Brown signs foreclosure-prevention legislation

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown has completed work on a package of foreclosure-prevention bills aimed at preventing another massive real estate bust like the one that plunged California and the nation into a deep recession five years ago.

The governor on Tuesday signed into law SB 1474 by Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley), giving the attorney general authority to impanel a statewide grand jury to investigate and issue indictments for alleged financial crimes, including mortgage fraud.

Also signed Tuesday were Assembly Bill 1950 by Assemblyman Mike Davis (D-Los Angeles), which extends from one to three years the legal statute of limitations for prosecuting mortgage-related crimes, and AB 2610 by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), which provides guarantees to renters that they can stay longer in foreclosed properties purchased by new owners.

The three new laws are part of a Homeowner Bill of Rights pushed by California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris.

“California has been the epicenter of the foreclosure and mortgage crisis,” Harris said in a statement released by her office. “The Homeowner Bill of Rights will provide basic fairness and transparency for homeowners and improve the mortgage process for everyone.”

In July, Brown signed the two most controversial bills of the series. One banned aggressive bank practices such as seizing a home while the owner is negotiating to lower mortgage payments. The other measure allows state agencies and private citizens to sue financial institutions, under limited conditions, for economic compensation and additional civil damages of up to $50,000, if lenders willfully, intentionally or recklessly violate the law.