“Even a cursory examination of the Answer shows that Defendants’ denials and alleged defense have no basis in fact or law and are meant only to delay the proceedings,” noted Judge Stephan C. Hansbury. According to the Superior Court judge in Morris County, the stars of the Real Housewives of New Jersey: Teresa Checks In could not overcome the mortgage holder’s (a.k.a. Community Bank of Bergen County) Motion for Summary Judgment.
A lender cannot take away a home automatically even if the homeowner misses mortgage payments. A mortgage foreclosure can be prevented if the homeowner has grounds but in this instance, Teresa and Joe Giudice did not have any legal grounds to hang their chic chapeaus on.
Teresa and Joe Giudice submitted an Answer to the Complaint that did not contain sufficient reasons or circumstances as to why they were not responsible for any loss claimed by the lender, Community Bank of Bergen County. The Superior Court judge rejected the Giudices’ attempt to contest foreclosure on their Towaco, New Jersey mansion and granted summary judgment in favor of the mortgage holders.
The Community Bank of Bergen County claimed that the Bravo TV couple defaulted on their mortgage on Dec. 1, 2014 by failing to pay their $10,679.38 monthly note, i.e., a document that spells out the amount of money borrowed and the terms for repayment, such as the interest rate and length of the loan.
Joe’s 41-month prison sentence will commence when Teresa gets back from her 15-month federal prison stint in December. Joe and Teresa were sentenced to jail after pleading guilty to mail, wire, and bankruptcy fraud in 2014. Teresa is expected home before Christmas, but where that home will be remains to be seen. The three-part Real Housewives of New Jersey: Teresa Checks In debuted Oct. 11 on Bravo.
Any homeowner has the right to defend against a foreclosure lawsuit in court. A written Answer to a foreclosure complaint denies the statements made by the lender-plaintiff but those statements must have support. They cannot be blanket denials without proof. The Answer should explain the homeowner’s inaction. However, the defenses to foreclosure actions are narrow and quite limited. The only issues the Giudices could have raised in a foreclosure proceeding are the validity of the mortgage, the sum of indebtedness, and the right of the lender to foreclose on the property.
In order to satisfy its burden of proof on a summary judgment motion, the lender-plaintiff must show that no genuine issue of material facts exists. Once the lender satisfies its burden, the non-moving party must present evidence that there is a genuine issue for trial. In this case, Teresa and Joe could not rest upon mere allegations or denials in the pleading, but needed to produce sufficient evidence and specific facts to reasonably support a verdict in their favor.
Since the Giudices answered and contested the foreclosure complaint, arguing that the lender was not legally entitled to foreclose on their property, and the court found against them, a judgment in favor of the bank will now be entered, giving the Community Bank of Bergen County the right to sell Teresa and Joe’s Indian Lane home. Until the entry of final judgment, however, homeowners may “cure” their default by catching up on missed payments and late fees.
The court decided the bank’s motion without a trial. Oftentimes, the lender will file a Motion for Summary Judgment as soon as the homeowner files an Answer, which appears to be what happened here. The court looks at the lender’s motion and the homeowner’s response to decide whether or not the homeowner has any legal defenses to foreclosure.
The rejection of the Giudices’ attempt to contest foreclosure and the granting of summary judgment in favor of the mortgage holders means that the Community Bank of Bergen County now has the right to proceed to foreclose on Teresa and Joe’s property. Once the bank obtains a foreclosure judgment, the Towaco, New Jersey property will eventually be sold at a public sheriff sale. When the bank intends to sell a New Jersey house, it must advertise the sale weekly for four weeks in a local newspaper. Until the sheriff’s sale, Teresa and Joe may “redeem” their property by paying off the loan, refinancing, or participating in a loan modification plan.
The Giudices may be able to take advantage of foreclosure mediation, which the State of New Jersey has recently established as a court run foreclosure program. Anyone who is behind on their mortgage and is in foreclosure has the right to request mediation to allow them to deal directly with their mortgage company. Mediation gives the homeowner an opportunity to try and negotiate a repayment plan with the lender. A mediator assists the bank and the homeowner to try and work out a foreclosure substitute.
Nevertheless, New Jersey’s foreclosure mediation program does not stop foreclosure proceedings. If the mediation were successful, the parties would agree to stop the foreclosure. A homeowner must seriously review his/her bills and make the decision whether he/she can afford to keep the home that is the subject of a foreclosure proceeding. Simply stated, if the Giudices’ paychecks do not cover their monthly bills and they want to keep their home then they will either have to get higher paying jobs, get a raise, or rent out the home.
In a situation where the value of the property may not be as much as the amount of the loan, the Community Bank of Bergen County could delay a foreclosure in the hopes that the value of the property increases.
On average, it takes between 200 days to one year to process a foreclosure in the State of New Jersey. Do you think Teresa and Joe will be able to keep their Indian Lane home? Can they stop the sheriff’s sale? Grab your gavel, join the conversation, and tell us what you think about the court granting the bank’s Motion for Summary Judgment.
Stacy Slotnick, Esq. holds a J.D., cum laude, from Touro Law Center and a B.A., summa cum laude, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She performs a broad range of duties as an entertainment lawyer, including drafting and negotiating contracts; addressing and litigating trademark, copyright, and other IP issues; and directing the strategy and implementation of public relations, blogging, and social media campaigns.