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By Miriam Raftery

February 14, 2013 (San Diego) – Just in time for Valentine’s Day, here’s some news homeowners will love.  In California, foreclosure filings plunged 39.5% from December to January – the first time since early 2007 that California did not have the highest foreclosure rates in the nation. Nationally, foreclosures have fallen too, though far less steeply: 11% from December to January, and 28.5% from a year ago.

What’s fueling the sudden change?  According to Mortgage Daily News, the state and national shifts are due to California’s new Homeowners Bill of Rights, passed by the Legislature at the request of California Attorney General Kamala Harris (in photo, left, with Governor Jerry Brown).

The legislation, which took effect January 1, aimed to stop abusive lender practices. The new law has profoundly altered the U.S. foreclosure landscape, according to RealtyTrac Vice President Daren Blomquist.

"Dubbed the Homeowners Bill of Rights, this legislation extends many of the principles in the national mortgage settlement - including a prohibition on so-called dual tracking and requiring a single point of contact for borrowers facing foreclosure - to all mortgage servicers operating in California,” Blomquist said, Mortgage Daily News reports.  The law also imposes fines of up to $7,500 per loan for filing of multiple unverified foreclosure documents. “As a result, the downward foreclosure trend in California accelerated into hyper speed in January, decisively shifting the balance of power when it comes to the nation's foreclosure activity,” Blomquist concludes.

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