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Prieto, Benson, Wimberly & Moriarty Bill Targeting Creditors Who Fail to Keep Up Vacant Homes Advances in Assembly

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, Assemblyman Daniel R. Benson, Assemblyman Benjie E. Wimberly and Assemblyman Paul D. Moriarty that would empower municipalities to take action against creditors who fail to maintain vacant properties that are slated for foreclosure was released by an Assembly panel on Thursday.

The bill (A-1257) gives municipal officials the authority to issue citations and impose fines to ensure that creditors fulfill their responsibility to maintain unoccupied residential properties on which a summons and complaint in an action to foreclose has been filed.

“Vacant properties are neighborhood eyesores that attract pests and criminal activity and drag down property values,” said Prieto (D-Bergen/Hudson). “This bill enables municipalities to take action against creditors who create nuisance situations for neighborhoods and municipalities by failing to maintain vacant properties that are set for foreclosure.”

“It’s simply unfair that individuals who put in the time and effort to maintain their properties suffer because the owners of surrounding vacant properties don’t make a similar investment,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Diligent property owners deserve the defense against the negligence of others that this legislation provides.”

“Aside from just being unsightly, abandoned houses and vacant lots bring down the quality of life in a community,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This bill will help ensure the safety, beauty and overall value of New Jersey neighborhoods.”

“Vacant properties are often associated with increases in crime and decreases in home values,” said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This legislation is an important step in our collective effort to revitalize communities across the state.”

The provisions of the bill state that creditors found to be in violation of any ordinance, rule or regulation adopted pursuant to the bill would be subject to a minimum fine of $1,500 for each day of the violation. At least 20 percent of any money collected would have to be used for code enforcement purposes.

The legislation also requires out-of-state creditors foreclosing on a residential property to designate an in-state person or entity responsible for maintenance of the property.

The bill was released by the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee.