published Saturday, May 14th, 2011

‘Foreclosing’ on public right to know

It’s troubling that Tennesseans will be less aware of foreclosure notices if legislation moving through the General Assembly becomes law.

The state House of Representatives has passed a bill to reduce the number and thoroughness of public foreclosure notices that appear in the state’s newspapers.

Ample foreclosure notices ensure that the public — including the neighbors of a person whose property is facing foreclosure — is fully aware that the property is in jeopardy. That’s important, because foreclosures affect property values of entire neighborhoods, not only the value of the property at risk. In some cases, awareness of an upcoming foreclosure may help friends and family of the owner save the property in question.

The bill approved by the House would improperly reduce from three to two the number of notices that must be published, and it would eliminate the requirement for a thorough description of the property. Those provisions would sharply reduce the public visibility of foreclosure notices.

What makes that worse is that Tennessee is already one of just five states that require no court proceedings before a foreclosure can take place, so protections for homeowners facing foreclosure in the state are already limited.

Reducing transparency on this issue is not in the public interest. The state Senate, where a similar bill narrowly passed in committee, should defeat the legislation when it reaches the floor of the Senate.

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