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Most foreclosure reform measures defeated

So much for foreclosure reform.

All that appears to be left of a slew of bills in the House and Senate is SB 837, which would create a civil cause of action against a person who knowingly uses a false document in support of foreclosure.

That bill, with Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, as patron, survived after substantial amendment in Senate Courts of Justice civil subcommittee. The amended version wasn’t immediately available.

Perhaps the most substantive reform, SB 798, with Don McEachin, D-Richmond, as patron, would have required judicial review of foreclosures. Under Virginia’s deed of trust system, a trustee can foreclose on a property without any court supervision.

Subcommittee Chairman John Edwards, D-Roanoke, suggested that McEachin’s bill could go to a group that Gov. Bob McDonnell has created to study the state’s foreclosure system, but McEachin said he had no confidence in the makeup of the committee.

Consumer lawyer Leonard A. Bennett of Newport News commented that the group is composed entirely of attorneys and representatives of banking and mortgage interests, with no one to represent the interests of homeowners and consumers.

A representative from the Virginia Bankers Association said the problem with foreclosures is not nearly as bad in Virginia as many other states, with the state ranking 41st in the number of foreclosures and 93 percent current of homeowners current on their payments.

“The problem is the borrowers’ inability to pay. It’s not the process,” he said.

The brought a sharp response from Petersen, who noted that half of all sales in Prince William County for a time were foreclosures.

McEachin insisted on an up-or-down vote on his proposal, and the bill was passed by indefinitely.

Another measure with Petersen as patron, SB 838, would have required recordation of assignments of debts secured by a deed of trust. That measure was largely in response to problems with the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, or MERS, which many lenders use to keep track of loans when they are assigned.

That bill also failed to clear the subcommittee.

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