Morris County man facing foreclosure beats creditors, takes ownership of house
Justin Zaremba | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
on November 15, 2014 at 10:32 AM
Earlier this month, Gordon A. Washington of Madison won a challenge against creditors to collect a $520,000 mortgage he'd defaulted on, saying they failed to file a viable foreclosure complaint within a six-year statute of limitations.File photo
NEWARK — In what may be a first in New Jersey, a Morris County man who defaulted on his $520,000 mortgage in 2007 has instead won the right to retain ownership of his house, according to court records.
Earlier this month, Gordon A. Washington of Madison won a challenge against creditors Specialized Loan Servicing LLC and Bank of New York Mellon to collect the debt, saying they failed to file a viable foreclosure complaint within a six-year statute of limitations.
In his written opinion, Judge Michael B. Kaplan repeatedly expressed his reluctance to nullify the mortgage agreement — stating he did so with a "figurative hand holding the nose" — but, nonetheless, he ruled in favor of Washington by voiding the mortgage lien.
"The debtor retains the property, free of any claim of the defendants," Kaplan wrote in his Nov. 5 decision. "The court will proceed to gargle in an effort to remove the lingering bad taste."
Earlier this year, the percentage of New Jersey homes in foreclosure rose to the highest rate in the nation.
Montclair lawyer Margaret Jurow told The Record, which first reported the court's decision early Saturday morning, that this was the first case she was aware of in which the court applied the statute of limitations to the correction of a mortgage loan, and that borrowers can generally only hope for a modification of the loan to get a lower down payment.
The newspaper reported that it wasn't able to determine Friday if Washington's creditors intended to appeal the decision.
Washington's attorney, Walter Nealy, told NJ Advance Media Saturday afternoon the decision spoke for itself and that Washington's bankruptcy proceedings were ongoing.
The ruling provided a spot of good news for Washington who lost an appeal earlier this year in an unrelated criminal case.
In that case, NJ Advance Media reported that Washington sought to suppress evidence found by firefighters who responded to his smoke-filled home back in 2010 that led to several drug charges including possession of marijuana and other paraphernalia.
Washington pleaded guilty to fourth-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance after a trial judge rejected his claim a police officer, tipped off by firefighters, conducted an unreasonable, warrantless search of his home in 2010.
The appellate court instead upheld the trial court's ruling that the firefighters had entered lawfully, responding to a threat of a fire, and found the evidence in plain view. Washington received probation and was issued fines in the matter.
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