TRENTON – The Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee released a variety of bills Thursday, dealing with investigating telemarketing fraud, tax-lien sales, and vacant property registration.
Only the three Democratic members were present. The two GOP members were delayed by the ongoing caucus of their party.
S1828: This bill would prohibit homeowners’ associations from adopting rules which limit or prohibit the construction of handicapped-accessible ramps or other structures necessary for people with disabilities. It passed 3-0.
The structure must be recommended by a physician and it can’t violate any local, state or federal law.
A homeowners’ association may, however, adopt rules to ensure the construction does not threaten public safety, restrict necessary maintenance activities, or interfere with the property rights of another.
The sponsor is Sen. Anthony Bucco, (R-25), Denville.
S1985: This bill establishes a telemarketing fraud investigation unit within the Division of Consumer Affairs. Prime sponsors include Sens. Jeff Van Drew, (D-1), Cape May, and Sandra Cunningham, (D-31), Jersey City. It passed 3-0.
S2400: This bill would give towns greater control over the sale of tax liens. It advanced 3-0.
According to sponsor Sen. Brian Stack, who also is Union City mayor, many municipalities, particularly distressed urban municipalities, are limited by the lack of options within the “tax sale law” from pursuing opportunities for revenue generation and urban revitalization.
If given the opportunity to take control of tax liens under favorable conditions, municipalities could benefit from interest, penalties on lien redemption, and the opportunity to foreclose on liens not redeemed, Stack told the panel.
Under this pilot program, a town would be able to submit an application that would include an analysis of the projected benefits, a plan detailing how municipal responsibilities would be carried out, a discussion of what individuals would be responsible for the program, and a discussion of revitalization efforts.
The League of Municipalities and the Housing and Community Development Network of N.J. backed the bill.
S2921: This bill would require the party responsible for a vacant and abandoned property to register it with the municipality and it would provide enforcement tools to help ensure that these properties are properly maintained. It passed 3-0.
The bill would establish a new registration requirement for all vacant and abandoned residential and commercial properties. 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.
A town could establish a $250 registration fee, as well as a renewal fee of $500 if there is an unaddressed code violation.
A subsequent renewal fee could be $750 if the problem continues unaddressed.
“This is a great piece of legislation; the only problem you’re going to have is enforcement,” said Sen. Brian Stack. “The biggest offenders,’’ he said, are banks that end up the responsible parties for some properties.
There were amendments to make the bill equivalent to A4031.
Among them: Lifting a provision to require registration with a town clerk if the owner had already provided notification that the site was vacant, and requiring a town to notify an owner before imposing a fine.
S2984: This bill would amend the special charter that was granted by the Legislature in 1868 for Gloucester City in Camden County. It passed 3-0.
As requested by Gloucester City’s Council, this bill would amend that charter to provide that of the six Council members, three members would be elected at-large and one would be elected from each of the city’s three election wards.
S1071: This bill was held. Its GOP sponsor, Sen. Christopher Connors, was unable to attend the hearing.
It would permit the conversion of municipal court fines for a zoning violation into municipal liens against the property if not paid in full within 20 days.
This lien would be added to the taxes to be levied upon the dwelling or land.