Lost documents. Incomplete and confusing information. Mysterious fees. Payments received but not applied. Homeowners waiting for a loan modification and suddenly placed in foreclosure. A nightmare of uncertainty, frustration and fear.
These incidents, described to me by numerous homeowners, mortgage counselors and defense lawyers, were supposed to be a thing of the past in California. After revelations of fraud and abuse throughout the mortgage business, including tens of billions of dollars in corporate penalties, state Attorney General Kamala Harris pushed through the 2012 California Homeowner Bill of Rights (HBOR), designed to standardize conduct by mortgage servicers – those companies that manage day-to-day operations on mortgages by collecting monthly payments and making decisions when homeowners go into default and seek help.
Yet one company allegedly committed all these HBOR violations: Ocwen, the nation’s fourth-largest mortgage servicer. According to the complaints, Ocwen (“New Co.” spelled backwards) either skirts around the edges of California law or simply ignores it,
This legislative session brought some exciting victories as well as some deep disappointments. Labor accomplished big things this year that benefit all Californians but when it came to advancing worker protections, many of those bills were vetoed.
You don’t have to be a recent homeowner to know how precarious the housing market has been since the bubble popped in 2007. Consider this, for example: Today half of all San Bernardino County homeowners have to put on scuba gear to view their mortgages. Last week, however, just as that county toyed with the idea of seizing such homes through eminent domain, there was a bright spot. Governor Jerry Brown signed into law (to take effect January 1, 2013) the Homeowner Bill of Rights, a consolidation of several bills that had been strongly pushed by state Attorney General Kamala Harris.
The HBR offers several solid benefits to homeowners, but two stick out: