Understanding NJ Foreclosure Laws

Navigate the complexities of NJ foreclosure laws with this comprehensive guide by the Law Offices of Wenarsky and Goldstein, LLC. Learn how we can help protect your home.

What Is Foreclosure?

Foreclosure is a legal process through which a lender in a mortgage transaction seeks to recover a debt from a borrower who has stopped making payments. It allows the lender to seize the mortgaged property and sell it off to recover the outstanding amount.

The right to foreclosure in most states across the U.S. is regulated by laws that specify how the right may be exercised. The foreclosure law in New Jersey, especially as it concerns home mortgages, aims to balance the homeowners’ rights with the lenders’ rights by providing strict conditions that lenders must meet and giving the homeowners adequate opportunities to keep their homes.

However, as we shall see later, NJ foreclosure laws, as debtor-friendly as they are, will not permit you to keep your home if you are unable to pay up the debt or reach alternative payment arrangements with the lender. Lenders typically do not agree to such arrangements, which puts your home in jeopardy if you cannot come up with the outstanding sum.

Bankruptcy might be an appropriate strategy in such cases if you wish to stop the foreclosure process and keep your home. However, like other court processes, the bankruptcy process can be confusing, which is why it is a good idea to seek help from an experienced bankruptcy attorney if you wish to explore this path.

Our competent bankruptcy team at the Law Offices of Wenarsky and Goldstein LLC understands the impact a foreclosure can have on your home and your life. With our extensive experience and legal skills, we can help you develop a working strategy that could help you stop the foreclosure process and keep your home or at least prolong it while you explore other options.

The Foreclosure Process in New Jersey

New Jersey is a judicial foreclosure state, meaning foreclosure must be done within the court system. 

However, by the New Jersey Fair Foreclosure Act, the lender in a residential mortgage cannot officially begin foreclosure unless they notify the debtor of their intentions. The notice, formally called Notice of Intent to Foreclose (NOI), must be in writing and must include certain crucial details, including the following

  • The reason for the foreclosure (the specific default committed by the debtor)
  • The debtor’s right to cure or fix the default to avert foreclosure 
  • The amount the debtor must pay to cure the default 
  • The consequences if the debtor fails to pay 
  • Information about the right to hire an attorney.
  • Information about the foreclosure mediation program. 

Once they receive the foreclosure notice, debtors have 30 days to pay off the debt or make alternative arrangements (such as a loan modification) with their lenders. If none of this happens within the stipulated 30 days, the lender will initiate the court process by filing a foreclosure complaint with the Office of Foreclosure (an arm of the Superior Court).

During the court process, the debtor (now the defendant) can challenge or contest the foreclosure, but they must have good reasons to do so. Some of the common reasons why foreclosures may be contested in New Jersey include if

  • The defendant believes that the plaintiff (the mortgage lender) violated the Fair Foreclosure Act.
  • The defendant had already fulfilled their obligation to the plaintiff.
  • The defendant is not the debtor and was wrongly named in the complaint.

In such cases, the court will examine the facts and, if the defendant’s allegations are found to be true, terminate the foreclosure.

Will a debtor’s financial distress qualify as a good reason to challenge a foreclosure? That is highly unlikely.

If you’re in such a situation, you need an effective legal solution that addresses your financial situation as the root cause of your impending foreclosure and can help you get the relief and space you need to rebuild your finances. In other words, it may be time to consider bankruptcy.

Defending Against Foreclosure in NJ: How Filing for Bankruptcy Can Help

Bankruptcy is a legal process initiated when a person or business cannot repay its debts or fulfill its financial obligations. For many people, filing for bankruptcy evokes feelings of failure. However, with the right guidance, bankruptcy can be the first step toward debt relief and financial freedom.

There are two types of personal bankruptcy, each with different legal and practical implications.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy involves the liquidation of the debtor’s assets by the bankruptcy trustee to pay off as many debts as possible. Any unsecured debts left at the end of the process will be discharged (although there are a few exceptions), which means that the debtor will no longer have to pay them. 

Chapter 13 bankruptcy, on the other hand, is known as the wage earners’ bankruptcy. It allows individuals who have a regular income but have been overrun by their financial obligations to reorganize their debts and pay them off in a more manageable manner according to the terms of a court-approved repayment plan.

The Automatic Stay

Filing for either type of bankruptcy automatically stays or halts all collection efforts from creditors, including foreclosure actions by mortgage lenders. The automatic stay arises immediately you file the bankruptcy petition and can offer relief from creditor notices and harassment. It will also put the foreclosure proceedings on hold.

But it is only a temporary solution. The lender can ask the court to lift the stay to enable them to proceed with the foreclosure. Still, the automatic stay would allow you some extra time to strategize even if it is eventually lifted.

Choosing Between Chapters 7 and 13 Bankruptcy for a More Permanent Solution 

The outcome of your bankruptcy case, as it concerns losing your home to foreclosure, depends on the type of bankruptcy you file.

Chapter 13 can help you catch up on missed mortgage payments without jeopardizing your home, in stark contrast to the immediate demand for payment in full that accompanies foreclosure.

However, you need to be able to keep up with current and future payments, so you don’t default, which could trigger fresh foreclosure proceedings.

If you have multiple mortgages on your home, Chapter 13 could also help eliminate some of them and convert them into unsecured debts through a process called lien stripping. This would reduce the pressure on your finances so you can focus on the primary mortgage.

But if your finances are in really bad shape and you cannot afford to keep up with the mortgage despite your best efforts, you might have to give up your home. In such cases, Chapter 7 bankruptcy could buy you time to plan for the future. You’ll be able to stay in your home throughout the bankruptcy process without making any mortgage payments (unless the automatic stay is lifted).

In any case, choosing between both types of bankruptcy is not merely a matter of preference. Debtors must meet legal requirements to qualify for each one. Your ability to meet those requirements will determine the type of bankruptcy that would suit your circumstances. It is important to consult a bankruptcy attorney who can explain the requirements and guide you through the process so you don’t make mistakes.

The Law Offices of Wenarsky and Goldstein, LLC: Your Bankruptcy and Foreclosure Attorney

When you are facing imminent foreclosure, having solid legal representation can make the difference between losing your home and finding a sustainable solution.

In our years of experience, we’ve found that many people and families who face the threat of foreclosure have underlying financial struggles and overwhelming debt that make it difficult to keep up with mortgage payments. 

Our approach, which uses bankruptcy as a foreclosure defense, does not just help to pause the foreclosure process but can help address the reason for the closure: your financial situation from the root, giving you a chance for a brighter future.

With our knowledge of New Jersey foreclosure laws and bankruptcy experience, we can 

  • Assess your case and help you determine which type of bankruptcy best suits your circumstances.
  • Advise you on your options and help you make informed decisions throughout the process.
  • Represent you at every stage of the bankruptcy proceedings and work to ensure that you emerge with a lighter or no debt load.

We have helped many clients on the brink of losing their homes secure their assets and become debt-free through bankruptcy. We’d love to be able to do the same for you.

Fight Your Foreclosure With the Law Offices of Wenarsky and Goldstein, LLC

New Jersey’s foreclosure laws give debtors multiple opportunities to fight for and secure their homes. However, the protection under the law cannot protect you if the foreclosure is due to financial difficulties.

Bankruptcy might be a more effective alternative in such situations. If you’d like to explore this course, we are prepared to guide you and help you understand your options.

Contact us today, and together, we can work toward a debt-free future for you. 

Call the Law Office of Wenarsky & Goldstein

At the Law Offices of Wenarsky & Goldstein, LLC, our New York and New Jersey attorneys are experienced and knowledgeable in bankruptcy, estate planning and probate, guardianship, special needs planning, and real estate law. To learn more about how we can assist you with your legal needs, call us today at 973-453-2838.