Nov 06, 2008

New Developments on the Foreclosure Modification Front


While the federal government mulls its approach to reducing foreclosures, California's governor is moving forward with new legislation designed to encourage lenders to aggressively modify mortgages, according to Carolyn Said, staff business reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. The new law would apply to owner-occupied homes and would, in effect, mandate an additional 90-day delay to an already lengthy foreclosure process -- unless the lender seeking the foreclosure has an "aggressive modification policy" in place.

Among other things, such a policy apparently would require modifications downward so that the borrower would not have to pay more than 38% of his or her income, and would offer options such as extending the loan period to 40 years and deferring some of the principal balance until the home is sold or refinanced. The basic idea here is that increasing the foreclosure process by 90 days would be so financially detrimental to foreclosing lenders that they would choose the modification route.

Other states are taking similar actions. For example, both New York and Massachusetts have recently enacted laws requiring 90 days advance notice before foreclosure proceedings can be commenced. As with the proposed California legislation, these 90-day advance periods make foreclosure more expensive (because the lenders typically receive no payments during these periods) and may encourage them to also adopt "aggressive" modification polices.

There is no question that the modification landscape is shifting radically under new state laws, but the big changes are yet to come. Under the federal bailout bill, the Treasury Department and government housing agencies must have plans in place by December 2 designed to keep people in their homes. These agencies will undoubtedly be conferring with the Obama transition team on these plans, and the plans that emerge can be expected to have the Obama stamp of approval.