Washington Enacts New Short Sale and Foreclosure Protections, Adds Escrow Licensing Exemption

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On March 29, Washington enacted House Bill 2614, which took effect immediately and created new borrower protections. The bill requires mortgagees that intend to permit a short sale of a residential property to provide written notice to the borrower that it is either waiving or reserving its right to collect the full debt. Mortgagees that reserve the right to collect must initiate a court action to collect within three years of the short sale. House Bill 2614 also amends provisions ofWashington’s Foreclosure Fairness Act, including, among other things, (i) to allow meetings with the borrower to discuss foreclosure avoidance options to be conducted by phone, if the borrowers agrees, (ii) to alter the foreclosure mediation procedures, (iii) to extend the time period for a trustee’s sale, and (iv) to change beneficiary reporting requirements. Lastly, the bill creates a process to rescind a trustee sale under certain circumstances.

Also on March 29, Washington, through Senate Bill 6218, amended its escrow licensing requirements to clarify that attorneys are not required to obtain a license, provided that (i) the escrow transactions are performed by either the lawyer while engaged in the practice of law or any employee of the law practice under direct supervision of the lawyer, (ii) all escrow transactions are performed under a legal entity that is publicly identified and operated as a law practice, and (iii) all escrow funds are deposited to, maintained in, and disbursed from a trust account in compliance with rules enacted by the Washington Supreme Court regulating the conduct of lawyers. These changes take effect June 7, 2012.