State Supreme Court Judge F. Dana Winslow said the bank had acted in "bad faith" in waiting more than a month to sign off on the three checks so that the woman, Beth Eisenberg, could begin repairs. His order comes as Sandy victims are struggling to rebuild as they wait for banks to endorse settlement checks.
"There's a sense of urgency here . . . We must address the problems of homeowners as quickly as possible," Winslow said during a hearing last week.
During the Jan. 7 hearing, Winslow ordered the bank to endorse the checks immediately or pay a daily fine of $2,500. Chase signed the checks shortly afterward, and the judge issued a formal written order Monday.
A lawyer for the bank did not respond to a request for comment.
The court order stems from a foreclosure case filed by the bank. Eisenberg has countersued, saying Chase forced her into foreclosure by reneging on a modification agreement. Her lawyer, Lloyd M. Eisenberg, said banks are holding on to settlement checks to gain the upper hand in foreclosures.
"I believe what they are trying to do in not signing these checks is make it all the more difficult for people to stay in their houses," said the attorney, who is also the homeowner's ex-husband.
The judge also ordered Chase to pay $3,200 in legal fees.