A small fix to the Foreclosure Fairness Act will have big implications for Washingtonians at risk of losing their homes.
Senate Bill 5988, which garnered unanimous support Wednesday in the House and Senate, is sponsored by Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens. The bill contains an emergency clause and will take effect immediately.
“We’ve made great strides in protecting homeowners from foreclosure, but without this fix, we risk compromising the entire program and families throughout the state,” Hobbs said. “This change will allow the process to move forward.”
The Foreclosure Fairness Act (HB 1362), passed during the regular session, provides homeowners who qualify the opportunity for mediation with their lender before a foreclosure can move forward. One aspect of the bill required that parties sign a waiver stating that neither party can call the mediator as a witness in any lawsuit related to the foreclosure process.
Dispute Resolution Centers, which handle 75 percent of foreclosure mediations, have expressed concern over the waiver requirement, slowing the mediation process to a crawl. Meanwhile nearly 800 homeowners have requested mediation in the five months since the program began, while only 55 have been completed with just another 196 scheduled for mediation.
SB 5988 removes the requirement that parties must sign a waiver and instead includes that language in statute. DRC foreclosure mediators are granted immunity except in the case of willful misconduct.
“I'm pleased we were able to pass this urgent legislation to help struggling homeowners seeking mediation to have their voices heard in a fair process,” said Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, prime sponsor of the Foreclosure Fairness Act of 2011. “This bill will get the ball rolling again to ensure that homeowners who are referred to mediation receive those services promptly so they have every opportunity to keep their homes.”