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Jasey, Holley & Mazzeo Bill to Ensure Continuation of Foreclosure Mediation Program to Combat NJ's Ongoing Foreclosure Crisis Approved by Assembly
New Jersey has had Highest Rate of Foreclosures in the Country Over the Last Several Years
Working to reduce the staggering number of foreclosures in New Jersey and help homeowners keep their homes, a bill to codify the state's Foreclosure Mediation Program into law was approved 61-19-0 Monday by the full Assembly. Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, Assemblyman Jamel Holley and Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo are sponsors of the measure.
For the last several years, New Jersey has had the highest rate of foreclosures in the country. The Foreclosure Mediation Program was established in 2009 by the New Jersey Judiciary system in response to an alarming increase in residential foreclosures.
"Foreclosures not only affect homeowners, but neighborhoods and the state as a whole," said Jasey (D-Essex, Morris). "For far too long, we have led the country in foreclosures. The mediation services provided by this program can help homeowners avoid foreclosure and reinvigorate our housing market by reducing our dismal foreclosure rates. It is essential that we keep these services going."
The bill (A-664) would require that, at the time the homeowner receives a notice of intention to foreclose, a homeowner must receive written notice of the option to participate in the Foreclosure Mediation Program. Upon the filing of a mortgage foreclosure complaint against an eligible property, the homeowner must again receive written notice of the option to participate in the Foreclosure Mediation Program. The written notice must be available in both English and Spanish.
The bill would also authorize eligible homeowners to submit a mediation request in accordance with court rules, which would then initiate the process of scheduling a mediation session with their lender. Along with the mediation request, the homeowner would be required to submit a certification document, signed by a foreclosure prevention and default mitigation counselor, to verify that this professional is providing the homeowner with counseling.
"No homeowner wants to lose their home," said Holley (D-Union). "Making this program a permanent fixture would ensure that homeowners facing foreclosure will always have an alternative. It would also help chip away at the foreclosure crisis that has loomed over the state for too long."
"Foreclosed properties can sit vacant for extended periods of time, which can affect property values of nearby homes," said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). "We should give homeowners who are struggling the opportunity to keep their homes and avoid the ripple effects of foreclosures on neighborhoods."
This measure also creates a dedicated, non-lapsing fund within the General Fund to be known as the "Foreclosure Mediation Fund." The fund would be comprised of $60 out of each $155 payment added to every foreclosure complaint filing fee, along with all fines imposed on lenders for noncompliance with obligations of the mediation program.
The bill was introduced January 9, 2018 and cleared by the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee on October 22, 2018. It now awaits further consideration by the State Senate.
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