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SYLLABUS

Dunbar Homes, Inc. v. Zoning Board of Adjustment of Franklin Township
(A-89-16) (079076)

Argued April 9, 2018 -- Decided June 20, 2018

SOLOMON, J., writing for the Court.

N.J.S.A. 40:55D-10.5, a section of the Municipal Land Use Law (MLUL), N.J.S.A. 40:55D-1 to -136, provides that “development regulations which are in effect on the date of submission of an application for development shall govern the review of that application for development.” That rule is known as the Time of Application Rule (TOA Rule), and this appeal turns on whether an incomplete application triggers the TOA Rule’s protections.

From the Office of the Attorney General:

New Focus on Filling the Void Left By Federal Pullback of Consumer Protection Regulation

Trenton – New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced that Governor Murphy will nominate Paul R. Rodriguez to serve as the Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, the lead state agency charged with protecting consumers’ rights, regulating the securities industry, and overseeing 47 professional boards. Rodriguez’s selection highlights the Administration’s efforts to fill the void left by the Trump Administration’s pullback of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), fulfilling one of Governor Murphy’s promises to create a “state-level CFPB” in New Jersey.

Although there are no required disclosure statements a seller must make under New Jersey statutes, New Jersey courts have exceptions to this general rule under common law.

Many home sellers in New Jersey fill out a Seller's Property Condition Disclosure Statement providing material facts about their homes. This type of disclosure could protect a seller from a lawsuit down the line.

But what types of information should a seller disclose?

New Jersey sellers must disclose known, latent and material defects in order to protect buyers from unwittingly purchasing real estate with hidden defects. Material facts are details about the home’s condition or legal status, as well as the age of various components.

Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have imposed sales & use taxes as well as occupancy fees that hotels pay onto online rental sites like Airbnb.

In a statement Christie said:

As I have said many times before, I strongly believe that levying new taxes on our already overtaxed residents is not the answer to the state's fiscal challenges. The tax increase proposed in this bill would not only impact New Jersey property owners who have -- for generations -- made their homes available for short-term rentals, but would also disproportionally increase the cost of visiting New Jersey Shore towns and other tourist destinations.

For more information, click here.

Citation: OCWEN Loan Services, LLC, v. Quinn, et al., Docket No. A-2668-14T3 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div., cert. den. Feb. 7, 2017, published July 10, 2017).

Facts: In 2004, defendants David and Louisa Wuebbens conveyed their home to their daughter, Marla Wuebbens Quinn, while retaining life estates in the property. In 2005, Quinn and her parents executed a $260,000 mortgage on the property in favor of IndyMac Bank, F.S.B. (the 2005 mortgage). In 2007, Quinn refinanced the mortgage loan for $380,000 with IndyMac (the 2007 mortgage) and used the proceeds, in part, to satisfy the 2005 mortgage.

IndyMac’s 2007 title commitment failed to disclose the parents’ recorded life estate interests in the property. As a result, the parents did not execute the 2007 mortgage. In 2009, IndyMac filed an action to foreclose the 2007 mortgage after Quinn defaulted. The mortgage was subsequently assigned to OCWEN.

The issue presented was whether OCWEN’s 2007 mortgage lien took priority over the parents’ earlier recorded life estate interests in the property.

A group of investors are questioning the legality of Gloucester County's vacant property registration program.

Two entities that purchase liens on tax delinquent properties are suing four towns and the company that administers the registry.

Two years ago, the county partnered with Community Champions Corp. to establish a database of abandoned and vacant properties in an effort to hold owners of properties -- or mortgage holders -- accountable for upkeep of those sites. Many communities have seen vacant homes fall into disrepair in the wake of the nation's mortgage foreclosure crisis.

The plaintiffs, operating under the names Empire TF4 Jersey Holdings, LLC, Empire TF6 New Jersey Holdings, LLC, and Empire TF5 Jersey Holdings, all of the same New York City address, and Chickadee Investments, in Brick, argue that the program is unconstitutional, illegally targets owners working to get properties back on the tax rolls and charges unreasonable fees.

These investors buy municipal tax sale certificates, which are the liens on tax delinquent properties. These certificates can earn as much as 18 percent interest. When holders of these certificates foreclose on a property in order to take ownership, towns with vacant property registries have required them to pay registration fees so that they can sell the properties to a new owner, the plaintiffs state.

From Gloucester County NJ.com. Read the full article here.

Toms River recently introduced an ordinance that would require a homeowner to obtain inspections and make repairs (if required) prior to a sale of their property. The homeowner would be required to obtain a "Continuing Certificate of Occupancy" in order to close and pay a $100 fee.

The ordinance would require a physical inspection of the property and a search of township records to verify the property is in compliance with all applicable codes. A seller would apply for a CCO at least 21 days prior to closing and the town would have 14 days to inspect and either provide a report of violations or grant the CCO. Several inspectors would be hired to carry out the ordinance.

Commercial property and abandoned homes in need of repair would likely be exempted.

The measure was tabled, for now, due to objections from residents who feared the costs and delays associated with its implementation.

For more on this story, visit the Asbury Park Press website here.

On June 6, 2017, the New Jersey Appellate Division was asked to determine whether a lender's assignee that takes possession of a condominium unit when the owner/mortgagor has defaulted on the loan, and thereafter winterizes the unit and changes the locks, is considered a “mortgagee in possession” of that unit, and therefore responsible for the payment of condominium fees and assessments.

The court concluded that those discrete actions are not sufficient to render the lender's assignee a mortgagee in possession of the unit and offered guidance as to what specifically constitutes a "mortgage in possession."

You can read the decision here.

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled on April 3, 2017 that an attorney may void a real estate contract on behalf of a client within the three day attorney review period by sending a "fax, e-mail, personal delivery, or overnight mail with proof of delivery." The ruling updates a 1983 rule which states contracts can only be voided by "certified mail, telegram or personal delivery." The Court's opinion was that the notice by telegram is obsolete and that what is most important is that the party receives notice, not the method of delivery.

Good to see that in 2017 we are finally getting around to allowing notifications with the new state-of-the-art technology known as the Facsimile Machine.

From the Court's ruling:

Therefore, notice of disapproval of a real estate contract
may be transmitted by fax, e-mail, personal delivery, or
overnight mail with proof of delivery. Notice by overnight mail
will be effective upon mailing. The attorney-review period
within which this notice must be sent remains three business
days. We also commend this matter to the Real Estate Commission
for consideration of amendments to N.J.A.C. 11:5-6.2(g)
consistent with our holding. Finally, we recognize that the
Court may need to modify the attorney-review clause again in the
future. Bar Ass’n, supra, 93 N.J. at 474.

For the full syllabus, see http://judiciary.state.nj.us/opinions/supreme/a_65_15.pdf

A bill proposed in Trenton (No. A4305) would require soil testing to determine lead content prior to certain home sales.

Excerpt from the Statement on the bill:

This bill requires that sales contracts for individual lots of residential property include a requirement for the seller to conduct a soil test to determine lead content. The requirement only applies to the sale of individual lots of at least 2,500 square feet of pervious outdoor space, and so long as the seller is not a board of education, county, municipality, or other agency derived thereunder. For properties under this bill's jurisdiction, closing of title on the sale shall not occur unless the buyer and seller each have received and signed either (1) a copy of the soil test results, (2) a certification that the soil test results have been delivered to a certified soil testing laboratory, and results are pending, or (3) a certification that the buyer is opting out of soil lead testing.

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