Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy summarily dismissed a petition by the Massachusetts Alliance Against Predatory Lending (MAAPL) to put a new law designed to clear titles of foreclosed-upon properties to a voter referendum.
The law, An Act Clearing Titles to Foreclosed Properties, went into effect Dec. 31, 2015, and gives homeowners who have already been foreclosed on a year to challenge the foreclosure in court. Three years after a foreclosure has been completed, the title is considered clear, even if there were small, Ibañez-like defects in the foreclosure process.
In a three-page letter to Secretary of State William Galvin yesterday, Healy wrote, “I have reviewed c. 141 and have concluded that it is not lawfully the subject of a referendum petition.”
Healy’s main citation for the denial is a clause in the state constitution that says no law related to the power of the courts can be subject to a voter referendum.
Grace Ross, executive director of the MAAPL, said she was disappointed by the attorney general’s decision, adding that the law essentially denies the majority of residents’ their right to regain their illegally foreclosed-upon homes.
“Through this bill, the financial industry had the legislature usurp the judiciary’s powers to determine the outcome of disputes between private parties,” Ross said in a statement. “The industry’s stated purpose of this law is to overturn numerous recent, and hundreds of historical, top court rulings enforcing hundreds’ years old law enshrined in our state constitution, such as the 2011 Ibañez, 2012 Eaton, and 2015 Pinti decisions,“
Attorney Doug Troyer, co-chair of the Massachusetts Real Estate Bar Association’s Legislation Committee, said he thought the attorney general made the right decision.
“It looked like the attorney general really took it into consideration, taking over 20 days to fully analyze all aspects in order to see if the petition could lawfully go to a referendum – and found that it couldn’t,” he said.