Township of Independence, NJ
Warren County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Committee of the Township of Independence 5-5-1945 (Ch. 75 of the 1984 Code); amended in its entirety at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. I). Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Property Maintenance — See Ch. 300.

§ 160-1 Legislative finding; construal of provisions.

A. 
It is hereby found and declared that the existence and occupation of buildings in the Township of Independence which are unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use are inimical to the welfare and dangerous and injurious to the health and safety of the residents of the Township of Independence, and a public necessity exists for the repair, closing or demolition of such buildings.
B. 
The provisions of this chapter are meant to complement the provisions as set forth in Chapter 300, Property Maintenance, of the Code. In the event of a conflict or overlap of any of the provisions of this chapter with that chapter, the provisions of Chapter 300 will govern and supersede any areas of inconsistency.

§ 160-2 Authority regarding repair or demolition.

Whenever the proper officials of the Township of Independence designated herein find that there exists in the Township of Independence a building or buildings unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use due to dilapidation, defects increasing the hazards of fire, accident or other calamities, lack of ventilation, light or sanitary facilities, or due to other conditions rendering such buildings unsafe or unsanitary or dangerous or detrimental to the health or safety or otherwise inimical to the welfare of the residents of the Township of Independence, the official designated shall exercise the power vested under this chapter and under the law of the State of New Jersey to repair, close or demolish said building or buildings in the manner set forth in this chapter.

§ 160-3 Definitions.

As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
BUILDING
Any building or structure or part thereof used and occupied for human habitation, occupancy or use or intended to be so used, and includes any outhouses and appurtenances belonging thereto or usually enjoyed therewith.
CONSTRUCTION OFFICIAL
The officer or officers authorized under this chapter to exercise the powers set forth in this chapter.
[Amended 12-10-1984 by Ord. No. 84-11]
GOVERNING BODY
The Township Committee of the Township of Independence.
OWNER
The holder of the title in fee simple.
PARTIES IN INTEREST
All individuals, associations or corporations who have interests of record in a building and any who are in possession thereof.

§ 160-4 Procedure for repair or demolition.

[Amended 12-10-1984 by Ord. No. 84-11]
A. 
Whenever a petition is filed with the Construction Official by the Building Subcode Official, Health Inspector or any other officer in charge of any department of the municipality regarding the health, fire, building regulations or activities concerning buildings in the Township of Independence, or by at least five residents of the Township, charging that any building or buildings in the Township of Independence is unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use, the Construction Official shall, if preliminary investigation discloses a basis for such charge or charges, issue and cause to be served upon the owner or the parties in interest in such building or buildings a complaint stating the charges in that respect and containing a notice that a hearing will be held before said Construction Official or his designated agent at a place set forth in said notice and at a time that shall not be less than seven days nor more than 30 days after the serving of said complaint. The owner and parties in interest shall be given the right to file an answer to the complaint and to appear in person or otherwise and give testimony at the time and place fixed in the complaint. The Construction Official shall not be bound by the rules of evidence prevailing in courts of law or equity.
B. 
After notice and hearing, if said Construction Official determines that the building or buildings under consideration are unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use, he shall state in writing his findings of fact in support of such determination and shall issue and cause to be served upon the owner and parties in interest an order requiring the owner within a certain time to repair, alter or improve said buildings to render it fit for human habitation, occupancy or use or, at the option of the owner, to vacate and close the buildings as a human habitation, occupancy or use. If the repair, alteration or improvement cannot be made at a reasonable cost in relation to the value of the building, or if the building is in such a condition as to make it dangerous to the health and safety of persons on or near the premises, said order may require the owner within the time specified in the order to remove or demolish said building. For the purpose of determining what may be reasonable for such purpose, the percentage is fixed at 50% of the value of the building.
C. 
If the owner shall fail to comply with the order to repair, alter or improve or, at the option of the owner, to vacate and close the building, the Construction Official may cause said building to be repaired, altered or improved or to be vacated and closed, and the said Construction Official may cause to be posted on the main entrance of the building so closed, a placard with the following words: "This building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use; the use or occupation of this building is prohibited and unlawful."
D. 
If the owner fails to comply with an order to remove or demolish the building, the Construction Official may cause such building to be removed or demolished or make contract for the removal or demolition thereof after advertisement for, and receipt of, bids therefor. The amount of the cost of filing legal papers, expert witness fees, search fees and advertising charges incurred in the course of any proceeding taken under this chapter as determined in favor of the Township and such cost of such repairs, alterations or improvements for vacating and closing, or removal and demolition, if any, or the amount of the balance thereof remaining after deduction of the sum, if any, realized from the sale of materials derived from such building or from any contract for removal or demolition thereof, shall be a municipal lien against the real property upon which such cost was incurred. If the building is removed or demolished by the Construction Official, he shall sell the materials of such building. There shall be credited against the cost of removal or demolition thereof, including the clearance and, if necessary, leveling of the site, with the proceeds of any sale of such materials or any sum derived from any contract for the removal or demolition of the building. If there are no such credit or if the sum total of such costs exceeds the total of such credits, a detailed statement of the aforesaid costs and the amount so do shall be filed with the Municipal Tax Assessor or other custodian of the records of tax liens and a copy thereof shall be forthwith forwarded to the owner by certified mail. If the total of the credits exceeds such costs, the balance remaining shall be deposited in the Superior Court by the Construction Official, and shall be secured in such manner as may be directed by such court, and shall be disbursed according to the order or judgment of the court to the persons found to be entitled thereto by the final order or judgment of such court. Any owner or party in interest may, within 30 days from the date of the filing of the lien certificate, proceed in a summary manner in the Superior Court to contest the reasonableness of the amount or the accuracy of the costs set forth in the municipal lien certificate.

§ 160-5 Conditions constituting unfitness.

[Amended 12-10-1984 by Ord. No. 84-11]
The Construction Official may determine that a building is unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use if he finds that conditions exist in such building which are dangerous or injurious to the health or safety of the occupants of such building, the occupants of neighboring buildings or other residents of such municipality, and such conditions may include but shall not be limited to the following: defects therein increasing the hazards of fire, accident or other calamities; lack of adequate ventilation, light or sanitary facilities; dilapidation; disrepair, structural defects; uncleanliness; failure to have included in said building running water or inside toilet facilities.

§ 160-6 Service of complaint or order.

[Amended 12-10-1984 by Ord. No. 84-11]
A complaint or order issued by the Construction Official pursuant to this chapter shall be served upon persons either personally or by registered mail, but if the whereabouts of such persons is unknown and cannot be ascertained by the Construction Official in the exercise of reasonable diligence, and the Construction Official shall make an affidavit to that effect, then the serving of such complaint or order upon such persons may be made by publishing the same once in a newspaper printed and published in the municipality. A copy of such complaint or order shall be posted in a conspicuous place on the premises affected, and a copy shall be recorded or lodged for record with the Clerk of the County of Warren.

§ 160-7 Buildings posing an immediate danger.

If an actual and immediate danger to life is posed by the threatened collapse of any fire-damaged or other structurally unsafe building, the Construction Official may, after taking such measures as may be necessary to make such building temporarily safe, seek a judgment in summary proceedings for the demolition thereof.

§ 160-8 Construal of provisions.

Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to impair or limit in any way the power of the Township to define and declare nuisances and to cause their removal or abatement, by summary proceedings or otherwise, nor is anything in this chapter intended to limit the authority of the enforcing agency or Construction Official under the State Uniform Construction Code Act (N.J.S.A. 52:27D-119 et seq.) or any rules or regulations adopted thereunder.

§ 160-9 Powers of Construction Official.

[Amended 12-10-1984 by Ord. No. 84-11]
The Construction Official or other officials designated under this chapter may exercise such powers as may be necessary or convenient to carry out and effectuate the purposes and provisions of this chapter, including but not limited to the following powers, in addition to the others herein granted:
A. 
To investigate the building conditions in the municipality in order to determine which buildings therein are unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use.
B. 
To administer oaths, affirmations, examine witnesses and receive evidence.
C. 
To enter upon premises for the purpose of making examinations, provided that such entry is made in such manner as to cause the least possible inconvenience to the persons in possession.
D. 
To appoint and fix the duties of such officers, agents and employees as he deems necessary to carry out the purpose of this chapter.
E. 
To delegate any of his functions and powers under this chapter to such officers and agents as he may designate.