Mazzeo, Pinkin, Mukherji & Wimberly Bill to Help Property Taxpayers Whose Homes Were Damaged in Natural Disasters Heads to Gov’s Desk

(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Vincent Mazzeo, Nancy Pinkin, Raj Mukherji and Benjie Wimberly sponsored to help property taxpayers whose homes were damaged in natural disasters received final legislative approval last week and now heads to the governor’s desk.

“After Sandy, many of our state’s residents found that the homes they had lived in and the businesses they had owned for years suddenly were uninhabitable,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “In anticipation of the next disaster of that magnitude, it’s important that we implement a buffer for those struggling to recover.”

The bill (A-3052) establishes a special grace period that provides taxpayers additional time to make payment on installments of municipal property taxes, without accruing interest on the unpaid balance, when real property is damaged or destroyed as a result of a natural disaster.

The bill provides that taxpayers will be allowed additional time to make payment without interest when a natural disaster causing damage or destruction to real property results in the declaration of a state of emergency by the governor less than 30 days prior to the date that a property tax installment payment is due – and the municipal governing body adopts a resolution providing that interest shall not be charged if payment of the property tax installment is made on or before the first day of the next calendar month from the date upon which it became payable.

The extension applies only to owners of property damaged by a natural disaster. It would not apply to all municipal property owners in a municipality that experienced damage because of a natural disaster.

The bill authorizes the Director of the Division of Local Government Services in the Department of Community Affairs to extend, by temporary order, the dates for payment of taxes by a municipality to the county, a local or regional school district, and any other taxing district as provided by law when the time period for a property tax payment is extended pursuant to the provisions of the bill.

The bill prohibits municipalities from conducting accelerated tax sales on fourth quarter property tax installments due on damaged properties when the provisions of this bill extend the due date for the fourth quarter property tax installment payment.

Under current law, municipal property taxes are due and payable in quarterly installments on February 1, May 1, August 1, and November 1. Current law authorizes municipalities to allow a 10-day grace period during which no interest on the property taxes payable on any of those dates is charged, and permits municipalities to fix the rate of interest charged to taxpayers for unpaid property taxes at maximum rates of eight percent per year on the first $1,500 of the delinquency and 18 percent per year on any amount in excess of $1,500.

“Some homeowners and business owners across New Jersey who suffered during Sandy were preoccupied with the immediate issues they faced responding to the devastation from the storm,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “This measure will help give our residents relief to get back on their feet and gain some peace of mind during times of crisis.”

“Between checking in on friends and neighbors, navigating insurance and just trying to plan past the devastation, New Jersey residents simply were overwhelmed after Hurricane Sandy,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “This measure is one way to help the people of this state avoid financial ruin in the event of an emergency.”

“It is easy to lose track of bills when you don’t have a place to stay because your home has been severely impacted by a natural disaster,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “We all learned some hard lessons after Hurricane Sandy. This will give property owners who are struggling to rebuild after a disaster some wiggle room to get their personal and financial affairs in order.”

The bill was approved 61-3 by the Assembly on Dec. 3, and 40-0 by the Senate in June.