New Law Intended to Protect Homeowners Facing Foreclosure
A law approved by the N.C. General Assembly will help homeowners facing foreclosure, preserve communities and protect consumers from unfair debt collectors, according to Attorney General Roy Cooper.
"When a house goes into foreclosure, a family loses its home, neighbors lose property value, and the lender loses money," Cooper said. "We're giving homeowners and lenders more time to work out solutions to foreclosure, and we're giving consumers relief from debt collectors who hound them about old debts that have already been taken care of."
Court records show that more than 27,000 North Carolina homes have gone into foreclosure so far in 2009, a news release from Cooper's office said.
According to the Center for Responsible Lending, more than 2.2 million North Carolina homeowners will see their property values decline over the next three years because of foreclosures in their neighborhood. Foreclosures hurt lenders as well, costing them an estimated 40 percent of the loan value, the release said.
Not all foreclosures can be prevented, but some homeowners are able to work out repayment plans and loan modifications with their mortgage lender or servicer.
The Consumer Economic Protection Act of 2009 (CEPA ), sponsored by Sen. Tony Rand, will ensure that homeowners and their mortgage lenders have the chance to voluntarily resolve foreclosures.
CEPA requires lenders to explain in detail their efforts to resolve delinquent home loans without resorting to foreclosure. It also empowers the Clerk of Court presiding over a foreclosure hearing to ask what steps have been taken to prevent foreclosure and to continue the hearing for up to 60 days to allow homeowners and lenders more time to negotiate a solution.
To give homeowners a fair opportunity to appeal foreclosure orders, CEPA standardizes the amount of bond required at one percent of the balance due on the loan. Previously, some homeowners were asked to put up a bond worth the entire value of the loan balance in order to be able to appeal their foreclosure.
CEPA also protects North Carolina consumers from unfair debt collection practices by debt buyers, a new breed of aggressive debt collectors that pursue old debts even if they've already been settled or paid.
Debt buyers must now prove that they have the right to enforce the debt and be able to verify the amount owed. The new law also prohibits debt buyers from filing or threatening to file suit when barred by the statute of limitations.
'These are hard times and many people are struggling,"Cooper said. "This new law gives North Carolina consumers a fair shot at keeping their home and some needed protection from harassing debt buyers.
A provision that would have clarified the Attorney General's Office's enforcement over investment scams involving securities will be pursued in the next legislative session.
Consumer tips on home loans, debt collectors and many other topics are available from the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at www.ncdoj.gov.
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