ASSEMBLY, No. 5084

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

218th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED FEBRUARY 25, 2019

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblywoman  SHANIQUE SPEIGHT

District 29 (Essex)

Assemblywoman  VERLINA REYNOLDS-JACKSON

District 15 (Hunterdon and Mercer)

Assemblywoman  VALERIE VAINIERI HUTTLE

District 37 (Bergen)

 

Co-Sponsored by:

Assemblywoman Murphy

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Requires registration of certain vacant and abandoned properties with municipalities and provides enforcement tools related to maintenance of these properties.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act concerning vacant and abandoned property and supplementing Title 40 of the Revised Statutes.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.    a.  The responsible party for a vacant and abandoned property that is vacant and abandoned on the effective date of P.L.    , c.    (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), shall file a certificate of registration with the clerk of the municipality in which the property is located within 30 days after the effective date.  The responsible party for a property that becomes vacant and abandoned subsequent to the effective date of P.L.    , c.    (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), shall file a certificate of registration with the clerk of the municipality in which the property is located within 90 days after the property becomes vacant and abandoned or within 30 days after the responsible party assumes ownership of or responsibility for an already vacant and abandoned property, whichever is later.  The certificate of registration shall be filed on forms prescribed by the Commissioner of Community Affairs and shall contain:

     (1)   the name, street address, and telephone number of a natural person who resides or maintains an office within the State and who is either the responsible party or an authorized agent designated by the responsible party to receive notices and complaints of property maintenance and code violations on behalf of the responsible party;

     (2)   the name, street address, and telephone number of the person responsible for maintaining the property, if different; and

     (3)   evidence of any liability insurance required by an ordinance adopted pursuant to paragraph (3) of subsection c. of this section.

     A responsible party for a vacant and abandoned property shall file an amended certificate of registration within 30 days after any change in the information required to be included thereon.

     b.    A certificate of registration shall remain valid for one year and shall be renewed on an annual basis if the property remains vacant and abandoned.  A municipality may by ordinance establish a fee of not more than $250 for a certificate of registration for a vacant and abandoned property.  A renewal fee of not more than $500 may be established for a renewal if there is an outstanding property maintenance or code violation on a vacant and abandoned property that remains unabated at the time of renewal.  A renewal fee of not more than $750 may be established for a subsequent renewal if there continues to be an outstanding property maintenance or code violation or there is a new such violation on a vacant and abandoned property that remains unabated at the time of renewal.  If a greater fee for the registration or renewal of a vacant and abandoned property was established by an ordinance adopted prior to the effective date of P.L.    , c.    (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), then the municipality may continue to impose and collect that greater fee.

     c.     A municipality may by ordinance require that, no sooner than 45 days after the property becomes vacant and abandoned and until the property is reoccupied, the responsible party for a vacant and abandoned property:

     (1)   Enclose and secure the property against unauthorized entry;

     (2)   Post a sign affixed to the inside of the property and visible to the public indicating the name, address, and telephone number of the responsible party, any authorized agent designated by the responsible party for the purpose of receiving service of process, and the person responsible for maintaining the property if different from the responsible party or authorized agent; or

     (3)   Acquire and otherwise maintain liability insurance by procuring a vacancy policy, covering any damage to any person or any property caused by any physical condition of the property.

     d.    A responsible party that violates any provision of this section or any ordinance adopted pursuant hereto, shall be liable to a penalty of not less than $500 and not more than $1,000; provided, however, that a greater penalty for such violations that was established by an ordinance adopted prior to the effective date of P.L.    , c.    (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill) may continue to be imposed and collected.  Each day that a violation continues shall constitute an additional, separate, and distinct offense.  Any penalty imposed pursuant to this section shall be recoverable by a summary proceeding under the "Penalty Enforcement Law of 1999," P.L.1999, c.274 (C.2A:58-10 et seq.).  The Superior Court, Law Division, in the county, or the municipal court of the municipality, in which the property is located shall have jurisdiction to enforce such penalty.

     e.     For the purposes of this section:

     "Responsible party" means the title holder of a vacant and abandoned property or a creditor responsible for the maintenance of a property pursuant to section 17 of P.L.2008, c.127 (C.46:10B-51).

     "Street address" means an address at which a natural person who is the responsible party or an authorized agent actually resides or actively uses for business purposes, and shall include a street name or rural delivery route.

     "Vacant and abandoned property" means any residential or commercial real estate which is not legally occupied by a mortgagor or tenant, which is in such condition that it cannot be legally reoccupied, and at which at least two of the following conditions exist:

     (1)   Overgrown or neglected vegetation;

     (2)   The accumulation of newspapers, circulars, flyers, or mail on the property;

     (3)   Disconnected gas, electric, or water utility services to the property;

     (4)   The accumulation of hazardous, noxious, or unhealthy substances or materials on the property;

     (5)   The accumulation of junk, litter, trash, or debris on the property;

     (6)   The absence of window treatments such as blinds, curtains, or shutters;

     (7)   The absence of furnishings and personal items;

     (8)   Statements of neighbors, delivery persons, or government employees indicating that the property is vacant and abandoned;

     (9)   Windows or entrances to the property that are boarded up or closed off, or multiple window panes that are damaged, broken, and unrepaired;

     (10) Doors to the property that are smashed through, broken off, unhinged, or continuously unlocked;

     (11) A risk to the health, safety, or welfare of the public or any adjoining or adjacent property owners due to acts of vandalism, loitering, criminal conduct, or the physical destruction or deterioration of the property;

     (12) An uncorrected violation of a municipal building, housing, or similar code during the preceding year, or an order by municipal authorities declaring the property to be unfit for occupancy and to remain vacant and unoccupied;

     (13) The mortgagee or other authorized party has secured or winterized the property due to the property being deemed vacant and unprotected or in danger of freezing;

     (14) A written statement issued by a mortgagor expressing the clear intent of all mortgagors to abandon the property; or

     (15) Any other reasonable indicia of abandonment.

 

     2.    This act shall take effect on the first day of the third month next following the date of enactment, but the Commissioner of Community Affairs may take such anticipatory administrative action in advance thereof as shall be necessary for the implementation of this act.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill would require the responsible party for a vacant and abandoned property to register such property with the municipality in which the property is located and would provide enforcement tools to help ensure that these properties are properly maintained.  Vacant and abandoned properties negatively impact public safety and neighboring property values, affecting communities throughout the State.  The bill would help ensure that municipalities are able to hold those responsible for maintaining these properties to account.

     The bill would establish a new registration requirement for all vacant and abandoned residential and commercial properties.  A property would be considered vacant and abandoned if it is not legally occupied by a mortgagor or tenant for residential or business purposes, it cannot be legally reoccupied, and at least two conditions which indicate abandonment exist.  The title holder or mortgage lender responsible for maintaining a property pursuant to section 17 of P.L.2008, c.127 (C.46:10B-51) would be required to register such property.

     The bill would authorize municipalities to establish a fee of not more than $250 to initially register a vacant and abandoned property.  A renewal fee of not more than $500 may be established for a renewal if there is an outstanding property maintenance or code violation that remains unabated at the time of renewal, and a renewal fee of not more than $750 may be established for a subsequent renewal if there continues to be such a violation or there is a new violation that remains unabated at the time of renewal.  If there is no such violation on a vacant and abandoned property, the renewal fee may be no greater than $250.  If a greater fee for the registration or renewal of a vacant and abandoned property was established by a municipal ordinance adopted prior to the enactment of the bill, that greater fee may continue to be imposed and collected.

     A municipality would also be authorized to require responsible parties for vacant and abandoned properties to undertake certain protective measures regarding such properties.  Specifically, a municipality would be able to require a responsible party to enclose and secure the property against unauthorized entry, post a sign on the property with pertinent contact information, and maintain liability insurance.

     The bill would also establish penalties for violations of any of its provisions or any ordinance adopted pursuant thereto.  Specifically, a responsible party would be liable to a penalty of not less than $500 and not more than $1,000 for a violation.  If a greater penalty for such violations was established by a municipal ordinance adopted prior to the enactment of the bill, that greater penalty may continue to be imposed and collected.  Each day that a violation continues would constitute an additional, separate, and distinct offense.  Any penalty imposed under the bill would be recoverable by a summary proceeding under the "Penalty Enforcement Law of 1999," P.L.1999, c.274 (C.2A:58-10 et seq.).  The Superior Court, Law Division, in the county, or the municipal court of the municipality, in which the property is located would have jurisdiction to enforce the penalty.