March 2, 2011 (Chris Moore)
Nevada Republican Assemblymember Peter Goicoechea has introduced legislation in the State Assembly that would make it a felony to willfully damage a home during the foreclosure process. The bill has been referred to the state judiciary committee.

AB373 was introduced by Goicoechea yesterday and states, “This bill provides that a person in possession of real property who, under certain circumstances, willfully removes damages or destroys any real property that is subject to foreclosure or any other action affecting the title or possession of the real property is guilty of a category E felony.”

Damaged property has been a major concern for banks holding these properties, the real estate agents charged with reselling them and neighbors forced to live next to them. Some homes have been virtually stripped of almost all contents including windows, bathrooms, appliances, and even whole kitchens.

I have witnessed myself on Craigslist in Orange County, California, where I live, people selling whole kitchens (you remove), air conditioners, and even outdoor fountains and other hardscape while their homes were in foreclosure.

In the latest Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance HousingPulse Tracking Survey, the proportion of move-in ready foreclosed properties or real estate owned properties was a low 15.4% in February. That’s a lot of homes in need of repair.

Nevada has held the highest foreclosure rate of any state for more than four years. There, one in every 119 homes received a filing in February, according to RealtyTrac. Realtors have described some cities as littered with gutted properties with storage units throughout the city filled with stolen appliances.

In June of last year, Fannie Mae joined the fight by sifting through loan data to hold strategic defaulters accountable. Borrowers who were shown to have willfully damaged their properties would then be charged for any repairs to the damaged homes.

Tags: Nevada, AB373, Peter Goicoechea, willful damage, foreclosure, damaged property, REO, gutted properties, strategic defaulters