Clock running out on Sandy victims seeking mortgage help

opens in a new windowClock running out on Sandy victims seeking mortgage help – By Jean Mikle and Russ Zimmmer, Asbury Park Press

Time is running out for Sandy victims seeking a break from paying their mortgage.

Homeowners have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to request a mortgage forbearance certification from the state, under a program that aims to give Sandy victims a measure of financial relief. 

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of families on the Shore discovered that their finances could not support both their mortgage and the rent they owed on a temporary home as they waited — and continue to wait — for their homes to be rebuilt nearly five years after the superstorm struck.

More than 300 homes in Sandy-affected zones in Monmouth and Ocean counties slipped into foreclosure in 2014 alone, according to an Asbury Park Press analysis

Now, the state is offering affected homeowners the chance to delay mortgage payments until they’re back on their feet. But the window to apply is closing.

To qualify, a homeowner must:

  • have a mortgage; 
  • have Sandy-related construction work remaining to finish on the home;
  • be in the Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) program and RREM’s sister program for low- and moderate-income homeowners

Applications can be found on the New Jersey Department of Community Affair’s website.

So far, 537 homeowners have submitted applications to the DCA, according to department spokeswoman Lisa Ryan.

The DCA certifies that the homeowner meets the criteria and then provides proof so the homeowner and their lender can arrange for the mortgage payments to be delayed, until July 2019 at the latest.

As of this week, 295 homeowners have been certified, Ryan told the Press.

Amanda Devecka-Rinear, of the New Jersey Organizing Project, a Sandy advocacy group, said her organization has seen several problems with the foreclosure bill.

The DCA sent a letter to homeowners who could be eligible for the program, telling them they could seek a mortgage forbearance to prevent foreclosure if they are having difficulty making their mortgage payments.

But Devecka-Rinear said homeowners who are already in the foreclosure process may not know that they can seek a stay of foreclosure by going to court.

Legal Services of New Jersey is encouraging homeowners who are already in foreclosure to seek legal help with the process by calling them at 1-888-LSNJ-LAW (1-888-576-5529).

Devecka-Rinear said that some banks seem unaware of the Sandy foreclosure law, and have been unwilling to allow a mortgage forbearance, even after the homeowner has completed the required paperwork.