Senate kills bill to change foreclosure notification process

Monitor staff
Published: 4/25/2019 5:12:50 PM

A bill intended to give more warning to homeowners facing foreclosure came to an end Thursday after the Senate voted by voice vote to kill it, citing objections from banks and credit unions.

House Bill 309 would have required a sheriff to hand-deliver a notice of sale to a delinquent homeowner. Under present law, when a bank intends to sell a property, that notice must only be mailed to the homeowner.

Advocates such as New Hampshire Legal Assistance, which provides legal resources for low-income homeowners, said the mail can often be lost and ignored, and argued the bill would create a more direct way for homeowners to be informed. Sometimes, while the owners know they’re behind on mortgage payments, they aren’t fully away of how far behind or that their efforts to increase payments have been unsuccessful, advocates have argued.

HB 309 would require the sheriff to either deliver the notice by hand or leave a copy on the premises. And it would require that the notice itself explicit about the recourse a homeowner has to fight the non-judicial foreclosure procedure if he or she believes it was illegally issued.

That recourse would also be changed from a petition to a complaint, with the effect that the foreclosure would be immediately halted while the courts stepped in.

But a broad array of banks, credit unions and municipalities have been fiercely against the change, arguing it would tie up the court system and slow down foreclosures to a crawl. They said that procedures developed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have already created guidelines for banks to follow during foreclosures, though advocates have said they are poorly enforced.

On Thursday, Sen. Harold French, a Franklin Republican, argued that the consensus against the bill from those groups had been convincing.

“The committee found that there was a large amount of opposition to the bill form various stakeholders and the financial community,” he said.

But despite the voice vote, Concord Democratic Sen. Dan Feltes remained in favor.

“Establishing a process and going through it in some cases will expedite the (legal) process, rather than putting the onus on homeowners to go to court to stop a potentially unlawful foreclosure and instead going through a process right away ... is what most the states do,” he said, adding he was “disappointed.”

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at edewitt@cmonitor.com, at (603) 369-3307, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)




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