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Schaer, Mazzeo, Andrzejczak, Mukherji & Quijano Bill to Help Superstorm Sandy Victims Keep Their Homes Approved by Assembly

(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, Vincent Mazzeo, Bob Andrzejczak, Raj Mukherji and Annette Quijano sponsored to help Superstorm Sandy victims keep their homes was approved 56-14 Thursday by the Assembly.

The bill (A-4139) addresses the needs of Sandy victims who are eligible to receive disaster relief funds from state or federal sources but, due to the failure of the state to distribute those funds in an expedient manner, have not received the promised financial help.

“The administration clearly has not adequately or appropriately addressed the needs of those impacted by Sandy despite the Legislature’s continued support for these homeowners,” said Schaer (D-Bergen, Passaic). “This legislation will give families the much-deserved opportunity to get back on their feet, and continue rebuilding their homes and stabilizing their communities.”

“The threat of foreclosure is a harsh reality for New Jersey’s families still struggling with home repairs as a result of the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “It has been a tough road for many families who have had to navigate insurance companies, FEMA guidelines and state grant funding requirements. This legislation gives these residents the assistance they need and have requested for some time now.”

“For many it seems, the rebuilding process is a never-ending story,” said Andrzejczak (D-Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic). “We knew from the beginning this would be a long and arduous process for homeowners, especially those who have suffered extensive damages to their homes. Now many Sandy-affected families are facing possible foreclosure and this legislation is necessary to help those who truly need it.”

“Homeowners must be able to rely on us as they continue to rebuild their homes and their lives,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “This bill will provide homeowners the breathing room necessary to get back on track.”

“Many of New Jersey families have yet to be provided the money needed to rebuild their homes due to the painfully slow distribution of Sandy funding,” said Quijano (D-Union). “This legislation will give affected residents more time and help them to avoid possible foreclosure.”

Under the bill, a Sandy victim homeowner who is eligible for the receipt of funds through the Reconstruction Rehabilitation, Elevation, and Mitigation (RREM) program or the Low- to Moderate- Income (LMI) Homeowner’s Rebuilding Program, but who has not yet received those funds, will be eligible for a stay of foreclosure proceedings, or a forbearance period, during which time mortgage and interest payments would be deferred.

With respect to Sandy victim homeowners who are not in foreclosure, the substitute authorizes a homeowner to apply to the state Department of Community Affairs for a certificate of eligibility for mortgage forbearance. During the forbearance period, a homeowner would not have to make mortgage payments. The term of the mortgage shall automatically extend, under the same terms, for the number of months the mortgage is in forbearance. This forbearance would be in place for a period of 36 months from the issuance of the certification of eligibility for the forbearance by the commissioner, or no more than 60 days after a certificate of occupancy is issued for the property, whichever is sooner. The bill makes it clear that the mortgage and interest forbearance is only available when mortgage foreclosure proceedings have not been instituted for delinquency.

For Sandy victim homeowners who are currently in foreclosure litigation and eligible to receive RREM or LMI funds, the homeowner can apply to the court for a stay of proceedings. The stay would be in place for 36 months, or 60 days after the issuance of a certificate of occupancy for the property damaged by the storm, whichever is sooner.

A homeowner awarded a stay of foreclosure proceedings or forbearance would continue to be responsible for the payment of property taxes, insurance and the maintenance of the property.