NJ Registration Bill Would Require Visible Contact Info at Vacant Properties

NJ Registration Bill Would Require Visible Contact Info at Vacant Properties

Legislation Update
January 7, 2021

Source: New Jersey Legislature (A2877 full bill text)

Additional Resource:

NJ 101.5 (NJ Looks to Crack Down on Eyesores, Even Ones Owned By Banks)

Statement

The Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee reports favorably and with committee amendments Assembly Bill No. 2877.

As amended, 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 after notifying the responsible party that the property is vacant.  Specifically, a municipality would be able to require a responsible party to 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.

The bill would not diminish property maintenance responsibilities for property owners who are not subject to the bill’s provisions.

COMMITTEE AMENDMENTS:

The committee amendments require that the municipality notify a responsible party regarding a vacant and abandoned property in order for the bills requirements to apply to the responsible party. The committee amendments also clarify that the responsible party is responsible for securing the property against unauthorized entry, but the amendments remove a requirement for enclosure of the property.