Charles Jones' Blog

Signature Information Solutions LLC has received a number of questions regarding Vacant Property Registration fees and whether they are a lien against real estate in New Jersey.  Signature has worked with title agents to remediate these charges if discovered.

We have a legal opinion from the Tax Collectors and Treasurers Association of New Jersey’s (TCTANJ) Counsel, Keith A. Bonchi, Esq. regarding this issue.  Essentially, Mr. Bonchi’s opinion maintains that the Vacant Property Registration fees are NOT a lien against property in New Jersey. Furthermore, it states unequivocally that municipalities should NOT advise attorneys and title companies that these fees are liens on real estate that must be paid in order to transfer title free and clear of liens.

This is being provided to help clarify some confusion regarding these fees and how they impact title transfers.

As always, title agents should contact their underwriters for further direction.

Note:  Mr. Bonchi’s legal opinion was presented to the TCTANJ and he does not represent Signature Information Solutions LLC.

The information provided is for informative purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice or a legal opinion. For legal advice, please consult an attorney.

Fred Burnett

Vice President, Operations


Like me, you may have found it difficult to watch some of the scenes broadcast from Texas as a result of Hurricane - and subsequently - Tropical Storm Harvey. While watching the storm and its aftermath, an important lesson is once again clear. Having flood insurance in place can be life changing in such situations.  However, you may be surprised to learn that flood coverage is not mandatory in some areas that were flooded by Harvey, and have been flooded there previously.

100-Year and 500-Year Flood Zones

Have you heard the terms “500 year flood” and “100 year flood” mentioned during the recent news coverage? I heard one broadcaster state that Houston suffered its “worst flood in 500 years” with Harvey. Unfortunately this description may promote a misunderstanding about flood zones and flood risk. Comments such as these can instill a false sense of security among the public who may think “after this one, my property won’t flood for another 500 years.”

What exactly are 100-year and 500-year flood zones?  The Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), otherwise known as the 100-year flood zone has a 1% chance of occurring annually.  If, when completing a flood hazard search, our results show a structure is located within the SFHA, we will certify that flood insurance is required by the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973.

However, since the 500-year flood zone has a 0.2% chance of occurring annually, flood insurance is NOT required for structures located within this zone per the SFHDF.

Not Mandatory Does Not Mean No Risk

The problem with a lack of mandatory requirement in the 500-year zone is that flood events in this zone happen with more frequency than the probability suggests. For example, in Harris County, Texas which is Houston’s home, the Cypress Creek experienced flooding in certain locations of a 500-year flood zone three times between 1994 and 1998! Harvey caused catastrophic flooding in some 500-year zones and many residents most likely did not have flood insurance since it was not required. The same problem also exists in the Special Flood Hazard Area (or 100-year flood zone) where floods happen much more frequently in certain areas. This crucial difference between these two flood zones has no doubt led to property owners unfortunately assuming that since flood insurance was not mandatory, their homes were not at risk.

The bottom line is that it is important for property owners to know their own area’s unique flood risk and history and to decide what is best for their own protection.

Have you discussed flood risk with your clients? If you have any questions about flood zones, please feel free to call us at 800-792-8888 and we will be happy to assist you.

The information provided is for informative purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice or a legal opinion. For legal advice, please consult an attorney.

Carl Weinberger

Manager, Geographic Services 


I want to provide some background concerning a question that we receive from customers regarding turn time for a New Jersey Franchise Tax Search, which identifies if a domestic or foreign corporation transacting business in New Jersey has actually paid its franchise taxes. Uncovering this information is important as unpaid franchise taxes constitute a lien on all of the corporation's property for a period of ten years, which is computed from the first day of the year in which the tax is due and payable. However, the lien is imposed on the first day of the year following the year in which the tax is due. Therefore, the accuracy and timeliness of this information is important to those involved in the business transaction.

If you are a customer of New Jersey Franchise Tax Searches, you may have experienced a turn time anywhere from one week to ten weeks. This turn time is not isolated to Signature.

Franchise tax data is supplied to us by the Division of Taxation at the State of New Jersey.  Once an order is placed with us, we perform some preliminary research to obtain information that we supply to the State with our request, in order to help facilitate getting the franchise tax data for our customer.

Once we request the data from the State, the State assigns the request to a tax auditor. The auditor must do more research in order to determine if any franchise taxes are outstanding. The timing of this part of the process can vary depending on work volume and priorities.

While our request is pending with the State, we keep an eye on the status and make inquiries if necessary. Sometimes a customer may question the data furnished by the State, or we may notice furnished information that could possibly be incorrect. We work with both the customer and the State and will refer our client to the Division of Taxation if needed.

While patience can be key, we do our best to make the Franchise Tax Search process as fast as possible for our customers. Do you have any questions about Franchise Tax Searches? We’d be happy to discuss them with you.

The information provided is for informative purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice or a legal opinion. For legal advice, please consult an attorney.

Mark McAteer

New Jersey Corporate Services Supervisor


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Charles Jones LLC is not a consumer reporting agency as such term is defined in the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 USC 1681 et seq. ("FCRA"). Charles Jones reports do not constitute consumer reports as such term is defined in the FCRA, and accordingly these reports may not be used to determine eligibility for credit, employment, tenant screening or for any other purpose provided for in the FCRA.