[HISTORY: Adopted by the Mayor and Council of the Borough of Chester 4-3-1980 as Sec. 8-2 of the 1980 Code. Amendments noted where applicable.]
It is hereby found and declared that the existence or occupancy of any building or buildings or parts thereof, in the borough which are so old, dilapidated, or have become so out of repair as to be dangerous, unsafe, unsanitary, or otherwise unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use, are inimical to the welfare and dangerous and injurious to the health and safety of the inhabitants of the borough.
A public necessity exists for the repair, closing, or demolition of such building or buildings, or parts thereof.
Pursuant to the provisions of Sections 40:48-2.3 et seq. of the Revised Statutes of New Jersey, the Mayor and Borough Council may adopt an ordinance for the repair, closing or demolition of such building or buildings.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- Any building or structure, or part thereof, whether used for human habitation or otherwise, and includes any outhouses and appurtenances belonging thereto or usually enjoyed therewith.
- GOVERNING BODY
- The Mayor and Borough Council of the Borough of Chester.
- The holder or holders of the title in fee simple.
- PARTIES IN INTEREST
- All individuals, associations and corporations who have interests of record in a building and any who are in actual possession thereof.
- PUBLIC AUTHORITY
- Any housing authority or any official or branch of the government of the borough relating to health, fire, building regulations, or to other activities concerning buildings in the borough.
- PUBLIC OFFICER
- The officer or officers authorized under this chapter to exercise the powers set forth in this chapter; the Construction Code Official.
The Construction Code Official is hereby designated and otherwise appointed by law to exercise the powers set forth in this chapter. In the event that the Construction Code Official is unable to act, then any member of the committee may act in his place instead. The Mayor and Council of the borough may from time to time, by resolution, designate any other person or persons to act in the place of the Construction Code Official.
Whenever it shall be found that there exists in the borough buildings which are unfit for human habitation, or occupancy, or use, due to dilapidation, disrepair, structural defects, increasing the hazards of fire, accidents or other calamities, lack of adequate ventilation, light or sanitary facilities, or due to other conditions rendering such buildings unsafe or unsanitary and dangerous or detrimental to the health or safety or otherwise inimical to the welfare of the residents, the public officer shall, upon the filing of a petition by a public authority, or by at least five residents of the borough, charging that any building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy, or use, or it it shall appear to such public officer (on his motion) that any building is unfit for human habitation, or occupancy, or use, the public officer shall make a preliminary investigation or cause such preliminary investigation to be made concerning the basis for such charges.
Buildings shall be considered unfit for human habitation, or occupancy, or use, within the meaning of § 97-4 hereof when one or more of the following conditions are found to exist:
Condition of structure. The condition of the structure is such as to make it unsafe or unsanitary through the presence of serious safety hazards resulting from the need for major repairs to roof, walls, ceilings, floors, or stairs, or through the presence of serious health hazards resulting from continuous dampness or exposure, brought about by neglect or dilapidation.
Water supply. Lack of potable running water within each dwelling or lack of hot water facilities available to each dwelling.
Sewerage system. No connection between plumbing fixtures and adequate sewage disposal system.
Toilet facilities. No flush toilet, fit for use, in each building.
Kitchen facilities. Lack of permanent, safe, and reasonable efficient kitchen facilities within each unit, including sink with running water and provisions for a cooking stove.
Bath facilities. No bath tub or shower, fit for use, in each dwelling.
Lighting facilities. Building inadequately wired for electricity.
Heating facilities. Heating facilities inadequate or unsafe.
Light and ventilation. Living room, bedroom or kitchen with no windows or with windows opening on an air shaft, or toilet or bathroom without adequate ventilation.
If a preliminary investigation shall disclose to the public officer a basis for the charges filed, he shall issue and cause to be served upon the owner of the parties in interest in such building a complaint stating the charges in that respect. The complaint shall also contain a notice that a hearing will be held before him at a place therein fixed not less than 10 days nor more than 30 days after the serving of the complaint.
The owner and parties in interest shall have the right to file an answer to the complaint and to appear in person, by counsel or otherwise, and give testimony at the time and place fixed in the complaint.
The rules of evidence prevailing in courts of law or equity shall not be controlling in hearings before the public officer.
The public officer may determine that a building is unfit for human habitation, or 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 the borough, such conditions may include, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, defects increasing the hazards of fire, accidents or other calamities; lack of adequate ventilation, light or sanitary facilities; dilapidation; disrepair, structural defects, uncleanliness and the conditions set forth in §§ 97-4 and 97-5 of this chapter.
When, after such notice and hearing, the public officer determines that the building under consideration is unfit for human habitation, or 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 thereof, and the parties in interest, an order, as follows:
Requiring the repair, alteration, or improvement of the building to be made by the owner, within a reasonable time, which shall in no event exceed 90 days from the order, which time shall be set forth in the order, or, at the option of the owner, to vacate or have the building vacated and closed within the time set forth in the order.
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 and the owner fails to repair, alter, or improve the building within the time specified in the order, then the owner shall be required to remove or demolish the building within the time to be specified in the order.
If the owner fails to comply with an order to repair, alter, or improve, or at the option of the owner, to vacate and close the building, the public officer may cause such building to be repaired, altered, or improved or to be vacated and closed. The public officer shall cause to be posted on the main entrance of any building so closed a placard with the following words: "This building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use; the use or occupancy of this building is prohibited and unlawful."
If the owner fails to comply with an order to remove or demolish the building, the public officer may cause such building to be removed or demolished or any contract for the removal or demolition thereof after advertisement, and after receipt of bids, therefor.
The amount of the cost of the filing of legal papers, expert witnesses' fees, search fees and advertising charges, incurred in the course of any proceeding taken under this act determined in favor of the borough.
The amount of the cost of such repairs, alterations or vacating and closing, or removal or demolition, when done by the public officer, shall be a municipal lien against the real property upon which such cost was incurred. If the building is removed or demolished by the public officer, he shall sell the materials of such building and shall credit the proceeds of such as against the cost of the removal or demolition, and any balance remaining shall be deposited in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, by the public officer, shall be secured in such manner as may be directed by such court, and shall be disbursed by such court to the persons found to be entitled thereto by final order or decree of such court; provided however, that nothing in this chapter shall be construed to impair or limit in any way the power of the borough to define and declare nuisances and to cause their removal or abatement by summary proceedings or otherwise.
Complaints or orders issued by the public officer, 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 the same cannot be ascertained by the public officer in the exercise of reasonable diligence, and the public officer 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 each week for two successive weeks in a newspaper printed and published in the County of Morris. A copy of such complaint or order shall be posted in a conspicuous place on the premises affected by the complaint or order. A copy of such complaint or order shall be duly recorded or lodged for record with the County Clerk of Morris County.
Any person affected by an order issued by the public officer may petition the Chancery Division, Superior Court, for relief in accordance with Chapter 112, P.L. 1942, R.S. Cum Supp. 40:48-2.3 et seq.
The remedies hereby provided shall be exclusive remedies and no person affected by an order of the public officer shall be entitled to recover any damage for action taken pursuant to any order of the public officer or because of noncompliance by such person with any order of the public officer.
In addition to the powers herein granted to the public officer, he shall also have the following powers:
To investigate the building conditions in the borough in order to determine which buildings therein are unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use.
To administer oaths, affirmations, examine witnesses and receive evidence.
To enter upon premises for the purpose of making examinations, provided that such entries shall be made in such manner as cause the least possible inconvenience to the person in possession.
To appoint and fix the duties of such officers, agents and employees as he deems necessary to carry out the purpose of this chapter.
To delegate any of his functions and powers under this chapter to such officials and agents as he may designate.
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to abrogate or impair the powers of the court, or of any department, to enforce any provisions of its charter or its ordinances or regulations, nor to prevent or punish violations thereof; and the powers conferred by this chapter shall be in addition and supplemental to the powers, conferred by any other law or ordinance.
Every building which shall have been damaged by fire or other cause so as to be dangerous by reason of the bad condition of walls, floors, construction or otherwise, shall be held to be unsafe and the public officer, besides proceeding as hereinabove provided, shall also fix a notice of the dangerous character of the structure to a conspicuous place on the exterior of the building.
The imposition of the fine or imprisonment for a violation of this chapter shall not be construed in any manner affecting the enforcement of the other provisions hereof.
Any person convicted of a violation of any of the provisions hereof by unlawfully removing any notice affixed to any building, or refusing to vacate any building, structure or premises or part thereof when lawfully ordered to vacate the same, shall, upon conviction, be liable to the penalty stated in Chapter 1, General Provisions, Article III, General Penalty.