On December 6, 2012, New Jersey Governor Christie signed a new law that allows a “fast track” of foreclosure of vacant and abandoned residences. For those who have moved out of their homes, only to be faced with continuing liability or expense waiting for a foreclosure sale, this is a major benefit. For lenders who have to maintain and secure these properties waiting for the sale, it is just as beneficial. And since condominium and association fees remain the owner’s responsibility until sale, this could mean major savings for the homeowner.
The law is not automatic. The lender has to request “summary action”, and show by clear and convincing evidence that the property is in fact vacant and abandoned. For these purposes, if the property has been leased after the owner was served with a Notice of Intention to Foreclose, it may still be treated as abandoned. In addition to proof that the owner has moved out, the lender has to show that at least two of the following conditions exist:
(1) overgrown or neglected vegetation;(2) the accumulation of newspapers, circulars, flyers or mail on the property; (3) disconnected gas, electric, or water utility services to the property;(4) the accumulation of hazardous, noxious, or unhealthy substances or materials on the property; (5) the accumulation of junk, litter, trash or debris on the property; (6) the absence of window treatments such as blinds, curtains or shutters; (7) the absence of furnishings and personal items; (8) statements of neighbors, delivery persons, or government employees indicating that the residence is vacant and abandoned; (9) windows or entrances to the property that are boarded up or closed off or multiple window panes that are damaged, broken and unrepaired; (10) doors to the property that are smashed through, broken off, unhinged, or continuously unlocked; (11) a risk to the health, safety or welfare of the public, or any adjoining or adjacent property owners, exists due to acts of vandalism, loitering, criminal conduct, or the physical destruction or deterioration of the property; (12) an uncorrected violation of a municipal building, housing, or similar code during the preceding year, or an order by municipal authorities declaring the property to be unfit for occupancy and to remain vacant and unoccupied; (13) the mortgagee or other 1 authorized party has secured or winterized the property due to the property being deemed vacant and unprotected or in danger of freezing; (14) a written statement issued by any borrower expressing the clear intent of all borrowers to abandon the property; (15) any other reasonable indicia of abandonment.
Owners who are vacating a property or who intend to do so should encourage the lender to fast track their foreclosure, to avoid unnecessary liability and expense. As always, it is wise to consult with qualified legal counsel.
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