TRENTON — A bill that would protect Sandy victims for foreclosure is on Gov. Chris Christie’s desk after the measure was approved Tuesday by the state Senate.
The bill, co-sponsored by state Senators Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth, and Brian Stack, D-Hudson, had already passed the Assembly earlier this year.
The bill would offer temporary foreclosure protection to Sandy victims who have been approved for assistance through the state’s Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) and Low- and Moderate- Income (LMI) rebuilding programs, or those who have received rental assistance from FEMA as a result of property damaged caused by the storm.
Sandy victims would have to apply to the state Department of Community Affairs for foreclosure protection.
The bill has been praised by Sandy advocates, including the New Jersey Organizing Project, who say that the state’s hardest-hit areas have only partially recovered from the storm. Many homeowners are still struggling to rebuild, advocates say.
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The mortgage forbearance period would be either a year after a certificate of occupancy for recovery and rebuilding program work has been issued, or July 1, 2019, whichever is earlier. For properties in foreclosure, it would be 10 days after a sheriff’s sale.
“The process of securing state and federal recovery funds is long and complex,” Beck said in a prepared statement. “It’s been four years and yet we still have 3,200 Sandy victims eager to complete elevation and construction projects, including some that have just begun.
“Providing a pathway to prevent foreclosure will protect families who are struggling to fund both a mortgage and rent from losing the very home they have spent years trying to rebuild,” Beck said. “It’s the right thing to do and I look forward to seeing the bill signed into law as swiftly as possible.”
The legislation would also direct the DCA commissioner to notify Sandy-impacted families of their eligibility for foreclosure protections and post eligibility information on the department’s website.
The commissioner must also notify courts and mortgage lenders of individuals who are eligible for such protections.
The bill also contains protections for Sandy victims who have experienced delays in the RREM and LMI programs.
DCA would be reqquired to extend the completion deadline for projects funded RREM and LMI for applicants who can demonstrate the delay was the fault of their builder or due to delays by the DCA in approving the builder doing the project, according to Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling, who sponsored the Assembly’s version of the legislation.
If an application for aid under the Tenant-Based Rental Assistance Program (TBRA), LMI, or RREM program is denied, the DCA would have to provide the applicant with an explanation for the denial, and an explanation for ways to remedy the application.
“As if having your life disrupted by Mother Nature was not enough, these homeowners were failed by the very entities tasked with their recovery,” Houghtaling, D-Monmouth, said in a prepared statement. “These provisions can help cut the red-tape they’ve been dealing with and finally get them back on track.”
Jean Mikle: (732) 643-4050, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jean Mikle , @jeanmikle