Foreclosures sales were relatively flat across four Bay Area counties in March and sharply down from last year, according to a report Thursday, but that hasn't stilled criticism that banks aren't living up to promises to curb foreclosure abuses.
There were 357 foreclosures sales last month in four Bay Area counties, ForeclosureRadar.com reported, a slight decline from February's 380 foreclosure sales. Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties have seen foreclosure sales drop by 56 percent over the year.
The total number of homes with either a notice of default or a notice that their home is to be sold is down from 21,466 homes in March 2012 to 8,370 homes last month in the four-county area, mirroring state trends.
Government initiatives to help struggling homeowners are continuing to reduce the number of people losing homes to auctions on courthouse steps.
But "there's a lot to chew through to get the market back to a semblance of normal," said Madeline Schnapp, ForeclosureRadar's chief economist. She said there are still 1.1 million California homeowners who owe 125 percent or more of what their homes are worth.
As some of them try to redo their loans and stay in their homes, there are complaints that banks aren't complying with California's recently enacted Homeowner Bill of Rights or the provisions of a National Mortgage Settlement with five major lenders.
"The banks need to do a better job of honoring the settlement and the Homeowner Bill of Rights," said Kevin Stein of the California Reinvestment Coalition.
The coalition released a survey of 84 housing counselors and legal service lawyers which found that homeowners are "continuing to face a plethora of servicing problems," many of which were supposed to be fixed by the mortgage settlement.
Among the problems: homeowners are being "dual tracked" -- foreclosed on while they are trying to modify their loans -- and are not being given a single point of contact as they try to work out a loan modification.
Those practices are barred by the Homeowner Bill of Rights and by the mortgage settlement.
"Unfortunately, the survey's findings are consistent with much of what I've heard as I've traveled the nation in the past year talking with housing counselors and other professionals," said National Mortgage Settlement monitor Joseph Smith in an email. "There are still problems around single points of contact and dual tracking. "
Smith said he's reviewing banks' compliance and will have more to report in the summer.
Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and Citi pointed to the 159,000 California homeowners helped under the mortgage settlement and said they were working with monitors and nonprofit agencies on complaints. The fifth lender, Ally, has completed its obligations under the settlement.
Contact Pete Carey at 408-920-5419 Follow him at Twitter.com/petecarey.