Albany lawmakers urge Hochul to sign bill that’ll put foreclosure statute of limitations back at 6 years

New York State Senator James Sanders Jr. (Photo by Tsubasa Berg)

A group of Democrat Albany lawmakers led by state Senator James Sanders (D-Queens) is pushing Governor Kathy Hochul to sign a bill that aims to keep the statute of limitations by which lenders can initiate legal proceedings in foreclosure cases at six years, before the Nov. 8 election next Tuesday.

The bill, dubbed the Foreclosure Abuse Prevention Act (FAPA) – S.5473-D, was passed in both chambers with bipartisan support – 51 to 11 in the state Senate and 107 to 40 in the Assembly – and has been sitting on the governor’s desk awaiting her signature for several months. Sanders, along with 55 other members of the NYS Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus penned a letter to the governor earlier this week, urging her to sign the bill into law “immediately.”

In an interview, Sanders told amNewYork Metro it’s important that Hochul sign the bill into law as soon as possible because of the high number of foreclosure cases in his home borough – the highest in the city.

“It’s important to get a commitment as soon as possible because the wheels of the justice system are still turning, and in this case, churning people under,” Sanders said. “It was reported that Queens County had the highest amount of foreclosures in New York City. So under these conditions, we in Queens have every obligation to make sure that our neighbors have a fair chance to present their case. And if the banks cannot present a fair case within six years, and that seems to be quite the length of time, then they should be dismissed.”

Hochul is facing challenger GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin in what has become a very close race for the Governor’s Mansion next Tuesday. Although Sanders, who has endorsed and campaigned for the governor, said that while he’d like Hochul to sign the bill, he recognizes that she’s much more likely to give it her signature than a hypothetical Governor Zeldin would be.

“I wish that she had signed this bill long ago,” Sanders said. “But I understand that a governor who may sign the bill is better than a governor who absolutely will not defend the people of my communities.”

New York State Governor Kathy Hochul
Governor Kathy HochulPhoto by Dean Moses

The legislation is designed to circumvent the 2021 state Court of Appeals ruling in Freedom Mortgage Corporation v. Engel, Sanders said, which gave lenders the ability to extend the current six-year statute of limitations for lenders to bring foreclosure cases against mortgage holders. In effect, Sanders said, the decision gave lenders the power to keep bringing lawsuits on the same loan, even after six years.

“Let’s be clear, without the statute of limitations, banks could go back 20 years, 30 years, 50 and 100 years into the past and cherry pick cases and grab cases where they have lost repeatedly, and this allows them to keep going until they find the best justice that they can buy,” Sanders said.

Currently, under a decades-old state legal principle, Sanders said, if lenders don’t begin legal proceedings against homeowners with mortgages within six years of first moving to foreclosure, the suit is invalidated.

The goal of FAPA is to reset the legal standard around the foreclosure statute of limitations back to six years. It would prevent any party to a lawsuit from being able to unilaterally change the statute of limitations.

“Our FAPA bill is designed to bring us back into a state of fairness that we had before we were inadvertently tossed out,” Sanders said.

While Sanders is urging Hochul to immediately sign the bill, he said he understands that she has nearly a thousand bills on her desk and maybe just hasn’t been able to consider it yet.

“Well, discussions are ongoing with the governor and her staff on this issue,” Sanders said. “To be fair, the governor has close to a thousand bills on her desk. It is conceivable that this one has not made it to her radar screen.”

In a statement to amNewYork Metro, Hochul’s spokesperson Hazel Crampton-Hays highlighted that the governor has signed nearly 600 bills so far this year. She didn’t address the FAPA bill but said “we are reviewing the remaining legislation.” Those nearly 600 bills make up 57% of the roughly 1,000 bills passed by both houses of the legislature this year, according to the governor’s office.

“Since taking office, Governor Hochul has signed nearly 1,000 pieces of legislation, including almost 600 so far this year, that are strengthening public safety, keeping New Yorkers safe from gun violence, ensuring quality education for every child, delivering tax relief to hardworking New Yorkers, and supporting small businesses, and we are reviewing the remaining legislation.”