Dealing with Surprise Liens on a NJ Title Report

While there are many unknowns when it comes to real estate transactions, when those unknowns become unpleasant surprises, the sale of a property can slow to a halt. One common reason for a stalled or cancelled real estate transaction is surprise liens that the seller wasn’t aware of.

What is a property lien?

“Lien” is one of those terms that gets tossed around all the time in the real estate world, but oftentimes real estate professionals find that their clients don’t fully understand what a lien is.

A property lien, in simplest terms, is a notice that becomes attached to a property (in this case, the home that is listed for sale). The notice states that the current owner of the property (i.e. the seller) is indebted to a creditor.

The reason creditors file liens on real property is because they are of public record. This means that the creditor is more likely to be able to collect the money they are owed.

How does a lien affect the sale of a home?

One of the steps in any real estate transaction is a title search – usually performed by a title company or a real estate attorney. The property up for sale must come back with what is called “clear title” – meaning no liens were found.

If your title search shows a lien on your home that you weren’t expecting, don’t panic. Mystery liens do happen, and as such, most real estate purchase agreements give sellers 30 days to address property liens without significantly delaying the closing.

Do I need an attorney to clear up liens on my property?

While it is possible for some homeowners to reconcile their debt with the creditor in question, many people need to clear up any property liens quickly in order to allow the sale of their home to continue. NJ real estate attorneys who are well-versed in handling surprise property liens can quickly and completely eradicate your lien(s), making their services invaluable at such a time.

Not only will your real estate lawyer help you with any surprise liens, he will also provide legal review of all paperwork surrounding the sale of your home, including the sale contract itself. Working with an experienced real estate attorney in New Jersey will reduce the time it takes to clear up any surprise liens and will ultimately give sellers (and buyers) an optimal result.

Additionally, if your property liens were placed by the IRS because you failed to pay your taxes properly, working with an attorney is in your best interest because of the possibility of tax fraud charges.

What are my options to contest a lien?

In the rare occasion that a lien is found on your property and you feel confident that it was placed in error, it’s possible that the debt was in fact repaid but the lien was simply never removed. While this may sound like an easy problem to resolve, it actually presents sellers and their attorneys with a challenge. Your NJ attorney will have to locate the original lienholder in order to obtain official lien release documentation.

If you refuse to make good on a lien that exists on your property (that has not been paid off already), you will be found in breach of contract. It is rare that a buyer decides to handle paying of a seller’s lien(s), but it does happen if a buyer is very motivated to purchase your property. Upon your refusal to clear up any liens, your buyer is more likely to simply walk away from purchasing your home.

 

 

 

 

Understanding a NJ Home Inspection Report

For those who are looking to buy or sell a home, the home inspection is a crucial part of the process.Whether you are the buyer or the seller of a property, you must have a solid understanding of all of the details found in your New Jersey home inspection report. This report will ultimately determine the overall condition of the property in question, and will specifically itemize any problems, both large and small.

Typically, the home inspection is ordered by the home buyer after they have signed a purchase contract. It is important to work with a professional, licensed and well-respected home inspector to ensure that nothing substantial is missed.

While the seller is required to disclose any and all existing issues with the house, they can only disclose problems that they are aware of. The job of the home inspector is to dig beneath the surface to find problems that may not be visible to the untrained eye, such as damage to any area of the home including: the foundation, pipes and plumbing, HVAC system(s), electrical systems, roof, walls, attic, ceilings, floors, doors and windows.

After he has inspected your potential future home, your NJ home inspector will provide you with a detailed report. This report will explain any and all findings of the home inspection. Some home inspection reports can run upwards of 30 pages, which can be a little bit intimidating to the novice home buyer.

Understanding Your Home Inspection Report

Home inspection reports can also come in different formats. Some home inspection teams report with a checklist, while others use a summary along with a longer narrative portion explaining the summary in detail.

Typically, home inspection reports will include a table of contents for ease of navigating through each portion of the report. Professional home inspection teams will include an introductory portion that provides important industry definitions along with details about the report, including: date completed, home address, age of the home, weather conditions during the report, and people who were present during the inspection.

Following any introductory sections will be the meat of any home inspection report. This portion of the report should be divided into areas of the home or home components that the inspector evaluated. Here, notes will be made and details will be listed about the condition of each home area/component (roof, plumbing etc.) along with suggestions, recommendations and any applicable photos and or videos that the home inspection team acquired during their review of the home.

Is a Home Inspection Really Necessary?

It is extremely important that anyone looking to purchase a home invests in a home inspection during the contingency period of the home purchase. Any New Jersey real estate contract/purchase contract is conditional until the home inspection has been completed. This means that the contract is not official until after the home inspection and can be terminated if there are significant issues discovered by the home inspector.

Many times, minor issues can be negotiated between the buyer and the seller, allowing the sale to proceed. Aesthetic changes, such as fresh paint or minor kitchen repairs can be added to the contract as the seller’s responsibility. Before closing, the buyer will have a final walk-through of the home, at which time they can determine whether or not all of the requested repairs have been made as agreed to in the contract.

 

Image by Andy Piper – licensed under CC 2.0

What to Expect When You’re Expecting to Close

Now that you’ve invested extensive time and energy into the process of buying a home in NJ, it can feel a bit overwhelming to realize that you still have one hurdle to clear – the closing. Most people have at least a vague, general knowledge of the fact that you have to “close” on a property before it officially becomes yours. But what exactly does this mysterious “closing” entail?

The How (to prepare):

To ensure that your closing (or settlement, as it is often called) goes smoothly, it’s best to be fully prepared in advance. Because contract language can be confusing and lengthy, it is in your best interest to have an experienced New Jersey real estate attorney review all of your loan statements and the purchase contract during your three day attorney review period, which is required by law to begin within three business days of your official closing date.

Along with having your attorney carefully review all of your paperwork, you should be allowed to do a last walk-through of the home 24 hours before the closing. This walk-through has two main purposes: to ensure that everything is in the condition that the seller agreed to in the contract, and to make sure that the seller has fully and completely vacated the premises (unless it has been otherwise negotiated in the contract).

The Who:

State laws dictate who must be present at a real estate closing. In New Jersey, the buyer(s) must be present to sign all of the official paperwork and final loan documents. The buyer’s attorney can be present if there are any questions still left unanswered, but your NJ real estate attorney is not required to attend the closing. Your real estate agent and/or title company representative will typically handle all of the closing details.

Other people who may attend the closing include: the seller, the seller’s real estate agent and occasionally, a representative from your lending institution.

The Where:

New Jersey real estate closings most often take place at the buyer’s attorney’s office or at the buyer’s realtor’s office. The location is negotiable so that it is as accommodating as possible for everyone involved.

The What (to bring):

On the day of your closing, you’ll to bring proof of your identity, proof of your homeowners insurance policy, any home inspection reports and a copy of the contract that you have reviewed with your attorney. You’ll need this copy to verify that no changes have been made to the official contract that you will be signing.

This is also the time to fork over your down payment and closing costs. You cannot make these payments with a personal check, so be sure to verify with your closing agent beforehand what form of payment is preferred. It will likely be a cashier’s check or, in some cases, a wire transfer. If there are any smaller surprise fees that need to be paid at closing, you should be able to pay for those with a check.

The What (to expect):

Once you arrive at your closing or settlement meeting, you can expect to do a lot (and we mean A LOT) of signing your name on all of the closing documents and final loan paperwork.

The transaction will be recorded by a representative from the title company, who will then file the deed with the appropriate township/municipality.

Just as your hand starts to cramp uncontrollably from all of the signing you have to do, it will be over and you’ll be handed the keys to your new NJ home!

 

 

 

 

Announcing the Opening of our Bordentown, NJ Real Estate Law Office!

At Veitengruber Law, our client success rates have continued to climb every year since our inception in 2010. Helping people is what motivates us, so we are always thinking about how to help even more clients. Our current office is located along the Jersey Shore in Wall, New Jersey. This location allows us to assist clients in Union, Mercer, Monmouth, Ocean, Camden and (parts of) Burlington counties. We’ve known for awhile that we wanted to expand our reach via a second office, situated on the western side of the state. Introducing Veitengruber Law’s second location:

33 Third Street
2nd Floor
Suite 3
Bordentown, NJ 08505

The founder of Veitengruber Law, George Veitengruber III, Esq., lives in Bordentown, NJ with his wife and two sons. Bordentown is a beautiful small town that sits along the Delaware River in north Burlington County. Just a few miles south of Trenton, our new office location will make our services more readily available to those who live in Mercer, northern Burlington, northern Camden, western Ocean and western Monmouth counties.

In addition to assisting you with all of your NJ real estate needs, Veitengruber Law: Bordentown will continue to represent clients in matters of: bankruptcy, foreclosure defense, debt negotiation, credit repair, asset protection, estate planning and collections.

By maintaining a limited number of practice areas, our attorneys and legal staff have been able to gain immeasurable experience regarding New Jersey real estate, foreclosure defense, bankruptcy and other financial matters, making our firm hard to beat in terms of expertise. In fact, we feel confident in saying that our NJ legal knowledge base and success rate cannot be beaten.

Our Bordentown office hours are by appointment only. Please call 856-318-2759 OR 609-297-5226 to set up your initial consultation in Bordentown. Also, if you have been seeing us in our Wall office but feel that our Bordentown location would be more convenient for you, do not hesitate to let us know!

 

Veitengruber Law Opens NJ Foreclosure Defense Office in Bordentown

Veitengruber Law has proudly served New Jersey residents in the counties of Union, Mercer, Monmouth, Ocean, Camden and (parts of) Burlington since 2010. While we are very happy with and proud of the number of clients we’ve been able to help each year, we always want to do more. This got us thinking about making our services more accessible to those who need our help in western parts of New Jersey.

The entire Veitengruber Law team has poured our hearts and souls into helping our Wall, NJ clients with their foreclosure defense cases. Our other practice areas include: New Jersey credit repair and debt negotiation, real estate transactions, asset protection, estate planning and collections. 2017 is the year that everything fell perfectly into place to allow for the opening of a second Veitengruber Law office. Without further ado, the address of our second location is:

33 Third Street
2nd Floor
Suite 3
Bordentown, NJ 08505

Located in northern Burlington County along the Delaware River, Bordentown is a mere 6 miles south of New Jersey’s capital city of Trenton, making our services more accessible to Mercer County residents. George Veitengruber, our firm’s founder, has always dreamed of expanding his law practice to enable him to help his neighbors and, consequently, his hometown of Bordentown itself. Additionally, our new office is more accessible to those who live in: northern Camden, northern Burlington, western Monmouth and western Ocean counties.

Our representation will continue to be unparalleled because we focus on a limited number of practice areas. This means that our attornyes and support personnel are virtual experts in our areas of the NJ law. We’ve helped so many people save their homes through NJ foreclosure defense that we would challenge you to find another New Jersey foreclosure defense attorney who knows the process better than our legal team.

At present, consultations in our Bordentown office are by appointment only. To schedule an appointment in Bordentown, call: 856-318-2759 OR 609-297-5226.

 

Veitengruber Law Opens NJ Bankruptcy Office in Bordentown

Since 2010, Veitengruber Law has been providing comprehensive debt relief solutions to New Jersey residents in Monmouth, Ocean and Atlantic Counties as well as part of South Burlington County. As we achieved successful outcomes for more and more clients each year, we started thinking about expanding our reach. What if we could help even more struggling debtors in additional areas of New Jersey?

Our founding attorney, George Veitengruber III, Esq., has always dreamed of expanding the practice into his hometown of Bordentown, NJ. Located along the western side of Burlington County, Bordentown is located approximately 6 miles south of Trenton and 25 miles northeast of Philadelphia.

After putting everything he had into the Wall, NJ office, everything came together this year to facilitate the opening of a second Veitengruber Law office. We are thrilled to be able to announce our new location:

33 Third Street
2nd Floor
Suite 3
Bordentown, NJ 08505

We will be offering NJ legal services in all of the areas of the law that we currently practice, including: NJ bankruptcy, foreclosure defense, debt negotiation, credit repair, real estate transactions, asset protection, estate planning and collections.

As always, we plan to continue our high caliber representation by keeping our focus on a limited number of practice areas. This allows our attorneys and legal staff to become literal experts in our fields. We’ve helped so many clients to get a new financial lease on life via bankruptcy that you would be hard-pressed to find another New Jersey bankruptcy attorney who knows the process better than Veitengruber Law.

At this time, our Bordentown office will be open by appointment only. To schedule a consultation in Bordentown, call: 856-318-2759 OR 609-297-5226.

 

What to Look for in a New Jersey Foreclosure Defense Attorney

If you’ve received a foreclosure notice from your lender, you probably feel the panic rising – especially if you ultimately want to keep your home. Perhaps you have just started falling behind on your mortgage – you haven’t entered foreclosure yet but know it’s a real possibility in the relatively near future. In the worst case scenario – your home’s foreclosure sale (Sheriff’s Sale) is mere weeks away; you were in denial until today, but now you want to know if you have any options this late in the game.

No matter which of the above scenarios best fits the situation you’ve landed in, if foreclosure is in your life and you’d really rather it not be – you need help. Saving a home from foreclosure isn’t a DIY project unless you’ve somehow miraculously come into a large sum of money and can bring your mortgage current. Even this may not be effective if your foreclosure sale has already been scheduled.

What type of professional should you be looking for? The truth of the matter is, most people don’t know where to turn when it comes to foreclosure. It’s not a situation anyone envisions for themselves when they first set out on the path to becoming homeowners, so it isn’t a subject area that most happy homeowners give much thought to.

Unfortunately, even the best laid plans sometimes run afoul. When you’re looking at a future foreclosure, whether it’s just a possibility or if your home’s Sheriff Sale has been listed in the local newspaper already – you need a foreclosure defense attorney. Naturally, the earlier in the process you are when you reach out for help, the better. However, the best NJ foreclosure defense attorneys will tell you, “It’s never too late to save your home.”

Can just any NJ foreclosure defense lawyer help you save your home? The important takeaway here is that not all attorneys are created equally. As you launch your search for the right NJ attorney to help you keep your house – look for these qualities:

Foreclosure experience – You want an attorney who specializes in saving homes. Foreclosure should make up a substantial portion of his practice and he should have a significant number of foreclosure defense cases under his belt. Avoid an attorney who “dabbles” in foreclosure (when he has the time).

Also handles bankruptcies and loan modifications – As you move through the foreclosure process (whether your desired outcome is saving your home or not), you may decide to file for bankruptcy or apply for a loan modification in order to make your finances more manageable. If your foreclosure defense attorney also handles these areas, you’ve gotten a three-for-one deal!

Success rate – Ask your attorney for statistics about his foreclosure defense cases. Sure, he takes on foreclosures, but how well does he handle his cases? Find out his success rate before retaining his services.

Schedule a consultation with your potential attorney before finalizing your decision. Along with the above qualities, you’ll get a vibe when you first meet with him – be sure that your personality jives with his. Pay close attention to how he presents himself. Does he make a lot of eye contact with you? Is he distracted during your meeting or is his focus solely on your case?

Behind any good NJ attorney is a legal team. You’ll be working with your attorney AND his legal assistants. Take the time to speak with the staff while you’re in the office for your consultation. The right foreclosure defense team will make it clear that they care about your case, and about you as a person.

Image by perzonseo – licensed under CC 2.0

 

My Ex Is Using My Credit Cards after Our Divorce!

Unfortunately, divorce almost always brings with it some degree of contention. Regardless of what the former couple disagrees about, it usually comes down to a “he said, she said” type of dispute.

Sometimes, however, there is legal recourse for post-divorce behavior that simply crosses the line. Take, for example, a woman who, upon setting out to clean up her credit report and boost her score, discovered that her former husband had been using her credit cards quite liberally well after they split up.

While, yes, there can be a bit of ambiguity when it comes to using shared cards in the time period after a married couple decides to part but before the Final Judgement of Divorce has been entered, the law speaks loud and clear after the divorce is final.

Any use of your ex-husband or ex-wife’s credit cards (that are in his or her name only) after you divorce is specifically disallowed. In fact, it’s against the law and reeks of identity theft.

Do some married couples use each other’s credit cards while they’re married? They do – even if the credit card in question is not a shared card and only officially “belongs” to one party. This is legal if the non-card-holder is named as an authorized user on the account.

Example: Husband goes out of town for the weekend and leaves his credit card for his wife to use for shopping. As long as she is an authorized user on his account, this is perfectly legal. However, she must sign her own name on any receipts as opposed to forging her husband’s signature.

Even if you’re currently happily married, it is generally considered unwise for you to utilize your spouse’s credit card (that is in his or her name only) if you aren’t listed as a user of the credit card. Some couples do it anyway because most merchants assume that the cardholder gave permission to the spouse to use their card. Simply calling your credit card company and adding your spouse as an authorized user is easy to do and can eliminate any potential problems.

After you are officially divorced from your spouse and are holding the Final Judgement of Divorce in your hands, there should be exactly zero further use of the other party’s credit card. This is true even if you were listed as an authorized user while you were married. Should your spouse forget to remove your name from their authorized users list, this does not in any way mean that you may continue using your ex’s credit after divorce.

An ex-spouse utilizing your credit card falls under the category of a criminal offense: identity theft. It is no different than a complete stranger stealing and using your credit card(s). If this has happened to you, the next step you should take is filing a police report and sending a copy of the police report to the credit reporting agencies. Working with a credit repair specialist will help you get the debt removed from your card and you may even be successful in making your ex pay for the charges.

Can my Landlord Evict me if I File for NJ Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

Living paycheck-to-paycheck is the way of life for many Americans, and unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as though this has the potential to change any time soon. With the Mortgage Crisis of 2007 having lasting effects on the US real estate market, many former homeowners were forced to give up their underwater homes and downsize. Many of these people did not take on a new mortgage, but decided to become renters – at least until the real estate market righted itself.

The new renters brought on by the Mortgage Crisis (which had aftershock effects lasting well past 2010) plus those Americans who were already renting prior to 2007 combined to create a large population of US renters. While some renters have since been able to secure mortgages, a plethora of tenants feared losing yet another home to foreclosure and have continued to rent property in NJ.

The struggle of not knowing whether or not you’ll have enough money to cover your monthly living expenses is real. As of the end of 2016, nearly 11% of New Jersey residents were living at or below the poverty level, which is an excessively high number. For these New Jerseyans, figuring out how to stretch their low income to pay for food, housing and utilities is a daily burden that weighs on them constantly.

As a renter in New Jersey, filing for chapter 7 bankruptcy no longer prevents a landlord from initiating the eviction process. New legislature in 2005 protected homeowners but not tenants in chapter 7 cases. Those renters who need to file for bankruptcy to get out from under crushing debt cannot do so with a chapter 7 without risking eviction.

Although chapter 13 bankruptcy doesn’t completely wipe out debts like a chapter 7 discharge does, the good news for NJ renters is that it offers protection from eviction. All back rent that you owe your landlord can be included with your other debts when you file. A chapter 13 bankruptcy can save you from eviction by creating a payment plan wherein you will repay your landlord the arrears you owe over a set period of time that is considered reasonable.

As long as you continue to make all of your chapter 13 repayments (made through your bankruptcy trustee who then pays your creditors/landlord) along with your current rent payments, you cannot be evicted due to being behind on your rent. Your chapter 13 repayment plan will be structured in such a way that you can afford in comparison with your unsustainable living expense schedule prior to filing for bankruptcy.

It’s important to note that in order for you to avoid eviction via chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must be able to prove that you have enough income to afford your repayment plan with enough money left over every month to be able to make your current rent payments on time and in full. In addition, any landlord may evict a tenant who has endangered the property in question through illegal activities such as drug use, drug distribution or breaking the lease agreement in other dangerous ways, even if they have filed for a NJ chapter 13 bankruptcy.

 

Image: “Evicted” by Gideon – licensed under CC 2.0

New Jersey Title Insurance: Do I Really Need it?

Purchasing real property in New Jersey (or in any state, for that matter), is definitely not a time to take short cuts. While most home buyers acknowledge this fact, some may still question the necessity of some of the steps along the journey to home ownership. The process of buying a home involves a pretty long checklist – if you’re doing things the right way.

One standard task that you need to accomplish before the closing date is purchasing title insurance. Buyers who aren’t familiar with title searches and title insurance may be caught off-guard when they discover another fee that they are responsible for in their quest to own a home. Important questions you may have include:

What is the purpose of a title search?
The person or persons listed on a property’s title are the rightful owners of the home. When the title insurance company (or your NJ real estate attorney) performs a title search on your intended home, they are looking for anything in the history of the property’s ownership that suggests there may be a problem in transferring the ownership of the home. This preliminary examination combs through records surrounding the previous ownership of the home, i.e: deeds, trusts, wills, divorce agreements, judgments, bankruptcies, tax records and liens. Any minor encumbrances (a lien that needs to be paid off, missing signatures) can usually be cleared up, allowing the sale to proceed.

Why do I need to buy title insurance if the title search was clear?
The reason title insurance is necessary is because it is virtually impossible for any initial title search, no matter how thorough, to foresee a claim to ownership that was filed incorrectly and/or is long-buried in a pile of dusty paperwork. Misspelled names, long-lost relatives, estate planning snafus and other problems can pop up at any time in the future – after you’ve already closed on the property and have moved in.

If a title problem arises after I’ve moved in, how will title insurance help me?
Your title insurance lender’s policy will act as a safety net if a buried problem turns out to present a real claim to the property even after you’ve closed on it. If a long-lost co-owner turns up and wants to enforce his claim of ownership, he can take the matter to court, however, even if he wins and is granted ownership of the home, your title insurance lender’s policy will pay your lender the balance on your mortgage. If you also purchase an owner’s policy, that will kick in to reimburse some or all of the money you already paid, such as a down payment and any initial mortgage payments.

How much does title insurance cost?
Purchasing title insurance is going to cost you a one-time fee of around $1,000, give or take, for the lender’s policy, and less than $100 for an owner’s policy. This is money well spent even if you never make use of the coverage. That may sound strange, but here’s why it’s true: on the very small off-chance that a missed claim surfaces and you are without title insurance, you could lose your home and a significant amount of money.

Virtually all lenders will require you to acquire title insurance before they agree to approve your mortgage. In addition, most NJ real estate attorneys won’t represent you if you attempt to refuse title insurance because of the inherent risks involved in your future as a property owner. Title insurance may seem unnecessary, but it is absolutely, without a doubt, a crucial piece of any New Jersey real estate transaction.