by Angela Martin, Director of Economic Fairness Oregon
Last week marked a big victory for Oregon consumers. The Oregon Legislature’s passage of SB 1552 shows that big banks can be drowned out by big voices. Thanks to a massive effort by everyday Oregonians to contact their legislators and demand action on foreclosure reform, the financial lobbyists were silenced, and meaningful policy prevailed.
Whether you’re facing foreclosure, your house is underwater or you’re a renter considering the plunge into homeownership – this legislation will protect you once it’s enacted. The bill that passed takes elements of two different concepts we worked on this session and combines them into one.
The amended version of SB 1552 will end the destructive dual track system in which a homeowner negotiating a modification with a bank is simultaneously on the path to foreclosure. It also requires that lenders sit down with homeowners and a neutral third party to discuss foreclosure-avoidance options.
I don’t have to tell you what a devastating effect the foreclosure crisis has had on our state – no matter where you live in Oregon, you surely have a friend or family member with a story similar to the ones our office gets everyday – homeowners playing by the rules and following the instructions of their banks, only to be met with resistance, incompetence and a total disregard for common sense. Thanks to the new protections put in place through SB 1552, homeowners will now have avenues to pursue bank accountability – something sorely lacking in our state until now.
While this bill is aimed at protecting Oregonians from avoidable foreclosures, there is still some relief on the horizon for the thousands who have already lost their homes. The legislation comes as Oregon is set to receive funds from the multi-state Attorneys General settlement with the nation’s five biggest lenders. If you’ve lost your home, you may be eligible for a payment of up to $1,800. This by no means replaces a lost home, but it can provide some help in securing alternative housing or hiring an attorney if you believe your lender improperly foreclosed on you. In addition to help for those who already lost their home, the lenders are obligated to help more at risk homeowners avoid foreclosure through sensible loan modifications, refinancing or principal reductions on underwater homes. For more information about the settlement, visit this site – http://www.nationalforeclosuresettlement.com/.
SB 1552 will take effect 90 days after the governor signs it, and we’ll be updating you on important details regarding mediation and how the program will work. You can visit EFO’s website for more details in the coming months, and please make sure to sign up for our weekly updates by entering your e-mail address in the upper right hand corner.
(If you’d like to support EFO’s work on behalf of homeowners, click here. –Our Oregon editors)