By Cheri Jahn
As I sit down to write this article on day 56 of the Legislative Session, I am reminded of what a privilege it is to work on issues that provide care and oversight for our personal and community investments. Consumer protection is one of my key passions at the legislature.
A home is the biggest personal investment most of us will ever make. The recent foreclosure crisis tragically affected unprecedented numbers of our citizens. I am the Senate Prime Sponsor of House Bill 1090, concerning foreclosure finder fees.
After the foreclosure process is completed, there are often funds that remain payable to the former homeowner. I am deeply concerned about the deceptive practice of charging those who have gone through foreclosure exorbitant finders fees on what is essentially their own money. As the housing market has gotten stronger, fewer homes go into foreclosure. Those that do go to sale are selling at higher and higher prices. Often that means that the property sells for more than the owner owed the bank and any liens. The difference in the selling price and what is owed is called Excess Funds or Overbid Funds. That’s the money we’re trying to get back to the former owner.
Some of those former owners are being taken advantage of by people called Finders. Finders charge a hefty percentage and tell people in crisis that our Public Trustees are trying to keep their money. That’s blatantly false. Current law requires that these funds be returned to the former owner.
The bill provides for a clear contract that states the current practice: The Public Trustee will give the former owner the money without the use of a Finder.
This bill addresses abuses within the Finder industry. The bill limits the premium (commonly referred to as a "finder's fee") that a person may charge for offering assistance in recovering the balance of the purchase price of a foreclosed property after all liens and claims against the property have been satisfied. The measure provides that any contract for finder's fee payments during the first six months of the public trustee's custody of the funds and during the first two years of the State Treasurer's custody of the funds is voided, and the finder's fee is capped at 20 percent of the amount recovered once these periods expire. For amounts that have been in the custody of the State Treasurer for three years or more, the finder's fee is capped at 30 percent. The bill also imposes additional contract requirements for finders, such as disclosing that the owner of the funds may obtain the funds free of charge without a finder's assistance. Violations of these provisions will be cause for criminal prosecution.
Contact Senate District 20 Senator Cheri Jahn at 303-866-4856 or firstname.lastname@example.org.