California Congresswoman Defaults on Home Mortgage

Rep. Laura Richardson has an unusual perspective on the housing foreclosure bills moving through Congress: One of her own homes was threatened with repossession after she failed to pay the mortgage.

Richardson, a Southern California Democrat, bought a two-story home in a leafy, upper-middle-class neighborhood of Sacramento in January 2007, just months after winning a seat in the state Assembly.

She bought the three-bedroom, 1 1/2-bath home in the state capital for $535,500. The bill collectors started knocking soon after, according to records reviewed Wednesday by The Associated Press.

The city utility department placed a lien on her property in June 2007 for $154 in unpaid bills, according to documents at the Sacramento County recorder's office. In December, she received a default notice on the mortgage from the collection agency of Washington Mutual Inc., her lender. At that point, she owed $18,356.

At the time, she had left the Legislature after a quick rise from the Long Beach City Council and moved to Washington after winning a special election to fill a vacant congressional seat. Richardson on Wednesday blamed the frequent job-shifting for financial problems related to the Sacramento property.

A default notice in March this year put the "unpaid balance and other expenses" at $578,384 and said her 1,639-square-foot house would be auctioned at a trustee sale.

County records show the property was sold to a company called Red Rock Mortgage Inc. of Sacramento for $388,000 — although the county assessor's office continues to list Richardson as the owner. No listing could be found for Red Rock.

That sale was officially recorded Monday, according to the records. But Richards said the home was not in foreclosure and had not been seized.

"I have worked with my lender to complete a loan modification and have renegotiated the terms of the agreement — with no special provisions," Richardson said in a statement Wednesday. "I fully intend to fulfill all financial obligations of this property."

Richardson's chief of staff, Kimberly Parker, told the AP that the mortgage on the home had been sold but that the house had not. The collection agency referred inquiries to Washington Mutual, which did not return a call.

A real estate agent's lock box hung Wednesday from the front door of the 1926-vintage house.

Records at a Sacramento County tax office also show Richardson is delinquent in paying $8,950 in property taxes.

Richardson moved from the Long Beach City Council to her Assembly seat in 2006, and the next year won a special election to represent a heavily Democratic congressional district that includes Long Beach.

Congressional records show Richardson did not cast votes May 8 on three bills related to the Foreclosure Prevention Act. In her statement, she said she was away from Washington because of her father's funeral.

"I understand that these homeownership issues are a reflection of what many Americans are going through as they fight to keep their homes and to remain financially stable," Richardson said in her statement.