When it comes to housing foreclosures, the underlying issues that initiate the legal process are not always as simple as one might first expect. Job loss, illness and other issues can lead homeowners on a spiral that eventually ends with the loss of a home. However, extenuating circumstances can cast a pall over a foreclosure in an instant.
Take for example the case of Sonia Kirkland. She is the mother of a Bridgeport, Conn., combat veteran who is facing foreclosure.
Kirkland has asked the judge hearing his case for an emergency extension until her son can return from Iraq. He is a a 34-year-old U.S. Army combat veteran who now works for an international nonprofit group and is serving in Iraq to help rebuild a country devastated by war.
According to Connecticut’s News 12, Kirkland’s son is the victim of “robo-signing” — a controversial practice in which banks and lenders allegedly foreclose on homeowners by using the robotic signing of documents which deprive them of a fair and legal process.
The issue has captured the attention of lawmakers, including Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who are pushing for a federal law that would offer certain protections to veterans facing foreclosure.
Blumenthal backed a new law already in place that offers veterans facing foreclosure a one-year moratorium under certain circumstances.
In 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives agreed to extend the one-year protection from foreclosure in the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) through the end of the current year.
The SCRA provides financial relief and protection for service members called to active duty, whether at home or deployed overseas. The act was designed, in part, to alleviate the stresses of financial obligations (like a mortgage) so that the service member can dedicate their full attention to duty.
According to the measure, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy service members on active duty, including reservists, as well as members of the National Guard and Air National Guard who have been activated for duty are protected under the benefits of the SCRA.
The measure also extends protection to active-service commissioned officers of the Public Health Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. There are also SCRA provisions that extend to spouses and dependents of service members.
In June, several Senators introduced legislation for a Military Consumer Enforcement Act that would seek to empower the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to oversee and enforce compliance with the SCRA.
If adopted and signed into law by President Donald Trump, the new act would amend the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010.
The Military Consumer Enforcement Act would give the CFPB enforcement power over 10 key provisions in the SCRA, including protections related to interest rates, foreclosure, eviction, installment contracts (including automobile loans) and default judgments.
The proposal is co-sponsored by Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
The lawmakers co-sponsored the act “in an effort to better protect members of the military and their families from abusive financial practices.”
In a statement, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.,another co-sponsor, said the proposed Military Consumer Enforcement Act “would ensure that SCRA enforcement will be a permanent priority for the CFPB.”
According to a collection of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG), SCRA protections have been “unevenly enforced” and that “giving the CFPB the jurisdiction over key parts of the SCRA means that the law will actually be enforced.”