In Our Community

Assemblyman Moriarty Bill to Strengthen Foreclosure Protections for Homeowners Advanced by Assembly

In an effort to provide homeowners with a fair chance to get back on track with their mortgage payments, a bill sponsored by Assembly Democrat Paul Moriarty to require lenders to send a notice of intent to foreclose no more than 180 days before action was approved Monday by the full Assembly, 78-1-1.

The measure (A-5003) would revise the Fair Foreclosure Act to require that a notice of intention to foreclose would not be sent more than 180 days in advance of taking that action. This includes a notice of the right to cure the default, which currently must be sent at least 30 days, but not more than 180 days, in advance of a residential mortgage lender beginning foreclosure or other legal action to take possession of a residential property.

Under the bill, if more than 180 days had elapsed since the date of the notice of intent was sent, and any foreclosure or legal action had not begun, a new notice would be sent at least 30 days, but not more than 180, in advance of that action.

“Unfortunately, New Jersey leads the nation in foreclosures, with 70,000 properties going through the process in 2017,” said Moriarty (D-Camden, Gloucester). “We must do all we can to get that number down and keep families in their homes. This bill will give homeowners the time and notice they need to take action.”

The bill would provide if a plaintiff’s action to foreclose a residential mortgage has been dismissed without prejudice pursuant to the Rules Governing the Courts of New Jersey of the State of New Jersey, reinstatement of the plaintiff’s action could be permitted only on motion for good cause shown and reinstatement would be limited to three for any action. The fee would be twice the amount set by the Administrative Office of the Courts for filing a foreclosure complaint. The plaintiff would not charge or otherwise pass a reinstatement fee onto the debtor or any other person.

Additionally, the measure would provide that the amounts paid by plaintiffs for reinstating a mortgage, that are over and above the amounts set by the Administrative Office of the Courts for filing a foreclosure complaint, would be aggregated and divided equally on an annual basis, with one-half dedicated to the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency for funding for counseling provided by the agency for the New Jersey Judiciary’s Foreclosure Mediation Program, and one-half dedicated to the Administrative Office of the Courts for the general operations provided by the office for the New Jersey Judiciary’s Foreclosure Mediation Program.

This bill would take effect four months from enactment.

The measure now heads to the Senate for further consideration.

Assemblywoman Mosquera Resolution Establishing New Jersey Domestic Violence and Legal Access Task Force Clears Assembly Panel

For the purpose of studying the nature, extent and consequences of unmet legal needs of survivors of domestic violence, a measure sponsored by Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera establishing the “New Jersey Domestic Violence and Legal Access Task Force” cleared the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Monday.

The measure (AJR-115) would establish a 16-member task, which would be required to submit a report to the Governor and the Legislature within 18 months of its organization on their findings.

The membership of the commission would be as follows:

– two public members appointed by the Governor, one of whom is a representative of a pro bono program organized by a law firm located in the State, and one of whom is a State resident who has been a pro se litigant who has appeared as a plaintiff in a domestic violence matter in the New Jersey State courts;
– two public members appointed by the President of the Senate, one of whom is the representative of a non-profit organization dedicated to the services and assistance of victims of domestic violence and one of whom is a State licensed and certified family law attorney;
– two public members appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly, one of whom is a director of a legal clinic program of a law school located in the State and one of whom is a State resident who has been a pro se litigant who has appeared as a defendant in a domestic violence matter in the New Jersey State court;
– one member appointed by the Chief Justice, who is a retired judge of the Superior Court assigned to the Family Division;
– the director of the Administrative Office of the Courts;
– the Public Defender, or the Public Defender’s designee;
– the Attorney General, or the Attorney General’s designee;
– the dean of Seton Hall University School of Law, or the dean’s designee;
– the co-dean of Rutgers Law School Newark Campus, or the co-dean’s designee;
– the co-dean of Rutgers Law School Camden Campus, or the co-dean’s designee;
– the executive director of New Jersey Legal Services, or the executive director’s designee.
– A representative of the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence, and;
– A representative of Partners for Women and Justice

“Survivors of domestic violence have already experienced significant trauma and hardship; to expect them to be able to advocate for themselves effectively in court is simply too much to ask,” said Mosquera (D-Camden, Gloucester). “By taking a close look at this issue, we can come up comprehensive solutions that will help survivors get the justice they deserve.”

The measure now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.

Assemblyman Moriarty Bill Eliminating Discrimination against Cash-Paying Consumers Signed into Law

Prohibiting discrimination against consumers paying for goods or services with cash, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrat Paul Moriarty was signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy.

The bill (A-591) specifically makes it an unlawful practice under the consumer fraud act for a person to sell or offer for sale any goods or services at retail if the person requires the buyer to pay with credit or prohibits the buyer from paying with cash. The bill is applicable to any retail transaction conducted in-person, and excludes telephone, mail, or internet based transactions.

“Many people don’t have access to consumer credit and any effort by retail establishments to ban the use of cash is discriminatory towards those people,” said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). “The U.S. dollar is legal tender and should be accepted at any retail establishment in New Jersey.”

The sponsors also referred to an article written last year regarding how Visa had pushed for more small businesses to participate in a program that would offer up to $10,000 each to 50 U.S. based small businesses if they were to make their payment technology completely digital.

Any person in violation of this bill would be subject to a civil penalty up to $2,500 for a first offense, $5,000 for a second offense, and a third or subsequent offense would be an unlawful practice under the Consumer Fraud Act.

Companies in the business of renting motor vehicles will be exempted from this bill. Motor vehicle companies would not be required to accept cash, provided they accept cashier’s checks or certified checks.

The new law takes effect immediately.

Mosquera, Reynolds-Jackson, Wimberly Issue Joint Statement on Bill Creating Interactive Database and Map Illustrating Foreclosures in New Jersey

As part of a comprehensive effort to solve the state’s residential foreclosure crisis, Assembly Democrats Gabriela Mosquera (D-Camden, Gloucester), Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-Hunterdon, Mercer), and Benjie Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic) released the following joint statement Wednesday regarding a bill, of which they are primary sponsors, that would require the Department of Community Affairs to create a database featuring an interactive map graphically illustrating foreclosed properties in New Jersey.

The bill (A-5000) was part of a 9-bill legislative package released during a joint meeting of the Assembly Housing and Community Development and Financial Institutions and Insurance Committees to develop a solutions-driven strategy in response to New Jersey’s residential foreclosure crisis:

“The database and map called for in this bill will help us get a better handle on the residential foreclosure crisis in New Jersey by allowing us to literally see, in real time, where these properties are around the state. By featuring property information such as location by county; municipality and block number; owner; and legal judgment information, the database will help court officials, county clerks, registers of deeds and mortgages, and sheriff’s officers better view and evaluate foreclosures. Managing this information is critical to dealing with the foreclosure crisis.

“Similarly, the most effective way to obtain a solution for a problem is to have an in-depth understanding of the problem and its various facets. This bill moves us towards gaining such an understanding.”

Assemblyman Moriarty Bill Clarifying Exemptions in Contractor’s Registration Act Clears Panel

Would Require Minimum $50,000 Bond for Contractors, Make Failure to Complete Work Unlawful

(TRENTON) – Strengthening consumer protections under the “Contract Registration Act,” (CRA), a bill sponsored by Assembly Democrat Paul Moriarty (D-Camden, Gloucester) designed to reduce a consumer’s financial and practical burden and penalize non-compliant contractors cleared the Assembly Regulated Professions Committee Thursday.

The bill (A-2904) clarifies that exemptions from certain requirements under current state statute in the CRA only pertain to registration, insurance, and bonding requirements for home improvement contractors. Home improvement contractors would still be subject to the other requirements of the act.

Currently, consumers whose home has been damaged by a contractor’s violation under the CRA are not guaranteed payment for damages associated with the violation unless it is covered under liability insurance. The bill would provide a funding source for restitution to consumers by requiring registered contractors to post a minimum bond of $50,000. Contractors could post a bond greater than $50,000 for more expensive home improvement work.

The bill also mandates that a contractor be liable for fines or penalties imposed on a consumer due to the contractor’s failure to obtain construction permits.

In addition, the measure makes it unlawful for a contractor to not complete a home improvement job as outlined in the home improvement contract. An unlawful practice under the consumer fraud act is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 for a first offense and up to $20,000 for a subsequent offense. A violation could also result in a cease and desist order from the Attorney General.

“This bill will help homeowners hold contractors more accountable for their work or lack thereof,” said Moriarty. “Owning a home is a significant investment, and when renovations are made, the work must be completed and up to code in order to protect that investment.”

The bill was introduced on February 1, 2018. It now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for further review.

Assembly Panel Advances Assemblyman Moriarty Consumer Protection Measures Concerning Arbitration Proceedings

(TRENTON) – Moving forward on two measures addressing concerns surrounding forced arbitration, the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee recently advanced legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrat Paul Moriarty to establish consumer protections related to arbitration and bar the state from conducting business with those who use such procedures.

“Forced arbitration contracts require consumers to waive their right to access the court system if they are wronged,” said Moriarty (D-Gloucester, Camden), who serves as chair of the Assembly Consumer Affairs panel. “Many consumers today are unable to buy a car, cell phone, open a bank account or credit card, place a parent into a nursing home, or gain employment without entering into a forced arbitration contract. Most of the time, the term “mandatory arbitration” is buried in the small print of paperwork unknowingly to the consumer. We need more transparency and greater accountability on behalf of the businesses that use this method of resolving disputes.”

One bill (A-584) – sponsored by Moriarty– would prohibit a State agency from entering into a contract or agreement with a business entity that requires any person or public entity, as a condition of doing business with them, to submit a dispute arising after the signing of the contract to binding arbitration.

The second bill (A-4972) – sponsored by Moriarty– would establish certain consumer protections related to arbitration organizations such as prohibiting an arbitration organization from administering consumer arbitration, or providing any other related services if the company has a financial interest in any party or attorney for a party. The bill also puts into place a fair fee structure for low-wage income earning consumers who have been forced into binding arbitration through a standardized consumer contract and prohibits consumers from paying the fees of the opposing party should they lose their dispute.

Moriarty said the measures aim to encourage and empower consumers to pursue resolution to their disputes without fear of financial burden.

“Arbitration organizations have long gone under-regulated and concerns have been raised about forced arbitration proceedings and consumer fairness,” said Moriarty. “Any conficts of interest between arbitration organizations and the parties they’re judging is predjudicial toward the consumer who expects an impartial resolution to their grievance. Those consumers who have financial concerns should not be made to pay exorbitant fees for arbitration for themselves or the other party.”

Both measures were approved March 8 and will now go to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.