Homeowners May Get Some Help On Foreclosure, Predatory Lending

By Annapolis Digest
Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Maryland General Assembly overwhelmingly passed legislation yesterday designed to strengthen homeowner protections and toughen oversight of the mortgage-lending industry.

The Senate voted to make mortgage fraud a crime and passed a bill that would give homeowners in default more time before they would lose their homes. A third bill that passed would prohibit "foreclosure rescue transactions," in which homeowners are tricked into signing over residences to third parties.

The House of Delegates, meanwhile, passed a similar bill extending the foreclosure timetable. Delegates also passed a bill prohibiting prepayment charges and making it illegal for lenders to make loans without regarding a borrower's ability to repay the loans.

Both chambers will consider other mortgage legislation in the coming days and reconcile differences before the measures are sent to Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) to sign.

Many of the bills are part of a legislative package introduced by O'Malley designed to prohibit the kinds of loans and predatory practices that contributed to the foreclosure crisis. The governor also wants to establish preemptive measures to help people at risk of losing their home.

-- Philip Rucker and Lisa Rein

Bill Advances on Study Of Capital Punishment

Legislation to repeal Maryland's death penalty has stalled this session, but a bill to study capital punishment moved forward in the Senate yesterday.

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee approved a bill that calls for the creation of a commission to weigh the merits of the death penalty, including the costs associated with imposing executions.

Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery), the committee's chairman, said the panel decided to send the legislation to the Senate floor because "there were not the votes to do a repeal."

Maryland has had an effective moratorium on the death penalty since December 2006, when the state's highest court ruled that the state's procedures for lethal injections had not been properly adopted. For executions to resume, the administration of Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) would have to issue new regulations, a step the governor has resisted.

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