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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris unveils Homeowner Bill of Rights

OW Staff | 2/29/2012, 5 p.m.

SACRAMENTO--Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced Wednesday the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, which is 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, 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 on 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 Harris. "The California Homeowner Bill of Rights will provide basic fairness and transparency for homeowners, and improve the mortgage process for everyone."

According to the attorney general's press release, the legislation builds on the California commitment announced by Harris earlier this month, which is expected to result in $18 billion of benefits for California homeowners. That agreement includes 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," Harris said. "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 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 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."