To help homeowners who are still recovering from Hurricane Sandy, legislation sponsored by Democratic Assemblymen John Armato, Eric Houghtaling and Vince Mazzeo to extend a foreclosure benefit program for homeowners impacted by the storm was cleared by the full Assembly Monday by a vote of 74-0-3.
“Seven years later, countless New Jersey residents are still feeling the effects of Sandy,” said Armato (D-Atlantic). “It will take time for families whose homes were destroyed or significantly damaged to get back on their feet. Unfortunately, some storm victims also became victims of contractor fraud while trying to repair their homes. We need to do all we can to help families rebuild and recover from Sandy, starting with protecting them from foreclosure.”
The bill (A-5096) would extend temporary protections from threats of foreclosure to certain Sandy-impacted homeowners. The protections established under a 2017 bill directed the courts to allow a stay of foreclosure proceedings for eligible applicants if they applied for the benefit and offered mortgage forbearance. Eligible homeowners include those who had either been approved for assistance through the Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) or Low-to-Moderate Income Homeowners Rebuilding (LMI) program, or have received rental assistance from FEMA as a result of damage to their primary residence due to Hurricane Sandy and determined by the Department of Community Affairs (DCA).
The application process for these benefits has ended, and forbearance benefits are currently set to expire on July 1, 2019. This bill would allow benefits to continue until the earlier of July 1, 2022, or one year following the issuance of a certificate of occupancy, which indicates a homeowner has made repairs and moved back into their home. Homeowners already in the foreclosure upon applying for forbearance would have their forbearance expire at the end of their redemption period.
“Hurricane Sandy was devastating for New Jersey, and the road to recovery has been far from smooth for too many residents,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). “More than 150 people have been charged with fraud related to Sandy relief, and the scams cost hundreds of storm victims over $20 million. While we cannot change how victims were treated by contractors in the past, we can ensure they have the time they need to find qualified workers to rebuild their homes.”
“To this day, there are families who have yet to move back in to their homes after Sandy,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “Some were scammed by contractors who had promised to help make repairs. Others have struggled to afford significant reconstruction. This legislation will help protect storm victims from losing their homes while they are trying to restore them.”
The bill now heads to the Senate for further consideration.