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Public Statements

Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009--Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


HELPING FAMILIES SAVE THEIR HOMES ACT OF 2009--Continued -- (Senate - May 05, 2009)

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AMENDMENT NO. 1036

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I call up amendment No. 1036, with a possible modification, and ask for its immediate consideration.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The amendment is pending and, without objection, it is the pending amendment.

Mr. KERRY. I thank the Chair.

Mr. President, I am offering this amendment to address the needs of renters in properties that have been foreclosed. This amendment is cosponsored by Majority Leader Reid, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Dodd, and Senators Kennedy, Boxer, Gillibrand, and Merkley.

Congress has already taken extraordinary measures to help troubled borrowers in communities where they have abandoned foreclosed properties, but Congress has done very little to help renters who have been paying their rent regularly on time but, unfortunately, they have landlords who are losing their property to foreclosure. So these renters are absolutely blameless victims in the foreclosure catastrophe that has hit the country.

It is estimated that as many as one in every six mortgages in America is going to be lost to foreclosure in the next 4 years. In Massachusetts, more than 12,000 homeowners lost their homes to foreclosure last year, an increase of 62 percent in just 1 year. About 3,300 of those foreclosures involved homes with two or three units, and most of those homes had tenants who were evicted.

These renters often have absolutely no idea that their home is about to be foreclosed. Depending on the State they live in, they may be evicted with absolutely no notice. Obviously, this could be particularly difficult for low-income renters who don't have the resources to relocate or even to do so very quickly.

Under this amendment, tenants in any federally related mortgage loan or any dwelling or residential real property with a lease have a right to remain in the unit until the end of the existing lease. If a new purchaser intends to use the property as a primary residence, then the lease may be terminated, but the tenant has to receive 90 days' notice to vacate.

So what we believe is that this provides an appropriate level of protection. It doesn't take away the right of someone who takes over the home in foreclosure to be able to then transition that property or it decides if that person is going to keep the property as a rental property, the person who already has a legitimate lease has a right to be able to stay.

The provisions of this amendment would sunset. I wish to make that clear. This sunset is based on the notion that this is to deal with the current crisis, and it would sunset on December 31, 2012. Furthermore, it states specifically that none of the provisions here would affect any State and local law that provides a longer time period or other additional protections to renters. So there is nothing here that reduces the protection renters get.

Let me give my colleagues a couple graphic examples. A landlord should not be allowed to come in, change the locks, and force out tenants who were there completely legitimately, with an expectation that they were coming home to their same old home. A recent story in the Boston Globe shows how devastating and, frankly, absurd this can be at times.

A Dorchester, MA, man returned to the home he had been renting for the past 4 years. He found that the locks had been changed and a foreclosure notice had been placed on the door. With a neighbor's help, he managed to crawl through a second-floor window to get into the apartment. When the police arrived, he had to beg them not to be arrested. Fortunately, he was not but only because he was able to show proof he rented the apartment. Then for the next 4 months, he had to battle with the bank that then owned the building, enduring no heat, no electricity, and no water while he went through that 4-month process.

This is disgraceful. Unfortunately, it is not an isolated incident. In early January, a 45-year-old former factory worker from China came home to her third-floor walkup in east Boston to find a crew of moving men removing all of her furniture. She thought she was being robbed. She didn't speak English. She pleaded with them in Chinese to stop. She ended up on the street with all of her possessions until a city clerk noticed that the eviction paperwork, which the renter had never received, had expired. A judge issued an order that allowed her to move back. But for how long and under what circumstances?

These kinds of incidents show how completely vulnerable renters are to this foreclosure cycle we are witnessing. It is well documented how foreclosure is already overpowering countless numbers of homeowners who are unable to pay their mortgages, but foreclosure is also causing a rampage of sudden evictions of renters. My amendment would stop that rampage and help unsuspecting renters from falling victim to foreclosure in which they played absolutely no part.

I thank the Senate Banking Committee chairman, Senator Dodd, for his support of this amendment. It will very plainly help families stay in their homes. It is a way of preventing an already grave situation being turned into one that is even more egregious and more insulting. I think Senator Dodd understands this. No one has worked harder than he has to fight against the level of foreclosures that are taking place.

I appreciate his leadership and his support for the families across the Nation who are facing this kind of foreclosure problem.

I yield the floor.

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