New Jersey bill proposes to close property records

New Jersey Senate Bill S879 Protects Property Records Maintained by Tax Assessor from Public Disclosure is in its second reading in the state Senate and is criticized by open government advocates as a step backwards for public records. The opening text of the proposed bill states:

As amended by the committee, this bill would exempt from the definition of government record, and therefore from public access under P.L.2001, c.404, property record cards maintained by local tax assessors. The bill would allow a property owner, or the property owner’s designee, to have access to the property record card for the owner’s property directly from the municipal tax assessor.

Acceptance of the bill would change the status of real property records, closing access to the general public, journalists, private investigators and most anyone who previously had access. The Couirier News Online cites opponents of the bill and notes that it creates an exemption for real estate agents.

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