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New Jersey Mortgage Default Rate Is Country’s Third Highest, Report Says

New Jersey Mortgage Default Rate Is Country’s Third Highest, Report Says

A new report by the Mortgage Bankers Association says New Jersey is third in the nation in the number of loans either in foreclosure or on the brink.

Mary Pat Gallagher

08-23-2011

A new report by the Mortgage Bankers Association says New Jersey is third in the nation in the number of loans either in foreclosure or on the brink.

More than one in 10 New Jersey mortgage loans are already in foreclosure or are 90 days or more in arrears, says the association’s National Delinquency Survey for the second quarter of 2011, which looked at almost 43.9 million mortgage loans across the country, including 1,252,958 in New Jersey.

The state’s 11.36 percent rate of “seriously delinquent” mortgages was third highest in the U.S. Florida topped the list with 18.68 percent, followed by Nevada, with 14.34 percent.

At the opposite end of the scale were North Dakota with a 1.76 percent rate, and Alaska with 2.24.

In addition to serious delinquencies, another 3.18 percent of New Jersey mortgages are 30 days late and an additional 1.24 percent are 60 days late, says the report, released Monday..

New Jersey’s ranking was driven by a high number of pending foreclosures, nearly 8 percent. Again, only Florida (14.39 percent) and Nevada (8.15 percent) have more.

The report does not state the number of loans in foreclosure, but Kevin Wolfe, assistant director for the Administrative Office of the Courts’ Civil Practice Division, says 107,464 residential foreclosure cases filed since 2009 remain open. He points out that the figure includes settled cases for which no stipulations of dismissal have been filed.

The glut of foreclosures is the product of a flood of filings that crested in 2009, at 66,717, including non residential foreclosures, and dropped to 58,445 for 2010.

Filings slowed to a trickle at the end of last year, after the judiciary froze uncontested residential foreclosures by the six biggest lenders so it could address robo-signing and other abuses that had come to light.

Wolfe estimates that those six — Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, CitiBank, Ally Financial, OneWest Bank and Wells Fargo — file at least 70 percent and possibly more than 80 percent of uncontested residential foreclosures.

Their sizeable share of foreclosures has been evident in the precipitous plunge in filings since theirs were suspended last December. Only 6,090 foreclosures had been filed in 2011 as of the end of July, a drop of 90 percent from 2010.

Monthly filings fell from 4,358 last November, the month before the freeze, to 399 in January. They have inched back up since then, to 1,368 for July.

Filings are sure to rebound much faster now that the courts have resumed processing foreclosures for five of the big six foreclosers. All but Ally Financial, formerly known as GMAC Mortgage, got the go-ahead to resume foreclosures during the week of Aug. 15.

The five persuaded a court-appointed special master, retired judge Richard Williams, that they have stopped offensive practices — such as signing court documents that falsely stated personal knowledge of the facts of the mortgage; failing to review documents on which certifications or affidavits were based; and forging signatures — and have taken steps to prevent recurrence.

In her Dec. 20, 2010, order, Mercer County Presiding General Equity Judge Mary Jacobson said the court had “become increasingly concerned about the accuracy and reliability of documents submitted to the Office of Foreclosure” and was acting on an exigent basis “to protect the integrity of the judicial foreclosure process.”

In addition to requiring lenders to prove they have adopted and are following proper procedures, the Court has amended the rules governing foreclosure.

Among other changes to Rules 4:64-1 and 2 that took effect in June, lenders’ lawyers are now required to attach a Certification or Affidavit of Diligent Inquiry to foreclosure complaints and motions describing the lawyer’s communication with an employee of the lender or loan servicer who has personally reviewed the mortgage file and confirmed the accuracy of the information in court filings.

The courts are bracing for a spurt in new filings as well as “the large pent-up pool of cases to be moved,” by adding staff at the Office of Foreclosure and around the state, says Wolfe.

As of Tuesday, he had not yet seen the anticipated surge in filings but planned to talk with Williams about how to handle the monitoring of foreclosure filings to ensure that the new safeguards are being followed. The six lenders agreed to the monitoring in a stipulation in March.

The press release accompanying the Mortgage Bankers report suggested another cause for the New Jersey backlog. It called the existence of a judicial foreclosure system, which some states like California and Michigan do not have, the “single biggest factor” in why some states have big backlogs because it “lengthen[s] the foreclosure timeline and increase[s] the number of loans that sit in foreclosure, all other things being equal.”

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