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On December 6, 2012, Gov. Christie signed into law an act permitting lenders to file a summary action to expedite the foreclosure process if the property at issue is deemed vacant and abandoned property. The act will take effect on April 1, 2013.

The act defines “vacant and abandoned” residential property to mean “residential real estate wherein the mortgagee proves, by clear and convincing evidence, that the mortgaged real estate is vacant and has been abandoned. The property will be deemed vacant and abandoned if the court finds the mortgaged property is not occupied by a mortgagor or tenant, and at least two of the following conditions exist:

  1. Overgrown or neglected vegetation
  2. Accumulation of newspapers, circulars, flyers or mail on the property
  3. Disconnected gas, electric or water utility services
  4. The accumulation of hazardous, noxious or unhealthy substances or material on the property.
  5. The accumulation of junk, litter, trash or debris on the property.
  6. The absence of window treatments such as curtains, blinds or shutters.
  7. The absence of furniture and personal items.
  8. Statements by neighbors, delivery persons or government employees indicating that the residence is vacant or abandoned.
  9. Windows or entrances to the property are boarded up or closed off.
  10. Doors to the property are smashed, broken off or unhinged.
  11. There is a health and safety risk to neighbors, or the public or adjacent property owners due to acts of vandalism, loitering, criminal conduct or the deterioration or destruction of the property.
  12. 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.
  13. The mortgagor has secured or winterized the property due to the property being vacant and unprotected or in danger of freezing.
  14. There is a written statement issued by any mortgagor expressing the clear intent of all mortgagors to abandon the property.
  15. Any other reasonable indicia of abandonment

In addition the act requires the lender, in addition to the service of process required by the New Jersey Court rules, to establish that a process server has made two unsuccessful attempts to serve the foreclosure complaint on the mortgagor or occupant at the residential property. These attempts must be at least 71 hours apart and during different times of the day, either before noon, between noon and 6 p.m. or between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.

The act further requires that a lender, with an Order to Show Cause served as original service of process or a motion to proceed summarily, must serve a notice that the lender is seeking to proceed summarily for entry of a residential foreclosure judgment because the property is vacant and abandoned as defined by the act. When the property is deemed vacant and abandoned, the lender is under no obligation to serve the debtor with a notice to cure as required by Section 6 of the Fair Foreclosure Act.

In the event the court concludes that the property is vacant and abandoned and enters final judgment, the Sheriff is required to sell the property within 60 days of receipt of any Writ or execution issued by the court.

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