Renters get foreclosure relief

Madam applauds Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's new programs: "God bless them for trying to do something for these tenants!" he says.

But he still takes a dim view of the situation that renters face with respect to foreclosure. He says tenants should be allowed to void a lease and demand the immediate return of all deposits if a property is subject to a foreclosure notice, so they can move out without penalty. He also says renters should receive more notice prior to a foreclosure since they may not want to live in a home that's for sale.

"If this happened to me -- and it did 16 years ago -- I would want to be notified as soon as there was a problem so I could move my family as quickly as possible and get them settled and get the kids into the new school," he says. "I have to rent a truck. I have to get boxes. It's a big ordeal."

States, cities offer few renter protections
Some states and localities have enacted laws that offer tenants some protection from immediate eviction after a foreclosure. A useful state-by-state summary of these laws is presented in "Without Just Cause," a 110-page report on foreclosure-related renter evictions prepared by the Washington, D.C.-based National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, or (NLCHP, and National Low-Income Housing Coalition.

The report found that 17 states require notice to tenants prior to a foreclosure-related eviction. Those states are: Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington, according to the report. Twenty-three other states also offer some limited protections, according to the report, but only New Jersey and Washington, D.C., explicitly preserve tenant's lease rights after foreclosure. A few cities -- Los Angeles and San Francisco, for instance -- also mandate some notice or other aid to tenants.

Still, NLCHP Executive Director Maria Foscarinis says too many states "leave renters vulnerable to homelessness" in such situations. This organization and others have called on Congress to pass legislation that would require notification to renters and protect their tenancies through the remainder of their lease term.

Meanwhile, renters are well-advised to consult an attorney, legal aid society or nonprofit housing counselor for further assistance and more information about tenants' rights.


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