New 'Zombie' Foreclosure Law Aims to End Blight in Newark, Camden

Essex County was particularly hard-hit by the 2008 foreclosure crisis.

NEWARK, NJ - Gov. Phil Murphy today signed a package of bills aimed at reducing the state's highest-in-the-nation foreclosure crisis, including one to help eliminate “zombie” properties.

The bill (A4999) would required creditors responsible for foreclosure proceedings to get the contact information for someone in the care of the property. The creditor would have to include the responsible person’s name and phone number in court proceedings and with the county clerk or register of deeds and mortgages.

The bill was sponsored in the state Assembly by Shanique Speight (D-Essex), William Spearman (D-Camden) and Annette Quijano (D-Union). It's targeted towards communities in cities like Camden and Newark that are "plagued" with abandoned properties that are sometimes around for a decade or more, the bill’s sponsors said in a joint statement.

“These properties pose health and public safety risks for residents as well as drive down property values,” the statement said. “Many of these properties remain in disrepair due to the lack of information found on owners or creditors after foreclosure proceedings.”

Newark’s clergy also called on county officials to address the foreclosure crisis. In response, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo gave a directive to transfer money out of accounts from Wells Fargo, which county officials accused of having "predatory lending schemes."

If the creditor is located out-of-state, the new law would require the full name and contact information of an in-state representative agent who is responsible for the care, maintenance, security and upkeep of the exterior of the property be provided. 

"By requiring creditors to provide a contact person for the property, local officials will know to whom they should address complaints about property maintenance and code violations,” the joint statement continued. “Asking, simply, for a name and number can help municipalities fight blight in their communities and protect homeowners still living in the neighborhoods with these 'zombie' properties.'"

Here are the other bills that were signed into law by Murphy today: 

  • A664 - Codifies the Judiciary's Foreclosure Mediation Program; dedicates monies from foreclosure filing fees and fines.
  • A4997 - "Mortgage Servicers Licensing Act."
  • A5001 - Revises statute of limitations for residential mortgage foreclosures.
  • A5002 - Permits certain planned real estate developments to file certain liens; concerns limited priority of certain liens.
  • S3411 - Requires receivership appointment application prior to certain foreclosure actions; requires notice of intention to foreclosure on residential mortgage to be filed within 180 days prior to commencing foreclosure; limits reinstatements of dismissed mortgage foreclosure actions.
  • S3413 - Makes certain changes to summary action foreclosure process under "Fair Foreclosure Act."
  • S3416 - Clarifies that "New Jersey Residential Mortgage Lending Act" applies to certain out-of-state persons and involved in residential mortgage lending in the State.
  • S3464 - Revises certain procedures for real estate foreclosure sales; alters adjournment of sale process.
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