Muoio, Vainieri Huttle & Gusciora Bill to Address "Phantom Landlords" Trend by Notifying Property Owners of Changes to Electric Public Utility Account Approved by Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) - An Assembly panel on Thursday released legislation that would require electric public utility to notify property owner any time an account on an owner's property is opened, closed, transferred or altered. 

"A trend has begun taking place where a person poses as the owner of a vacant property, and then rents that property to an unsuspecting tenant," said Muoio (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). "By the time the tenant realizes the property was never actually available for rent, they have lost their security deposit and any additional money paid to the individual posing as a landlord. When a new tenant attempts to place utilities in their name, a red flag should rise for the utility company and the legitimate owners of the building must be notified."

The bill (A-4290) requires an electric public utility to notify a property owner by electronic mail, postal mail, or telephone, as determined by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, any time an account for electric public utility service on the owner's property is opened, closed, transferred, or altered.

"Building owners should approve or be notified if there is any change to a utility service in their building," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "This will also help to minimize the impact to an individual who believes they are legitimately renting a place by having the utility company contact the property's actual owner at the time a request is made for utility service in the property." 

"This is common sense legislation that will hopefully help to deter fraudulent rental transactions to unsuspecting renters," said Gusciora (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). "With immediate notification of a change requested to their service, building owners can take the actions necessary to protect their building, notify authorities or inform the renter."

The bill was released by the Assembly Telecommunications Committee and now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.