Trenton legislators are looking to pass a series of bills that will streamline the foreclosure process.
Included in the package of bills was a measure that would codify a mediation program which would help in the mediation of cases to resolve issues through loan modification, short sale, or other strategies.
With this measure, the lender would have to provide a homeowner with written notice of the option to participate in mediation when first providing notice of the intent to foreclose and again on the filing of a foreclosure complaint. Then, such homeowners could request a mediation session with a lender and receive help during that meeting process from a counselor specializing in foreclosure prevention and default mitigation.
The benefit to this measure would give alternatives to the homeowner in danger of foreclosure.
Another aspect and key measure of the new bill would revise the Fair Foreclosure Act by lengthening the time a lender is required to file a notice of intent to foreclose from 30 days to six months before a lender begins legal action to take possession of a home.
The bottom line is that homeowners with enough notice could find ways to avoid the foreclosure of their home.
One of the best features of the package would limit the amount of time an abandoned property can remain vacant. This is important in that the contagion of vacant homes can have less impact upon the adjacent properties by forcing the vacant home back onto the market. The bill would require lenders to take action to foreclose on these properties, and oblige the sheriff to conduct a sale within 60 days of a court-determined foreclosure judgment. Limiting the amount of time a property could remain vacant may alleviate the problem zombie foreclosures.
Other aspects of this package bill include:
■ The creation of a statewide database with an interactive map of foreclosed properties. The database would use the information provided by the courts.
■ The visual map would allow public officials to better track and monitor what actions are being taken within the regions. The visual database would also work to assist developers and prospective buyers in locating properties for renovation or remarketing.
■ A current protocol or system to publicly track the inventory of properties in some stage of foreclosure. The public database would definitely have the effect of reducing the number of unoccupied properties — those occurring when an owner moves out after receiving notice but neither the bank nor another owner ever takes ownership — within neighborhoods, and provide a viable strategy for dealing with “zombie” foreclosures.
■ This bill requires the creditor that initiates a foreclosure proceeding on a residence to including in that filing the contact information of the person responsible for property maintenance and code violations, thus help officials prevent zombie foreclosures from becoming blights on a neighborhood.
■ Other bills being considered would require and enforce licensing requirements for mortgage lenders, brokers and servicers, and loan originators, both those based in New Jersey and those out-of-state. It would require individuals working as a mortgage servicer to be licensed by and file a surety bond with the state Department of Banking and Insurance.
■ Another bill would require licensing of out-of-state mortgage lenders, brokers and loan originators.
■ The new legislation empowers the state banking commissioner to investigate mortgage servicers and suspend, revoke, or refuse to renew a servicer’s license. Such violators would risk being charged with a crime and be subject to civil penalties of up to $25,000.
If you have any questions about this information or title insurance, please contact Ralph Aponte: 732.914.1400.
Counsellors Title Agency, www.counsellorstitle.net, founded in 1996, is one of New Jersey’s most respected title agencies, serving all 21 New Jersey counties with title insurance, clearing title, escrow, tidelands searches, and closing and settlement services for commercial or industrial properties, waterfront properties and marinas, condominiums, townhouses or residential single family homes. Counsellors Title also features its own Attorney Settlement Assistance Program™ [ASAP], which is an individual resource customized to fit the needs specifically of real estate attorneys, including, Documentation, Preparation, Disbursement of Funds, Attendance at Closing, HUD Preparation or Post-Closing Matters.
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