Friday, Oct. 11, 2013 | 2:03 a.m.
A few weeks ago, we marked the five-year anniversary of the financial crisis that sent the U.S. economy into a tailspin. As we all know too well, Nevada was hit harder by the recession than perhaps any other state. One of the most harmful impacts of the Great Recession was its damage to our housing market. The statistics show that most of us, and that includes me and my family, are underwater in our homes or know someone whose home has been foreclosed on. Five years later, Nevada still leads the nation in foreclosures.
I have watched so many of my friends and neighbors struggle to keep their homes, frustrated with the often nonsensical procedures of banks and federal housing programs. My grandmother, who spent her retirement years in a ranch home in Las Vegas, had her home foreclosed on as she battled Alzheimer’s and grieved the death of my grandfather, despite all my efforts to help.
That is why I made it a priority to sponsor and pass the Nevada Homeowner’s Bill of Rights, which went into effect Oct. 1.
The Homeowner’s Bill of Rights is designed to offer protection for Nevada’s struggling homeowners who are facing foreclosure. I spoke to numerous constituents who had received the runaround from banks when they were trying to find ways to stay in their homes. This legislation aims to help struggling families get a fair shake from lenders and have the ability to talk to a single person instead of being passed around without receiving any real answers.
Specifically, the Homeowner’s Bill of Rights will:
• Require lenders to inform borrowers of possible alternatives before filing a notice of default.
• Make it illegal for banks to pursue “dual tracking,” a process in which banks pursue foreclosures while homeowners are in a foreclosure assistance program.
Require lenders to provide a single point of contact so borrowers don’t get the runaround.
• Require mortgage servicers to give borrowers who submit a loan modification application a “yes or no” answer before the servicer commences foreclosure.
To be clear, the Homeowner’s Bill of Rights will not provide an excuse for enterprising homeowners to “strategically default” and stay in their homes indefinitely without paying their mortgage. To the contrary, the legislation specifies timelines for banks and homeowners to take action to avoid foreclosure.
At the end of the day, I knew that as a state senator representing a district with one of the highest number of foreclosures in the state, it was my responsibility to take action and give hope to homeowners. This is what I fought for on the campaign trail, and this is what my colleagues and I delivered during the past legislative session.
Navigating these new laws, as well as complex federal and state housing assistance programs, can be daunting for many homeowners. That is why I am holding community workshops to speak one-on-one with residents about the Homeowner’s Bill of Rights and other resources available to you. My door is always open, and I hope you will reach out to me for assistance. My colleagues and I understand this bill won’t help everyone, but if we can work together to keep more families in their homes, we believe all Nevadans will be better off.
Justin Jones is a Democratic state senator from Clark County.