Supporters of tougher mortgage-industry regulations scored a major victory last month when the Senate approved what they call the strongest anti-predatory lending bill to ever pass a chamber of the Ohio legislature.
Advocates for consumers and the elderly hope the momentum continues in the House, which starts hearings on the bill this week.
“Once they understand the bill better, I think their comfort level will rise,” said Bill Faith, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio.
Mortgage brokers, lenders and other opponents have spent weeks lobbying the House. Some key House Republicans, including two leaders and a top policy adviser, are expressing concern or opposition to vital portions of the bill.
“This is certainly not something we can rubber-stamp and send down the pike,” said Rep. John P. Hagan, an Alliance Republican and member of the committee hearing the bill. “The concern has to be making sure there is still money out there for people who don’t have perfect credit.”
Moved by stories of unsavory lenders preying on consumers, the GOP-dominated Senate shifted 180 degrees on predatory lending.
Past opponents of placing the mortgage industry under the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act suddenly supported the idea, or at least were neutral. The act gives borrowers more legal options and provides the attorney general with more power to go after bad lenders and brokers.
Fiduciary duty, the legal requirement that brokers and lenders act in a customer’s best interest, also became a key part of the bipartisan proposal after years of rejection.
Meanwhile, the once-influential mortgage industry lost credibility with Senate leaders, who grew tired of passing industry-backed predatory-lending laws, such as one in 2002, only to see no improvement.
“We were told by the industry that what we did previously would solve the problem,” said Sen. Robert F. Spada, a North Royalton Republican. “The consumer advocates had more credibility because what they said four years ago came true.”
The Senate was deluged with dismal statistics, such as Ohio’s No. 1 ranking in foreclosures.
Statewide, foreclosure filings rose faster in suburban and rural counties, those more often represented by Republicans, than in urban counties during the p