TRENTON, N.J. – The Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee cleared legislation holding owners responsible for maintaining vacant or abandoned residential and commercial properties.
“Overgrown and derelict properties bring down the value of everyone’s homes and local businesses,” said Assemblyman Ron Dancer, a prime sponsor of the bill. “To prevent neglect, people need to be held responsible for the upkeep of their property.”
Dancer’s bill (A2877) mandates a new process for owners of vacant and abandoned buildings to register with the municipality for a fee. Responsible parties would then be required to undertake protective measures such as securing the property against unauthorized entry and maintaining liability insurance.
“A number of municipalities are implementing similar measures and finding it an effective tool to cleaning up their neighborhoods,” said Dancer (R-Ocean). “Abandoned buildings can foster crime, create public health problems and become major eyesores that hurt communities.”
The practice of registering abandoned properties is currently taking place in towns like Atlantic City, Burlington, East Orange, Millville, Newark and Trenton. Currently, a municipality is authorized to adopt an ordinance to regulate the care, maintenance, security, and upkeep to the exterior of vacant and abandoned residential properties on which a summons and complaint in an action to foreclose has been filed. This bill establishes a more timely process for the identification and registration of abandoned properties prior to, or at the same time as, the foreclosure process.
Under the bill, violators could be fined between $500 and $1,000.
The Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee passed the bill (S1149) in October.