TRENTON, NJ - Legislation that would help municipalities unmask partners in Limited Liability Corporations that own neglected or abandoned real estate could go a long way to combating blight in urban and suburban New Jersey communities.
State Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, D-Mercer, Hunterdon, said she will introduce the bill expanding owners’ liability when the Assembly reconvenes in September.
“Communities such as Trenton and Newark have too many LLC’s listed as owners of vacant and abandoned properties. And in many cases, information on these controlling entities including a registered agent is unavailable,” she said.
“This legislation promotes transparency among all stake holders in the property and allows municipalities to hold them liable for any misuse or neglect of their property,” she added.
Though designed to help urban communities like Trenton, Newark and Camden where abandoned and neglected properties are more prevalent,, the legislation could also help suburban municipalities, according to Kevin Sluka, Somerville borough administrator.
Though Somerville has the lowest rate of property foreclosures in Somerset County, the ability to identify partners in an LLC will be helpful, Sluka said.
“An LLC is a nice way to hide for the owners,” Sluka said. "Now, they will have to file with our office as other people do, with their names and addresses, which will make our job easier to track them down, but fortunately, we don’t a lot of those situations,” Sluka said.
“Writing summonses is not what we want to do, we just want compliance,” Sluka said. “If people did what they’re supposed to be doing we would save time, manpower and and court time.”
The bill, according to the assemblywoman, would specifically provide that in addition to retaining the ability to hold a commercial entity itself liable for housing code charges, building code charges, health code charges and charges issued under the current state “Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Law,” a court may also hold members of a limited liability company, the managers of a managed limited liability company, and the directors and officers of a corporation, jointly and severally liable for certain charges.
“Municipalities must have the ability to hold individuals and/or commercial entities liable when acting as residential landlords,” Reynolds-Jackson said. “All information on the owners and parties responsible for the care of a property should be made available to towns. A name and address of a registered agent for the LLC would be required just as we do for other property owners. “