The plaintiff, Bergen County Welfare Board, claims a lien on certain real property as to which Katherine Naacke, the nominal defendant, once had title. The plaintiff seeks a writ of execution on the analogy of a "lien by judgment" as provided in N.J.S.A. 44:7-14.
Mrs. Naacke, having applied for old age assistance from the plaintiff, executed an "Agreement to Reimburse" on April 1, 1938. The defendant owned the premises in question at that time. From the date of the agreement until her death on November 15, 1959, she continued to receive the welfare board's financial aid notwithstanding that the property went out of her ownership on August 22, 1952. On that date it was conveyed by her to one Nicolo Bati. The latter conveyed to the present owner, Joseph Perillo, in 1956.
Mr. Perillo, admittedly a bona fide purchaser for value, resists the lien claim on several grounds.
First, he contends that no lien attached until the welfare board, on November 30, 1959, filed the certificate of assistance
mentioned in N.J.S.A. 44:7-15. Such an interdependence was not established by the language of the statutory law in its 1938 form. The provision for a lien was afforded by N.J.S.A. 44:7-14 which then made a pledge of the recipient's real property a condition to granting assistance
"* * * and the total amount of the assistance so granted shall become a lien upon any lands in the ownership of such person, which lien shall have priority over all unrecorded encumbrances."
The so-called certificate of assistance, specified in N.J.S.A. 44:7-15, has nothing to do with generating a realty lien. The certificate (showing the amount of assistance advanced) becomes a "legal claim," when filed, with the force and effect of a personal judgment.
The 1938 version of N.J.S.A. 44:7-14 was before the court in Camden County Welfare Bd. v. Federal Dep. Ins. Co. , 1 N.J. Super. 532 (Ch. Div. 1948). Judge (now Justice) Haneman held in that case that the welfare board lien attached at the moment the reimbursement agreement was executed. He found the Legislature to have intended the creation of a lien without the necessity of filing the agreement or a notice thereof in any public office. The subsequent amendment of N.J.S.A. 44:7-14 (in 1945), to require filing, is academic in the present instance because the agreement was in fact filed in the office of the Bergen County Clerk on May 6, 1938.
The welfare board was not simply an assignee of the Naacke assets as Mr. Perillo argues -- it was a lienor from the instant of its first advance.
It is the Perillo contention that even though this is so, the lien could not survive the conveyance to Mr. Bati so as to secure advances thereafter made to Mrs. Naacke. The rationale in Camden does not help here because that real estate remained in the ...