LOS ANGELES — The California Housing Finance Agency has agreed to temporarily stop foreclosing on homeowners who are renting their homes out and are current on their mortgages.
The housing agency, afraid of jeopardizing its tax-exempt bond status, had been foreclosing on homeowners who rented out homes financed by the agency, whether they were behind on their payments or not, according to a recent report by the California Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes.
Claudia Cappio, CalHFA’s director, sent a letter to Senate President pro tempore Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, Friday afternoon stating that the agency would cease foreclosure proceedings against anyone who has received a notice of default due to non-monetary default until the agency’s board can meet in January to consider revisions to the policy.
“CalHFA has made good-faith efforts to comply with applicable federal statutes,” Cappio said in her letter. “These mortgages were funded with tax-free bonds, with benefits accruing to homebuyers in the form of low-interest, first mortgage loans and we clearly stated to purchasers that these homes would need to remain owner-occupied dwellings.”
The senators had sent a letter to Cappio last week asking her to consider revising the agency’s policy.
“I commend CalHFA’s administrators for working to strike a balance between their policies and the needs of California’s hardworking families,” Steinberg said.
People who finance their homes through CalHFA are not allowed to rent them out without receiving a waiver from the agency.
The policy was designed to ensure that the agency’s tax-exempt bonds met Internal Revenue Service guidelines by making sure first-time homebuyers received the loans, not real estate investors, said John Hill, the report’s author.
The burst real estate bubble has created dilemmas for homeowners with CalHFA financing who need to change homes for reasons such as a growing family.
Unable to sell because of a stagnant market or because they are underwater on their loan, such people have been renting out their homes, sometimes without receiving approval from the agency. CalHFA was foreclosing on those people.
According to the Senate report, 189 homeowners are renting out their CalHFA-financed homes without permission. Of that number, the agency has foreclosed on at least 21 borrowers who were violating the agency’s requirement that a borrower occupy the home for the life of the mortgage.
“We regret any situation where we have to foreclose on a homeowner — whether it be delinquency or a violation of our rules — but we have always been mindful of the responsibilities we as an agency have,” Cappio said in her letter. “Just 21 loans out of 23,000 loans in CalHFA’s portfolio have foreclosed due to the homeowner violating the owner-occupancy clause of the purchase contract.”
The report also found that of the 20 states included in the report, only California, Georgia, and Nevada have taken a hard line on homeowners renting out their homes.
CalHFA decided suspending foreclosures was the best thing to do since the agency’s policy could change after the board meets in January, said Ken Giebel, the agency’s marketing director.
“We always suspend foreclosures in December. It is an industry procedure to do that,” Giebel said. “We decided that if we are going to suspend foreclosures in December and review the policy in January, why proceed with foreclosures in the interim?”
Hill said he had hoped his findings would get the agency to reconsider.
“I hoped when they saw other states taking a different approach, it might give them pause about their own policy,” he said.