Being a judicial foreclosure state, New Jersey law involves the state courts in foreclosure actions from the very beginning, working in conjunction with the state Office of Foreclosure. Anyone seeking to foreclose on real property in the state must follow specific procedures that the Office of Foreclosure reviews before it recommends the entry of a foreclosure order to the General Equity Judge of Mercer County. During this process, homeowners will be given a chance to answer the foreclosure pleadings that have been initiated against them.
The Office of Foreclosure reviews all pleadings, including answers, to make an initial determination not only of whether the complaint has complied with legal requirements but also whether the answer raises disputes that require a judicial decision before the foreclosure can proceed. Whether such disputes actually arise will determine whether the foreclosure will be handled as a contested or an uncontested action.
Uncontested actions are those that do not contest mortgage validity or the plaintiff's right to foreclose. These are handled relatively quickly as administrative actions (or as qualifying for a default entry if the homeowners do not answer the foreclosure complaint). Homeowners who disagree with any of the underlying facts leading to the foreclosure or with the foreclosure action itself may raise questions of fact sufficient to turn the action from an uncontested one into a contested one. This can slow down the foreclosure process, because the Office of Foreclosure will need to send the matter from Mercer County to the county where the property is located for a General Equity Judge there to resolve.
Only after a contested action is resolved in the local county will it be returned to the Office of Foreclosure for further processing.
Not all contested foreclosure actions will result in the avoidance of foreclosure. But if you are a homeowner whose property is being threatened with foreclosure, filing an answer in response to the foreclosure complaint is your only way to ensure that your side of the story is properly heard. A law firm that handles foreclosure matters for homeowners can assist you in seeing that your legal rights are protected and respected throughout the foreclosure process.