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February 19, 2015: NHLP Applauds Introduction of California Bill to Extend Homeowner Rights to Widowed Spouses, Heirs

Legislative fix would help grieving homeowners working with mortgage servicers...

SACRAMENTO –Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman has introduced legislation that would extend to widowed homeowners and other heirs the same legal protections granted to homeowners.

It is not uncommon for only one person in a household to be listed on a given mortgage, and lenders have argued that the protections for homeowners created by the California Homeowner Bill of Rights (HBOR) do not extend to their widows, widowers and other surviving heirs.

Currently, these homeowners can find themselves caught in a “Catch 22” if they seek a loan modification: Servicers tell them that they can’t modify the loan until they assume the mortgage, but won’t let them assume the mortgage unless they show they can afford it. As a result, mortgage payments are missed, fees rack up, and foreclosure becomes more likely.

Asm. Eggman’s bill, AB 244, fixes this problem by stating that the protections afforded to homeowners under HBOR also extend to widows, widowers and other surviving family members who have a legal interest in the property.

“Our community has already suffered so much from the foreclosure crisis,” Assemblymember Eggman said. “It’s outrageous that this continues to be a problem. Clearly we need to change the law to force lenders to deal fairly with those who are grieving the loss of a spouse or loved one.”

Kevin Stein, associate director of the California Reinvestment Coalition, a co-sponsor of the bill, explained the importance of the bill: “While it’s a small clarification, this bill could make a world of difference for a grieving spouse or other surviving family member. The Homeowner Bill of Rights is one of the strongest consumer protection laws in the nation, and this bill continues California’s trend of leading on the issue of protecting homeowners.”

Maeve Elise Brown, executive director of Housing and Economic Rights Advocates, also a co-sponsor of the legislation, commented: “Attorneys from my office have worked with a number of widowed homeowners as well as surviving children who are hitting a brick wall when trying to speak with their servicers. Even with our attorneys involved, we still see unreasonable delays and consumers getting passed around to multiple departments when asking for a simple thing like a mortgage statement. Nationally, there are 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every single day, and we appreciate Assemblymember Eggman’s leadership on addressing this problem.”

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