How will AB 244 Help Widowed Homeowners in California?

foreclosure-home.gi.topWhy do widowed homeowners need help talking to their mortgage servicers, and how will SB 1150 help?

Explanation: Widows, orphans and other successor homeowners (hereinafter, “widows and orphans”, or, “successors in interest”) who were not listed on the original loan documents are losing their homes unnecessarily upon the death of their spouses and other family members, as servicers fail to work with them or give them a reasonable opportunity to seek a loan modification for which they may qualify.  Some servicers still refuse to talk to these residents.  Other servicers force successors to go through unnecessary and costly procedures, such as probate, which are not needed in every instance.  To see a recent, egregious example, read this Daily Kos post:  Bank of America tries to seize widow’s home while forgetting to mention that her loan was insured

New legislation introduced by Mark Leno and Cathleen Galgiani provides critical protections for widowed spouses and other survivors who assume home ownership responsibilities when the primary mortgage holder passes away. The Homeowner Survivor Bill of Rights, (Senate Bill 1150) closes a loophole in California law that fails to provide surviving spouses and children important protections against foreclosure that are available to other homeowners.  

Visit www.survivorbillofrights.org to learn more about this important new bill.

Need for SB 1150 is seen across the state by housing counselors: In 2013, 80% of California housing counselors responding to a CRC survey indicated that they were seeing widows and orphans clients.  In 2014, 87% of counselors responding to the most recent CRC survey indicated that CFPB rules intended to address the widows and orphans issue failed to fix the problem.  Nonprofit housing counselors and legal service lawyers report continuing problems faced by successors in interest.  As our population ages, we expect to see this problem increase in scope.

Servicers are not complying with existing obligations to better protect widows and orphans.  This proposal is neither entirely new, nor extraordinary.  Servicers are supposed to already have policies in place to prevent these abuses.  Yet the abuses continue.  This bill is needed.

UPDATE: To see how servicers are not complying, see press release from FTC and CFPB this week about a $63 million settlement with Green Tree Servicing.  The FTC and CFPB allege that Green Tree Servicing LLC made illegal and abusive debt collection calls to consumers, misrepresented the amounts people owed, and failed to honor loan modification agreements between consumers and their prior servicers, among other charges.

To see how Green Tree Servicing treated this California widow, read her story: 

“ELK GROVE (CBS13) —The mortgage was in her late husband George’s name. The decorated war veteran died in 2007.  Daughter, April, says she sent Green Tree his death certificate and the grant deed with her mother’s name on it, but says Green Tree will not work with them.”   Call Kurtis Investigates: Surviving Family Members Losing Homes Left By Loved Ones (CBS Sacramento, 11/1/2013)