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Calif. Homeowner Bill of Rights stalled in Assembly

April 16, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
California lawmakers were set to take up the so-called Homeowner Bill of Rights Monday, a series of bills aimed at helping homeowners facing foreclosure. But there was a last-minute snag.

Like so many Californians, after losing her job, Monica Kenney did everything she could to keep her home, even applying for a loan modification. She thought she got good news last summer.

"Essentially, I received a forbearance agreement on one day, the 27th of June. And the following day, the home was foreclosed on," said Kenney.

Kenney was a victim of "dual tracking," where banks go through a loan modification with you but at the same time continue the foreclosure process in case the modification doesn't work out.

That's just one practice that Attorney General Kamala Harris is trying to quash in her California Homeowner Bill of Rights package, a series of proposals aimed at giving consumers greater protection.

But at the last second, the state Assembly Committee on Banking and Finance pulled two bills scheduled for a hearing, usually an indication there aren't enough votes. Harris vows to keep pushing.

"It's not about bailing people out. It's not about giving them a handout," said Harris. "It's simply saying, 'Let's have clear rules so that if you want to follow the rules, you can actually succeed.'"

The California Bankers Association supports some of Harris's proposals but opposes the ban on dual tracking, saying it only delays the inevitable.

"We're concerned about any legislation that protracts the foreclosure process and will actually impede new opportunities for new homebuyers and also California's housing and economic recovery which impacts all of us," said Beth Mills, California Bankers Association.

Foreclosure victims are disappointed, but not surprised, given the power of who they're dealing with.

"We're going to keep showing up, and we're going to keep making our stories and our faces known," said Monica Kenney.

While the official reason for pulling the bills is to rethink strategy, banks and other financial institutions spent nearly $70 million in lobbying fees and political contributions in California between 2007 and 2010 during the Great Recession.


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