Bill to help families in foreclosure gets first hearing

Oakland County Clerk/Register of Deeds Ruth Johnson and Macomb County Clerk/Register of Deeds Carmella Sabaugh testified Tuesday in favor of House Bill 5267, sponsored by state Rep. Fred Miller, (D-Mt. Clemens.)

"This bill would restore the ability of the Register of Deeds in Oakland and Macomb to calculate the amount families need to pay to redeem their foreclosed homes--a service we provided, for free, for decades," Johnson told members of the House Intergovernmental and Regional Affairs Committee.

In 2005, local Registers were prohibited from providing a redemption amount to homeowners who wanted to redeem their home out of foreclosure. Homeowners generally have six months to redeem their home after it goes to sheriff's sale.

Today, the only way homeowners in a foreclosure crisis can get the "pay-off" or redemption amount is to contact the investor who purchased their home or their financial agent. Those agents, unfortunately, often have a financial stake in not seeing the home redeemed by the original owner if there is equity in the property. Homeowners have complained phone calls aren't returned and they can't get the critical information they need to save their homes. Banks and financial organizations also charge those homeowners--already in financial crisis--as much as $250 to calculate the redemption amount.

"We have to make sure that every family has that last opportunity to save their homes," said Johnson. "We are a neutral third party and we can assist these families--the ones lucky enough to scrape up enough money to try to save their homes."

Johnson said she didn't understand why other registers and their lobbyists are actively opposing the legislation as it only applies to Oakland, Macomb and Kent counties. "It would not mandate they provide this service, simply allow us to do so, which we did successfully for years. I respectfully ask why we should be denied the right to serve our public as we see fit."