(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green, Assemblyman Troy Singleton, Assemblywoman Mila M. Jasey and Assemblyman Benjie E. Wimberly authorizing lenders to foreclose mortgages on vacant and abandoned properties has been signed into law.
“Vacant properties are problematic for neighborhoods. More than being unsightly, they drag down property values and attract criminal activity,” said Green (D Middlesex/Somerset/Union). “This law will help clear neighborhoods of these nuisance properties by changing a process that can take over a year in most foreclosure cases, and compact it to a few months.”
The law (A-3248) authorizes lenders to bring summary actions to foreclose mortgages on vacant and abandoned residential property. In order to secure entry of a foreclosure judgment, the lender will have to follow procedures in addition to those set out in the “Fair Foreclosure Act” and the Rules of Court. The court may enter a final residential mortgage foreclosure judgment under the law if it finds that the residential property is vacant and abandoned, and that a review of the pleadings and documents filed with the court supports the entry of a final judgment. The court may not enter a final residential mortgage foreclosure judgment if it finds that the property is not vacant or abandoned, or the mortgagor or any other defendant has filed an answer, appearance, or other written objection asserting defenses or objections that provide cause to preclude the entry of judgment.
“These are properties that have been left behind by their owners to sit and deteriorate without thought or concern to the impact they might have on neighborhoods,” said Singleton (D-Burlington). “This law will help speed up the foreclosure process for these problematic properties and provide much needed relief to neighborhoods that must deal with the headaches they create.”
“It is unfair to neighbors who maintain their homes to have these dilapidated properties just sit there,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “If a property has been abandoned by its owner, and it has fallen into such a state of disrepair that it represents a blight on the community, then the court should be able to intervene so municipalities can turn these properties around.”
“Abandoned properties not only attract trouble, but can be dangerous depending on the extent of neglect and disrepair. Neighborhoods should not be held hostage by the irresponsibility of these property owners,” said Wimberly (D-Passaic/Bergen). “This law will help these communities reclaim their neighborhoods from these properties and the nuisances they attract.”
Under the law, real property would be deemed “vacant and abandoned” if the court finds that:
- the mortgaged property is not occupied by a mortgagor or by a tenant who entered into a lease agreement before the mortgagee served notice of intention to commence foreclosure under section 4 of the “Fair Foreclosure Act” and;
- there exists at least two of 15 conditions enumerated in the bill which indicate vacancy and abandonment.
Real property would not be considered “vacant and abandoned” under the following circumstances:
- there is an unoccupied building on the property which is undergoing construction, renovation, or rehabilitation that is proceeding diligently to completion, and the building is in compliance with all applicable ordinances, codes, regulations, and statutes;
- there is a building occupied on a seasonal basis, but otherwise secure; or
- there is a building that is secure, but is the subject of a probate action, action to quiet title, or other ownership dispute.