By David Levinsky - www.phillyburbs.com
TRENTON — Legislation to make home inspectors undergo criminal background checks was advanced Thursday by the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee.
The bill was drafted last year by Assemblymen Troy Singleton, D-7th of Palmyra, and Herb Conaway, D-7th of Delanco, in response to a case in Palmyra in which an inspector for a firm hired to perform a borough-wide revaluation was charged with stealing prescription medication from two homes.
Under the lawmakers’ proposal, all home inspectors, municipal code officials, subcode officials, technical assistants and inspectors hired to value or revalue properties for municipalities would have to submit to a criminal background check by the New Jersey State Police and FBI.
A state advisory committee would determine what offenses would disqualify an applicant from performing inspections.
The measure was released by the Housing and Local Government Committee by a 5-0 vote. Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, R-25th of Morris, abstained after expressing concerns that requiring background checks of inspectors could cause businesses or municipalities to be sued for discrimination.
Assemblyman Jerry Green, D-22nd of Plainfield, who chairs the Housing and Local Government Committee, promised that the measure would be reviewed by the state Attorney General’s Office to make sure there are no legal risks.
The two Democrats’ bill received support by Assemblyman Ronald Dancer, R-13th of Plumsted, who also proposed mandating background checks on inspectors after learning of the Palmyra case.
Sen. Diane Allen, R-7th of Edgewater Park, has introduced an identical measure in the state Senate.
The inspector in Palmyra was employed by Professional Property Appraisers in Delran. He was immediately fired by the company after he was charged with stealing prescription medications from homes on Highland Avenue and East Henry Street in June and July.
The employee accused of stealing the drugs had no previous criminal history in New Jersey, according to available court records.