Senator Michael Moore - PhotographBOSTON – Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) announced that the Senate passed legislation that works to restore the titles of foreclosed properties after thousands of foreclosure sales in Massachusetts were determined to be void as the result of state Supreme Judicial Court decisions.

The legislation, which was filed by Sen. Moore, provides legislative relief for Massachusetts residents who have purchased foreclosed properties or purchased homes where there were prior foreclosures in the chain of title. Currently, when these owners attempt to sell or refinance their home, they learn that their titles are void according to interpretations of the law by the state’s highest court.

“This legislation ensures that thousands of foreclosed property owners are protected under the law,” said Sen. Moore. “The Senate has deliberatively approached a legislative response to an issue that has negatively impacted residents across our Commonwealth.”

The state Supreme Judicial Court ruled that a foreclosure is void if the foreclosing lender could not produce a written assignment of its mortgage prior to the first publication of notice. If this occurred at any time in the chain of the title, the current purchaser of the property is left without a clear title as a result.

This bill allows the affidavit that is recorded during the resale of the property to serve as conclusive evidence that the foreclosing lender is in compliance unless the foreclosure has been challenged within three years of its recording. Under current law, the affidavit can be rebutted by other evidence that shows the foreclosing lender was not in compliance.

“While the foreclosure crisis has certainly caused problems for foreclosed homeowners, it has also taken a heavy toll on people who bought foreclosed homes in good faith, only to have their lives disrupted by a clouded title and uncertainty,” said Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R- Gloucester). “Our system of real property ownership demands greater certainty and reliability, and this bill will help us move in that direction.”

This bill provides a reasonable timeframe for those who have been improperly foreclosed on to assert their rights. The legislation also enables foreclosed homeowners to pursue actual and punitive damages against lenders who engaged in deceptive foreclosure practices.

The bill now goes before the House of Representatives for consideration.