The foreclosure process in New Jersey is a slow moving procedure due to the backlog of cases caused by an insufficient number of judges to hear foreclosure cases. The NJ foreclosure process starts with letters, followed by a Notice of Intent to Foreclose. After that a Complaint in Foreclosure is filed by the lender or servicing company with the court. The New Jersey foreclosure process finally ends with a Sheriff's Sale, when the homeowner's house is sold to a bidder or taken back by the lender. It is at this point that the homeowner has lost the property. This process can take a few years to accomplish and the homeowner maintains ownership until the Sheriff Sale is completed.
NOTICE OF INTENT TO FORECLOSE
The mortgage lender is required to send the homeowner a Notice of Intent to Foreclose prior to filing a foreclosure action. The Notice is written in the form of a letter and is required to be sent by certified or registered mail with return receipt requested. Under the New Jersey Fair Foreclosure Act, this letter must be sent at least 30 days before a Complaint of Foreclosure is filed against the homeowner. This gives the owner the chance to cure the default within the allotted 30 days.
Some, but not all, of the information that must be included in the Notice of Intent to Foreclose is:
- The reason that the mortgage lender intends to foreclose on the property, usually that you are in default on your payments.
- Information on how to "cure" the default, which usually means becoming current on your loan. If you send the lender the past due payments and become current on the mortgage before the 30 days are up, the lender must reinstate your mortgage.
- A statement of what is owed and how much money needs to be paid to become current on the mortgage loan. The statement must, also, include the date by which payment must be received under the required 30 day window.
- There must be information regarding what will happen if the default in payment is not cured.
- The mortgage lender must include information letting you know that you have the right to sell the property during the foreclosure process.
- It should, also, inform you that you have the right to contact an attorney and provide information for the county lawyer referral service.
- It should provide a list of resources to assist you in curing the default.
If you are unable to cure the default in the mortgage, the next step would be for the mortgage lender to file a Complaint in Foreclosure against you, which could be as soon as the 30 days from the Notice of Intention to Foreclose have passed. In reality, there are so many foreclosures in New Jersey, it is unlikely that the lender will file the Complaint that soon. There have been instances where the Complaint is not filed for many months after the homeowner receives the Intent to Foreclose Notice. However, this should not be counted on to happen.
After the Complaint is filed, the mortgage lender's attorney will have it served on you with a Summons. Sometimes the lender will, also, send a copy by regular and certified mail. Information will, also, be given about the Foreclosure Mediation Program. To participate in the Foreclosure Mediation Program you must request it within 60 days from when you received the Complaint.
N. J. FORECLOSURE MEDIATION PROGRAM
This process allows homeowners in default and their mortgage lenders to sit down with an objective third party, called a mediator, to attempt to resolve the mortgage crisis. The homeowner will be required to provide financial information and other documentation in preparation for the mediation. This process encourages lenders to be more flexible in coming to a mutually satisfactory resolution by modifying the loan, instead of foreclosing on it, which can take months or even years to accomplish. The N.J. Foreclosure Mediation Program is another avenue to assist clients in keeping their homes. We have attended many mediations and have been able to work out favorable solutions for our distressed clients.
ANSWER TO FORECLOSURE COMPLAINT
The homeowner has 35 days from receipt of the Complaint and Summons to answer the Complaint. If you are contesting the foreclosure, your Answer (which is a legal document that must be filed with the court) will be given to a Superior Court Judge in the county in which the property is located. The Answer must set forth the reasons why the homeowner believes that the lender does not have the legal right to foreclose on the property.
NOTICE OF MOTION FOR DEFAULT AND ENTRY OF DEFAULT JUDGMENT
If the homeowner is not contesting the Complaint or simply does not answer the Complaint, which often happens because the homeowners are unaware of their options, then an Entry of Default is requested by the mortgage lender. The mortgage lender must send a copy of the Notice of Motion for Default and provide a specific amount of time to bring the mortgage current. If the mortgage is not made current by the specified time, the Court will enter a Default Judgment in favor of the mortgage lender.
The final step in the foreclosure process is the Sheriff's Sale. It is at this point that anyone can buy the property, assuming they meet the minimum amount the lender requires. If the minimum is not obtained, the lender will take the property back and receive title by Sheriff's Deed. You will have the right to redeem the property back for only ten days after the property is sold.
If you are facing a foreclosure situation, it does not have to mean that your home is lost. There are many options available to homeowners for avoiding a foreclosure. A lengthy foreclosure process is not in the best interests of the mortgage lender, so many lenders are willing to work with you to come to an arrangement that works in favor of both sides. If you are concerned about a foreclosure or have already received notices, contact us right away, so that we can get started evaluating your situation and getting you back on track to keeping your home.