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Lenders filed a record number of mortgage default notices against California homeowners during the first three months of this year, the result of the recession and of lenders playing catch-up after a temporary lull in foreclosure activity, a real estate information service reported.

A total of 135,431 default notices were sent out during the January- to-March period. That was up 80.0% from 75,230 for the prior quarter and up 19.0% from 113,809 in first quarter 2008, according to MDA DataQuick. The San Diego firm tracks real estate trends nationally via public property records.

Last quarter's total was an all-time high for any quarter in DataQuick's statistics, which for defaults go back to 1992. There were 121,673 default notices filed in second quarter 2008 and 94,240 in third quarter 2008, during which a new state law took effect requiring lenders to take added steps aimed at keeping troubled borrowers in their homes.

"The nastiest batch of California home loans appears to have been made in mid to late 2006 and the foreclosure process is working its way through those. Back then different risk factors were getting piled on top of each other. Adjustable-rate mortgages can be good loans. So can low- down-payment loans, interest-only loans, stated-income loans, etc. But if you combine these elements into one loan, it's toxic," said John Walsh, DataQuick president.

The median origination month for last quarter's defaulted loans was July 2006. That's only four months later than the median origination month for defaulted loans a year ago, in first quarter 2008. That suggests a period where underwriting criteria were particularly lax.