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Legislature takes action on homeowner bills

Posted: June 1, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 1, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Attorney General Kamala Harris discusses her package of homeowner mortgage protection bills during a conference committee hearing at the Capitol in Sacramento

 

The state Assembly and Senate each passed components of the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, Attorney General Kamala Harris announced Thursday.

The bill of rights is designed to protect homeowners from scams the department of justice said in a press release. The legislative bills also boost the Attorney General’s enforcement powers by allowing the use of special grand juries to prosecute multi-jurisdictional financial crimes.

“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,” Harris said. “These bills will aid our efforts to prosecute and convict these criminals.”

A special grand jury could be convened, under AB 1763, 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.

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

“The Attorney General is currently engaged in the investigation of significant crimes,” said Senator Loni Hancock (D-Oakland). “Unfortunately, county-by-county grand juries do not work well in dealing with large-scale wrongdoing in multiple jurisdictions.”

Another bill, AB 1950, extends the statute of limitations on mortgage related crimes to three years. The current statute of limitations of one year makes 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 Assemblyman Mike Davis.

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.   

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