If You Are Shoulder Surfing Your Job Applicant’s Facebook Page, Read On…


New Jersey is known as a state that is as friendly to its employee and job applicant inhabitants as the state is generally to its resident consumers.  Recent and pending restrictions further cement the state reputation by added more protections.  New Jersey employers and hiring managers need to be aware of the rapidly changing landscape.


For example, effective on December 1, 2014, New Jersey enacted social media password protection legislation.  This law forbids employers from asking job applicants to “provide or disclose any username or password, or in any way provide the employer access to, a personal account through an electronic communications device.” The law does not explicitly mention “shoulder surfing” — the practice of asking the interviewee to log into a social media account as the interviewer watches, but the language of the law hints that shoulder surfing — as well as other actions to gain more insight into an applicant’s private social media files — may be a violation of the law, resulting in penalties and civil liability.


Additionally, a new law that just took effect last month limits when employers may ask applicants about their criminal backgrounds.  Most employers are no longer permitted to ask about an applicant’s criminal record until after the employer has performed an interview and selected the applicant.  This includes job application forms.  Employers may inquire about the applicant’s criminal record immediately prior to making a formal offer, but not before.  Even then, there are certain restrictions for convictions over 5 years old.


Finally, employers should be aware there is movement in both the state and federal legislatures to restrict credit checks on potential applicants.  A bill currently in the New Jersey Assembly would prohibit credit checks except where the employee’s credit history is “an established bona fide occupational requirement of a particular position or employment classification.”  The bill has not yet passed, but it’s something to watch.


As seen above, major changes to New Jersey employment law have taken effect in just the last six months, with more changes possible on the horizon.  It is prudent for employers and hiring managers to be adequately informed about the rapidly changing practices in employment law in New Jersey and nationwide.


As experts in business law, Bergmann & Good is available to provide the consultation and support that hiring managers and employers need to navigate today’s business environment.

But I Have a Realtor, Do I Really Need An Attorney?


Every real estate transaction is different and the simple answer is: it depends. For example, in South Jersey, real estate transactions are conducted much differently than in North Jersey. So the first question is, where is the property located? If the Seller is a Giants or Jets fan, you should probably have an attorney. Eagles fans, or in other words, properties located below New Jersey Route 195 are divided on the need for representation. So for you Eagles fans out there, let’s take a look at the options:

For the Buyers:
-Is the property a distress, bank owned or short sale?
-Is the property part of an estate sale?
-Is it a commercial property?
-Is there something about the property that leaves you uneasy such as potential structural issues?
-Is it a shore property with new FEMA maps under consideration or an area you simply are not familiar with?
-Are you an out-of-town buyer?

For the Sellers:
-Are you selling a property in distress?
-Are you selling a property left to you in an estate?
-Is your co-owner no longer on speaking terms with you?
-Do you know something about the property that you are unsure how to disclose?

It should become much clearer to you now when you should hire an attorney to close your real estate deal because if you answered yes to any of the above questions, then hiring an attorney to guide you through the process would be prudent. If none of those situations apply to you, then you are probably fine to use your Realtor’s knowledge and expertise to take you through to closing. As part of a Realtor’s New Jersey licensing education they are taught the real estate contracts used within the state, and New Jersey also provides you with a three-day “attorney review period” should you change your mind, and decide to hire counsel. New Jersey also requires continuing education courses for licensed Realtors and/or certifications on subjects such as ethics, buyer’s agency, distressed property sales, etc. These measures are in place to protect all parties, buyers, sellers as well as agents. Finally, if your Realtor is acting as a disclosed dual agent, and happens to be the agent that brought the Buyer to your sale (or vice versa), it is also a good idea to consider representation. The minimal fee an attorney charges for what is typically the largest transaction in a consumer’s life, is well worth the protection of hiring an advocate whose only duty of loyalty it to you.

But what if you are selling a distressed property and you decide you need counsel. Your neighbor’s nephew is an attorney and looking for business, so maybe you should just hire her – at a minimal fee – or better yet – she may do it for free!

Of course you can hire whomever you like, but remember if you think you need an attorney for your transaction, it is probably best to hire someone with experience in that particular area of law. I have seen relatively uneventful transactions turn into not only blown up deals, but litigation where “Aunt Nancy” the criminal attorney doing a favor for her nephew makes unreasonable changes to the contract pushing the seller to cancel the deal. Or worse, when “my friend the divorce attorney” puts together the sale of his long-time friend’s commercial property – and doesn’t properly address environmental issues resulting in years of litigation. A penny saved is not always a penny earned.

Hiring a real estate attorney when needed is a smart choice. Their mission is to negotiate to make this transaction come together in a peaceful manner that is fair and amenable to both sides. A real estate attorney takes over after the selling price and terms have been established by the Realtors in the contract and all parties have signed off. He will review the contract itself, negotiate repairs based on the home inspection report, and collaborate with the title company. He will also be with you at settlement along with your Realtor and usually your mortgage broker. Think of these people, all working for you and in your best interest.
Finally, hiring a real estate attorney can typically cost from $800 – $1,000 depending on the transaction. For the die hard bargain shoppers, we are probably not a good match and I most sincerely wish you all the best. Maybe things will go smoothly and maybe they won’t, but the purchase or sale of real estate is a significant transaction that I do not recommend you enter into without experienced guidance.

The New Jersey Security Deposit Act is Not a Suggestion – It’s The Law


Landlords know the importance of the security deposit, which is typically 1 and ½ times the monthly rent collected at the beginning of their tenancy and returned based upon the condition of the property when the tenants move out. However New Jersey has very specific requirements for handling security deposit funds.

For example, within 30 days of receiving the security deposit the landlord much notify a tenant in writing the name of the institution holding the funds. There are two places where a landlord may keep a deposit: in a Money Market Fund in compliance with the specific state regulations or an Interest- Bearing Bank Account. If they choose the latter, a landlord is required to write to the tenant annually and inform them of the amount of interest accrued as the accrued interest belongs to the tenant. If a landlord decides to move the security deposit to a different institution he or she is required to notify the tenant, in writing, within 30 days of doing so.

Additionally, if a landlord sells the property they must inform the tenant, in writing, within 30 days of the transfer of ownership. Once a tenant has moved out or their lease is terminated the security deposit must be returned within 30 days of either event, including all interest.

Security deposits may only be utilized by the landlord once a tenant has moved from the property and only if rent is outstanding and/or there is property damage above and beyond normal wear and tear. Any such deductions must be clearly itemized and sent to the tenant in writing within 30 days of the date they vacated the property.

A landlord’s failure to comply with these stringent regulations provides the tenant with powerful remedies. As a landlord, protect yourself and follow the rules.