In Our Community

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.

Assemblyman Moriarty Bill to Strengthen Foreclosure Protections for Homeowners Clears Assembly Panels

(TRENTON) – To ensure homeowners facing foreclosure are given 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 Wednesday by the Assembly Housing and Community Development and Financial Institutions and Insurance Committees.

The measure (A-5003) revises 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 commencing 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 reinstatements 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 Assembly Speaker for further consideration.

Assemblywoman Mosquera Bill Requiring Baby Diaper-Changing Stations in All Newly Constructed Public Restrooms Clears Assembly Committee

A-3383 would require baby diaper-changing stations in any newly constructed men’s or women’s public restrooms cleared the Assembly Women and Children’s Committee. Bill A-3383 requires places of public accommodation to install changing stations during restroom renovations costing $5,000 or more.

This bill also mandates that the owner or operator install a changing station in the men’s restroom if there is already one in the women’s restroom. The legislation would apply to public places that accommodate more than 25 people and permitting children over three years old. Violators would be subject to a petty disorderly person’s offense with a maximum fine of $500. The Department of Health and local boards of health would be authorized to enforce the bill which would take effect on the first day of the seventh month following enactment. The Commissioner of Health could take anticipatory administrative action prior to enactment should it be necessary to implement the act.

Men are becoming more involved in the daily care of children. As such, our public facilities should reflect this changing dynamic and give them the same accommodations that women have. There is currently no state statute requiring places of public accommodations to equip public restrooms with changing stations, and the ones that do so voluntarily typically only offer the accommodation in women’s restrooms.

The disparity gained national attention four years ago celebrity dad Ashton Kutcher complained on Facebook about the lack of baby-changing stations in men’s public restrooms. Since then, a Florida father has created a website called “Dads Who Change Diapers” which allows users to enter a zip code and find the nearest dad-friendly diaper changing station.

Looking to address growing concerns, President Barack Obama signed the “Bathroom Accessible in Every Situation Act (BABIES) in 2016 which requires both men’s and women’s restrooms in publicly accessible federal buildings to contain baby changing stations. In October 2018, the U.S. Senate passed a measure mandating changing tables in both men’s and women’s restrooms.

The Assembly bill was introduced in January 2018. It now awaits further review by the Assembly.

Assemblyman Moriarty’s Sponsored Legislation to Raise The Minimum Wage to $15 is Now Law

New Jersey Legislators are concerned with affordability in our state. According to the United Way Alice (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) project, the number of NJ households that cannot afford basic needs increased by fifteen percent between 2010 and 2016. To combat this issue, New Jersey became the fourth state to establish a path to $15 minimum wage by 2024 for most workers. On February 4th, Assembly Bill 15, sponsored by Assemblyman Moriarty, was signed into law by Governor Murphy.

Today in New Jersey a person working a minimum wage job for 40 hours each week will make less than $18,500 a year. Meanwhile, United Way estimates that the annual cost of basic household necessities is now $26,640 for a single adult and $74,748 for a family of four. Assemblyman Moriarty believes that this disparity demonstrates the need to raise the minimum wage to a livable one.

In this spirit, the law will raise the minimum wage for most workers to $10 an hour on July 1st. Then the minimum wage will increase by $1 per hour every January 1st until it reaches $15 per hour in 2024. At that point, full-time minimum wage workers in New Jersey will earn $ 31,200 a year, about $12,700 more than they do now.

Due to concerns for several businesses, the minimum wage will increase at a different rate for some workers. Small business employees and seasonal workers will reach $15 an hour in 2026. Meanwhile, farmworkers’ wages will increase to $12.50 in 2024. Then, pending approval by state officials, farmworkers could reach $15 by 2027.

Additionally, the law establishes a training wage in 2020, that must be at least 90 percent of the minimum wage, which employers may pay new employees for the first 120 hours of work. The law also raises the tipped wage from $2.13 to $5.13 per hour by 2022. The tipped wage combined with the employee’s tips must equal the minimum wage.

Assemblyman Moriarty has backed legislation to make our state more affordable throughout his tenure in the General Assembly. Previously, the Assemblyman sponsored bills to freeze property tax rates for seniors and limit unexplained rent increases. Raising the minimum wage is another way Assemblyman Moriarty is making New Jersey a more affordable state for everyone.

Senator Madden Sponsors Bills to Inspect for and Treat Mold Hazards in School Buildings

Senator Madden is the sponsor of a pair of bills pertaining to the inspection and abatement of mold in school buildings.

The first bill, S2896, would require within 18 months of passage and every 5 years thereafter, the superintendent of each school district in the State, and the chief administrator of each private school and charter school within the State, to inspect and evaluate all buildings under their supervision for the presence of mold. The inspections would be conducted consistent with procedures established by the Department of Health for mold hazard evaluation, assessment, and abatement of building interiors.

If mold is detected, within two months the superintendent or chief administrator would be required to develop a plan and implementation schedule for mold hazard abatement. This mold hazard abatement must be implemented within six months of the development of the plan. Inspection results and mold hazard abatement schedules would be made available to parents or guardians of students in contaminated schools as appropriate.

The second bill, S2897, would require the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) in consultation with the Department of Health and the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to develop procedures for the inspection, identification, evaluation, and abatement of mold hazards in residential buildings and schools. These procedures are to be consistent with standards and guidelines developed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Additionally, the bill provides for the establishment of programs to certify mold inspectors and mold hazard abatement workers. The rules and regulations for the establishment of these certification programs are to be adopted within twelve months of the effective date of the bill. This will give DCA oversight of people who represent themselves to the public as experts in mold hazard inspection and abatement.

This pair of bills working in concert will serve to make schools safer for children by helping to ensure a mold-free learning environment.