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Senator Ronald L. Rice, D-Essex, testifies during the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee hearing regarding the Opportunity Scholarship Act.

Second Bill Would Allow Court Fines of up to $1,500 Each Day of Violation, Fines of up to $2,500 for Creditor Failing to Appoint In-State Representative

 TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Ronald L. Rice which would help local officials keep their municipalities free of blight caused by abandoned, forecloses properties was approved today by the full Senate.

“When a foreclosed home sits vacant, it can become a magnet for criminal activity and can deteriorate to cause an economic blight on the remaining homes within the community,” said Senator Rice, D-Essex.  “When these abandoned homes fall into disrepair, the creditors who are legally responsible for them should step in to clean up the property. If they fail to do this in a timely manner, they should be held accountable.”

The bill, S1229, would authorize municipalities to adopt ordinances to regulate the care, maintenance and upkeep of a vacant and abandoned property in foreclosure. It would allow municipal code enforcement officials to issue a citation against creditors who are in the process of foreclosing on residential property if the condition of the property is found to be in violation of the municipal ordinance. The creditor would be required to correct the violation within 30 days of receipt of the violation or within 10 days if the violation presents an imminent threat to public health and safety. A municipal court could impose a fine on a creditor for up to $1,500 for each day that the property is deemed to be in violation, under the bill.

The legislation would also allow governing bodies to hold accountable out-of-state creditors by requiring that they designate an in-state representative to handle the care and upkeep of properties in foreclosure for which they hold the deed. A creditor found to be in violation of the ordinance because the creditor did not appoint an in-state representative or agent would by subject to a fine of $2,500 for each day of the violation.

The bill was approved by a vote of 38-0. It now heads to the Assembly for consideration.