BROKEN WINDOWS MATTER

Since the 1990’s when then New York City Mayor Giuliani got rid of the squeegee people in New York City, many municipalities have vigorously pursued code enforcement matters.  Since the Honorable John F. McKeon was elected mayor in 1998, The Township of West Orange has pursued these cases with a cadre of young and talented lawyers at Trenk, DiPasquale, Della Fera & Sodono, P.C.

Most recently, these cases have led to certain appeals and affirmances before the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County.  Specifically, two trial courts in November, 2016 and January 2017 have affirmed fines in excess of $35,000 concerning peeling paint, exterior mildew, and broken fences.  In both cases, the property owner argued that the Township Ordinances were “unconstitutionally vague” and that the fines imposed “shocked the conscience” as excessive.  Both claims were rejected.

Property maintenance codes are designed to ensure that standards of maintenance and norms are maintained.  When one property is allowed to become dilapidated or unkept, an entire neighborhood is directly impacted.   Additionally, a property that is not maintained, including a failure to cut the lawn, can become a breeding ground for vermin and other health hazards.

Next, if someone was looking for a property to burglarize or vandalize, an unkept property is probably a good candidate because it is likely the property is abandoned.

Next, when properties in the neighborhood become run down, it is highly likely that any potential buyer will devalue the neighboring properties or refuse to live near a dilapidated property.  Thus, property values decline.

Plain and simple, quality of life matters and requires vigilance in maintaining properties.

Fixing peeling paint, picking up garbage and repairing fences are not overly expensive ventures.  If the property owner involved had immediately abated the violations by investing in their property, then it is likely that the fines would have been negligible or non-existent.  However, when a property owner is convicted of ten (10) violations during a thirteen (13) year period, it becomes clear that that property owner’s willfulness requires punishment and a need to deter others from similar conduct.

Plain and simple, if you are going to own real property, maintain it.  It affects not only you as an owner, but everyone around you and the entire community.  The result of not maintaining your property is substantial.  The attorneys at Trenk DiPasquale understand the ramifications both from a governmental and property owner prospective.  Feel free to contact the firm if you are faced with property maintenance violations or your neighbor fails to take care of their property.

by George P. Cornell, Esq.
973-243-8600

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BAD FACTS (again) CREATE MISLEADING LAW

It is generally acknowledged that Chapter 13 Plans are rarely successful. Even if a Plan is confirmed, it is rarely consummated. The nitty-gritty of what happens in a post-confirmation conversion was considered by the United States Supreme Court in the recent decision of Harris v. Viegelahn, 575 U.S. — (May 18, 2015). As someone who plays in these trenches, I can assure you that the facts at issue in Harris are unlikely to be repeated and, thus, the decision is of limited utility. However, since it is a Supreme Court decision, it merits our attention nonetheless. Continue reading

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CREDITORS BEWARE: FDCPA LIABILITY ATTACHED TO FILING A PROOF OF CLAIM

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act imposes liability on the debt collector who uses false, deceptive, or unfair debt collection practices.  To achieve its goal, the FDCPA grants consumers a private right of action against debt collectors engaging in such practices.  But does the FDCPA apply to debt collection in bankruptcy proceedings when a creditor’s only action is that it files a Proof of Claim?  By declining to review LVNV Funding, LLC v. Crawford, the U.S. Supreme Court seemingly says that it does. Continue reading

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BEWARE OF FEDERAL TAX LIENS ON PERSONAL PROPERTY OF THE BANKRUPTCY ESTATE

     Every day, trustees and their professionals seek to liquidate assets of a bankruptcy estate for the benefit of the estate and its creditors. When analyzing a potential sale of property of the estate, title and/or UCC searches may reveal certain encumbrances. Bankruptcy practitioners may assume that if searches do not reveal liens on the personal property to be sold, any undisclosed lien is unperfected and the property can be sold free and clear of any such lien. However, to the extent a federal tax lien does not appear on such search results (e.g., UCC lien searches), practitioners must be diligent in investigating if such liens exist. Section 545(2) of the Bankruptcy Code prohibits a trustee from using his/her avoidance powers to avoid such liens. Unbeknownst to a trustee/seller, a federal tax lien may erode potential equity in the property. Continue reading

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Maternity Leave Constitutes Continued Employment For Tenure Purposes

     In a recent decision by the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, the Court considered for the first time whether an employee whose service was interrupted by maternity leave could be denied tenure as a result. Continue reading

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PASS THE TURKEY, NOT YOUR CHECKBOOK

     Whenever I learn of stories of families torn apart by inter-family financial transactions, I wonder what it would be like to be at THEIR Thanksgiving table. A headline last week concerning the recent drama between Jack Johnson, an extremely successful major league hockey player, and his family, reignited this same question. Johnson gave his parents a power of attorney to engage in financial transactions with his money and in his name. This seemingly innocent decision proved extremely costly, because (as you can expect) they lost all of his money. Continue reading

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Finding the “Magic Words”: 3 Tips for Preparing an Arbitration Agreement

     For attorneys drafting agreements compelling arbitration of disputes, here is some good news: the New Jersey Supreme Court recently considered whether there are “magic words” that would ensure that such provisions are enforceable. What are these “magic words” you ask? It turns out, there are none. But that doesn’t mean attorneys drafting arbitration agreements can’t learn something from the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Atalese v. U.S. Legal Services Group, L.P., 219 N.J. 430 (2014). Continue reading

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