Rice Bill To Prohibit Advertising On Foreclosed Properties Clears Senate Panel

Senator Ronald L. Rice, D-Essex, addresses his colleagues on the Senate floor.

Measure Would Authorize Municipalities To Clean Up Fliers and Advertisements, Work with State Division of Consumer Affairs to Go After Deceptive Business Practices

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Ronald L. Rice, the Vice Chair of the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee, which would allow municipalities to prohibit advertisements on foreclosed, abandoned properties was unanimously approved by the Committee yesterday.

“In areas with a high proliferation of abandoned properties, you’ll see any number of vacant homes littered with fliers and advertisements for all sorts of products or services – many of them scams,” said Senator Rice, D-Essex. “The practice of advertising on abandoned, foreclosed properties adds to the blight on the community caused by the original foreclosed property, and sends an invitation for any number of criminal enterprises, from vandalism to looting. Through this legislation, municipalities will have a mechanism to clean up these properties and work with the State to go after deceptive business practices targeting people in the community.”

Through the bill, S-124, municipalities would be able to enact local ordinances to prohibit any person from posting or displaying any temporary commercial or business advertisement without the prior written permission of the owner of record for the property. The ordinance would have to be consistent with current law, the “Roadside Sign Control and Outdoor Advertising Act,” and would have to include penalties consistent with the current law – imprisonment for a term not to exceed 90 days, a fine not to exceed $2,000, or a period of community service not to exceed 90 days. The bill would not apply to a person posting or displaying a temporary advertisement containing information and directional indicators inviting the public to a real estate open house or similar event for that property.

Under the bill, a municipality would be required to remove any advertisement posted or otherwise displayed without prior permission. Following removal of any advertisement, the municipality would then be authorized to present the person who posted or displayed the removed advertisement, or the business advertised in the removed advertisement, an itemized list of the costs incurred by the municipality, for reimbursement. If the person or business does not provide reimbursement within 30 days, the municipality would then be authorized to institute legal action for collection.

Finally, the bill would require that a municipality report to the Division of Consumer Affairs, for further investigation, any pattern or practice of advertisements posted or displayed in violation of the bill, which reasonably appears to violate the “Consumer Fraud Act.” The bill would require the Division to investigate any such report by the municipality.

“This isn’t only an issue for urban communities, but it’s certainly more pronounced in denser communities where you may have a number of foreclosed properties on one block,” said Senator Rice. “Not only is it an eyesore, and not only does it contribute to blight and decay within the community, but in some cases, people are being misled by deceptive business practices and fly-by-night business ventures which are taking advantage of foreclosed properties as their own personal billboards. By getting municipal government as our eyes and ears on the street, and working with the State Division of Consumer Affairs, we can clean up foreclosed properties and go after predatory businesses seeking to make a quick buck off people in hard-hit communities.”

The bill now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for review, before going to the full Senate for consideration.