Los Angeles, California - Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today issued an information bulletin to California law enforcement agencies to reinforce integral eviction procedures under the California Homeowner Bill of Rights. Under current California law, occupants of a foreclosed property who are not named in eviction documents - such as tenants - can present a “Claim of Right to Possession” form to temporarily stop the eviction process up to and including when the Sheriff comes to remove them from the property.
Following the 2012 national mortgage settlement, Attorney General Harris sponsored the landmark California Homeowner Bill of Rights (HBOR), which took effect on January 1, 2013. The legislation package included additional protections for homeowners and tenants facing foreclosure. Although HBOR has been in effect since 2013, advocacy groups have reported cases in which Sheriffs proceed with the eviction process despite being presented with a Claim of Right to Possession form. This bulletin provides guidance for Sheriffs performing evictions following a foreclosure.
“This bulletin clarifies integral protections and due process available under the Homeowner Bill of Rights,” said Attorney General Harris. “I sponsored this bill to provide a fair process for vulnerable Californians who are facing the loss of their homes. I thank the advocacy organizations for their tireless work on behalf of those affected by the foreclosure crisis."
Prior to HBOR, occupants who were not named in an Unlawful Detainer Complaint were required to respond to a “Prejudgment Claim of Right to Possession” within 10 days of service. This is no longer the case. Under HBOR, certain post-foreclosure occupants, such as tenants, can temporarily stop the eviction process by presenting a Claim of Right to Possession, including at the time of the lockout, to the Sheriff at the property. Once a claim is presented, the Sheriff should take no further action until notified by the court. The bulletin further instructs Sheriffs on how to respond when presented with a Claim of Right to Possession.
“HBOR provides critical protections for tenants in foreclosed properties. Western Center on Law & Poverty is grateful to the Attorney General for providing guidance to the sheriffs who play a key role in implementing these protections and ensuring that innocent tenants will not be evicted without notice,” said Madeline S. Howard, Senior Staff Attorney at the Western Center on Law and Poverty.
“Over 1 million California tenants suffered displacement after their landlords’ foreclosure from 2008-2012. The tenant protections of HBOR helped address this crisis, and the Claim of Right to Possession gave tenants a new tool to assert their rights. However, many tenants have had difficulty using this procedure because it was new and education was limited. Tenants Together believes that this Bulletin will significantly improve the use of the Claim of Right to Possession and ensure that Sheriffs across the state are able to properly follow the legal process,” said Leah Simon-Weisberg, Legal Director at Tenants Together.
Western Center and Tenants Together have received calls asking for assistance with the prejudgment claim process and reports of post-foreclosure eviction abuse from tenants in the Central Valley, Inland Empire, and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Attorney General Harris has worked to ensure that California’s homeowners are treated fairly and with consideration during the foreclosure process. In 2011, she created the Mortgage Fraud Strike Force, which was tasked with the responsibility to investigate and prosecute misconduct related to aspects of the mortgage process. In February 2012, Attorney General Harris secured more than $20 billion for struggling California homeowners from the nation’s five largest banks.
The Attorney General has also taken steps to improve relations between the public and law enforcement agencies. In 2015, she directed a review of her Division of Law Enforcement's policies on implicit bias and the use of force. Following the 90-day Review, Attorney General Harris created the first POST-certified course on Procedural Justice and Implicit Bias in the United States. In 2016, she sponsored legislation that would create a stand-alone course for peace officers on principled policing, procedural justice and implicit bias. She later formed the 21st Century Policing Working Group, which has convened several times to discuss its current progress and strategies to improve policing policies to fit the needs of today. In addition, Attorney General Harris sent a bulletin to law enforcement making clear that federal immigration detainers are voluntary and that law enforcement agencies should direct resources in a manner that best serves their community.