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How Do Sheriff's Sales Work in New Jersey?

May 18, 2021

It's got to be a pretty scary time for you if your precious home has been listed for sheriff's sale in New Jersey. You've probably worked for years and years to keep your payments up to date, and now suddenly, due to totally unexpected circumstances that are no fault of your own, you are staring a possible sheriff's sale in the face. Is all hope lost, or can you still save your home?

I tell my clients, "Don' Give Up and Don't Quit". New Jersey foreclosures can take a very long time, and if you handle it right, you can fight that mortgage company every step of the way.

So why fear foreclosure when you can fight foreclosure?

Before you get to the point of a scheduled sheriff's sale in New Jersey, there are about ten time consuming steps that the mortgage company lawyer has to take that lead up to a sheriff's sale, and you can delay that process for possibly a year or longer. For purposes of this blog, however, we will assume that the mortgage company and their attorney have done everything they are legally required to do and they haven't made any critical mistakes, and they are now at the point where the sheriff's sale has been scheduled to take place.

1) How Do You Get Notified of the Sheriff's Sale?

The sheriff's sale can't legally take place unless the owner has been properly notified in advance. The following notices are legally required:

  1. Notice of the Sale has to be published in 2 newspapers in the County where the real estate is located for 4 straight weeks before the first scheduled sale date. The first publication must be at least 21 days before the sale and the last publication must be at least one day and not more than 8 days before the sale.

  2. Another notice is posted in the Sheriff's office in the county where the property is located at least 3 weeks before the sale. That's not really going to be helpful to you.

  3. Another notice is supposed to be posted on the property itself, but there are some exceptions to this rule.

  4. At least 10 days before the sale, the mortgage company is required to serve the property owner with a notice of the sale by certified or registered mail, return receipt requested.

2) What Happens Next?

If you don't do anything to stop or delay the sheriff's sale, the sale will take place at the local county sheriff's office at the date and time that was scheduled on the notice. The key here is that you have the power to delay or stop the sheriff's sale, and unless you want to get kicked out of your home, we would recommend that you talk to a knowledgeable lawyer before the scheduled sheriff's sale date to find out the ways that are available for you to legally stop or delay the sheriff's sale of your home.

3) Can You Postpone or Stop a Sheriff's Sale?

You Can Request 2 Postponements of The Sheriff's Sale

Each postponement is for 28 days. To get a postponement the best thing to do would be to go to the county sheriff's office in person before the sale takes place. Many counties charge a postponement fee of about $28, and it is best to pay it by cash or money order. You should call the Sheriff's office in your county to make sure what the fee is. A few counties will actually give you the postponements for free. You don't need to demonstrate good cause or appear before a judge to get these postponements. If you have used up your two postponements, and still need more time, you can request to have an emergency hearing before the county foreclosure judge by filing a motion to further postpone the sale. If you file such a motion, you'd better be able to demonstrate a serious hardship if you hope to have any chance of getting more time.

What Can You Do if You Have Used up Your Two Postponements and The Judge Won't Give You Any More Time?

Don't give up. All is not lost. If all else fails, you can file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy before the sheriff's sale actually takes place. The filing of a Chapter 13 before the sale will almost always stop the sale from taking place. Check with a lawyer who can probably assure you as to whether or not a bankruptcy filing in your situation will stop the sheriff's sale from taking place.

Here's Another Way to Delay the Sheriff's Sale - Submit a Completed Loan Modification Application

If you submit a fully completed loan modification application to your mortgage company at least 37 days before the sheriff's sale, the mortgage company is required to postpone the sale and review the application.

Can You Still Save Your Home After a Sheriff's Sale?

Believe it or not, even if your home has been sold at a sheriff's sale, you still have hope. The New Jersey law gives you 10 more days to save your home. This is called the 10 day redemption period. The 10 day redemption period permits a homeowner to keep the property if he/she can come up with the money needed to pay off the full amount owed to the mortgage company plus certain additional costs. This is definitely a very long longshot for most people. But, guess what? There is still one more thing you can do if you act quickly.

Can Bankruptcy Somehow Undo a Sheriff's Sale?

OK, the sheriff's sale has taken place, and you know you won't be able to come up with all the money needed to save your home within the 10 day redemption period. Is all hope now lost?

Well, not exactly. You've still probably got one more shot at it. If you file a Chapter 13 before the 10 day redemption period expires, that will almost always stop the sheriff from transferring the deed. The Chapter 13 filing can get you 60 more days to come up with the money to pay the full amount owing to the mortgage company and thereby saving your home. It's sort of like a last second Hail Mary pass. But sometimes Hail Mary's work.

Wise People Don't Let Things Go Down to The Wire Like This, Do They?

It should be pretty obvious that if you are facing a sheriff's sale, you don't want to let everything go down to the very last minute. Be smart. If you are facing a sheriff's sale, talk to a knowledgeable lawyer to review all of your options. The truth is that even when you are facing a sheriff's sale, you still have options to save your home.

And here is one more option to think about. From what I have heard, the State of New Jersey has been given about $325 million by the federal government, and that money has been earmarked to be given to homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments due to hardships caused by Covid. The program is scheduled to start taking applications somewhere around August or September, 2021.

If you want more specific information, you can contact Russell Graves at 609-390-9652 extension 3110. Russell knows a lot more about the program than I do, and the company he works with is a totally non profit government funded organization that helps people for free.

So don't give up and don't quit. It's always darkest before the dawn. If you make the right moves right now, you can have a much brighter future for the rest of your life.

We wish you all the best, and you can always feel free to call us with any questions.

Seymour is your Underdog Advocate.