Assembly committee puts state’s foreclosure process under a microscope

Leah Mishkin, Correspondent | September 20, 2018 | Social

With deadlines and appeals, the process of foreclosure is confusing for many homeowners. As Leah Mishkin reports, lawmakers are now holding a series of hearings to help ease housing concerns for those still Chasing the Dream.

Ajay Kajla says he says he had a home and a good job, but when the market crashed he fell behind. In the process, he had his home foreclosed and he says he never had the chance to save it. He says he never got discovery.

“The laws, which are supposed to protect us as homeowners, those are not being followed by the banks and also by the judiciary,” Kajla said.

The Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee Chair Benjie Wimberly says they’re holding these hearings to find solutions to close loopholes.

“It’s a system that doesn’t work in favor of the people,” said Wimberly.

In 2017, New Jersey ranked first in the nation in the number of foreclosures, according to data compiled by Attom Data Solutions. As of July of this year, one in every 718 homes in New Jersey is in foreclosure.

But the Superior Court Clerk Michelle Smith says the number of pending foreclosures on the court’s docket is roughly five times less than it was five years ago.

“We have 24,335 cases that are currently on the docket. Less than 19,000 of them are residential, and of that only 5 percent say my mortgage is wrong, there’s some kind of fraud, I’m being mistreated,” said Smith.

But that begs the question, are people giving up because they’re not aware of their rights?

Staci Berger, the president and CEO of Housing and Community Development Network New Jersey, wants to see additional resources put in place to help guide people through the process before they face permanent foreclosure.

“This will make a disincentive for banks and other financial institutions to foreclose on people,” said Berger.

Bank repossessions in the state are at an 11-year high, which goes against the national trend of an 11-year low.

Legislative liaison, Alyson Jones addressed the committee with some of the solutions brought forward by the Supreme Court Special Committee on Residential Foreclosures to make the process better.

“Trying to get a better handle on the time between when a homeowner is informed that a foreclosure is going to occur and when that foreclosure complaint is actually filed with the court. Right now that time frame can be significant and it’s often confusing to people,” said Jones.

The report also recommends creating a databases of foreclosures statewide from the pre-complaint process all the way through the sheriff sale.

“The whole system has to be looked at and revamped to make it best for the people, that’s the bottom line,” said Wimberly.

Because as the system currently stands, people like Kajla face pending eviction.

“Now I’m forced to become a lawyer because no lawyer wants to take such a case against the judiciary,” Kajla said.

He says he’s not going to stop fighting.

Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America is a multiplatform public media initiative that provides a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society. Major funding for this initiative is provided by the JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Ford Foundation.