February 28 will be the twentieth “legislative day” of this year’s session of the Georgia General Assembly. This annual session is therefore about half-way over.

House Bill 129, which would prohibit so-called “transfer fee covenants” subject to certain exceptions, unanimously passed out of the House Judiciary Committee. This bill addresses an issue on which the Georgia Real Property Law Section has worked since last year. The land title associations have also been an important supporter of the bill. Continuing thanks to Doug McKillip, the lead sponsor of the bill, as well as co-sponsors Ed Lindsey, Mark Hatfield, Stacey Evans and Wendell Willard. We remain very hopeful that this bill will pass this year.

House Bill 110 continues in discussion in the House Judiciary Subcommittee chaired by Representative Mike Jacobs. This past week, Representative Jacobs proposed a substitute. The substitute proposes to allow a county or municipality to establish registration requirements based on either foreclosure or vacancy, with the requirements for registration being as “bright line” as possible. Intense testimony continues. Representatives of the Georgia Association of Realtors have made clear their opposition to the vacancy registry option. Testimony will continue this next week.

House Bill 110 has shared subcommittee hearing time with House Bill 64, also sponsored by Representative Jacobs. This bill proposes to amend the statutory attorneys’ fees provision of O.C.G.A. § 13-1-11 to provide that if the statutory computation of attorneys’ fees results in an award of attorney’s fees in an amount greater than $10,000.00, the party required to pay may petition the court for a reasonableness determination. The court must then resolve the issue based on affidavits and, at the court’s election, a hearing. The amount of attorney’s fees awarded shall be the amount found by the court to be reasonable and necessary for asserting the rights of the party requesting attorneys’ fees. The hearings on this bill have also been interesting. There are two primary positions: one being that the bill will help limit unreasonably large fee awards and the other being that the existing statute works for most litigants and should not be changed.

These selected bills are also pending:

House Bill 245 proposes to amend O.C.G.A. § 10-7-1.1 to require that any surety or cosigner on a loan must be notified of default at the same time as the principal.

House Bill 242 and Senate Bill 51 (each entitled the “American Laws for Georgia Courts Act”) aim to prohibit the enforcement of any foreign law, or any contractual provision requiring the application of a foreign law, if enforcement would violate a right guaranteed by the Georgia or United States Constitution.

House Bill 209 proposes to amend O.C.G.A. § 44-14-162 to require that foreclosure ads include a street address at the beginning of the advertisement and that each official county organ publish a separate list of property addresses advertised for foreclosure each week in alphabetical or numerical order according to the street address of the property with cross-references to the corresponding advertisements.

House Bill 204, the “Protecting Georgia Homeowners Act of 2011”, intends to provide for homeowner relief from unfair practices related to foreclosure and foreclosure rescue schemes.

Senate Bill 136 would address transfer of control of a condominium association in certain circumstances; the standing of condominium associations to file suit; and the priority of certain liens against condominium property and against property subject to a property owners’ association.

Senate Bill 123 proposes to amend O.C.G.A. § 44-14-64 to delete the exemption of certain security deed assignments from the recording requirement; require notice to the borrower within thirty days after assignment of a security deed; and require, as a condition to foreclosure, recordation of all mesne assignments. It would also amend O.C.G.A. §44-14-162.2 to extend the preforeclosure notice period to the debtor from thirty to sixty days; require that the notice be tacked to the property as well as sent by certified mail, statutory overnight delivery, or personal service; and require that the notice of sale include (1) the name, address, and telephone number of the lender and any agent of the lender that can be contacted for inquiries concerning the notice, including inquiries regarding alternatives to foreclosure; (2) the amount, if any, which the creditor will accept to cure the default and reinstate the loan, including all past due payments, penalties, and fees; (3) an explanation of the Georgia foreclosure process and time line, as prescribed by the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance; (4) the date on which the default occurred and the nature of the default; and (5) an abstract of the chain of title under which the foreclosing party holds the security deed, including deed book and page numbers for all recorded transfers and a copy of any unrecorded transfers. The bill would also provide for the offense of “residential foreclosure fraud.”

Senate Bill 117 proposes to increase exemptions both inside and outside bankruptcy.

Senate Bill 62 would prohibit any alienation of private property to any state, territory, or nation or to the federal government which would result in an extinguishment or diminution of the exercise of state sovereignty or jurisdiction without the consent of the General Assembly.

House Bill 347, in response to John Oxendine’s shenanigans before he left his position as Insurance Commissioner, would provide that the Commissioner shall not exempt himself or herself from any statutory written examinations requirements.