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NC Senate bill targets squatters using foreclosed homes

A state Senate bill filed Tuesday would toughen penalties for people who take up residence in foreclosed homes and file fake legal documents to stay there.

Sen. Stan Bingham, a Davidson County Republican, said he’s proposing Senate Bill 754 in response to news reports about “sovereign citizens” who move in illegally and refuse to leave.

“Nuts, I call them,” Bingham said. “They’ll use the legal system to benefit themselves and move in properties.”

The Charlotte Observer wrote about such an incident last year. A group of people affiliated with a Moorish Nation group that doesn’t recognize state, federal or local laws moved into an $800,000 foreclosed home in the Piper Glen neighborhood.

The woman claiming ownership was evicted and arrested, but she kept coming back and filing nuisance legal claims against local police and the homeowner’s association.

“It’s a big problem in Mecklenburg County, I don’t know why,” Bingham said. “They’re going in these homes, eating nice food, running the refrigerator, running up the power bill.”

Bingham’s bill would make it a felony for someone to file false liens on property or occupy property they’d previously been evicted from. The penalty would include a fine of at least $1,000.

“This will give (authorities) a little leeway and prevent this thing from happening,” he said.

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N.C. consumers to receive portion of $470M settlement with HSBC

The settlement ends U.S. probes into allegations of foreclosure abuses by the London-based financial services company

North Carolina’s portion includes loan modifications and about $1.8 million in cash payments to consumers

Former N.C. Banking Commissioner Joseph Smith will oversee HSBC’s compliance with the settlement

North Carolina consumers are set to receive a portion of the $470 million accord announced Friday with HSBC Holdings Plc to end U.S. probes into allegations of foreclosure abuses by the London-based financial services company.

The settlement resolves claims of abusive practices, such as robo-signing, that may have deprived struggling borrowers of opportunities to keep their homes. HSBC reached the settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, federal housing and consumer protection regulators and 49 states, as well as the District of Columbia, according to a statement by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

North Carolina’s portion of the settlement includes loan modification relief and roughly $1.8 million in cash payments to approximately 2,194 North Carolinians who lost their homes to foreclosure, according to the office of N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper.

“North Carolinians who take out mortgages deserve to be treated fairly by their lenders,” Cooper said in a statement. “This agreement brings direct relief for deserving homeowners and better protections for future borrowers.”

The cash payments will go to eligible borrowers who had a mortgage serviced by HSBC. Eligible consumers must have experienced servicing abuses and lost their home to foreclosure between Jan. 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2012.

Cooper’s office did not immediately know how many Charlotte-area borrowers might be eligible for cash payments or other relief.

Former N.C. Banking Commissioner Joseph Smith will oversee HSBC’s compliance with the settlement, which closely resembles a landmark, $25 billion national mortgage accord struck in 2012 with some of the biggest mortgage servicers in the U.S., including Charlotte-based Bank of America and San Francisco-based Wells Fargo.

Smith also serves as monitor of the 2012 accord.

The HSBC settlement paves the way for smoother loan modifications and provides for payments to some borrowers for past foreclosure abuses, Schneiderman, the New York attorney general, said.

The bank will also be required to reform its practices, he said.

The settlement “will create tough new servicing standards that will ensure fair treatment for HSBC’s borrowers and provide relief to customers across New York State and across the country,” Schneiderman said.

The agreement follows a series of joint federal and state initiatives aimed at addressing the causes of the financial crisis that began in 2008 and helping to put the market back on track.

Previously, a separate federal-state working group reached multibillion-dollar settlements with lenders including Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase related to mortgage-backed securities.

State and federal officials also joined forces to tackle servicing issues by striking the 2012 deal with five companies over robo-signing and other foreclosure abuses, including the handling of documents. HSBC wasn’t part of that agreement.

Bloomberg News and staff writer Deon Roberts contributed.

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