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Housing
Foreclosure Timeline (The Foreclosure Process)

Foreclosure process when a homeowner files a Non-Contesting Answer or no Answer to a Foreclosure Complaint

EVENT

TIME PERIOD

COMMENTS

1. Default on the Loan

Begins the possible foreclosure process.

12-16 months left in the property.

The lender (or your servicer) may send a letter to notify you after default on the loan.

Default may be the first missed payment on the loan, or if you miss any other requirement of the mortgage or note obligations.

2. Notice of Intention to
Foreclose (NOI) Letter

Can be sent as soon as you default on the loan.

Must be sent at least 30 days, but no more than 180 days, before the lender can file a foreclosure complaint.

9-14 months left in the property.

Below are some of the items that must be included in the NOI:

  • A description of the lender’s interest in the property.

  • An explanation of how you defaulted on the loan.

  • A statement explaining:

    • you have the right to cure (pay the reinstatement amount)

    • the amount to cure, deadline to cure (must be at least 30 days)

    • where payment can be made

    • and if the default is not cured by the date in the NOI, the lender may file a foreclosure lawsuit.

3. Foreclosure Complaint Filed

No sooner than 30 days after the NOI.

No sooner than 120 days after the first missed payment.

8-13 months left in the property.

When the complaint is filed you will be listed as a defendant and the lender will be listed as the plaintiff. The complaint being filed is what begins the lawsuit.

As soon as a complaint is filed with the Office of Foreclosure in Trenton, it is possible that you could be responsible for additional expenses (such as the lender’s attorney’s fees).

4. Complaint and Mediation Papers Served

 

Any time after the complaint is filed.

Once served, you have 35 days to submit an answer and 60 days to request mediation. The court may approve a late answer or a late mediation request.

8-13 months left in the property.

 

 

The lender (the plaintiff) must first try to serve you (the defendant) in person. If the lender cannot serve you in person, then the lender can serve you by mail or by publishing notices in a local newspaper.

There will be a notice with information about the free NJ court foreclosure mediation program attached to the summons and complaint.

Mediation is a meeting where you, the lender, and a court mediator discuss possible solutions to foreclosure.

Requesting mediation is not the same as filing an answer. Requesting mediation does not stop the foreclosure process.  

5. Answer

Once the summons and complaint is served you have 35 days to file an answer.

7-11 months left in the property.

Filing an answer is not required. However, not filing an answer may make it hard to later fight the foreclosure.

There is a cost to file an answer, but you may apply for a fee (cost) waiver.

If you do not file an answer, or if you file an answer and it is marked non-contesting, then the foreclosure process continues with the Office of Foreclosure.

If your answer is marked contesting it will be transferred (moved) from the Office of Foreclosure to a Judge in the local Superior Court where the property is located.

6. Entry of Default

Possibly as soon as 36 days after you were served with the complaint.

6-10 months left in the property.

If you do not file an answer within 35 days or if your answer is marked non-contesting, then the lender may request default.

7. Notice of Intention to File for Final Judgment or
Notice of Entry of Final Judgment

Possibly as soon as 14 days before lender files their motion for final judgment.

6-10 months left in the property.

The plaintiff’s attorneys must send you a letter offering a final chance to cure the default.

You can respond with a good faith statement (letter) within 10 days of receiving the notice stating that you can cure the default within 45 days. You must mail your statement (letter) to the address listed in the notice by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested.

8. Motion for Final Judgment

Possibly as soon as 14 days after serving the notice of motion for final judgment on you.

You have 10 days from service to object to the amount owed.

5-9 months left in the property.

The lender must file a motion asking the court to enter final judgment. The lender must mail the motion to you.

If you think that the amount the lender says you owe is wrong, then you can file a written objection. Objecting to the amount may change the amount of the foreclosure judgment, but probably will not stop the foreclosure.

You are not required to file an objection.

The court can enter judgment for the lender in as soon as 10 days. This is not a money judgment against you personally.

9. Final Judgment Entered and Writ of Execution Issued

Possibly as soon as 10 days after the motion for final judgment is filed.

4-8 months left in the property.

Once final judgment enters, you lose the right to cure (pay the reinstatement amount).You still have the right to redeem (buy back)the property by paying the final judgment amount.

Once final judgment enters, the lender receives the writ of execution from the court. The writ of execution allows the lender to schedule a sheriff’s sale.

10. Sheriff’s Sale

Sheriff’s sale must happen within 120 days of sheriff’s receipt of writ of execution.

3-7 months left in the property.

Notice of the sale will be published in a newspaper and posted to your door.

You may request 2 adjournments (stays/delays) of the sheriff’s sale. Each stay is for 30 days, 60 days altogether. There may be a fee when requesting each stay. Call your local county sheriff’s office to find out the process.

If you need more time to delay the sale, you can go to the Superior Court where the property is located and file an order to show cause. You will need a compelling reason to delay the sale. The judge is not required to give more time and these requests are rarely granted.

For 10 days after the sale, you have the option to redeem the property by paying the final judgment amount.

11. Deed Transfer

2-5 months left in the property.

Once the deed transfers you are no longer the owner of the property.

12. Negotiate Move Out

2-5 months left in the property.

After the deed transfers you may be contacted by the new owner of the property to discuss your move out (date you will leave). In some cases you may be offered money to leave the property early with your belongings.

If you and the new owner do not come to an agreement the new owner must go to court and request a writ of possession in order to remove you from the property.

13. Writ of Possession

1-3 months left in the property.

Once the new owner gets a writ of possession they can schedule your eviction date with the sheriff.

14. Eviction/Move Out Date

0 months left in the property.

You will be notified by the sheriff of this date and a notice may be posted to your door.

If you need more time you can file an order to show cause. If the judge does not give you more time, then you must leave the home by your scheduled move out date or the sheriff will remove you and your property from the home.

You are not required to clean the property or remove furniture before moving out but you may not be able to get back anything left at the property.

You should not purposefully damage the property.


The term foreclosure refers to the court-ordered sale of property that was used as collateral for a debt. A lender cannot automatically take a house away from you, even if you have not paid the debt (mortgage) and are in default.

The Process Before Going to Court

Step 1: You default on your loan

You are considered to be in default as soon as you miss one loan payment (or if you break your loan agreement in some other way). The lender might contact you by letter or telephone after the first missed payment to remind you that a payment is due.

Step 2: The lender sends you a Notice of Intention to Foreclose

The lender usually waits until you have missed at least three mortgage payments before sending this notice. The New Jersey Fair Foreclosure Act requires the lender to send this notice to you. The law also requires certain information to be included in the notice. Use the checklist in the section Laws that Can Protect You From Foreclosure to make sure that the lender gave you all of the information that you are entitled to. If not, then you may include the lender’s failure to do so in your Answer or in a Motion (written request) to the court asking the court to dismiss the foreclosure action. The lender must send you this notice at least 30 days before the lender files a complaint.

If you can cure the default (make the payments you missed), the lender must accept your payment and cannot charge you attorney’s fees at this point.

The Process in the Office of Foreclosure

Step 1: The plaintiff (lender) files a foreclosure complaint

The court process of foreclosing on property begins no sooner than 30 days after you receive the Notice of Intention to Foreclose, when the plaintiff (the lender or company filing the complaint) files a complaint against you, the defendant (homeowner), with the Office of Foreclosure. The Office of Foreclosure is a part of the Superior Court of New Jersey, and it is located in Trenton. The Office of Foreclosure handles the foreclosure, and the foreclosure is never reviewed by a judge in your county unless you file an Answer.

The Complaint for foreclosure must set out all the facts that would give the plaintiff the legal right to foreclose.

Step 2: The plaintiff serves you with a Summons and Complaint

The lender must have a copy of the Summons and Complaint hand-delivered to you. The lender also may send a copy of the Summons and Complaint to you by regular and certified mail. If the lender cannot reach you, the lender will ask the court for permission to serve you by publication. This means that important notices won’t be delivered to your house. Instead, they will only be published in the newspaper.

Notice of information about the state’s mediation program. Along with the Summons and Complaint, you should receive information about the state’s mediation program. You must request mediation within 60 days of the date you receive the complaint. You must request mediation and file an answer to the complaint if you want to fight the foreclosure. If you fail to request mediation within 60 days, you will not be allowed to participate. If you miss the deadline, you may ask the court to allow you to participate, but you must be able to show "exceptional circumstances." If you cannot show a very special reason why you should be allowed a late chance for mediation, the court will deny your request. However, mediation will not stop the foreclosure process from continuing. It is important to file an Answer even if you request mediation.

Step 3: You file an Answer to the Complaint

You, the homeowner, have the right to defend against the foreclosure lawsuit in court. To do so, you must present your defenses to the Complaint in a written Answer filed with the court. (An Answer is a written response from a defendant to a complaint). In your Answer to a foreclosure complaint you must explain to the court why the lender does not have the legal right to foreclose.

Sample forms and instructions for filing an Answer are available on the New Jersey Judiciary's website

Deadline for filing Answer. You have 35 days from the date you received the Summons and Complaint to file a written Answer. An Answer that is filed on time is the homeowner’s best opportunity to fight the mortgage foreclosure.

Step 4: The Office of Foreclosure reviews your Answer to determine if it is a Contesting or Non-Contesting Answer

The Office of Foreclosure reviews every Answer to determine if it is a Contesting Answer or a Non-Contesting Answer. This is because the kind of Answer that you file determines how the case will proceed.

Contesting Answer. A Contesting Answer is one that questions whether the mortgage is legal or correct or questions whether the lender has a legal right to foreclose on your property.

What must be included in a Contesting Answer? In a Contesting Answer, you must include a response to each of the lender’s claims (admitting the lender’s claims are true, denying they are true, or stating that you do not have enough information to know whether the lender’s claims are true). Your Answer should also include Defenses (explanations about why you should not lose your home to foreclosure) and Counterclaims (your complaints against the lender claiming that the lender’s actions may have violated other laws). If other people were involved in making your loan a predatory loan, you may need to file a Third-Party Complaint and add those parties to the lawsuit.

An Answer that admits all of the lender’s accusations or states that you do not have enough information to know whether the accusations are true for every paragraph may be deemed a Non-Contesting Answer. A Non-Contesting Answer will not be sent to a judge.

For a more detailed description defenses and counterclaims to foreclosure and an explanation of the laws that the lender may of have violated, see the section, Laws that Can Protect You from Foreclosure.

Sample forms and instructions for filing an Answer are available on the New Jersey Judiciary's website.

Step 5: The Office of Foreclosure transfers the court case to the county where the property is located

If the Office of Foreclosure decides that you have filed a Contesting Answer, the Office of Foreclosure will transfer the case to the Superior Court in the county where the property is located, and the matter will be assigned to a judge.

The Process in the Superior Court in the County Where the Property is Located

After the case is transferred to a Superior Court judge in the county where the property is located, you must get ready to have a trial. The lender will try to convince the court either by a motion (written request) or at a trial that it has the right to foreclose on the property. You must convince the court that the lender does not have the right to foreclose on the property for the reasons you described in your Answer.

Before trial

(a) Motion for Summary Judgment

  • Lender’s Motion for Summary Judgment. A Motion for Summary Judgment is a special kind of motion. In a Motion for Summary Judgment, the lender asks the court to decide the case in its favor without a trial or any further legal proceedings. Many times, the lender will file a Motion for Summary Judgment as soon as you file an Answer. To win a summary judgment motion, the lender must show the court that:

    • The lender and homeowner agree to all of the important facts that would affect the judge’s decision in the case, and
    • The law is completely on the lender’s side.

  • Your Response to Motion for Summary Judgment. The defendant/homeowner must file and serve a written response to the Motion for Summary Judgment. If the homeowner does not file and serve a written response to the Motion for Summary Judgment, then the lender will win automatically—whether the lender is right or wrong.

  • Court’s decision on Summary Judgment Motion. To decide a Summary Judgment Motion, the court looks at the lender’s motion and your response to decide whether or not you have any legal defenses to foreclosure. After the court receives the papers, the court may also decide to hold a hearing before making a decision.

  • Decision for lender. If the court decides that you do not have legal defenses to foreclosure, the court will usually decide the Summary Judgment in favor of the lender. This means that the lender now has the right to proceed to foreclose on your property.

  • Decision for you (homeowner). If the court decides that the defendant homeowner does have legal defenses to foreclosure, the court will probably decide the motion in your favor and deny summary judgment to the lender. This means that you and the lender will now proceed towards a trial.

Sample forms for responding to a Summary Judgment Motion are available on the New Jersey Judiciary’s website.

(b) Discovery

Discovery is another activity that takes place before the trial. Discovery is the process by which the parties (plaintiff and defendant) use several types of tools to ask for facts, documents, and other information before the trial takes place. In a foreclosure case, each may ask the other to provide information that may help prove or disprove the right to foreclose.

  • Demand for production of documents. One of the most common types of discovery tools used in foreclosure cases is the Demand for Production of Documents (Document Demand). For a sample Demand for Production of Documents, see Foreclosure Forms. If you are a homeowner representing yourself, you may send the Document Demand to the lender’s attorney together with your Answer or as soon as possible after you file and serve your Answer. The lender then has 35 days to give you the documents you asked for. If the lender does not respond, you may file a written motion asking the court to order the lender to respond to the Document Demand or asking the court to dismiss the lender’s complaint for not responding. (See What happens if a party does not provide discovery that is requested?)

  • Interrogatories and depositions. If you do have an attorney, the attorney will make the Document Demand, and may also send the lender’s attorney a list of written questions (called interrogatories). Another way to get answers to questions is to ask the lender’s witnesses to answer questions (called a deposition) while under oath in the presence of a court reporter. The lender also has the right to ask you for information. Whether or not you are represented, the lender may also ask you to provide documents, answer written questions, or appear before a court reporter and give a deposition.

  • What happens if a party does not provide discovery that is requested? Each party is responsible for making sure that it completes its own discovery. The court will not instruct the parties on this process or give a party forms to fill out in order to get the information that is needed. If either the lender or the homeowner fails to respond to the discovery requests of the other party, the lender or homeowner may make a motion to the court to force the other party to respond or face a penalty. For instance, if you are the homeowner and you fail to respond to the lender’s discovery request, the lender may make a motion to the court to ask the court to strike (disregard) your Answer. If the court strikes your Answer, the Complaint will be sent back to the Office of Foreclosure, and the foreclosure will proceed as if no Answer had been filed. Therefore, it is very important that you respond to any discovery requests that the lender makes of you.

  • Motion to Enforce Discovery. Sample forms and instructions for filing a Motion to Enforce Discovery may be found on the New Jersey Judiciary’s website.

(c) Case management conference

The judge assigned to the case may write a letter to the parties setting up a case management conference (CMC). A CMC is a meeting that will include you (or your attorney), the judge, and the lender’s attorney. The main purpose of the CMC is to set up a time schedule with deadlines for discovery. Remember to make sure that you ask for enough time to get the information that you need. The court may also schedule a trial date at the case management conference. The CMC is not an official hearing in the courtroom. No one will be sworn in, and the judge will not make any decisions about whether the lender may foreclose. At the meeting, the judge may ask some questions to get an idea of the issues involved in your case. The judge may explore whether settlement (reaching an agreement without a trial) is possible.

Trial

At a trial, the lender must prove it has the right to foreclose. Then you must prove that the lender should not be permitted to foreclose because of the defenses you have raised. Review the defenses described in the Laws that Can Protect You from Foreclosure section.

The Process After You File a Non-Contesting Answer or If You Do Not File an Answer at All

Lender’s request for entry of Default

If you miss the deadline to file an Answer, or file a Non-Contesting Answer, the lender will probably file papers with the court asking the court to Enter Default (officially recognize that the you did not file an Answer).

Your response: Motion to Set Aside (Undo) Default. New Jersey Court Rule 4:43-3 allows you to file a written request with the court asking the court to cancel/undo the default and to give you another chance to file an Answer. You must show good cause in order for the Court to give you a second chance to file an Answer. The case of O’Conner v. Abraham Altus, 67 N.J. 106, 129 (1975) is an example of a case where a court set aside a default for good cause. Good cause usually means that you have a defense to the mortgage foreclosure.

For a more detailed description of defenses and counterclaims to foreclosure and an explanation of the laws that the lender may have violated, see the section, Laws that Can Protect You from Foreclosure.

Lender’s request for entry of Final Judgment

If you do not respond to the lender’s request for entry of default, the lender may go forward and ask the court to enter Final Judgment in the lender’s favor. The lender does this by making a Motion for Entry of Final Judgment. However, before the lender may file this motion, the lender must give you notice and one final chance to cure the default.

  • Lender’s Notice of Motion for Entry of Final Judgment. Fourteen days before the lender asks for the court to enter Final Judgment, the lender must send you a notice in the form of a letter telling you this.

  • Your response: Good Faith Statement. If you feel that there is a reasonable likelihood that you may be able to cure (pay what you owe and stop the foreclosure), you must respond with a Good Faith Statement within 10 days of receiving the Lender’s Notice. You will have 45 days from the date of receipt of the letter notice to cure the default. Send your response by certified or registered mail, return receipt requested.

  • Your response: Bankruptcy. If you intend to file for bankruptcy, it is a good idea to file before judgment enters against you in the foreclosure. Otherwise, you may have to ask the Superior Court to reopen the foreclosure case so that you can raise your defenses in either the Superior Court or in the Bankruptcy Court.

Lender’s Motion for entry of Final Judgment

If you are unable to cure, the lender will file a Motion (request) to the court to enter Final Judgment in the lender’s favor. This is the court’s judgment that the lender is entitled to foreclose on the property. It sets forth the amount of money that the lender is entitled to receive when the property is sold at a Sheriff’s Sale.

  • Your response: Objection to Lender’s Motion. At this point, if you disagree with the amount of the judgment, you have 10 days to file an objection to the lender’s motion. This objection may alter the amount of the foreclosure judgment, but it will not prevent the foreclosure.
  • Your response: Motion to Vacate (Undo) the Final Judgment. After the court has entered Final Judgment in favor of the lender, you still have one last chance to undo the judgment, reopen the case, file an Answer, and perhaps prevent foreclosure. New Jersey Court Rule 4:50-1 permits you to file a Motion (request) with the court to Vacate (undo) the Judgment. You must include a copy of your Answer with the Motion to Vacate Judgment. You must also include a filing fee of $30.00 or an application for a fee waiver.

For a sample Motion to Vacate Default or Default Judgment and or Request for Waiver of Filing Fees, see the section, Foreclosure Forms.

The Sheriff’s Sale Process

If the court grants final judgment to the lender, the court will also issue a Writ of Execution directing the County Sheriff to sell your house to the highest bidder at an auction. You will receive a notice telling you when your house is scheduled to be auctioned. A notice also will be posted in a newspaper.

Your response: Request to stay (delay) the Sheriff’s Sale—Sheriff’s office

If your home is scheduled for a Sheriff’s Sale, you may apply to the County Sheriff in person for two delays, up to 30 days each, of the sale. These delays are called adjournments or stays. You must pay a fee to the Sheriff’s office for this stay. You should be prepared to pay a fee of up to $50 by cash or money order. You do not have to prove good cause or appear before a judge to get these stays.

Your response: Request to stay (delay) the Sheriff’s Sale—in court

You may also apply for a stay at the Superior Court, Chancery Division, in the county where the property is located. Courts often will grant a stay to allow you to participate in the Court’s mortgage mediation program. However, courts rarely grant stays for any other reason, except in very compelling circumstances, such as to allow a homeowner to complete a sale or refinance of the property that is already in process.

Forms to request a stay so that you can participate in Mediation are available on the New Jersey Judiciary website.

Note: These stays are temporary, and generally will not give you an opportunity to have any of your defenses heard by a judge. They only give you the opportunity to try to complete some other plan.

Getting the property back after the Sheriff’s Sale

After the auction, you have 10 days to redeem (get back) the property. During this period of time, you can save the property by completing a refinance or sale of the property. A bankruptcy filed after Sheriff’s Sale extends the period of time in which you can redeem the property, but you will not be able to raise your defenses in bankruptcy court at this time.

If the lender wins the court case, then the Sheriff sells the property. The money from the Sheriff’s Sale is paid to the lender to make up for the homeowner’s failure to pay. If the house sells for more than the amount of the mortgage, then the homeowner is entitled to the difference. If the house sells for less than the amount of the mortgage, then the lender has the right to sue the homeowner for the rest of the money that the homeowner owes, called the deficiency.

After the Sheriff’s Sale, you will receive a Notice from the Sheriff telling you when you must vacate (move out) of the house. If you do not move out of the house by that date, then the Sheriff may come in to the property and remove you and your belongings.

Remember that it can take a year or more for an uncontested foreclosure to be final, from the date of the Notice of Intention to Foreclose through the date the Sheriff takes possession of the property.

Because it may be easier for you to understand the process if you see it in a different format, the chart below describes the same process explained above when a homeowner files a Non-contesting Answer or No Answer to a Foreclosure Complaint.

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7/30/2021