Division of Consumer Affairs
The Division of Consumer Affairs is part of the state government and it is intended to devote its time to protecting New Jersey consumers from all kinds of financial abuse, including foreclosure.
On foreclosures, at least, they really do not do a very good job of it. Some of their advice to homeowners and consumers makes sense – their warnings, for example, about predatory Foreclosure Rescue Scams are pretty good – but when it comes time to advise people in foreclosure what to do, they really fall short.
If you go to the DCA webpage and scroll through the advice they give to people in foreclosure, you will eventually stumble upon this page: https://www.nj.gov/dca/hmfa/media/download/foreclosure/fc_foreclosurefastfacts_english.pdf
Here is the good part about this advice: It directs the consumer to HUD Certified Housing Counselors. That is important because if you are going to talk to a non-attorney about your home mortgage, whether to modify, how to budget … it must be with a HUD Certified Housing Counselor.
There are plenty of companies out there marketing their ‘services’ to consumers who are not HUD Certified. They are, instead, fraudulent predators.
So if you are going to try to look for advice that does not involve defending yourself in the foreclosure litigation (not a good idea, but a common option) only work with one of the agencies on the list here.
The best, in my opinion, is New Jersey Citizen Action. They are a serious and reputable organization that is truly devoted to consumer protection, consumer rights and consumers … meaning, you, me, everyone you know …
But here is where it falls short … the Division of Consumer Affairs does not urge you, Tell you, COMMAND you to Answer the Foreclosure Complaint. They treat the foreclosure as a budgeting issue … as a problem that the homeowner must solve by looking inwards only … they fail to address the fact that the foreclosure litigation itself is a powerful tool in the homeowner’s arsenal.
They do not tell you that you must Answer the foreclosure complaint or else lose all kinds of rights … and with the loss of your rights lose all kinds of opportunities to force the mortgage servicer to give you much, much more time in your home than you fear or think … and you lose all kinds of opportunities to sue the bank, the mortgage servicer and its attorneys for improper actions during foreclosure.
It is a tremendous mistake. It is a self-inflicted injury upon the DCA’s mandate.
A Better Approach!
The best approach to foreclosure is not to look inward, at the consumer who is being sued or harassed over mortgage payments … why?
They are supposed to be the Division of CONSUMER Affairs, and blaming the victim is neither appropriate nor, the vast majority of the time fair or accurate. Advising a consumer to review their budgeting, push them to modify the mortgage right off the bat is like telling someone to bring a knife to a gunfight.
The DCA, and many other organizations out there treat a foreclosure as part of a negotiation with the mortgage servicer, and it is not. You cannot negotiate with a multi-billion dollar industry … it is a fight.
You can force your mortgage company to review your modification application.
You can sue your mortgage company if they deny your application in violation of their guidelines.
You can sue your mortgage company if they breach your modification agreement.
… and you can sue your mortgage company if they don’t credit your account for every penny that you pay them.
These are not negotiations … these are strategies to fight.
The Division of Consumer Affairs does little for New Jersey consumers in foreclosure except urge them to make a deal as soon as possible … and I DO NOT.
I show people how to FIGHT BACK, and then force the banks to review the loan modification application when you have developed leverage … or have used the time in foreclosure to put themselves in much better financial situations.
Bottom line: Don’t give up, don’t listen to anyone who tells you that this is your fault and you have to sit through counselling. Instead, be ready to fight back.
There are several very good attorneys who know how to fight banks. I am one, and there are others.
When you are in trouble, talk to us.
Talk to a budget counselor as well, if you want, but … FIGHT BACK and don’t let anyone convince you that giving in is your best option.
You have rights. Find out what they are. Use them and fight the bank!