Washington State House Democrats


Legislature approves Orwall’s bill to reduce blight by addressing abandoned properties

OLYMPIA—A measure to address services and process for foreclosed and abandoned residential homes passed the Senate earlier today on a unanimous vote.

“This is a critical bill to address abandoned homes in mid-foreclosure and reduce blight and safety hazards in communities across the state,” said Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, prime sponsor of HB 2057. “This legislation is the result of months of negotiations with stakeholders including representatives from cities, counties, financial institutions, homeowner advocates, lawmakers and others working diligently to reach agreement and come up with a plan that will work for everybody.”

Most home loans in Washington are secured through deeds of trust. When a homeowner defaults on the loan and abandons the property, it impacts not only the homeowner and the lender. It also impacts the community because an abandoned property needs maintenance. Under a recent Supreme Court case, when a residential property is abandoned and is in the foreclosure process, lenders cannot enter the property for any reason without consent unless the foreclosure is finalized.

“Homes that are abandoned or in foreclosure can pose real safety concerns and lack of maintenance hurts surrounding property values. However, current law makes it difficult to secure those properties and enter them to fix poor or potentially dangerous conditions,” said Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, who sponsored the companion bill, SB 5797. “This bill represents a thoughtful compromise that gives communities tools to address that problem while protecting the rights of homeowners.”

This bill provides a mechanism for local governments, lenders and their agents, access to abandoned properties to keep them from deteriorating. The measure also includes a funding provision for the Foreclosure Fairness Account to continue the programs and services that have been providing foreclosure counseling to homeowners since the enactment of the Foreclosure Fairness Act in 2011.

The House, which also passed the bill unanimously last month, is expected to concur with the Senate to then send the bill on to Governor Inslee’s desk for his signature.