Senate Bill 974 will save North Carolina communities and protect against unfair debt collectors
RALEIGH – Last week, North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue signed Senate Bill 974, The Consumer Economic Protection Act Of 2009 (CEPA),which will help homeowners facing foreclosure, preserve communities, and protect consumers from unfair debt collectors.
“When a home is foreclosed — it’s bad for our families, it’s bad for our communities, it’s bad for our businesses and it’s bad for North Carolina,” said Gov. Perdue. “This bill makes it easier for homeowners to work out a deal with their lenders and avoid foreclosure.”
Court records show that nearly 40,000 North Carolina homes have gone into foreclosure so far in 2009. According to the Center for Responsible Lending, more than 2.2 million North Carolina homeowners will see their property values decline over the next three years because of foreclosures in their neighborhood. Foreclosures hurt lenders as well, costing them an estimated 40 percent of the loan value.
“Everybody loses when a foreclosure happens,” NC Attorney General Roy Cooper said. “Giving homeowners and lenders more time to find solutions can save homes, neighborhoods and money.”
Not all foreclosures can be prevented, but some homeowners are able to work out repayment plans and loan modifications with their mortgage lender or servicer. The bill, sponsored by Senator Tony Rand and Representatives Deborah Ross, Larry Hall, Grier Martin, and Dan Blue, will ensure that homeowners and their mortgage lenders have the chance to voluntarily resolve foreclosures.
SB 974 empowers the Clerk of Court presiding over a foreclosure hearing to ask what steps have been taken to prevent foreclosure and to continue the hearing for up to 60 days to allow homeowners and lenders more time to negotiate a solution.
To give homeowners a fair opportunity to appeal foreclosure orders, the bill also standardizes the amount of bond required at one percent of the balance due on the loan. Previously, some homeowners were asked to put up a bond worth the entire value of the loan balance in order to be able to appeal their foreclosure.
The bill also protects North Carolina consumers from unfair debt collection practices by debt buyers, a new breed of debt collectors that purchase old debts and aggressively file lawsuits to collect on them. In some cases, the debts have already been settled or paid. Debt buyers must now prove that they have the right to enforce the debt and be able to verify the amount owed. The new law also prohibits debt buyers from filing or threatening to file suit when barred by the statute of limitations.
Consumer tips on home loans, debt collectors and many other topics are available from the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at www.ncdoj.gov.