Measure was Inspired by Recent Thefts in Palmyra
Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Herb Conaway, Jr., M.D. and Connie Wagner that would require anyone licensed to conduct property assessments or reevaluations to undergo a criminal history background check was approved 74-0-1 by the full Assembly on Monday.
The legislation (A-3572) was prompted by an incident this summer in Singleton and Conaway's 7th district town of Palmyra where an employee with a firm contracted by the town to conduct home reevaluations was charged with stealing prescription medications from two residences.
"Most municipalities and the companies they contract with to conduct property assessments take their jobs very seriously, but absent a background check, there's no real way to gauge a prospective employee's true character," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "This move will help protect homeowners while also helping to shield towns and contractors from the burden of hiring someone who is a liability."
"Whether it's a requested reassessment or a mandatory one initiated by a town, homeowners should have the peace of mind of knowing that the individual inspecting their house is a professional who can be trusted," said Conaway (D-Burlington). "Property assessments are an essential function that must be done with the highest regard for the law and other people's personal property."
Specifically, the bill would require home inspectors, municipal code officials, subcode officials, technical assistants, and individuals engaged in the business of valuing and revaluing real property for a municipality to submit to a criminal history background check.
"Sadly, in this day and age, this is a safeguard that probably should have been in place for some time," said Wagner (D-Bergen/Passaic). "People should always be vigilant when letting a stranger into their home, but hopefully this will help cut down on the possibility of violations."
The applicant for licensure will be required to submit their name and address to the Division of Consumer Affairs and submit to fingerprinting. The bill would authorize the state agencies that license or appoint these individuals to exchange fingerprint data with and receive criminal history record information from the State Bureau of Identification in the Division of State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation consistent with applicable state and federal laws, rules and regulations.
The person or their employer would bear the cost for the criminal history record background check, including all costs of administering and processing the check. Under the bill, Home Inspection Advisory Committee will determine whether an applicant will be allowed to, or prevented from, engaging in work as a home inspector based upon the applicant's criminal history record background check.