The pandemic sent the New Jersey economy into a free-fall and that has forced many homeowners to go into foreclosure and many businesses to close. The result has been a glut of vacant and abandoned properties across the Garden State, negatively impacting public safety and property values.

To deal with the problem, lawmakers are expected to approve a measure in the next few days that would force the owners of these properties to maintain them.

Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Ron Dancer, R-Monmouth, would establish a registration requirement for the owners and or the mortgage holder of all properties, residential and commercial, that become vacant.

He said not only are these abandoned buildings eyesores, but also they “detract from the value of surrounding neighborhood values, they become a haven for the vandals, there’s drug activity, public safety concerns.”

He noted many small businesses that have folded during the pandemic have been in properties owned by big banks, and this measure stipulates the banks themselves will be responsible for maintaining the properties in question.

Dancer said property owners of abandoned and vacant buildings will be required to “secure the property, put a fence around it, put signage up as to whom you can contact when you see any perhaps any illegal activity or vandalism on this property.”

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He said property owners would also be responsible to get “a liability insurance policy, things happen on these vacant properties but we don’t want the municipality to be cited, nor the taxpayers.”

Dancer noted addressing this issue is important because when properties become abandoned “they become a magnet that draws an element of criminal activity, whether it be drugs, or vandalism, looking for copper piping in the facility.”

The legislation, which has bipartisan support, specifies these steps must be taken within 45 days after a property owner has been contacted, and violators could face up to a $1,000 fine.

Democratic Assembly representatives Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, D-Hunterdon, and Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen, are also prime sponsors of the measure.

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