Las Vegas Sun

September 17, 2014

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THE ECONOMY:

Political rivals agree on helping tenants in foreclosed homes

There’s at least one issue state Sen. Bob Beers and his Democratic challenger, Allison Copening, agree on: helping renters who are victims of negligent landlords.

Since last year, thousands of valley renters have been booted out of their homes — not because they’d failed to pay their rent, but because their landlords hadn’t paid the monthly mortgage bills.

These renters often have no idea the homes they live in are in foreclosure, and may have to get out in five days or less, before the locks are changed. That could change early next year.

Members of the Senate Democratic caucus, including Copening and Senate Minority Leader Steven Horsford, said Wednesday they support a draft bill by fellow Democrat Valerie Wiener in the 2009 Legislature that would allow renters in foreclosed properties to stay longer than five days. If they’ve paid for an entire month, they could stay through the end of the month, Horsford said.

Beers also supports giving renters more time to move when alerted of foreclosures, noting a bipartisan interim committee on mortgage issues that he sits on had considered it.

The plight of evicted renters is widespread. About 25 percent of valley homes are rental properties, and so were 60 percent of all 12,800 properties that went into foreclosure last year, according to financial analyst Jeremy Aguero.

The Democrats say they intend to explore ways to penalize “dishonorable landlords” for what Horsford called an “essentially fraudulent practice” — accepting rent checks when their properties are in foreclosure. He said he wants to investigate whether such behavior could qualify as a gross misdemeanor or a felony.

Beers went a step further: “Put landlords who charge rent and who don’t pay their mortgage in prison.”

But that’s where the agreement ends between the hero of the libertarians and a Democratic caucus trying to gain control of the Senate.

Copening and Horsford say they favor increased regulation to combat the “fraudulent” practices of predatory lenders. They greatly blame such lenders for the state’s unflattering position, for 20 months now, as the national leader in the rate of foreclosures.

“New neighborhoods are in disrepair,” said Copening, referring to increasingly common brown lawns and fetid swimming pools.

Horsford suggests tightening state regulations to force lenders to fully disclose the terms of their mortgages, which he worries hadn’t always happened when buyers accepted subprime loans with adjustable rates.

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