On October 15, 2015, the New Jersey Attorney General announced that the New Jersey of Division of Consumer Affairs reached settlements with three companies and one individual to resolve allegations that the businesses falsely represented they were needed to help consumers obtain “surplus funds” remaining after a property foreclosure sale. “Surplus funds” are funds remaining after property foreclosures and payments ordered by the court. In New Jersey, a homeowner has the right to apply for a surplus if it exists. Homeowners can apply for surplus funds themselves by contacting the Trust Fund Unit of the New Jersey State Superior Court.
According to the Division of Consumer Affairs’ allegations, the businesses represented that the consumers needed the businesses’ assistance to obtain the “surplus funds.” For example, the businesses claimed that time was of the essence and that the consumers’ funds would be lost if not recovered quickly. The companies also charged excessive fees in relation to the value of the property recovered, and some customers were convinced to pay thousands of dollars to these businesses.
The settlement agreement collectively assessed $309,673.33 in civil penalties, disgorgement to consumers, and reimbursement of attorneys’ fees and costs against the parties. A portion of this settlement is suspended and will be vacated if the businesses follow the terms of the settlement for the next three years. Additionally, as part of the terms of the agreement, one business agreed to discontinue doing business in the state of New Jersey.