In response to an increasing prevalence of home title theft in Kansas City and across the country, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver and Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA) introduced The Good Deed Act in hopes of protecting homeowners.
The act, H.R. 9192, would establish a $10 million grant program under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to fund applications for programming that benefit in detection, prevention, investigation and prosecution of deed fraud.
The Good Deed Act would mandate states that receive funding under the grant program amend their state’s laws to require individuals notarizing and filing deeds to gather distinguishable information such as fingerprints, pictures or videos of filers. The act will also require HUD to report to Congress on activities funded under the grant program and to identify best practices to reduce deed fraud.
In addition, the act establishes the first federal definition of deed fraud and directs the U.S. Sentencing Commission to implement guidelines or amend existing guidelines to provide sentencing enhancements for offenses involving deed fraud. The act will also boost penalties for perpetrators of deed fraud.
Deed fraud typically involves the filing/recording of a forged, false and/or fraudulently induced deeds.The grant also provides for legal support to help victims of deed fraud.
“The Good DEED Act brings federal attention to the widespread problem of ‘tangled title.’ Tangled title occurs when someone has ownership rights to a house, but the deed is not in the person’s name,” said Judy Berkman, Senior Counsel, Regional Housing Legal Services. “Many tangled title cases involve ‘heir’ property. In gentrifying neighborhoods, fraudsters ‘steal’ these properties by forging deeds and other legal documents. The Good DEED Act will provide successful grant applicants with funding to implement infrastructure improvements to prevent and prosecute deed fraud. It will also provide free legal services to income-eligible people to resolve their tangled title cases allowing them to have the benefits of home ownership and build wealth.”
“I’m proud to introduce federal legislation that would help to crack down on these illicit scams and protect hardworking homeowners from either losing their home or their hard-earned paychecks on costly legal fees,” said Congressman Cleaver.