MFY Supports the Consumer Credit Fairness Act
MFY supports swift passage of the Consumer Credit Fairness Act (CCFA) (A. 4438), which would strengthen the pleading requirements in debt collection cases, enhance notice requirements, and require greater information when applying for a default judgment, thereby leveling the playing field for pro se litigants. CCFA will codify many of the provisions found in the new Court rules, which MFY also supported, and will greatly reduce the number of illegitimate and abusive debt collection lawsuits that clog the courts, which are particularly harmful to domestic abuse survivors, and disabled, elderly, and low- and moderate-income New Yorkers.
Statewide Debt Collection Rules
In August 2014, MFY submitted comments to the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) about the agency’s revised proposed debt collection rules. Overall we support the implementation of debt collection rules, which will help alleviate many of the problems our clients face, but we believe the rules could be strengthened with some changes, including that the rules explicitly apply to in-house collection arms of original creditors.
MFY Urges Legislature to Pass Bill Extending Mandatory Foreclosure Settlement Conferences
Since 2008 MFY attorneys have prevented hundreds of homes in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island from being lost to foreclosure, thanks, in part, to a NYS law that requires mandatory settlement conferences in residential foreclosure cases. That law is set to expire in early 2015, prompting MFY to advocate for the passage of a simple “extender” bill currently before the NYS Senate. The NYS Assembly passed the bill 131-0 on June 2, 2014, with bipartisan support.
The NYS Office of Court Administration recently documented that more than 46,000 new foreclosure cases were filed in 2013, an 84% increase over 2012 filings. Thus far in 2014, filings are up another 39% over 2013’s crisis-level filings. A recent report by New Economy Project likewise documents the significant upward trend in troubled mortgages in NYC. The NYS Bankers Association acknowledges the continued serious foreclosure problem and thus does not oppose the settlement conference extender bill.
Although some banking interests have disingenuously complained that the NYS foreclosure process takes too long to complete, those complaints utterly ignore that it is the banks and their agents that, as plaintiffs in foreclosure, control the timing of the process. Foreclosure prevention advocates have documented – and published judicial decisions reflect – the myriad ways in which banks delay the process. Cynical complaints about delay should not serve as a distraction from the vitally important role foreclosure settlement conferences serve in ensuring that NY homeowners who can save their homes from foreclosure are given the appropriate opportunity and forum to do so. That forum is the court-supervised foreclosure settlement conference provided by CPLR 3408, a provision that must be extended for five years to ensure fairness in the foreclosure process and to provide struggling NY homeowners with a level playing field.
MFY Applauds OCA’s Proposed Rules for Debt Collection Cases and Pro Se Forms
MFY submitted comments in May in support of revised rules proposed by the New York State Office of Court Administration that would implement state-wide forms for debt collectors to use when seeking default judgments in consumer debt cases. The proposal also would expand existing resources for pro se defendants and impose an additional notice requirement statewide. The proposed reforms are welcome and critically needed for our clients because of the acute problems consumers face as a result of the routine entry of default judgments based on faulty information and robo-signed affidavits. The proposed amendments to the court rules serve to clarify what is already required under the CPLR and common law when seeking default judgments by both debt buyers and original creditors and will bring much-needed reform to the default judgment process.
Supporting Kinship Caregivers Seeking Custody & Guardianship
MFY Legal Services supports changes to Domestic Relations Law 72 (S. 2094-A; A.7189-A) to make it easier for relatives to secure orders of custody or guardianship for children that have been in their care for two years or more.
MFY Urges Governor to Appoint a Wage Board to Increase Pay for Tipped Workers
MFY, as part of the Coalition for a Real Minimum Wage Increase, called on Governor Cuomo to appoint a Wage Board so that tipped workers – 75 percent of whom are women – will not be left out of New York’s recent minimum wage increase.
MFY Urges CFPB to Issue Strong Rules on Debt Collection
The Consumer Rights Project submitted comments to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in anticipation of federal rules governing debt collection practices. To be effective, the rules should adopt the protections already existing in New York City, and expand upon them by, among other things, (1) more closely regulating the debt buying industry; (2) improving protections for consumers with limited English proficiency; (3) requiring debt collectors to possess key information at all stages of the collection process; (4) facilitating consumers’ ability to exercise their rights to verification and to cease contact; (5) banning unfair practices, such as the collection of time-barred debts; (6) promoting transparency for ongoing settlement and payment plans; (7) ensuring fair litigation conduct; and (8) encouraging private enforcement of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. Finally, the rules should expressly cover all debt collectors, including original creditors and collection attorneys. MFY applauds the CFPB’s interest in protecting consumers across the country from unfair, abusive and deceptive collection efforts, and appreciate the opportunity to serve as a sounding board for our clients’ experiences.
Statewide Forms for Debt Collectors Seeking Default Judgments
In December 2013, MFY submitted comments regarding rules proposed by the Office of Court Administration (OCA) that would implement statewide forms for debt collectors to use when seeking default judgments in consumer credit actions. Although MFY supports OCA’s initiative in addressing the meager amount of proof required to obtain default judgments in these cases, we oppose the proposed amendments because as currently drafted they actually serve to exacerbate the existing problems affecting tens of thousands of consumers, and we offer suggestions for improving such applications.
Ensuring a Fair & Efficient Foreclosure Process
MFY Legal Services supports passage of Assembly Bill A. 5582, which will stop further growth of the “shadow docket” where thousands of New York residential foreclosure cases currently languish thereby denying homeowners the ability to modify their loans before it is too late. The legislation will also restore integrity to the judicial foreclosure process by requiring lenders’ attorneys to take steps at the outset of a foreclosure to ensure the accuracy of factual statements made in court papers. Filed foreclosure cases will more quickly enter the court’s docketing system and be scheduled for mandatory settlement conferences, ensuring that those homes that can be saved will be saved and contributing to New York State’s recovery from the lingering economic malaise.
Amending Code of Judicial Conduct
MFY Legal Services supports the Proposed Amendment of New York’s Code of Judicial Conduct (22 NYCRR § 100.3(B)(12), relating to a judge’s role in facilitating the ability of unrepresented litigants to have their matters fairly heard. In order for the concept of “justice for all” to be more than a hollow promise, litigants need the opportunity to access the court and understand and meaningfully participate in judicial proceedings. The proposed amendment has the potential to help fulfill this promise by clarifying that a judge may take steps to reasonably accommodate unrepresented litigants without compromising judicial impartiality.
Credit Fairness in Employment Act
MFY Legal Services supports passage of the Credit Fairness in Employment Act (A. 7056/S. 3868-B), which would reduce unfair barriers to employment by prohibiting the harmful use of credit history in employment-related decisions.
Measures to Improve Adult Homes and Other Adult Care Facilities
MFY Legal Services supports several measures before the New York State Legislature that will improve adult homes and other adult care facilities, including: (1) A5183, which codifies the EQUAL grant program, which provides funds to adult care facilities to enhance quality, and to offer protections to ensure that residents, not just operators, benefit from the grants; (2) A5201/S1662 to grant the Department of Health the authority to aggressively address repeat violations and systemic problems in facilities; (3) A5149 to limit fees for the lease of space in adult care facilities to the fair market value of similar properties; (4) A4467/S1663 to require the Department of health to implement a training program for direct care staff in adult care facilities; and (5) A5168/S1417 to require assisted living facilities with certifications to serve people needing enhanced care or people with special needs to have a registered nurse onsite to assess and monitor the condition of residents.