Economic Justice  

Strengthening property rights will improve our housing market

This is a guest post by Ali Faruk. Ali is the Director of the Center for Housing Leadership at Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia (HOME). He holds a Master of Public Administration degree from Virginia Commonwealth University and lives in Williamsburg Virginia. This post was originally published on the blog Take Me Home Virginia.

Oakland County Clerk Bill Bullard talks about our endangered property rights and how they are dragging down the housing market in Michigan. This national crisis is threatening property rights in Virginia as well. Banks are foreclosing on properties they don’t have clear title to and Virginia property owners may not actually own their home because of fraudulent signatures.

Bill’s solution to our housing woes is to strengthen property rights in Michigan.Improving the recording process of who owns the mortgage is vital to improving our housing market. Virginia should be leading the way in strengthening property rights to improve our housing market. Below are some excerpts from Bill Bullards editorial:

“Private property was the original source of freedom. It still is its main bulwark.”—Walter Lippman

Private property rights are under attack in a widespread national mortgage fraud scandal. Accurate property records are central to protecting those property rights. This national scandal is touching Oakland County records and therefore our property owners.

In the last several years, commercial lenders have invented a new way to trade ownership of mortgages while leaving out the property owners and local record keepers. New companies such as Mortgage Electronic Registration Services (MERS) and DOCx were set up for the sole purpose of receiving documents from lending institutions to speed up the foreclosure process.

In their rush to process these documents, the companies hired workers to sign these documents. These workers were then listed as “vice presidents” of dozens of different banks. One such worker admitted to signing up to 5,000 of these documents a day. Other individuals have admitted to forging notary signatures to these documents as well.

Tens of thousands of Michigan foreclosures in recent years could be overturned with huge financial consequences for both the former and current owners of that property. Sheriff Bouchard wisely halted all current MERS foreclosures in Oakland County until the legal ramifications of the case become clearer.

State law needs to be changed to protect the rights of all property owners. When transferring the ownership of your mortgage, lending institutions should be required to file an affidavit with the Register of Deeds containing the name and contact information of the institution that is taking ownership of the mortgage. I have encountered numerous homeowners struggling to save their homes who simply do not know who they should be negotiating with. All of us deserve to know who owns mortgage on our property.

Our property rights are the foundation of our economy and most basic freedom. The filing of fraudulent property records endangers the sanctity of all of our records and therefore our property rights. This is why it is so important that the perpetrators of this fraud be exposed and prosecuted.

Editors note: Sadly, several bills died in committee during the last Virgnia General Assembly session that would strengthen property owner rights and ensure that Virginians are not the victims of fraudulant foreclosures.