Purchasing a New Jersey Home from a Bankrupt Seller

In today’s housing market, there are still a significant number of homeowners who are in danger of foreclosure. These homeowners usually owe more than their home is currently worth, so they are said to be “upside down” or “underwater.” If they are unable to refinance, and cannot keep up with their payments, they will be foreclosed upon, and are likely to declare bankruptcy at that point.

Should you pursue a short sale on a home that is awaiting foreclosure?

If you already own a home, are pre-approved financially, have plenty of available cash, and at least several months to spend devoted to the complicated process that is a short sale on a foreclosed home, only to have the seller declare bankruptcy and possibly even cancel the whole thing, then yes, a foreclosure might be the right gamble for you.

Beware, though, because as stated, it is highly likely that the seller will declare bankruptcy before the sale is completed, greatly reducing the likelihood that a short sale will close. Short sales rarely yield substantial profits for the seller, so the seller was likely pursuing a short sale in order to reduce the damage to their credit that would result from a foreclosure. However, if they’ve decided to go ahead and file for bankruptcy, the negative effect it will have on their credit is likely to overshadow any benefit from the short sale.

If they were to continue with the short sale despite having filed for bankruptcy, the seller could actually be negatively affected. Their filing for bankruptcy places their belongings, including their house, into a bankruptcy estate, so they don’t have the power to close a short sale easily. If the owner is determined to complete the short sale–normally against the recommendation of their bankruptcy attorney–they will need to pay said attorney an extra fee to pursue permission from the court.

If they obtain permission to close on the short sale, the owner will need to move out of the home much more quickly than if they were to wait out their bankruptcy proceedings. The only potential benefit to the owner comes from the peace of mind that may result from having avoided foreclosure.

With all these complications, it may seem like it’s not worth it to pursue short sales in foreclosure situations at all. However, there are a number of benefits that might be quite appealing: competitive pricing, smaller down payment and closing cost, and a shorter escrow period, to name a few major advantages.

So, if you are going to attempt to purchase a house that has been foreclosed upon, or a house that is in bankruptcy court, don’t go it alone. You will need the expertise and guidance of an experienced bankruptcy attorney. Your real estate agent will be happy to help you find advantageous listings, but consult with a bankruptcy attorney to have help navigating the complicated process to follow. A real estate agent is NOT an attorney, and can in no way fill that role.

Never skip inspections! They may be even more necessary in a short sale situation, but never less so. A 2011 survey conducted by Harris Interactive reported that 72 percent of U.S. homeowners agree the home inspection they had before they purchased their current home helped them avoid potential problems; 64 percent of respondents reported that their home inspection saved them money.

While it is a bit of a gamble to invest in an inspection when you don’t yet have signed contracts, it’s a much bigger gamble to sign papers on a home you haven’t had inspected. If a homeowner didn’t have the money to pay their mortgage, it’s unlikely that they’ve been able to keep up with regular maintenance. If you can’t arrange an inspection, and you don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on potential repairs, don’t close the deal on a property, no matter how enticing the price tag.

The takeaway: if you have the time and money to spend on a home that may never be yours, and you find a house that is listed at a price that might make it all well worth the hassle, then take your attorney with you–and buckle up for a wild ride!

Image: “Mortgage Rates” by Mark Moz – licensed under CC by 2.0

 

The Role of the New Jersey Real Estate Attorney

Upon contemplation of purchasing a home in New Jersey, you may be wondering if you should work with a real estate attorney as well as a real estate agent during the process. To some people this may seem redundant, but there are several very good reasons to consider hiring a NJ real estate lawyer.

In New Jersey, state law gives home buyers and sellers a three day “attorney review period.” This three day period begins when a real estate contract is signed. The contract is not considered legally binding until the three day attorney review period has ended.

Many home buyers ignore the attorney review period and ask, “What can my attorney do that my real estate broker can’t do?” The answers follow.

Review legal contracts

During the attorney review period, your NJ real estate attorney will read through the entirety of your real estate contract, looking for any red flags and addressing crucial elements that may be missing. Having your real estate attorney review your contract during the attorney review period will increase your chances of a successful closing without any glitches and without surprises several months from now. Real estate attorneys have been specifically trained in the area of real estate contract law, and they know precisely what to look for, whereas real estate brokers are generally most interested in closing the deal.

Because real estate agents frequently use generic forms that are “one size fits all,” many special circumstances may not be addressed in your purchase agreement. An attorney will notice when crucial details are missing from your sales agreement, and they can add contingencies where they are needed.

Perform a title search

New Jersey real estate attorneys will perform an action called a title search when property is being sold from one owner to another. A title search must be completed in order to determine if a property is free of any liens, judgments, or encumbrances. An attorney can perform a title search much faster and cheaper because of his networking connections and close relationships with title companies in the area.

Legal filings

Often, real estate deeds must be filed with the county and state government. This is more true when commercial property is involved. In these cases, your real estate lawyer will easily be able to assist you with obtaining your tax identification number, establishing your business entity, securing a business license and navigating all of the state regulations surrounding any construction that you may wish to have completed on your new commercial (or residential) property.

Some people choose to move forward with a home purchase without the assistance of a real estate attorney in New Jersey. While this is within your legal rights, it is well worth the extra money and relatively short investment of time to work closely with a lawyer near you who specializes in real estate contract law.

In doing so, you will protect yourself from any problems that may arise during the property transfer process. Some glitches that may occur include: improperly filed deeds, tax issues, undiscovered liens, home inspection challenges/property defects, missing or improperly filed documentation/permits, and failure to properly register commercial property. Your attorney can also attend the closing with you to ensure that everything goes as planned.

Will working with an attorney cost you more money than if you didn’t hire one while you were purchasing a new home or location for your business? YES.

However, the potential money a certified NJ real estate attorney can save you in the long run is indeterminate and can oftentimes be exponential when compared with your initial investment in retaining your attorney’s services. The smart move is to invest in a secure transaction by making sure that your real estate contract is legally binding, in your favor, without errors, and free of encumbrances.

 

Image: “Sherwood Country Club” by Sherwood CC – licensed under CC by 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

Legal Help for NJ Veterans Facing Foreclosure

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As we honor those who served our country this Veteran’s Day, it’s important to know that there are thousands of homeless veterans in our country. Furthermore, there are over a million veterans who are in danger of facing foreclosure in the near future.

Why are so many veterans homeless?

This question is a good one, because many people in New Jersey and across the nation simply do not understand that so many veterans are struggling. The reason most homeless veterans lose their homes is due to a lack of affordable resources. Those veterans who are struggling financially need legal assistance to save their homes.

Sometimes, a veteran may face a seemingly smaller legal issue like the loss of a driver’s license. Studies show that veterans who lose their driver’s license end up with snowballing financial problems due to difficulty navigating the legal system in order to get their licenses restored. This leads to job loss due to the veteran not having a reliable way to get to work, which then in turn often leads to the loss of their home via foreclosure.

What assistance is available to struggling or homeless New Jersey veterans?

Across New Jersey, people are taking action to help homeless NJ vets. In South Jersey, a project entitled Operation Safehouse has volunteers building 60 cabin-like homes where veterans can live for up to two years while they are also given access to mental health assistance and work skill training so that they can eventually support themselves and move into their own permanent homes.

A similar program in Central Jersey, Community Hope, has been providing veterans with temporary housing for over a decade now, with an outreach program (Supportive Services for Veteran Families [SSVF]) in 15 NJ counties. Even though Community Hope helped over 750 veterans avoid homelessness last year and other programs like Operation Safehouse are popping up throughout the state, the number of  NJ veterans who are struggling continues to rise.

Veterans who fought the war on terror after 9/11 are feeling the effects of their time in combat and are dealing with severe PTSD that is preventing many of them from staying gainfully employed. Additionally, many post-9/11 vets living in New Jersey were so traumatized by their time on the front lines that they even struggle with keeping friendships and families together.

While the community organizations like Operation Safehouse and Community Hope are doing all that they can to support the emotional and physical needs of veterans, there is still a need for legal assistance that many NJ veterans simply can’t afford.

Are there any government programs or special considerations for veterans at risk?

If you are a veteran and you are at risk of losing your home to foreclosure, take the time to reach out to NJ foreclosure defense attorneys who are ready and willing to help you. Also, do your research on the special rules and exemptions you may qualify for as a US veteran.

You may be able to save your home from foreclosure if you’ve been able to maintain your employment but are still struggling with heavy debts that you simply can’t keep up with. In New Jersey, your VA benefits are exempt from the bankruptcy means test. This gives veterans a leg up when applying for bankruptcy in NJ.

In fact, in New Jersey, many disabled veterans are excused from even taking the means test. Filing for bankruptcy will push the pause button on your foreclosure, if you’re dealing with one, giving you time to formulate a plan that works for your current financial situation.

Image credit: S. AR University

 

Bankruptcy After Divorce: Can Property Settlements be Discharged?

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Couples who are going through a separation or divorce learn very quickly how expensive it is to split up a marriage. Firstly, the added costs of simply living in two different residences add up fast. In addition to separate living costs comes child support, alimony, equitable distribution, potential attorney fees (times 2), loss of part of your pension, and more.

In divorces where one spouse remains living in the marital home, they may be saddled with an order to pay their ex-spouse up to half of the equity in the home (if there is any). If this order comes as a surprise, paying it may be nigh on impossible, especially if it’s a substantial amount of money.

Some divorcing homeowners may wonder if they can discharge the home equity money they owe to their ex-spouse in a chapter 7 bankruptcy case. For example, if the party remaining in the home is ordered to pay $30,000 for equity in the home, would a chapter 7 bankruptcy erase that debt?

The answer to that question is no. Property settlements cannot be discharged in a chapter 7 bankruptcy, although any and all debts owed relating to the marriage (except for child support and alimony) must be listed in any bankruptcy filing. Any monies that you were ordered to pay to your ex for their portion of the equity in the home are not dischargeable in a NJ chapter 7 case. Filing for chapter 7 bankruptcy can help eliminate a number of other debts owed, excluding any debts owed as per the Property Settlement Agreement/Divorce Decree.

With that being said, there is another option for divorcing homeowners who are struggling financially and simply do not have the means to pay their ex-spouse’s  portion of the equity in the home.

In fact, filing for chapter 13 if you are struggling to stay financially afloat after a divorce can be a solution to a number of your money woes. As mentioned, shifting to a one-income household can be a challenging adjustment, especially if you make less money than your spouse does.

If you have fallen behind on any utility bills, property taxes, HOA fees or if you have rapidly rising credit card debt in NJ, chapter 13 will help you reorganize all of your debts, giving you as much as 5 years to get caught up. This includes mortgage debt – and filing for chapter 13 will protect your home from foreclosure.

Along with helping you reorganize your debts, the sum you’ve been ordered to pay your ex-spouse can be reduced or discharged entirely. The possibility of this is dependent upon your income and the combined total of all of your debts. The amount you’ll be required to pay toward divorce debts that are not support-related will be based on how much you can afford to pay. Beyond what you can afford within the given time frame of your chapter 13 repayment period, the rest of your non-support divorce debts will often be discharged, and you will no longer owe the remaining amount.

↓↓CRUCIAL INFORMATION BELOW↓↓

The experience of your bankruptcy attorney is of the utmost importance in a matter involving NJ bankruptcy after divorce. There are so many variables that will affect all aspects of your chapter 13 bankruptcy case. An inexperienced attorney can make expensive and disastrous mistakes. Look for a NJ bankruptcy lawyer who focuses their practice on helping people improve their financial future through debt relief and credit counseling.

Image credit: Fried Dough (flickr user)

After Foreclosure: Living in a Bank-Owned Home

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As we make our way toward the end of the 2016 calendar year, we’re creeping up on the 10 year mark of the start of the U.S. housing crisis that began in 2007. Many states in the nation have recovered nicely by this point, with some reports saying that the housing market is the best it’s been in a decade.

In New Jersey, though, foreclosures are still a significant problem. The garden state has yet to find solid footing in the wake of the housing crisis (also called the housing bubble), and even nearly a decade later is still a state with one of the highest foreclosure rates.

Although it appeared as if things were moving in the right direction for New Jersey’s foreclosure situation this year, as we reach the end of 2016, the recovery rate has slowed to a crawl and nearly 13,000 new foreclosures entered the court system in the final quarter of this year alone. Because of the long, mandated legal foreclosure process in NJ, this new influx of foreclosures has once again caused a significant backlog in foreclosure court. We’ve taken a step backward in our recovery from the housing crisis, with Atlantic, Ocean and Essex counties  currently showing the highest numbers of new foreclosure filings.

One of the effects that the decade-long real estate recession has had on New Jersey is neighborhood blight in areas hardest hit by foreclosure. In reference to the housing market, blight is the dilapidation, deterioration or decay of certain towns and cities (or sections of those towns).

The reason for this phenomenon is that so many foreclosed homes are not being sold at auction. Since New Jersey hasn’t fully recovered from the 2007 crisis, buyers and developers are still wary about purchasing questionable properties, especially in areas that are downtrodden or showing potential signs of blight.

When a foreclosed home fails to sell at sheriff’s sale, the lender or bank retains ownership of the property. These homes are called REO: “Real Estate Owned.” Often the term “Bank owned” is used interchangeably.

REO properties are often empty for significant periods of time, which can lead to vandalism, drug activity, disrepair and squatters. All of these factors combine to create blight, especially when several or many homes in a neighborhood become bank owned and uninhabited.

Smart lenders realize the depreciation that occurs when a property becomes vacant – which means if you are at the end of your home’s foreclosure process and your home becomes bank owned (or REO) – you may be able to continue living in the home until your lender can sell it.

While not all lenders are amenable to giving former homeowners a “free ride” living mortgage free in a home that is now an REO property, some lenders acquiesce to the fact that a cared-for property is much easier to sell than one that has been destroyed by defacement and crime.

Your NJ foreclosure attorney can talk to your lender on your behalf if you are too nervous to do it on your own. If your lender is not open to letting you live in the home scot-free, there may be room to negotiate a rental agreement. Naturally, your attorney will request a monthly rent amount that you can afford. Lenders often realize that getting some money is better than getting no money at all.

If and when your lender does sell your home to another buyer, you will be given eviction notice. At that time, you’ve reached the end of the line in your REO home, and will be required by law to vacate the premises, usually within 30-60 days. So, if you are lucky enough to continue living in your home after its foreclosure sale, put away as much money as possible each month, and scout out a new living arrangement that you can afford. When the time comes, you’ll have a nest egg and hopefully your financial future will look much brighter.

Image credit: Orin Zebest

Can I File for Bankruptcy to Delay Foreclosure on My Home?

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Filing for bankruptcy isn’t only helpful for alleviating excessive debt, although we primarily associate the two together. Sometimes, filing for bankruptcy can be used as a strategy of sorts in order to allow you and your attorney enough time to formulate an effective foreclosure defense strategy so that you can keep your home.

Another good time to file for bankruptcy is if you’re attempting to sell your home as a foreclosure defense strategy, but the real estate process is dragging on interminably. Bankruptcy’s automatic stay* feature will stall a foreclosure long enough to allow your real estate transaction adequate time to proceed.

I didn’t know I could sell my house during foreclosure!

Oftentimes, we hear stories of homeowners devastated and displaced because of lenders foreclosing on them and then selling the property after evicting the (former) homeowners. The typical foreclosure story involves people who’ve fallen on hard times financially. Because of significant money struggles, homeowners being foreclosed upon typically don’t want to leave their homes because they do not have the means to acquire a new place to live.

Due to the overwhelming stress that most foreclosed homeowners are under, many of them simply don’t take the time to learn about all of their options. Some people wait out the foreclosure, staying in their home as long as possible without paying the mortgage, yet failing to put a plan of action into place for their future. While it’s true that burying one’s head in the sand is an ineffective solution, for some, denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.

At the end of the NJ foreclosure process your home will be sold at Sheriff’s Sale if you do nothing. Foreclosed homes typically sell for a lot less than is still owed on the homeowner’s mortgage. What this means for you as the homeowner is that your lender can seek a deficiency judgement that orders you to pay the difference between the Sheriff’s Sale price and the amount you still owe on the mortgage.

How can I avoid a deficiency judgement?

As soon as you start having money trouble that looks like it will likely end in foreclosure, list your home for sale! Yes, your home can be sold even if you aren’t making mortgage payments right now.

Selling your home before the bank has a chance to foreclose gives you a chance to achieve a higher sale price that will allow you to pay back any arrears and late fees, ensuring that your lender is paid in full. Doing so will cause a dismissal of the foreclosure and potentially put some of the equity (if you had any) into your bank account.

If your home has an offer from a seller when your lender is about to foreclose, filing for bankruptcy will activate that automatic stay* we mentioned earlier, giving you enough time to close the deal on your property before the bank has a chance to sell the home at a foreclosure sale for much less money.

Should I file for bankruptcy just to stall a foreclosure?

We don’t recommend that you file for bankruptcy if your only purpose is to delay a looming foreclosure sale, however most people facing foreclosure also have other debts that have gotten out of control.

If you have excessive medical debt, credit card debt, past-due personal loans and/or a second mortgage or home equity loan AND you’re looking a foreclosure square in the eye, filing for bankruptcy can help you hit the trifecta: discharge of your debts, foreclosure dismissal and successful sale of your home with potential equity in your pocket!

Image credit: Jabotdarobot

Can I File for Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 at the Same Time?

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“Sometimes one bankruptcy isn’t enough.” – George Veitengruber, Esq.

As we’ve discussed before on our blog, there are time limitations put into place that prevent a debtor from receiving a second chapter 7 discharge unless at least eight years have passed since their first chapter 7 discharge. You also cannot be granted a chapter 13 discharge unless at least four years have passed since you filed for chapter 7, so where on earth can we possibly be going with this?

Bankruptcy law disallows back to back bankruptcy discharges in order to avoid people abusing the bankruptcy system. With no restrictions, any debtor could theoretically bounce from one bankruptcy discharge to another, and that wouldn’t be fair to creditors, nor would the debtor learn any valuable lessons regarding their finances.

There are situations, however, wherein a debtor can file consecutive bankruptcy cases, but only when the desired outcome is not a second discharge.

Most people associate bankruptcy with ridding themselves of all of their debt, the closest thing to a financial “do-over” that exists in the real world. While a bankruptcy discharge can indeed be akin to a capital tabula rasa, giving debtors a clean slate isn’t the only function of the bankruptcy system.

For example, one of the most beneficial (and immediate) effects of filing for any type of bankruptcy is the automatic stay:

Automatic stay \noun\  a judicial order known as an injunction that halts any and all lawsuits as well as actions by creditors attempting to collect money from someone who has filed for bankruptcy

Many people file for chapter 7 when they have a significant amount of unsecured debt.

Unsecured debt \noun\ a debt that doesn’t have any collateral attached to it that a creditor could take for payment if the debtor defaults
Examples of unsecured debt: credit card debt, student loans, utility bills, medical bills, some taxes, and most personal loans

In filing for chapter 7 relief, many or all unsecured debts can be discharged at the end of the bankruptcy case, as long as the applicant meets the filing requirements and no fraud is at play.

Frequently, a discharge of all unsecured debts so significantly reduces the financial strain on the debtor that they are then able to resume paying their monthly living expenses without difficulty.

Sometimes, though, even after a chapter 7 wipes out a huge chunk of their debt, some people are still left facing a significant amount of non-dischargeable debts.

Non-dischargeable debt \noun\ money owed that can almost never be discharged via any type of bankruptcy proceeding
Examples of non-dischargeable debt: child support, alimony, student loans, income tax debt

Still other people, after filing for chapter 7 and receiving a discharge, are left with secured debt(s) that they want to continue making payments on in order to keep the property that secures the debt(s) in question.

Secured debt \noun\ a debt that has collateral attached to it that a creditor could take for payment if the debtor defaults
Examples of secured debt: home mortgage, auto loan, valuable personal property loan (mechanical equipment, furniture, tools, etc)

Whether the debtor is left with substantial non-dischargeable debt or secured debt(s) that hold important value (usually a mortgage and/or auto loan), filing for chapter 13 immediately after a chapter 7 discharge will allow for a reorganization of any subsequent arrears owed, allowing the debtor to bring the loan(s) current.

Veitengruber Law can navigate your path through multiple bankruptcies! If you thought your financial situation was too “messed up” to be fixed – think again. Even better – we want to help you. Please give our office a call if your debts have gotten out of control. Your consultation won’t cost you thing, so you’ve got nothing to lose.

Image credit: Alachua Cty

 

 

Have You Been a Foreclosure Scam Victim?

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We’ve talked about foreclosure defense scams before – these happen to homeowners who realize they’re facing foreclosure but don’t think they can afford a foreclosure attorney to help them save their home. Desperate, they look for the cheapest option available to them, which usually comes in the form of a company that claims to be able to save any home from foreclosure for much less than the cost of hiring a lawyer.

Foreclosure defense scam artists lead homeowners to believe that they are working hard at saving their home from Sheriff’s Sale, requesting additional fees time and time again, drawing out the “process” as long as possible in order to suck as much money out of you as they can. Usually, little to no process is being made to keep your home out of foreclosure, and by the time you finally discover the truth, the fraudulent “company” will have vanished and moved on to another city with new homeowners to take advantage of.

Coming at this from a different angle, some homeowners are victims of foreclosure scammers with a twist. Instead of falsely claiming to help struggling homeowners to stay out of foreclosure, these fraud artists target those homeowners who are nearly or already in foreclosure.

Falsely claiming to have purchased the home at Sheriff’s Sale, this type of foreclosure scam has several red flags that should go up loud and clear. Firstly, if someone really did buy your house, you would have been notified that your home’s foreclosure sale was coming up.

Because New Jersey’s foreclosure process is judicial, every step of the process must be completed via the court system. As the homeowner, you will be served with official forms alerting you to your lender’s intent to foreclose, the actual foreclosure complaint and a final offer allowing you a chance to bring your defaulted mortgage current. Even if you do not respond to a single court document that you receive and foreclosure goes through, you will still be notified regarding the date of the sale of your home (BEFORE it takes place).

Therefore, if someone calls you on the phone or physically shows up at your door claiming to be the rightful owner via Sheriff’s Sale, be on high alert. Unless you have been out of the country or for any reason have not been retrieving your mail, there is absolutely no way someone could have purchased your home without your knowledge. Again: they couldn’t purchase your home because no sale will be held without you receiving notification.

If one thing’s certain, it’s that scammers are often quite persistent in their quest to deceive and make money. Some con artists will reappear multiple times, insisting that the home is now in their possession. They may present you with a set of demands, such as:

  • You can continue to live in the home as long as you pay them rent money.
  • The property taxes and HOA dues (if any) must be paid by you.
  • You must find a new place to live (AKA eviction) if you don’t meet their demands.

As you can see, this type of scheme allows the scammer(s) to get rich by scaring homeowners into paying them rent. There have been reports of homeowners who unfortunately fell for this type of conspiracy because the scammer produced official-looking documents. A little checking would have shown that none of the documents were signed by a judge, making them invalid in the judicial foreclosure State of New Jersey.

If you feel that you may potentially be the victim of a New Jersey foreclosure scam, you must take action immediately. Do not sign any papers presented to you without a NJ foreclosure attorney at your side. If possible, obtain copies of the “documents” that you were shown and bring them all with you to your first consultation with your New Jersey real estate lawyer, who may be able to help you recover any monies you’ve lost and will definitely be able to legitimately assist you in saving your home.

 

Image credit: Widjaya Ivan

Can a Dementia Patient be Served with Foreclosure Papers?

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New Jersey now has more residents than ever who are age 70 or older. This is in part due to the post-war baby boom that occurred after World War II soldiers returned home to their wives in 1945. Americans are also living longer due to technological and scientific advances in the medical field that have brought about cures and/or successful long-term treatments for many diseases that used to be fatal.

While an increased life expectancy is definitely something to cheer about, the fact that more New Jersey residents are living longer also comes with some challenges. Although people are living longer due to advances in medicine, the natural aging process can’t be avoided altogether.

For example, many older Americans are in good physical health but suffer from some form of memory loss – ranging from minor short term difficulties to dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Caring for a loved one with dementia obviously presents a number of hurdles, most importantly monitoring them for their own safety.

What, then, is to be done when a family member with dementia has made a mess out of their finances because of their inability to remember to pay their bills?

This question is now asked a lot among adult children who are now caring for a parent with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s a good question, but one that you probably didn’t contemplate until said papers have already been served and you find yourself in the middle of a complex legal mess.

Example: An 80 year old man with dementia, who lost his wife four years ago, now resides in a nursing home. Upon his wife’s death, the man stopped making any payments on their mortgage due to his worsening symptoms of dementia and lack of income.

The man’s adult son has taken on the role of Power of Attorney, and is aware that no payments have been made on the home since his father moved into the nursing home. Assuming that any foreclosure paperwork would be sent to him as the POA, the son was simply waiting to receive notice of the foreclosure, which never came.

The adult son (POA) did not have the resources to save the family home and planned to let the house be sold at Sheriff’s Sale in the hopes that the situation would then be settled.

The man’s OTHER adult child, however, wasn’t privy to any of this information, as she lived across the country and could only visit on occasion due to her busy work schedule. As it turned out, she did have the means (and the desire) to save the family home.

Some family friends alerted the adult children to the fact that their father’s home was listed ‘For Sale’ in the local newspaper’s Sheriff’s Sale section. After doing some digging, they discovered that the lender had served their father with the foreclosure complaint.

Having no memory of this event, their father had no idea where the paperwork was or if he had signed anything.

Is it legal to serve a dementia patient with important legal papers?

As you can well imagine, it is both unethical and unlawful to do so. Rule 4:4-4.(3) regarding issuing a Complaint and Summons, reads as follows:

“Service of Summons, Writs and Complaints shall be made as follows…(3)Upon a mentally incapacitated person, by delivering a copy of the summons and complaint personally to the guardian of the person of the mentally incapacitated individual or to a competent adult member of the household with whom the mentally incapacitated person resides, or if the mentally incapacitated person resides in an institution, to the director or chief executive officer thereof.

Do you have an elderly family member who has been served unlawfully with a foreclosure complaint? You MUST work closely with a NJ foreclosure defense attorney if you want to save the home in question! You do have rights, and Veitengruber Law can save your family home, but you must act quickly. Call or click now: (732) 852-7295.

Image credit: Pierre Honeyman