Singleton Continues Efforts to Address Impact of Foreclosure Crisis with New Bill to Clean Up Abandoned, Vacant Properties

Measure Would Help Municipalities Hold Banks or Property Owners Responsible for Maintaining Upkeep of Vacant Properties

As part of his continued efforts to address the impact of the foreclosure crisis in New Jersey, Assemblyman Troy Singleton has introduced legislation to help minimize neighborhood eyesores and public safety issues resulting from vacant and abandoned properties.

"Vacant and abandoned properties negatively impact public safety and neighboring property values, affecting communities throughout the state," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "We saw it locally in our district after frustrated Riverton residents complained about neighborhood eyesores and unsafe conditions that have arisen from prolonged abandonment of properties. Riverton officials listened and responded by passing a local ordinance to hold these property owners accountable. This legislation is modeled after their measure in an effort to help address this ubiquitous problem statewide."

The legislation comes on the heels of another measure Singleton recently introduced, the Mortgage Assistance Pilot Program (A-3915), which is designed to help revive the housing market and keep families in their homes by allowing someone whose property value has plummeted below what they owe on their mortgage to have their principal lowered to an amount more reflective of current market realities. 

Specifically, the new bill (A-4031) would help municipalities hold those responsible for maintaining vacant and abandoned properties accountable by requiring them to register the property with the municipality where it is located. 

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 current law would be required to register the property.

The bill would also provide enforcement tools to help ensure that these properties are properly maintained by authorizing municipalities 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.

A municipality would also be authorized to establish a fee of not more than $250 to register a vacant and abandoned property, and to establish renewal fees of not more than $500 for the first renewal, and not more than $750 for any subsequent renewal. 

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. Each day that a violation continues would constitute an additional, separate, and distinct offense. 

The measure has been referred to the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee.

Click here to view the original article.