Aging in Place: Avoiding NJ Foreclosure in Retirement

NJ foreclosure

Entering retirement can be a time of celebration and relaxation, but it can also lead to financial stress. You’ve spent your whole life working towards this moment, but managing your finances on a fixed income can be hard to get used to. While ideally you would be living debt-free in retirement, many homeowners are taking their mortgages and other debts with them into their senior years. If you are worried about how to continue to pay for your home after retirement, there are some steps you can take to avoid facing a NJ foreclosure.

No matter how much you plan for retirement, one unexpected event can throw everything off balance. Unforeseen expenses are some of the biggest reasons retirees struggle to make their mortgage payments. Medical bills can quickly amount to a small fortune. Divorce can leave one person struggling to make mortgage payments alone. Loss of income can affect homeowners even after retirement, due to loss of a part-time job or loss of invested funds. If you find yourself facing even one of these hardships, it may be difficult or impossible to make a mortgage payment.

If you believe a lower monthly payment would allow you to stay in your home, you should consider a loan modification. With a loan modification, your interest rate can be lowered, the loan term can be extended, and/or the principal can be reduced to make monthly payments more affordable. In order to be eligible for a loan modification, you need to prove to your lender that you can’t afford your current mortgage payment, but could if the payment was lowered.

When applying for a loan modification, it is really helpful to have an experienced attorney advocating for your interests. When applying alone, homeowners inexperienced with the process can make mistakes or neglect to provide sufficient evidence of their income. Lenders will reject applications if they believe the requester doesn’t have enough income to meet the lower payments. However, it may just be that you have not listed all of your income, or have have failed to describe your income appropriately. Any money you are receiving has the potential to help your chances of getting approved for a loan modification. At Veitengruber Law, we know what lenders are looking for and how to create an application will be approved.

While you are working to avoid foreclosure, it might be worth looking into increasing your income. If you have the space, renting a room to a relative or friend or renting out an unused space for storage can help supplement your retirement plan. Many retirees hold part-time jobs like dog walking, babysitting, elderly care, and freelancing. Even if you only take a job long enough to get your loan modification approved and pay off some debts, you can resume a carefree retirement once the threat of foreclosure is no longer looming.

The State of New Jersey has made efforts to give retirees a better chance of maintaining their standard of living while continuing to live in the garden state. Law makers have stepped in to help struggling seniors with the Property Tax Reimbursement Plan, also known as the “Senior Freeze.” For seniors who meet a list of requirements, this program freezes property taxes at the amount paid at the time of retirement. Under this program, any increases in NJ property taxes paid since retirement will be reimbursed. This program helps struggling seniors achieve a more consistent, lower cost of living.

Your retirement years should be stress-free and happy. Veitengruber Law is experienced in offering expert legal and financial advice to carry you through retirement with financial security. Enjoy your golden years the way you should—in the comfort of your own home.

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STOP a NJ Sheriff’s Sale and KEEP YOUR HOME

NJ sheriff's sale

In New Jersey, it can take a long time to foreclose on a home. There are a lot of options to explore before you get to the point of foreclosure. If, however, you find yourself unable to work with your lender to get a loan modification and a foreclosure commences, you may be facing a sheriff sale of your home. The good news is, even at the point that a sheriff sale has been scheduled, there are still ways to stop the auction and save your home. Veitengruber Law is here to offer valuable legal advice to get you through this time sensitive situation.

After it has been decided the home will go to sheriff’s sale, the lender or the homeowner can ask the court to adjourn, or postpone, the sale temporarily. Under NJ law, the adjournment can be requested for any or no reason at all, but the homeowner can only ask for adjournment twice whereas the lender can ask as many times as they want. These adjournments last for two weeks and give the homeowner time to consider their options.

In New Jersey, each county has its own adjournment procedures and sets its own costs for requests. Generally, the fee is small – around $28 – in most counties. All requests for adjournment must be made in person and the fee must be paid up front. The request can be made in a letter listing the docket number and sheriff sale number along with the property address and date of the sale. Some counties offer a standard form to request the adjournment. We can help you submit this request to make sure you are approved for your two week adjournment.

In limited situations, the homeowner can ask for additional adjournments. This formal request to the Court would only be granted for good cause, like if a sale of the home is pending or the homeowner is likely to be approved for a loan modification. Additional requests for adjournment can be costly and are at the full discretion of the judge, so it is important to try to work toward a solution within the time limits provided by your two allotted adjournments.

Once the sale of the home has been stalled or stopped, you have a few options to consider. Because you have missed more than three payments, the loan is declared to be in default and the lender will not just let you start paying again to catch-up on missed payments. These missed payments and late fees are combined with any real estate taxes or insurance that has been paid by the lender along with any legal fees to make up the “arrears.” The arrears must be paid before the lender will allow you to start making monthly payments again.

There are a few ways to pay off the arrears. The first is to pay them off in one lump sum, which can be difficult if not impossible for most people. The second is to negotiate a loan modification with your lender and have the arrears added to the principal balance of the loan. Even if you have tried and failed to get a loan modification in the past, with Veitengruber Law’s help it may still be possible to work out a loan modification. This could permanently close your foreclosure case and save your home. A loan modification is often the most ideal way to resolve a foreclosure case and we will do everything they can to work toward this goal.

The final option to repay arrears and end your foreclosure case while keeping your home is to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Once bankruptcy is declared, a sheriff sale of your home will be immediately stopped. While the idea of filing for bankruptcy can seem intimidating, bankruptcy is actually a very useful legal tool to get back on top of your finances. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy will likely save your home from foreclosure and also give you options to mitigate your debts. If you also have excessive credit card debt or other debt from medical or other unplanned expenses, these debts can be managed within the same bankruptcy case. Working with an experienced  bankruptcy law attorney who also provides foreclosure defense services will help you determine the best way to save your home and get you on the path to a better financial future.

There are a lot of considerations to take into account when facing a sheriff sale of your home in New Jersey. We understand that this is a deeply personal decision and we will be there to support you every step of the way. Don’t assume you are out of options because a sheriff’s sale is scheduled. Contact us today for an expert assessment of your situation and save your home!

After Foreclosure: What is the Legal NJ Eviction Process?

nj eviction

What is a Sheriff’s Sale in NJ?

At Veitengruber Law, we understand the intricacies surrounding losing a property or navigating the options one may have when their property is in jeopardy. Part of understanding New Jersey law and the legal NJ eviction process may also involve understanding what a Sherriff’s Sale is, and we can help.

 

A Sheriff’s Sale in NJ is a sale handled by a Sheriff that is ordered by a court when the owner has unsuccessfully paid the judgment. According to New Jersey law, a Sheriff’s Sale is navigated within the local rules of each County Sheriff’s Department, and takes place at each said office. Anyone interested in purchasing a Sheriff’s Sale property can easily find the list of real estate properties available online at the county court website or at the actual Sheriff’s Department during normal business hours.

 

A Sheriff’s Sale (when referring to real estate) generally involves a property that is in danger of/or in foreclosure. The property is sold “as is” and any money generated from the Sheriff’s Sale is applied toward the outstanding lien owed on the judgment. If someone were to become the highest bidder at the sale, they would be required to place a deposit on the property, while understanding the risk of losing the property and part of the deposit in accordance with New Jersey law. The risk of the buyer losing the property has to do with the New Jersey law that states the debtor has a 10 day redemption period in which they may try to pay the lien and recover their property or object to the sale formally through court. If the 10 day redemption period expires and the new buyer pays the the sale price in full, the transaction is deemed complete and the title will then be given to the buyer.


What Happens Next?

The process following a Sherriff’s Sale can be confusing and frustrating, but we can expertly help you navigate this next phase. Once the new owner is in possession of the deed to the home, they cannot simply “kick you out” – this is illegal and would be considered an Unlawful Detainer. New Jersey law has specific rules about the eviction process and the steps that must occur for official eviction to take place.

 

The first step the new buyer must take is to file for a Writ of Possession which allows the County Sherriff to evict any occupants of the home. The County Sherriff then has to deliver notice to the occupants, at which point you have several choices. You could wait out the 30-90 day time-frame and attempt to save money to be prepared to move out of the property. Another option for you may be to ask for “cash for keys” where the new buyer may be inclined to cover moving out expenses for you to leave the home sooner. Veitengruber Law could also help you navigate other options such as a hearing to stay the eviction in front of a judge where you would appear before the judge with valid concrete reasons to postpone the eviction. The final resort could be filing a bankruptcy petition, in which case an automatic stay would occur and the eviction process would be halted indefinitely.

 

How Do I Determine What is the Best Option?

 

Veitengruber Law can help you understand all of your options, and we strongly urge you to take advantage of our expertise! Call today for your FREE one-hour comprehensive consultation to start understanding what the right answer is for YOU.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Navigating the NJ Foreclosure Process

NJ foreclosure

New Jersey has the highest rate of foreclosure in the United States.  More than 74,000 homes went through the foreclosure process in 2016 and while some improvement was seen in 2017, this remains a huge issue for New Jersey residents. Navigating the NJ foreclosure process can be overwhelming to say the least. At Veitengruber Law, it is our goal to give our clients peace of mind during this complicated process.

It is important to note that NJ is a judicial foreclosure state. This means all foreclosures must go through the court system. The lender must sue the occupant in an attempt to get his/her investment back. The process is cumbersome and time consuming, with the state taking on average 1,300 days to foreclose a housing unit.

A foreclosure starts with the occupants of a home missing a mortgage payment. The foreclosure proceedings can begin after one missed payment, but this is rare. Generally, most lenders allow 120 days after a missed payment before starting the foreclosure process.

Before the lender can initiate foreclosure proceedings, the lender is required by law to send a ‘Notice of Intention to Foreclose.’ This is a formal letter indicating the rights of the occupant to cure the debt and the amount required to do so. The letter must also indicate the occupant’s right to contact an attorney during the foreclosure process.

After the Notice of Intention is sent, the lender will file a lawsuit in court. The lawsuit will indicate that the lender is trying to sell the house to satisfy the money owed. Once the lender serves the occupant with the lawsuit, the occupant will have 35 days to respond. In order to dispute the lawsuit, the occupant must respond to the suit in front of the judge in order to explain why they legally should not lose their home. If this time passes with no response, the lender can ask the judge for a default judgment and potentially win the suit.

If the lender wins the suit, they can sell the house. NJ has a ‘right to redeem’ law which allows the occupant a short period of time to get the house back, typically lasting up to ten days. After this, the court will order the sheriff to initiate a sheriff sale, or public auction. The occupant will receive notice of the date of the sale and will have the chance to request a two-week postponement in order to gain more time to either refinance or sell the property. The deed to the home will be transferred to the lender two weeks from the date of sale.

While NJ certainly does have laws to protect home owners, it is important to act fast and with a full understanding of the law. The attorneys at Veitengruber Law are experienced in foreclosure law. Every foreclosure has its own complications and one mistake can mean the loss of your home. Having an experienced NJ foreclosure attorney during this process can help in several ways. Foreclosure defenses are complex and foreclosure law is always evolving. When your home is on the line, it is important to have an expert on your side to ensure you are complying with detailed court filing procedures and rules.

Image: “House Keys” by Steven Depolo – licensed under CC 2.0

What a NJ Foreclosure Defense Attorney Can Do for You


Unfortunately, New Jersey has the dismal “honor” of being the state with the highest number of active foreclosures. To say that NJ has a bit of trouble with foreclosures would be a massive understatement.


Are you in the process of going through foreclosure of your home? Perhaps it’s just a “potential foreclosure” looming at this point. You’re probably trying to decide whether or not you should attempt to go through the foreclosure process alone or whether you should invest in a foreclosure defense attorney. Are you looking for more information regarding how an attorney might make the process easier?

To begin, let’s cover a few basic points about foreclosure. A foreclosure occurs when the bank or lender takes possession of your home or property if you fail to make the required mortgage payments. Typically, if you do not make 3 mortgage payments, the bank or lender will issue a Notice of Intention to Foreclose. Before issuing a Complaint, they are required to send the notice at least 30 days ahead of time. As soon as you receive the notice, you should contact a foreclosure defense attorney, as you only have 35 days to respond and 60 days to request foreclosure mediation.

It may come as a surprise to you that lenders don’t actually want to take your property from you; they would much rather you be able to make the monthly payments. If you are at risk of losing your home to foreclosure, a foreclosure defense attorney can help you fight to lower your monthly payments and allow you to keep your home.

Your foreclosure defense attorney will strive to:

  • File a Notice of Appearance (NOA) – This is filed with the court or bank to allow the attorney to enter into the case and fight for you. Following this, the bank will send all information to the attorney rather than force you to act as an intermediary.

 

  • Decrease the original amount of your loan – For example, your attorney could potentially lower your original loan amount from $500,000 to $450,000. It’s possible that the lender may be willing to take a small loss in place of you ceasing to make any mortgage payments.

 

  • Assist in acquiring a loan modification – This may be the only way to permanently keep your home. The positive here is that there are no costs associated with modifying your loan, but it can be quite difficult to obtain one on your own. Your original mortgage may have had a high interest rate (10%), but lowering it to a rate of 6 or 7% will significantly reduce the amount you pay in interest over a lifetime.

 

  • Apply foreclosure defense techniques – It’s possible that he or she will argue that the plaintiff has an unrealistic mortgage assignment and lacks the appropriate standing to foreclose. In addition, the attorney may argue for unfair lending practices. Various strategies have been known to delay foreclosure for years.

 

  • Eliminate late charges – As you might already know, penalties and late fees accumulate quickly, but your attorney will attempt to wipe your slate clean. This will prevent you from having to dig yourself out of a hole just to get back to your baseline.

 

  • Extend the life of your loan – Your attorney may be able to lengthen the life of your loan, say from 20 years to 30 years, which will lower the monthly payment.

An attorney may also be able to prolong the amount of time you’re able to stay in your home. You could potentially enter into a foreclosure avoidance mediation program, which would be an alternative to foreclosure. With the help of mediation, you may be granted a short sale, loan modification, or a deed in lieu of foreclosure. Normally, the foreclosing party is required to send you information on a mediation program, but an attorney can provide guidance through the process.

 


A foreclosure defense attorney can be extremely helpful in this daunting process, so don’t be afraid to reach out and contact a professional.


 

NJ Foreclosure Redemption: Explained

If you have recently “lost” your home to New Jersey foreclosure, you may be wondering if there is anything you can do to get your home back before it is sold at auction. In fact, there are some very effective, tried and true methods that can be used to prevent your lender from proceeding with the Sheriff’s Sale – as long as you take action before the sale has already commenced.

Unfortunately, many people who are in similar situations to yours live in denial for a long period of time before taking any action regarding their home’s foreclosure. Burying your head in the sand is common in times like these because this is such an undesirable life event that can be very hard to face. Most people dealing with foreclosure never intended to lose their home and can spend months hoping for a miracle.

This leads to homeowners who finally take action at the last minute (or very close to the last minute). While it is easy to panic if your home is scheduled for Sheriff’s Sale very soon, is not recommended. The same is true if your home has already been sold at Sheriff’s Sale.

Remaining calm is key. If you have not taken action before the date of your foreclosure sale, you have likely already experienced the start of the eviction process. After your home has been sold via foreclosure sale, your last Hail Mary option is to take advantage of the redemption period.

In the State of New Jersey, the foreclosure redemption period is an extremely small window of time during which you may still be able to save your home. The New Jersey foreclosure redemption time-frame is 10 days. Therefore, you have 10 days after your home has been sold at Sheriff’s Sale to redeem the property and take back ownership.

It should be noted that there are no exceptions made during the NJ foreclosure redemption period. If you do not take action within the 10 days immediately following the foreclosure sale, you will have lost the last opportunity to buy back your home.

In NJ, homeowners who are attempting to redeem, or buy back, their previously owned home after it has been sold at a foreclosure sale, must refinance or pay the outstanding balance on their mortgage in full.

Insider Info: Because New Jersey is a judicial foreclosure state, lenders are required to file a lawsuit when they proceed with foreclosing on a home. The entire foreclosure process must be documented within the New Jersey court system. This gives some New Jersey homeowners a second opportunity to buy back their foreclosed homes, but only if their lender files a deficiency judgment after the Sheriff’s Sale.

If your lender files a deficiency judgment after your home sells at foreclosure sale, your New Jersey foreclosure defense attorney can help you bring action for redemption within six months after your lender has filed for deficiency judgment. This is a feat designated for experienced foreclosure and real estate attorneys and should not be attempted with a less-experienced professional.

To learn how to buy back your home via redemption after deficiency judgment, ask your NJ attorney ASAP.

If your home has been sold at a New Jersey Sheriff Sale and you’re interested in redeeming either during the 10 day redemption period or after a deficiency judgment – you must contact an experienced New Jersey foreclosure defense attorney TODAY.

Take action now before your chance to redeem your home truly passes. Be sure to ask your attorney about the new Senate proposal regarding NJ foreclosure stays to find out if it can be of help in your unique situation.

Image: “Keys.” by Linus Bohman – licensed under CC 2.0

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.

 

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

 

NJ Mortgage Help for Single Parents

Going through a separation and divorce is never easy, but the complication level increases when you add children to the mix. Establishing a stable family life for your kids is something every good parent strives to do, and divorce can throw a wrench into even the best laid plans.

Supporting the expenses required as a newly single parent is a daunting task as you attempt to maintain as much constancy and normalcy for your children as possible. To that end, the marital/family home is most often where divorced parents elect for their children to remain living.

With that being said, finances don’t always stretch far enough for one parent on their own to pay the mortgage on that family home, along with all other monthly expenses. If both parents are able to pitch in financially to keep the children and one parent in the home, the chances of losing the home are lower. However, the threat of foreclosure for recently divorced single parents is real, and although frightening, it is not something that will go away if you ignore it.

If you are a single parent fighting to keep the home your children have thus far grown up in, you may be overwhelmed by the responsibility of making that monthly mortgage payment on your own. Missed payments are common after significant life events like job loss, illness, death, and, you guessed it – divorce.

The bank will never throw me out since I have young children, right?

Unfortunately, too many people simply give banks and lenders a lot more credit than they deserve. Your bank does not care if you have children, an elderly parent, three sick dogs and a chronic illness – their bottom line is money. You may think, “But there are people working at that bank; surely there is someone there with enough empathy to see that I am struggling.”

While that may be true – of course there are kind people working in banks and lending institutions – they must follow the instructions they are given by their superiors. A mortgage loan that is not being paid on time or at all WILL be sent into foreclosure by the lender. The question is not “If” but “When.”

How can I keep the bank from foreclosing? I just need a little more time!

The best move you can make if you’re in a similar situation is to take action before your home is foreclosed upon by your lender. You may qualify for a loan modification or refinancing. A New Jersey foreclosure and bankruptcy attorney should be the next person you call. Not many attorneys specialize in both areas, so it is important that you work to find a certified NJ attorney who has the experience you need.

Why do I need a bankruptcy attorney? I’m not broke and I want to keep my home.

An experienced NJ attorney who handles both foreclosure defense and bankruptcy matters will be able to stall your foreclosure by using the Automatic Stay. This tactic can only be utilized if the debtor files for bankruptcy.

Even if filing for bankruptcy was not on your top ten list of things to accomplish in life, it is a means to an end that has helped a multitude of people in your exact situation before.

 

Image: “Mother’s Moment” by Leonid Mamchenkov – licensed under CC 2.0

Can I Receive Hurricane Sandy Forbearance if I Filed for Bankruptcy?

Homeowners in New Jersey and all along the Atlantic coast will be hard-pressed to ever forget Hurricane Sandy – a deadly “superstorm” that hit the eastern seaboard in October of 2012. Assessed as the second-costliest hurricane to ever hit the United States, estimates of Sandy’s damage (in the US alone) are approximately $72 billion. The only hurricane in US history to cause more damage was Hurricane Katrina.

New York and New Jersey were the hardest hit states, with gale force winds that reached 90 mph and heavy rain (up to 12 inches in some locations) which led to flooding and significant structural damage of homes, businesses, beaches, boardwalks, roads, and more. Power outages were widespread and lasted for weeks in some places. For the first time since 1888, the New York Stock Exchange closed (on October 29 and 30) due to weather. Even Halloween was postponed in New Jersey, much to the chagrin of kids across the state.

As we hyper-focus on the damage done by Hurricane Sandy to New Jersey alone, we know that nearly 400,000 homes suffered damage from the storm, many were without power for an extended period of time, and 37 people died.

Relief efforts to clean up and rebuild the damaged areas of New Jersey were impressive, and some (but not enough) federal aid monies were approved for the state. Some of that federal aid was disbursed extremely slowly which means the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is still felt today, nearly five years after the storm.

Residents along the New Jersey shore sustained the most damage – both from flooding and high winds – to their homes and properties. The fact that five years has passed should mean that everyone in NJ has recovered from the storm; unfortunately that just isn’t the case. Although many people and organizations dedicated extraordinary man hours and donations toward the recovery effort, there are homeowners who still remain displaced and/or are facing foreclosure.

The good news is that Governor Christie recently signed a bill (S-2300, A-333) that will potentially offer some much needed help to those who are still struggling post-Sandy. The bill specifically grants Sandy victims with a mortgage forbearance period of up to three years. In order to receive the forbearance, homeowners must have been approved for help via the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation Program OR the Low-to-Moderate Income Program.

Affected NJ homeowners struggled for years trying to rebuild their homes after Sandy. Without enough funds to make their homes habitable again, a multitude of these residents had to rent alternative housing. Paying rent while still paying the mortgage on their now damaged property pushed many homeowners into bankruptcy.

Many homeowners filed for the protection offered by the Automatic Stay in the hopes that funding would be released before their bankruptcy case was finalized. Not realizing how long it would take for federal relief funds to be released, their bankruptcy cases ended long ago, and many of the homeowners chose not to reaffirm their mortgages.

Now that bill S-2300, A-333 has been signed, those who filed for bankruptcy and didn’t reaffirm their mortgages are wondering if they still qualify for forbearance. The good news is that a lender may not require that a mortgage be reaffirmed in order for the mortgage holder to receive forbearance.

Homeowners who’ve filed for bankruptcy without reaffirming their mortgages may have to provide their lender with a letter acknowledging that the mortgage debt was discharged in bankruptcy. This protects lenders/creditors from worrying that they’ll be sued when they try to collect on the debt again.

It’s very possible that lenders will not feel comfortable discussing the matter directly with the homeowner. They don’t want to seem as though they are breaking bankruptcy law by attempting to collect on a discharged debt. In this case, borrowers should work with a bankruptcy or foreclosure attorney in New Jersey to negotiate with their lender on their behalf.

 

Image: “Crooked House” by Don McCullough – licensed under CC by 2.0