Legislation sponsored by Assembly members Verlina Reynolds-Jackson and Anthony Verrelli criminalizing certain actions of individuals who offer rental or residential property that they do not own or legally possess cleared the Assembly Housing Committee on Monday.
The bill (A-983) would make any person who claims ownership or possession, or takes possession, of a residential dwelling without the permission of the lawful owner or authorized agent of the owner, in order to rent the property out or benefit himself, guilty of a fourth-degree criminal offense.
Assembly members Reynolds-Jackson and Verrelli (both D-Mercer, Hunterdon) issued a joint statement on the bill:
“The problem of imposter landlords is an issue that broadly affects our communities, and is destructive to families and property owners alike. These types of frauds are often conducted through the internet, via postings to online marketplaces such as Craigslist. With this legislation, we can make sure both tenants and legitimate landlords are aware of the types of scams that can occur and empower everyone with the tools to crack down on this illegal activity.”
Under the bill, any person whose actions or representations cause another person to take possession of a residential dwelling, without permission of the lawful owner or an authorized agent of the owner, for the purpose of obtaining a benefit for himself (such as to collect rent) is guilty of a fourth degree criminal offense. A crime of the fourth degree is ordinarily punishable by a term of up to 18 months imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.