Bill would cut access to foreclosure notices

Friday, April 22, 2011, Vol. 35, No. 16
ANDY MEEK | The Daily News

A bill making its way through the Tennessee Legislature would give homeowners less advance warning before their homes are sold at a foreclosure auction.

State Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, and state Rep. Jimmy Matlock, R-Lenoir, have filed companion bills that would allow lenders to publish only one newspaper notice – instead of the current three – announcing that a mortgage is in default and a home is headed to the auction block.

Under the proposed legislation, a common description of the property wouldn’t be required to be included in the new notices. Also, any errors or “defects” in the new notices would not prevent the foreclosure sale from going forward.

Publishing foreclosure notices three times mirrors the practice in Tennessee’s state and local governments of holding three separate votes on bills and ordinances.

Benefits of doing so include everything from giving legislators who may need to be absent for one of the votes an opportunity to still participate in the process, and for citizens to have ample notice of, as well as an opportunity to attend, at least one session.

The Tennessee Constitution, for example, proscribes that bills become law after they’ve been considered and passed on three separate days in both chambers of state government.

The Memphis City Charter says that “ordinances shall be passed at three consecutive regular meetings.”

In related news, another public notice bill scheduled to be in a legislative committee Tuesday would allow legal notices to be posted solely on the Internet, effectively removing them from newspapers entirely.

A bill sponsored by state Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, and state Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah, would create a pilot project for Knox County. According to a summary of the legislation, publication of legal notices on an official government notice website instead of a newspaper would be allowed, as long as several requirements are met, such as the site being accessible to the public at least “90 percent of the time, 24 hours a day.”

While the bill purports to save governments the cost associated with publishing such notices in newspapers, it does not remove the potential of all cost from the governments. If a citizen, for example, is unable to access an electronic notice, “the government agency must provide a copy of the notice to the individual free of charge.”

The Daily News long has been the largest publisher of foreclosure notices in Shelby County.