created to examine two key bills from the Homeowner Bill of Rights. These bills will guarantee a single point of contact for struggling homeowners, penalize the ‘robosigning’ of documents, and restrict so-called “dual track” foreclosures, where borrowers are foreclosed upon even while negotiating with their bank to pay to stay in their homes.

“This Bill of Rights is simply about common sense reform and about bringing transparency for an otherwise confusing and daunting system,” said Attorney General Harris. “It is about hard working people who believe in the American dream.”

Attorney General Harris was joined in testifying by responsible homeowners struggling with their mortgages.

Celeste Singh’s home was sold at auction before she was denied a loan modification. She has tried repeatedly to have her bank modify her loan after a car accident left her with brain damage.

“My home is where my heart is, and my community is where my children and I have laid down our grassroots,” Singh said during her testimony. “I have been an active participant in my community for years. It feels like a death sentence and thousands of Californians know what I'm talking about.”

The Homeowner Bill of Rights builds on the national mortgage settlement and California commitment announced by Attorney General Harris earlier this year. That agreement included common-sense reforms, hammered out through a thoughtful process, but which only apply to the five settling banks and only for a limited time. The bills in the Homeowner Bill of Rights would make these reforms permanent and extend them to all Californians. The bills are authored by Senator Mark Leno and Assembly Member Mike Eng.

The legislation, first introduced at a February 29th press conference, was developed in collaboration with Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and other members of the legislature. The Conference Committee features three members from each house: Senators Noreen Evans, Ron Calderon and Sam Blakeslee and Assembly Members Mike Eng, Mike Feuer, and Donald Wagner.

California won up to $18 billion in the national mortgage settlement, and has appointed an independent monitor, Professor Katherine Porter, to verify the extent and timeliness of lenders meeting their obligations to California homeowners.

Other bills in the package include:
- BLIGHT PREVENTION LEGISLATION: AB 2314 (Carter) & SB 1472 (Pavley and DeSaulnier)
- TENANT PROTECTION LEGISLATION AB 2610 (Skinner) and SB 1473 (Hancock)
- ENHANCEMENT OF ATTORNEY GENERAL ENFORCEMENT ACT AB 1950 (Davis)
- ATTORNEY GENERAL SPECIAL GRAND JURY ACT AB 1763 (Davis) and SB 1474 (Hancock)

More information on the bills can be found here: www.leginfo.ca.gov

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Statement on Announcement of a Conference Committee

April 23, 2012
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris released the following statement upon the announcement that parts of the California Homeowner Bill of Rights will be heard by a Legislative Conference Committee:

“There are more than 500,000 California homeowners in the foreclosure pipeline, and securing for them the protections of the Homeowner Bill of Rights is my central concern. I am sure these reforms will receive thoughtful attention and discussion in the Legislative Conference Committee which is why I support the Assembly Speaker and Senate President pro Tem’s decision to form it. I look forward to working with the Legislative leaders and members of the committee to bring transparency and fairness to our state’s mortgage and foreclosure process.”

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Passage of Bills to Protect Tenants, Alleviate Blight and Allow More Prosecutions of Mortgage Fraud

April 17, 2012
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced seven bills in the California Homeowner Bill of Rights to protect homeowners from unfair practices by banks and mortgage companies passed out of Legislative committees.

The bills include measures to protect tenants in the foreclosure process, allow local communities better remedies against blight and allow the Attorney General’s office more power to investigate and prosecute mortgage-related crimes.

“All Californians have been impacted by the toll the mortgage and foreclosure process has taken on our neighborhoods,” said Attorney General Harris. “Our California Homeowner Bill of Rights will provide relief for homeowners, tenants and communities. I thank the authors and supporters of these important bills.”

AB 2314 and SB 1472 would provide local jurisdictions with additional tools to fight blight from abandoned homes. These tools include increased penalties against the owners of blighted property, including the cost of taking control of that property. AB 2314 and SB 1472 unanimously passed the Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committees.

Another bill is aimed at providing greater protections to California tenants. AB 2610 and SB 1473 would provide California tenants with the same protections that they are currently afforded under federal law. This legislation would require purchasers of foreclosed homes to honor the terms of existing leases and give tenants at least 90 days before commencing eviction proceedings. The bills passed the Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committees on a 7 to 3 and 3 to 2 vote, respectively.

Two bills would provide additional tools for the Attorney General’s office to investigate and prosecute mortgage frauds and crimes. AB 1950 would extend the statute of limitations on mortgage-related crimes, including loan modification scams and the unlicensed sale of real estate. This legislation would also provide the Attorney General’s office with funding to prosecute these and other mortgage-related crimes through a $25 fee to be paid by servicers upon the recording of a notice of default. AB 1950 passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee on a 4 to 2 vote.

Attorney General Harris formed a Mortgage Fraud Strike Force last year to investigate and prosecute mortgage fraud. In August, the Strike Force filed its first suit against a law firm that took millions from desperate homeowners: http://oag.ca.gov/news/press_release?id=2552&y=&m=

AB 1763 and SB 1474 would allow the Attorney General to convene a special grand jury to investigate and indict the perpetrators of financial crimes involving victims in multiple jurisdictions. Both bills passed out of their houses’ Public Safety Committees unanimously.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Joins Legislative Leaders to Unveil California Homeowner Bill of Rights

February 29, 2012
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the California Homeowner Bill of Rights designed to protect homeowners from unfair practices by banks and mortgage companies and to help consumers and communities cope with the state’s urgent mortgage and foreclosure crisis.

Joined by Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, Attorney General Harris announced her sponsorship of six bills designed to guarantee:
- Basic standards of fairness in the mortgage process, including an end to dual-track foreclosures
- Transparency in the mortgage process, including a single point of contact for homeowners
- Community tools to prevent blight after banks foreclose upon homes
- Tenant protections after foreclosures
- Enhanced law enforcement to defend homeowner rights – paid for by fees imposed on banks
- A special grand jury to investigate financial and foreclosure crime

“California communities and families are being devastated by the mortgage and foreclosure crisis. We must ensure the deceptive practices that caused it never happen again,” said Attorney General Harris. “The California Homeowner Bill of Rights will provide basic fairness and transparency for homeowners, and improve the mortgage process for everyone.”

The legislation builds on the California commitment announced by Attorney General Harris earlier this month, which is expected to result in $18 billion of benefits for California homeowners. That agreement included reforms for mortgages owned by the five banks that were signing parties. The California Homeowner Bill of Rights will strengthen those protections, make them permanent, and apply them to all mortgages in the state.

“When I secured the California commitment, I made clear it was only one of many steps I am taking to comprehensively address the mortgage and foreclosure crisis,” Attorney General Harris continued. “I want to thank Senate President pro Tem Steinberg, Assembly Speaker Pérez and all the other lawmakers who are supporting this urgent package of legislation for homeowners.”

“I want to congratulate the Attorney General on the victory she won on behalf of the people of California,” said Speaker John A. Pérez. “Our state has suffered greatly as the result of bad actors in the banking and financial industries, and this settlement holds them accountable as we continue the difficult work of recovering the housing market and stemming the tide of foreclosures, evictions and auctions.”

“Millions of Californians have already lost their homes to foreclosure and the mortgage crisis is far from over,” said Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. “This landmark settlement negotiated by Attorney General Harris helps thousands of Californians but thousands more need the same help. We need to put these protections into law so that more people can save their homes.”

CALIFORNIA HOMEOWNER BILL OF RIGHTS LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE

If passed, the following bills would:

ASSEMBLY BILL 1602 / SENATE BILL 1470– THE FORECLOSURE REDUCTION ACT OF 2012

Authors: Assemblymen Mike Eng and Mike Feuer; Senators Mark Leno, Fran Pavley, and Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg
-Require creditors to provide documentation to a borrower that establishes the creditor’s right to foreclose on real property prior to recording a notice of default.
-Require creditors to provide documentary evidence of ownership, the chain of title to real property, and the right to foreclose, at the time of the filing of a notice of default.
-Prohibit creditors from recording a notice of default when a timely-filed application for a loan modification or other loss mitigation measure is pending.
-Prohibit creditors from recording a notice of sale when a timely-filed application for a loan modification or other loss mitigation measure is pending.
-Prohibit creditors from recording a notice of sale while a borrower is in compliance with the terms of a trial loan modification or after another loss mitigation measure has been approved.
-Require creditors to disclose why an application for a loan modification or other loss mitigation measure has been denied.
-Require that notices of foreclosure sales be personally served, including notices of foreclosure sale postponement.
-Provide homeowners with a private right of action in instances in which the requirements set forth in the legislation are not followed

ASSEMBLY BILL 2425 / SENATE BILL 1471 – DUE PROCESS REFORM LEGISLATION

Authors: Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell; Senators Mark DeSaulnier and Fran Pavley
-Require creditors to provide a single point of contact to borrowers in the foreclosure process who will be responsible for providing accurate account and other information related to the foreclosure process and loss mitigation efforts.
-Require creditors to provide a dedicated electronic mail address, facsimile number and mailing address for borrowers to submit information requested as part of a loan modification, short sale or other loss mitigation option.
-Authorize borrowers to challenge the unlawful commencement of a foreclosure process in court.
-Impose a $10,000 civil penalty on the recordation or filing of “robosigned” documents, defined as documents that contain information that was not verified for accuracy by the person or persons signing or swearing to the accuracy of the document or statement.
-Require that certain documents be recorded in a county recorder’s office.

ASSEMBLY BILL 2314 / SENATE BILL 1472 – BLIGHT PREVENTION LEGISLATION

Authors: Assemblywoman Wilmer Carter; Senator Fran Pavley
-Prevent blight enforcement actions from being taken against new purchasers of blighted property for 60 days, provided that repairs are being made to the property.
-Require banks that release liens on foreclosed property to inform local code enforcement agencies of the release so that demolition of blighted property can proceed.
-Increase fines against owners of blighted property from $1,000 per day to $5,000 per day, and allow the imposition of the costs of a receivership over blighted property to be imposed directly against the owner of blighted property.

ASSEMBLY BILL 2610/ SENATE BILL 1473 – TENANT PROTECTION LEGISLATION

Authors: Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner; Senator Loni Hancock
-Require purchasers of foreclosed homes to honor the terms of existing leases and give tenants at least 90 days notice before commencing eviction proceedings.

ASSEMBLY BILL 1950 – ENHANCEMENT OF ATTORNEY GENERAL ENFORCEMENT

Author: Assemblyman Mike Davis
-Impose a new $25 fee to be paid by servicers upon the recording of a notice of default. The fee would be deposited into a real estate fraud prosecution trust fund that would support the Attorney General’s efforts to deter, investigate and prosecute real estate fraud crimes, including the work of the Mortgage Fraud Strike Force.
-Extend the statute of limitations from one year to four years from the date of discovery for violations of law commonly occurring in connection with foreclosure-related scams, including acting as a real-estate agent without a license and charging up-front fees for loan modification services.

SENATE BILL 1474 / ASSEMBLY BILL 1763 – ATTORNEY GENERAL SPECIAL GRAND JURY

Authors: Assemblyman Mike Davis; Senator Loni Hancock
-Authorize the Attorney General to impanel a special grand jury for the purposes of investigating and indicting multi-jurisdictional financial crimes against the state.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Applauds State Senate Passage of Fair Debt Buyers Practices Act

January 31, 2012
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the State Senate passed legislation to protect consumers from unfair debt collection practices.

The Fair Debt Buyers Practices Act will require purchasers of consumer debt, or debt buyers, to provide documentary evidence to consumers in order to ensure that their collection efforts are directed at the proper individual. Debt buyers have flooded California’s courts with lawsuits seeking judgments on debts without adequate documentation, often resulting in collections efforts against the wrong person.

“Too often, a consumer can get ensnarled in a long and costly battle to prove they are not the ones responsible for debt,” said Attorney General Harris. “The Fair Debt Buyers Practices Act will put reasonable requirements on debt buyers and ensure consumers are not forced to pay the debts of others.”

Consumer debt is routinely purchased and resold in bundles, made up of thousands of accounts, with inadequate documentation. As a result, debt collection efforts often target the wrong consumers or wrong amounts, or seek payment on debt that has expired or been discharged.

Senate Bill 890, by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), would prohibit debt buyers from obtaining a judgment in a debt collection lawsuit unless the debt buyer can document their ownership of the debt, the balance of the debt, the date of the default or last payment, the identity of prior owners of the debt and the name and address of the debtor in the original creditor’s records.

In addition, the debt buyer must also have the original contract or a document provided to the debtor while the account was active to show evidence of the debt.

“The passage of this legislation is a major breakthrough for consumer protection in California,” said Senator Leno. “Aggressive debt buyers are using deceptive tactics to collect funds when they cannot even prove they are targeting the right consumer for the correct debt amount. The Fair Debt Buyers Practices Act relieves consumers and courts from the burdens and costs associated with processing large volumes of unsubstantiated debts.”

The California Department of Consumer Affairs issued a report in August 2011 concluding that much of the debt purchased by debt buyers is not accompanied by sufficient documentation to identify the debtor. Yet, as many as 90 percent of some debt buyers claims result in a default judgment where no defendant appears to challenge the debt claim. This often happens because the consumer is not even aware of the claim.

The Federal Trade Commission received more than 33,000 complaints regarding the validity of collection efforts in 2010 and has described the system for resolving disputes as “broken.”

SB 890 passed the Senate on a 22 to 14 vote and now moves to the Assembly.