“I introduced this bill six years ago when I met a neighboring family in Tiverton who lived in a foreclosed home,” Rep. Edwards, (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth,) said. “Their situation shed light on the fact that our laws regarding tenant eviction and foreclosed homes disrupt the lives of hard-working families and individuals. The legislation Senator Metts and I have introduced not only protects those tenants, but breeds positive support from the local community. Renters need time to save and plan a clean exit, while cities and towns need to clamp down on vandalism and theft in empty buildings. This isn’t just about the foreclosure crisis in Rhode Island. It’s also about keeping people off the streets in tough economic times. We need to do what’s right here to ensure the people of Rhode Island have proper protection.”
Existing state law gives tenants 90 days before the foreclosing lender can evict them. The new bill would require the new owner to be a non-finanical institution for eviction to occur. That means a bank couldn't sell to another bank just to kickstart the eviction process.
A companion bill has been submitted in the Senate by Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence).
Metts said empty foreclosed homes breed myriad problems that occupied houses tend to deflect.
"An empty foreclosed home then serves as a tempting opportunity for thieves looking to steal pipes and cabinets. The grass is left uncut. The property value of surrounding homes decreases dramatically. What the foreclosure crisis does is poison whole neighborhoods, and not just urban ones," Metts said. "Meanwhile, families who have been evicted don’t just have to worry about a new place to live – they have to find new schools for their children, whose education has been interrupted. While the banks are looking out for their interests, we must ensure that the people’s interests are taken care of as well. This legislation brings balance to that equation.”
The primary sponsors of the legislation held a press conference on Thursday, Jan. 30, to talk about the benefits of the bills. In attendance were Representatives Jeremiah T. O’Grady (D-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket), Frank G. Ferri (D-Dist. 22, Warwick), Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) and Donna M. Walsh (D-Dist. 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly).
Members of the Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE), an organization whose mission includes organizing low-income families in communities of color to pursue social justice, were also present. Representative Edwards and Senator Metts have submitted similar versions of this legislation for the past six years, saying the statutes need to be changed in order to keep more people off the streets and protect tenants’ most basic rights.
According to Housing Works RI, there were more than 9,600 foreclosures in Rhode Island since the beginning of 2009 up to the second quarter of 2013.