New Jersey legislation to protect victims from Superstorm Sandy from foreclosure actions under certain conditions cleared a Senate Committee last week. The bill would protect homeowners from foreclosure proceedings if their home repair projects were delayed because of builder issues or the fault of the state’s Department of Community Affairs, according to a recent release from the bill’s sponsors, Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Annette Quijano, Ralph Caputo and Adam Taliaferro, Jerry Green, Marlene Caride, and Eric Houghtalin.
"Thousands of homeowners due to receive funding from grant programs set up to help them have complained of extraordinary delays," said Singleton, D-Burlington. "It is shameful that almost four years after the storm, resident are still dealing with these types of setbacks. This helps ensure that residents who are still rebuilding are not hurt by bureaucratic stumbling blocks."
Under the bill (A-333), the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) would have to extend the completion deadline for projects funded through the Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) or Low to Moderate Income Homeowners Rebuilding (LMI) grant. This would only be extended 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. 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, as well as ways to remedy the application.
"It is incredibly unfair that residents who have been through so much already have to delay their recovery process even further because of circumstances beyond their control," said Quijano, D-Union. "We need to put provisions in place that will help protect residents affected by Sandy who are still trying to rebuild, but keep getting tangled up in governmental red-tape."
The bill would also offer temporary protections against foreclosure to certain Sandy victims. Under the bill, homeowners who have either been approved for assistance through the RREM or LMI program, or have received rental assistance from FEMA as a result of damage to their primary residence could apply to the DCA for a certificate of eligibility for mortgage forbearance.
The forbearance period would conclude when whichever of these scenarios happens first: a year after a certificate of occupancy for recovery and rebuilding program work has been issued; July 1, 2019; or regarding a property in foreclosure proceedings, 10 days after a sheriff's sale.
"It is inexcusable that the same governmental snags that have kept Sandy victims from rebuilding now threaten their homes," said Caputo (D-Essex). "These provisions can help these residents stay afloat while they wait for the powers that be to get it right once and for all."
The bill cleared the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on Thursday, November 3. It was also approved 63-4-8 by the Assembly in June. The bill is now positioned for further review by the Senate President.