(TRENTON) – An Assembly panel on Monday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Sheila Oliver, Thomas Giblin, Cleopatra Tucker, Ralph Caputo and Nicholas Chiaravalloti to help prevent deed fraud and protect property owners from losing their homes to scammers.
Oliver spearheaded the bill after being notified by the Essex County Register of Deeds and Mortgages about how prevalent and simple it was for scammers to steal someone else’s property using public records. Essex County Register Dana Rone said in a media report that fraud attempts were weekly occurrences in her office. Rone visited several Essex municipalities to educate the public about how her office worked, and to encourage residents to check on their property information.
“These individuals are taking advantage of public information to steal people’s homes right out from under them,” said Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). “This notification requirement provides an additional safeguard to help prevent fraud and protect property owners from becoming victims.”
“It’s unnerving how easy it is for someone to steal another person’s property,” said Giblin (D-Essex/Passaic). “This extra cautionary step can help alert property owners to fraudulent behavior.”
“It can take a lot of time and effort to rectify this type of fraud,” said Tucker (D-Essex). “These requirements can help keep property owners from becoming victims in the first place.”
“Homeowners who have invested money and sweat into their properties should not have to worry about a stranger walking away with their investment,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “Given the prevalence of deed fraud, we need to put in extra precautions to discourage would-be scammers.”
“No one is sitting at home wondering whether someone is out there trying to steal their property. Many property owners don’t realize what is happening until it is too late,” said Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). “It is incumbent on us to heighten precautions so prevent these brazen violations.”
The bill (A-3828) would enhance protections against fraudulent deed recordings by requiring the county recording officer to notify the transferor any time a deed transfer is being recorded for his or her property. To facilitate this requirement, the bill directs the recording officer, also referred to as register of deeds and mortgages and county clerk depending on the county, to accept and retain a submission from a property owner of his or her preferred mailing address, e-mail address, or both.
To further enhance protections against fraudulent deed recordings, this bill would also require the person recording the deed to submit an affidavit of title as a prerequisite to the actual deed recording. The bill would allow the county recording officer to collect an additional $2 in addition to existing recording fees to offset the cost of the notification requirement.
The bill would take effect on the first day of the third month next following enactment in order to allow recording offices to adjust fees.
The bill was approved by the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee.