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N.J. County Adds Legal Aid to Reverse Mortgage Counseling Program

New Jersey’s Bergen County this week expanded its reverse mortgage counseling services to include legal aid for income-qualified seniors facing foreclosure, according to various reports from several local media outlets.

On Wednesday, the Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders adopted a resolution authorizing $20,000 in funding to allow the county’s Division of Senior Services, which administers Home Equity Conversion Mortgage Counseling, to make and fund legal referrals for seniors who have defaulted on reverse mortgages, reports the Bergen Dispatch.

In the case of a HECM default, counselors review the client’s finances and present an “equitable payment schedule” to lender and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Should the payment schedule be rejected by the lender, the Freeholders’ resolution allows the Division to refer seniors to Northeast New Jersey Legal Services in Hackensack, N.J., for foreclosure assistance, legal filings and court appearances. The resolution also applies to seniors facing foreclosure on traditional, forward mortgages.

Officials indicate that the contract with Northeast New Jersey Legal Services will provide legal assistance to approximately 22 low-income seniors in 2016-2017, according to the Dispatch.

“The addition of legal counseling to our existing Reverse Mortgage Counseling Program will help protect our seniors, and will be another tool in Bergen County’s continuum of services that helps our residents age in place,” said Freeholdr Vice Chairwoman Tracy Zur.

For 10 years, the Bergen County HECM Counseling program has been providing face-to-face, telephone and in-home counseling services to seniors. Since its inception, the program has counseled over 2,000 people, representing a total property value of $800 million.

Above all, county officials pointed to the benefits of reverse mortgages allowing seniors to remain in their homes and communities.

“This program is a win-win, our seniors get to stay in their homes while continuing to pay property taxes, and our top-notch HECM Counseling staff offers them the best advice possible while keeping them safe from predatory lenders or unscrupulous financial services,” Zur said.

Read more at the Bergen Dispatch.

Written by Jason Oliva