Foreclosure Self-Help

These resources are intended for litigants who are representing themselves in a foreclosure matter. Attorneys should visit our attorney foreclosure resources page.

On This Page

Body

Do I Need a Lawyer?

The court system can be confusing, and it is a good idea to get a lawyer if you can. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you can contact the legal services program in your county to see if you qualify for free legal services.

Legal Services of New Jersey maintains a directory of regional legal services offices.

The NJ State Bar Association also maintains a list of county referral services that might be helpful.

Things to think about before you represent yourself in court

While you have the right to represent yourself in court, you should not expect any special treatment, help, or attention from the court. You must still comply with the Rules of the Court, even if you are not familiar with them. The following is a list of some things the court staff can and cannot do for you. Please read it carefully before asking the court staff for help. 

  • We can explain and answer questions about how the court works.
  • We can tell you what the requirements are to have your case considered by the court.
  • We can give you some information from your case file.
  • We can provide you with samples of court forms that are available.
  • We can provide you with guidance on how to fill out forms.
  • We can usually answer questions about court deadlines.
  • We cannot give you legal advice. Only your lawyer can give you legal advice.
  • We cannot tell you whether or not you should bring your case to court.
  • We cannot give you an opinion about what will happen if you bring your case to court.
  • We cannot recommend a lawyer, but we can provide you with the telephone number of a local lawyer referral service.
  • We cannot talk to the judge for you about what will happen in your case.
  • We cannot let you talk to the judge outside of court.
  • We cannot change an order issued by a judge.

What to Expect in the Foreclosure Process

New Jersey is a judicial foreclosure state. This means foreclosure actions must go through the court. The Office of Foreclosure and the Superior Court General Equity judges handle the process. 

This page provides foreclosure resources for both lenders and debtors.

Pre-Court Actions

The lender must notify the debtor with a Notice of Intent to Foreclose (NOI). The notice must include:

  • The reason for intent to foreclose.
  • The lender’s interest in the property and contact info. 
  • The amount needed to cure the debt.
  • An explanation of what will happen if the debt is not cured.
  • A statement that the debtor can sell or transfer the title.
  • Information about the right to hire an attorney.
  • Available resources to cure the debt.
  • Information about the foreclosure mediation program. 

Debtors have 30 days from receipt of the notice to pay off the debt or make other arrangements with the lender. Debtors also have the right to request mediation at this time. If the debtor fails to satisfy the notice during this period, the case goes to the court.

How the Court Process Begins

After the 30-day period, the lender files a foreclosure complaint  with the Office of Foreclosure. Once the complaint is filed, it enters a Lis pendens, meaning a suit is pending. The lender becomes the plaintiff, and the debtor becomes the defendant in the court record. The case receives a docket number. 

The plaintiff must serve the defendant with the foreclosure complaint. This can be done through certified mail, a courier service or in person. The summons will again include information about the mediation program. If the defendant intends to challenge the complaint, it is strongly recommended they hire an attorney.

What Happens if the Foreclosure Case is Contested

The defendant then has 35 days to file an answer to complaint. Use the packet How to Answer a Foreclosure Complaint to respond. The defendant must state the reasons they are contesting the foreclosure complaint. This could include:

  • Defendant believes the plaintiff violated the Fair Foreclosure Act.
  • The defendant fulfilled their obligation to the plaintiff.
  • The defendant was named in a suit but is not debtor.

The case then gets assigned to a Superior Court judge in the county where the property is located. A court date is set. Both parties can use the How to File a Motion Before a Judge packet to file motions in the lawsuit. Either party can object to motions with the How to File a Response to a Motion Before a Judge packet. 

What Happens in Uncontested Foreclosure Cases

If the defendant accepts the foreclosure complaint or fails to respond in 35 days, the case is considered uncontested. Uncontested cases do not go to a judge and stay with the Office of Foreclosure. Plaintiffs can use the packet How to File a Motion in a Foreclosure Case Before the Office of Foreclosure to make amendments to the original complaint. Defendants can object with the How to File a Response to a Motion in a Foreclosure Case Before the Office of Foreclosure packet. 

Entry of Default, Final Judgment & Options for Debtors

The next event in the process is the plaintiff requesting an entry of default with the court. The plaintiff must give the defendant a final chance to cure the debt 14 days prior to filing the entry of default. The defendant then has 10 days to respond to the letter. From that point, the defendant has 45 days to cure the debt or make other arrangements.

If the defendant cannot cure the debt in 45 days, the court grants the plaintiff a final judgment. The court will then issue a writ of execution. The writ instructs the county sheriff to sell the property at public auction. 

Sheriff’s Sale and Additional Options for Debtors

The sheriff has 150 days from the writ of execution to auction the property. During this time the debtor and lender may request two stays each to delay the sale. A fifth stay is possible if requested by both parties. In certain cases, defendants can request an additional stay for mediation. 

After the sale of the property, the debtor has 10 days to redeem the property. This means they can buy the property back or sell it.  If the debtor fails to redeem with 10 days, the proceeds of the sale pay off what is owed on the mortgage. If the proceeds exceed this amount, the remainder returns to the debtor. If proceeds are less than the amount owed, the lender can sue the debtor for the remaining amount. 

Contact Info

The Office of Foreclosure is a unit in the Superior Court Clerk's Office (SCCO).

You can contact us at 609-421-6100 or SCCO.Mailbox@njcourts.gov  for information on the following:

  • General questions and status requests.
  • Complaints.
  • Answers.
  • Requests for default.

All correspondence (filings) should be directed to:

Regular Mail

Foreclosure Processing Services
Superior Court Clerk's Office - Administrative Office of the Courts
Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex
P.O. Box 971
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0971

Messenger Service

Foreclosure Processing Services
Superior Court Clerk's Office
Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex
PO Box 970
Trenton, New Jersey 08625

Fees and Fee Waivers

Filing Fee Schedule:

Complaints $405.00
Answers or First Appearances $175.00
Motions $ 50.00

​​​​​Checks or money orders should be made payable to Treasurer - State of New Jersey. Attorneys may use their Judiciary Collateral Account to pay any fees. Cash is not accepted.

Do you qualify for a fee waiver? 

Fill out the Filling Fee Waiver Request Form to apply for a fee exemption. You must meet financial requirements for eligibility. This form should accompany your document(s). The form and the documents should be submitted to the General Equity Judge in the county where property is located. The judge will review the fee waiver request. Once the judge determines eligibility, your documents will be forwarded to the Superior Court Clerk's Office for filing. If the judge denies the fee waiver request, you will be notified to submit the fee before the documents can be filed.

Foreclosure Mediation

Free foreclosure mediation is available to try to save your home. Mediation is a process where a neutral third-party hears your case. The mediator does not decide on the case, but guides both parties to an acceptable outcome. Lenders can still pursue foreclosure actions during the mediation process. It is important to begin requesting mediation as soon as possible following a notice of foreclosure. 

The first step in the process is to file for mediation services. Complete the filing for mediation form. Eligibility requirements pursuant to Rule 4:64-1B must be met. The request also requires the foreclosure mediation checklist. Use the foreclosure mediation financial worksheet to show financial eligibility. 

When additional mediation is required, both parties will complete the mediation continuation accord. If a temporary resolution occurs, both parties will complete the interim provisional settlement form

The stay of sheriff’s sale notice of motion instructions form can be used when requesting mediation. This only applies when the writ of execution has been ordered and the defendant exercised both stays.

Be Aware of Scams

Companies promising to get a loan modification or foreclosure rescue are popping up all over New Jersey. You need to protect yourself and your home from scam companies. 

Carefully check the company's credentials, reputation, and experience. Watch out for warning signs of a scam. Companies can falsely claim to be affiliated with a non-profit or government entity or endorsed by government officials. You should maintain personal contact with your lender and mortgage servicer. Your mortgage lender can help you find real options to avoid foreclosure. You should use the free HUD/NJHMFA-certified housing counselor. 

Foreclosure for Renters

Renters in a property facing foreclosure might be protected by New Jersey's Anti-Eviction statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1 to 61.12. Legitimate residential tenants have rights to stay on the property during foreclosure.

Sometimes renters first find out about the foreclosure when the lender has a writ of possession. If you are a tenant and are served with a complaint, you should consult an attorney. You may also provide the lender's attorney with a copy of your lease. See the notice to residential tenants of rights during a foreclosure.

Additional Resources for Foreclosure Help

Legal services of New Jersey can help provide legal help. The state’s Department of Banking & Insurance provides information on subprime mortgages.