New foreclosure laws in Ventura County have been signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.

New foreclosure laws in Ventura County have been signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Last week, California and Ventura County lawmakers passed the legislation that provides Ventura County homeowners with strong protections from foreclosure and aggressive bank practices. For instance, seizing a Ventura County home while the owner is negotiating to lower mortgage payments will be restricted.

“This is a very important day, to sign a very important bill, to clean up at least part of the mess that has been created by all sorts of people in the mortgage, the banking and servicing business that caused untold suffering to millions of people,” Brown said. “People have lost their homes, they have lost their jobs. Families have broken down because of the insensitivity, the greed and the blindness of very powerful people who made millions of dollars personally, and billions of dollars for their respective entities.”

The legislation was supported by Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris, who helped negotiate a national mortgage settlement with the nation’s largest banks. Many of the reforms that were part of that settlement were incorporated into California and Ventura County law with the bill signed into law Wednesday morning.

“California homeowners will take back a system in a way that gives them due process, gives them transparency, gives them dignity through a fair process,” Harris said. “This is about saying that we have had a series of unnecessary foreclosures in a state full of responsible homeowners.”

The laws go into effect next year and California and Ventura County will be the first area to prevent “dual tracking,” which is when the banks negotiate with clients to modify a mortgage to create more affordable payments while pursuing foreclosure at the same time. In such cases, Ventura County homeowners can end up being evicted even though they had been working with the bank to modify their loans.

The new laws also ban robo-signing, which is the improper or faulty processing of foreclosure documents.  State agencies and Ventura County citizens will be allowed to sue financial institutions, under limited conditions, for economic compensation and for additional civil damages of up to $50,000 if lenders willfully, intentionally or recklessly violate the law. A lawsuit would not ensue if the bank or servicer first fixes the problem with documentation or procedures, according to the bills.

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