In 2007, Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-3 Bergen-Passaic) introduced a bill to protect homeowners who are in danger of foreclosure from being prey to unscrupulous lenders and real estate brokers. On Wednesday, June 29, 2011 Schaer was successful in having the bill passed in the Assembly unanimously. The Foreclosure Rescue Fraud Prevention Act, was passed by members from both political parties by a margin of 78 to zero. In addition, Shirley Turner (D-Mercer) introduced the bill in the State Senate.
Assemblyman Schaer serves as Chair of the Committee on Financial Institutions and Insurance, Vice-Chair of the Budget Committee, and as a member of the Special Committee on Economic Development, and the Committee on State Government. Since the bill was first introduced in 2007, the number of foreclosures has increased in New Jersey by more than twenty-six per cent.
Schaer became aware that many New Jersey residents were falling on hard times because of a lack of employment or illness and, in addition to losing their homes, became the targets of scam artists posing as real estate consultants. Those who pretended to protect “home-owners at risk” were employing clever schemes to cheat them out of the little money that was left. The Assemblyman became aware that such “Foreclosure Consultants” were bound to little government scrutiny.A variety of organizations, including the New Jersey Bankers, Realtors and Land Title Associations, have publicly supported the bill. It is Assemblyman Schaer’s goal to bring “transparency, accountability, and equity” to an already predatory system. The Foreclosure Rescue Fraud Prevention Act also has the support of the aNew Jersey Citizen Action and Legal Services of New Jersey.
Working class New Jerseyans are surviving with less economic support than ever before. This initiative, however, may be a beginning for those who are losing hope.
Dr. Salvatore Pizzuro is a disability policy specialist and civil rights advocate in New Jersey.