Glenn A. Grant, acting administrative director of the New Jersey courts/photo by Carmen Natale

 

Citing the need for further progress in addressing New Jersey’s residential foreclosure crisis, a state Supreme Court committee on Thursday issued a series of recommendations aimed at continuing to reduce the number of homeowners in danger of losing their homes and for streamlining the foreclosure process.

The court’s Special Committee on Residential Foreclosures—created by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner in May 2017—issued a list of 17 recommendations, which it said were needed to continue an ongoing crisis.

Some of  those proposals include:

  • Revising the Fair Foreclosure Act to require filing within six months of the notice of intent to foreclose, or service of a new notice;
  • Codifying the procedures for foreclosure sales to ensure that sheriff’s sales occur within 120 days, as is currently required by law;
  • Revising statutes and rules to make it easier for lenders to seize and sell homes that clearly have been abandoned;
  • Amending court rules to reduce the notice requirement for entry of judgment from 30 days to 10 days;
  • Expanding the authority of the Superior Court Clerk’s Office to improve oversight of backlogged cases.

“The recommendations set forth by this committee will further improve on efforts to resolve housing disputes in a fair and equitable manner that benefits homeowners, lenders and communities throughout New Jersey,” said the chairman of the committee, Appellate Division Judge Glenn Grant, the acting administrative director of the courts, in a statement.

The committee was made up of those involved in handling foreclosure matters: lawyers, legislative leaders, lenders, sheriffs and judiciary personnel.

Some of the recommendations would require action by either the Legislature or the governor’s office, while others can be implemented by the judiciary through court rule amendments, the panel noted.

The number of residential  foreclosures erupted in the wake of the nationwide financial crisis of 2008.

“The foreclosure explosion necessitated swift and multifaceted action by the executive, legislative and judicial branches,” the committee said in its report.

One of the first steps the judiciary took was to create a mediation program in which lenders and homeowners were encouraged to work together to avoid foreclosures and negotiate new payment plans.

The report noted that in 2006, two years before the mortgage crisis began, the judiciary handled about 25,000 foreclosures.

After the collapse of the market, the number of foreclosures skyrocketed to more than 65,000, the report said.

“After the judiciary created its mediation program and lawmakers took other corrective action, the number of actions were reduced and the backlog was addressed,” the report said.

“Over the  past decade, the executive, legislative and judicial branches have worked together to improve the foreclosure process in New Jersey,” the report said.

The committee said that in 2011, there were 144,032 foreclosure claims filed in New Jersey; as of June 2018, that number had decreased to 20,949 residential foreclosure claims.

Additionally, the  committee said, the time between the filing of a foreclosure claim to closure dropped from 1,360 days to 148 days.

But, “despite progress, fallout from the foreclosure crisis remains a significant problem in need of continued remediation,” the committee said in its report.

A high rate of unresolved foreclosure actions results in reduced property values, an increased tax burden on local  governments, and a decreased quality of life for local residents, especially if homes are sitting abandoned, the report said.