New law protects homeowners from 'shadow' foreclosures

Brooklyn Currents | 9/29/2013 | 0 comments



By Assemblyman ALAN MAISEL
District 59


Homeownership is a part of the American dream. People work hard every day to reach this mark of success, and there may be no better feeling than receiving the keys to your new home. But to have all of that torn away from you by a faceless, uncaring financial institution – especially if you thought you were in good standing on your mortgage payments – can be life-altering.


To complicate matters, some foreclosures are being issued by a bank or lender that doesn't actually own your mortgage, making the problem nearly impossible to solve. When the lender doesn't have sufficient documentation to determine who owns the loan, the homeowner is left defenseless in so-called "shadow-docket" limbo.

Unfortunately, too many hardworking homeowners in Brooklyn are subjected to foreclosures, which are, at times, unfair and baseless. But thanks to a new law (which  I supported), New Yorkers will now be better protected from careless foreclosure proceedings which could lead to the loss of their home. This much-needed law closes a loophole that allowed banks to begin foreclosure proceedings on properties without proof that they own the mortgage (Ch. 306 of 2013).

The state Office of Court Administration estimated last year that 25,000 New Yorkers had fallen into the "shadow docket" – a legal holding point that prevents homeowners from reaching court-supervised mediation – allowing interest and penalties to mount. Working with the lender to try to modify the mortgage becomes even less affordable to homeowners when they are trapped in this limbo.

The new state law requires lenders to submit a Certificate of Merit at the time they foreclose on a property, proving they actually own the mortgage. The Certificate of Merit will ensure well-founded cases promptly move into the courts and eliminate cases without merit. The lender and homeowner will be required to enter settlement conferences within 60 days of the initial filing. With access to housing counseling and free legal services, homeowners will be better protected in court.

Earlier this year, the Assembly passed the Foreclosure Fraud Prevention Act of 2013 (A.7395). The legislation would create both misdemeanor and felony-level crimes for banks, lenders and supervisory employees who knowingly engage in or fail to stop mortgage-related fraud. I strongly urge the Senate to pass this measure.

Bringing accountability to the mortgage industry is critical, and I will continue to fight for justice on behalf of hardworking homeowners. To contact me about this or any other community issue, call 718-968-2770 or email me at maisela@assembly.state.ny.us.


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