Faster Foreclosures for Abandoned Homes in New Jersey

A New Jersey law allows for faster foreclosures of homes that are vacant or abandoned.

In certain states, a foreclosure can take a very long time. The time frame to complete a foreclosure in New Jersey was over three years on average in 2018, which was the third-longest timeline in the country. However, New Jersey has a law that streamlines the process for abandoned properties, making the foreclosure completion time for these types of properties much shorter.

Read on to learn more about how a foreclosure can be expedited for abandoned homes in New Jersey and why this could be beneficial—or detrimental—to you. (For more on foreclosure procedures in New Jersey, see New Jersey Foreclosure Procedures.)

Fast-Tracking Foreclosures of Abandoned Properties

Again, New Jersey foreclosures can take an exceptionally long time—about 1,161 days as of the second quarter of 2018—to complete. But a New Jersey law allows a lender to speed up a foreclosure if it can prove the property is vacant and abandoned, reducing the time for foreclosure to around 90 days. (N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:50-73.)

What Constitutes Vacant and Abandoned Property?

To get a reduced timeline, the law requires that the lender present clear and convincing evidence that the real estate is vacant and abandoned.

Specifically, the lender must show that the property is not occupied by the borrower—or other lawful tenant—and that two or more of the following conditions exist.

  • The property has overgrown or neglected vegetation.
  • There is an accumulation of newspapers, circulars, flyers, or mail on the property.
  • The gas, electric, or water utility services to the property have been disconnected.
  • There is an accumulation of hazardous, noxious, or unhealthy substances or materials on the property.
  • There is an accumulation of junk, litter, trash, or debris on the property.
  • The property does not have window treatments, such as blinds, curtains or shutters.
  • There are no furnishings or personal items at the property.
  • Neighbors, delivery persons, or government employees state that the residence is vacant and abandoned.
  • The windows or entrances to the property are boarded up or closed off or multiple windows are damaged, broken, and unrepaired.
  • The doors to the property are smashed through, broken off, unhinged, or continuously unlocked.
  • 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.
  • There is 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.
  • The lender or other authorized party has secured or winterized the property due to the property being deemed vacant and unprotected or in danger of freezing.
  • There is a written statement issued by any borrower expressing the clear intent of all borrowers to abandon the property.
  • There is some other reasonable indication that the property has been abandoned.

How Foreclosures Are Fast-Tracked

In New Jersey, foreclosures are judicial, which means the lender must file a lawsuit in state court to foreclose. (Learn more about the difference between judicial and nonjudicial foreclosure, and the procedures for each, see Will Your Foreclosure Take Place In or Out of Court?)

To fast-track a foreclosure on a property that is vacant and abandoned, the lender can:

  • file a summary action to foreclose the property, or
  • at any time after filing a foreclosure action with the court, file an application to proceed in a summary manner.

Generally, if the court makes a finding in the foreclosure judgment that the property is vacant and abandoned, the sheriff will sell the property within 90 days of receiving a writ of execution issued by the court. New Jersey law also allows a lender to apply for a Special Master or judicial agent to sell the property within 90 days if it becomes apparent that the sheriff can't conduct the sale within this time frame.

Fast-Tracking Foreclosures of Abandoned Properties Can Benefit Neighborhoods

When properties are abandoned, a lengthy foreclosure process ultimately harms the neighborhood. Vacant homes quickly start to show obvious signs of neglect. The lawn doesn’t get cut, litter begins to pile up, and the home often falls into disrepair. Abandoned homes are also susceptible to vandalism, squatters, and crime. This drags down the value of the property itself, as well as of the entire neighborhood.

Speeding up the foreclosure process for abandoned properties:

  • allows the lenders to obtain title to the properties faster
  • preserves more of the home’s value, and
  • gets the property on the market quicker so a new owner can purchase the property.

This law is designed to help stabilize the residential real estate market by reducing the time it takes to complete a foreclosure, thereby returning the property to an occupied status more quickly.

Fast-Tracked Foreclosures Can Help or Hurt Homeowners

Homeowners won't become the victim of a zombie foreclosure if the lender completes the process promptly. But fast-track foreclosures are only beneficial in cases where the home is actually empty. Unfortunately, though, sometimes lenders pursue fast-track foreclosures without having clear evidence of abandonment.

If you still live in your home, a fast-track foreclosure can be a big problem because it means you’ll lose your home much faster than normal. This deprives you of valuable time to work out an alternative to foreclosure, like a modification, or simply to live in the home without making payments while you save up for new accommodations.

Talk to a Lawyer

In most cases, you won’t get a lot of time to fight a fast-track foreclosure. If you find out the lender is improperly trying to fast-track a foreclosure in your case, talk to a foreclosure attorney right away to learn about your options.

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