Foreclosure bills could help renters | NevadaAppeal.com

Foreclosure bills could help renters

CATHY BUSSEWITZ
Associated Press Writer
Nevada Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, speaks Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009, at the Legislature in Carson City, Nev. Conklin introduced two bills earlier Wednesday that would help renters and homeowners with foreclosures. (AP Photo/Nevada Appeal, Cathleen Allison)
AP | NEVADA APPEAL

Nevada lawmakers worked Wednesday on bills to help ease foreclosure problems for homeowners, health care facilities and even renters, who are often unaware of their landlord’s mortgage woes until they face eviction.

Assembly Commerce and Labor Chairman Marcus Conklin said that over 32,000 homes were foreclosed upon in Nevada over the past two years, most of them in the Las Vegas area. He recounted a story about a Henderson health care facility where people were evicted in hospital beds.

“While we have weathered a good deal of this storm, we are not out of it yet,” Conklin, D-Las Vegas, said, referring to Nevada’s status as the state with the nation’s highest foreclosure rates.

AB140, reviewed by Conklin’s committee and its Senate counterpart in a joint hearing, would make it mandatory to notify renters that a property is in foreclosure, and to give renters 60 days notice to move out.

Lawmakers said that renters often aren’t notified by landlords that a property is being foreclosed upon, and they must move out within hours.

The bill also would require that a notice be served to the state Board of Health if a licensed health facility faces foreclosure.

“The state of Nevada, as most of you have probably figured out by now, has one of the least renter-friendly laws with regard to foreclosure in the country, and it definitely needs to be changed,” said lobbyist George Ross, representing Bank of America, who worked with lawmakers to craft the bill.

Rhea Gerken of Nevada Legal Services, representing low-income clients, supported the bill’s attempt to give renters more time to move, saying it’s difficult for renters to come up with security deposits on the fly.

“The tenants are almost across the board not at fault here,” Gerken said. “They have been paying their rent, and it really is coming as a shock to them when a homeowner is not paying their mortgage.”

The committee also heard AB151, which would require mortgage brokers to include a disclosure document that lists the lender’s license number, and would require financial institutions to include a document that states the value of the home and the terms of the loan in “language that is easy to understand.”

“At some point of time in the future, our market is going to turn around, and people are going to start buying again, and banks are going to start lending again,” Conklin said. “And one of the lessons that we have learned from the most recent history is that people don’t always know what they’re buying, and they need a little bit more information.”

Michele Johnson, head of Las Vegas-based Consumer Credit Counseling Service, said she has many clients who would benefit from the legislation, including one who was assured she had a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage but later learned she signed a 165-page document with an adjustable-rate mortgage.

“The lack of clarity provided to homeowners has a devastating impact,” Johnson said.