It's been five years since the housing bubble burst, yet hundreds of thousands of California homeowners remain in default and en route to foreclosure. Some of these troubled borrowers will benefit from new consumer protections included in a nationwide settlement that five major banks agreed to in February, including a requirement that foreclosure proceedings wait until the bank considers a modified mortgage that would be less costly to borrower and lender alike. Those protections, however, extend no further than the five banks and the loans they service. This week, state lawmakers are set to take up a series of mortgage-related bills backed by Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, beginning with a measure (AB 1602) to enshrine the national settlement's safeguards into California law and apply them to all borrowers in the state. Also included in the package are proposals to improve lenders' record keeping and extend the statute of limitations for prosecuting certain mortgage-related crimes.
The measures are sensible and important, yet they're running into resistance from bank lobbyists. One of the main complaints is that some of the bills would encourage defaulting borrowers to file lawsuits to drag out the foreclosure process, even if they have no intention or ability to keep their homes.