Deed information legislation wins approval from the House

Legislation aimed at helping homeowners in foreclosure has been approved by the state House of Representatives and now moves to the Senate for consideration.

The bill would restore the ability of Registers of Deeds in Oakland, Macomb and Kent counties to calculate redemption or "pay-off" amounts for homeowners who have lost homes to foreclosure. Those homeowners have six months after the home goes to sheriff's auction to redeem it.

"Today's vote is a win for common decency and common sense," said Oakland County Clerk/Register Ruth Johnson after the House vote last Thursday.

Johnson and Macomb County Clerk/Register Carmella Sabaugh pushed for the bill's passage.

"We have to do everything we can to assist families in financial crisis with getting the information they need to save their homes," she said.

"It's been an honor to work with State Rep. Fred Miller and Oakland County Clerk Ruth Johnson to help people in foreclosure," said Sabaugh. "My hope is the Senate will pass this bill, like they did last year, so the governor can sign it and our residents finally get this help."

House Bill 5267 was sponsored by Miller (D-Mount Clemens.)

Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Nancy Cassis (R-Novi).

That bill, Senate Bill 350, is expected to be considered Dec. 9 by the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee.

County registers provided payoff amounts until the law changed in 2005. Under the change, the responsibility for calculating redemption amounts was given to banks, the investor or their agent.

"We have heard from families that it can be impossible to get that redemption amount and this is the last opportunity for someone to save their home," Johnson said.

She noted some of those institutions are charging homeowners as much as $350 to calculate the amount needed to save their homes.

Johnson and Sabaugh have said their offices can provide the redemption payment service for about $50.

"Not everybody will be able to redeem their home, but we feel strongly that we need to provide every assistance in getting them the information they need to save their house," Johnson said.

"Unfortunately, this system is ripe for abuse because there are no checks and balances," she said. "Some families are easy prey for those without integrity or who are simply overwhelmed by the sheer volume of foreclosed homes. We believe that a neutral third party, the county Register of Deeds office, can and should provide the information they need to save their homes."

Published: Tue, Nov 17, 2009

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