[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Council of the Township of Chester 12-6-2016 by Ord. No. 2016-12. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Uniform construction codes — See Ch. 78.
Fire prevention — See Ch. 97.
Nuisances — See Ch. 124
Housing standards — See Ch. 184.
Editor's Note: This ordinance also repealed former Ch. 73, Unfit Buildings, adopted 6-4-2003.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- ABANDONED PROPERTY
- Property that is determined to be abandoned pursuant to N.J.S.A 55:19-78et al.
- DANGEROUS STRUCTURES
- Any building, wall, or structure which is or may become dangerous to life, or health, or might tend to extend a conflagration.
The Township Administrator, Zoning Officer, or their designee, is hereby designated as the public officer to exercise the powers prescribed by this chapter.
For the purpose of this chapter, 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 or may become dangerous or injurious to the health or safety of the occupants of such building, the occupants of neighboring buildings or other residents of the Township of Chester. Such conditions may include the following, without limiting the generality of the foregoing:
Pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 21, Public Law 1946 (N.J.S.A. 40:49-5.1 et seq.), the New Jersey State Housing Code (1980 Revision), as approved by the Department of Community Affairs and filed in the Secretary of State's Office, is hereby accepted, adopted and established as a standard to be used as a guide in determining the fitness of a building for human habitation or occupancy or use.
Whenever a petition is filed with the public officer, Zoning Officer, or the Township Administrator by a public authority, as defined in N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.4, or by at least five residents of the municipality charging that any building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use as herein defined, or whenever it appears to the public officer, on his own motion, that any building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use, as herein defined, he shall, if his preliminary investigation discloses a basis for such charges, issue and cause to be served upon the owner of and parties in interest in such building a complaint stating the charges in that respect and containing a notice that:
A hearing will be held before the public officer or his designated agent at a place therein fixed not 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 place and time fixed in the complaints.
The rules of evidence prevailing in courts of law or equity shall not be controlling in the hearings.
If, after such notice and hearing, the public officer determines that the building under consideration is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use, as herein defined, 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 parties in interest an order requiring that:
The repair, alteration or improvement of the said building be made by the owner within a reasonable time, 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 said building within the time specified in the order, then the owner shall be required to remove or demolish the said building within a reasonable time as specified in the said order of removal.
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 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 occupation 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 may contract for the removal or demolition thereof after advertisement for and receipt of bids therefor.
The amount of:
The cost of filing of legal papers, expert witnesses' fees, search fees and advertising charges, incurred in the course of any proceeding taken under this chapter determined in favor of the municipality; and
Such cost of such repairs, alterations or improvements, or vacating and closing, or removal or 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 public officer, he shall sell the materials of such building. There shall be credited against the cost of the removal or demolition thereof, including the cost of clearing and, if necessary, leveling of the site, 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 credits 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 due 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 registered mail. If the total of the credits exceed such costs, the balance remaining shall be deposited in the Superior Court by the public officer, shall be secured in such manner as may be directed by such Court and shall be disbursed according to the 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.
If any actual and immediate danger to life is imposed by the threatened collapse of any fire-damaged or structurally unsafe building, the public officer 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.
Nothing in this section shall be construed to impair or limit in any way the power of the Township to define and declare nuisances to cause their removal or abatement, by summary proceedings or otherwise, nor is anything in this chapter intended to limit the authority of the Construction Code Official under the State Uniform Construction Code Act (N.J.S.A. 52:27D-119 et seq.) or any rules or regulations adopted thereunder.
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 said 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 in a newspaper printed and published in the County of Morris and circulated in the Township. A copy of such complaint or order shall be posted in a conspicuous place on premises affected by the complaint or order, and a copy of such complaint or order shall be duly recorded or lodged for record with the county recording officer of Morris County.
Pursuant to the provisions of the Public Laws of 2014, Chapter 35, a creditor filing a summons and complaint to foreclose a lien on a residential property that is vacant and abandoned, whether the filing of the summons and complaint is made before or after the determination that the property is vacant and abandoned, shall be responsible for the care, maintenance, security, and upkeep of the exterior of the residential property. This obligation applies whether the determination that the property is vacant and abandoned is made by the public officer pursuant to the provisions of this chapter or pursuant to the provisions of N.J.S.A. 2A:50-73, or otherwise.
If the public officer, or other authorized municipal official, determines that a creditor obligated to care, maintain, secure and keep up a vacant and abandoned property has failed to do so in violation of the provisions of this chapter, the public officer or other authorized municipal official shall issue a notice of violation to the creditor that has filed a summons and complaint to foreclose on the property in question. The notice shall require the person or entity to correct the violation within 30 days of receipt of the notice or within 10 days of receipt of the notice if the violation presents an imminent threat to public health and safety. The issuance of this notice shall constitute evidence that a property is vacant and abandoned for purposes of N.J.S.A. 2A:50-73.
An out-of-state creditor shall include the full name and contact information of the in-state representative or agent in the notice required to be provided to the Municipal Clerk pursuant to Subsection a(1) of N.J.S.A. 46:10B-51. An out-of-state creditor found by a court of competent jurisdiction to have violated this provision shall be subject to a fine of $2,500 for each day of the violation commencing on the day after the ten-day period set forth in Subsection a(1) of N.J.S.A. 46:10B-51 with respect to notifying the Municipal Clerk that an action to foreclose on the property has been filed.
Any person aggrieved by an order issued by a public officer under this chapter may, within 30 days after the posting and service of such order, bring an action for injunctive relief to restrain the public officer from carrying out the provisions of the order and for any other appropriate relief. The court may proceed in the action in a summary manner or otherwise. The remedy herein provided shall be exclusive, and no person affected by an order of the public officer shall be entitled to recover any damages for action taken pursuant thereto or because of noncompliance by any person with any order of the public officer.
The public officer is hereby authorized and empowered to exercise such powers as may be necessary or convenient to carry out and effectuate the purposes and provisions of this chapter, including the following, in addition to others herein granted:
To investigate the conditions of buildings in the Township of Chester in order to determine which buildings therein are unfit for human habitation.
To administer oaths and affirmations, examine witnesses and receive evidence.
To enter upon premises for the purpose of making examination, provided that such entries shall be made in such manner as to cause the least possible inconvenience to the persons in possession.
To appoint and fix the duties of such officers, agents and employees as he deems necessary to carry out the purposes of this chapter.
To delegate any of his functions and powers under this chapter to such officers and agents as he may designate.
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to abrogate or impair the power of the Township or any officer or 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 upon the Township by any other law or ordinance.
In the event any building or structure is removed or demolished pursuant to this chapter, because it is found to be dangerous to human life or the public welfare or because it constitutes a fire hazard, the Township Council, in addition to assessing the cost of such removal or demolition as a municipal lien against the premises, may enforce the payment of such assessment, together with interest, as a debt of the owner of the premises and may authorize the institution of an action at law for the collection thereof. The Superior Court shall have jurisdiction over any such action..
No person shall occupy as owner occupant or rent to another for occupancy any dwelling or dwelling unit for the purpose of living therein which does not conform to the provisions of the New Jersey State Housing Code (1980 Revision), established herein, which shall also be utilized as a standard to be used in determining whether a dwelling is safe, sanitary and fit for human habitation and rental.
The public officer is hereby authorized and directed to make inspections to determine the condition of dwellings, dwelling units, rooming units and premises located within the Township of Chester in order that he may perform the duty of safeguarding the health and safety of the occupants of the dwellings and of the general public. For the purpose of making such inspections, the public officer is hereby authorized to enter and examine and survey at all reasonable times all dwellings, dwelling units, rooming units and premises.
Whenever the public officer determines that there are reasonable grounds that there has been a violation of any provision of the New Jersey State Housing Code, he shall give notice of such alleged violation to the person or persons responsible therefor setting forth in detail a statement of the reasons and a reasonable time for the correction of the condition. Service of the notice shall be either made personally upon the owner or agent or by a copy thereof being sent by certified mail to his last known address or by any other method authorized or required by the laws of the State of New Jersey. Any person affected by any notice may request a hearing from the Township Administrator, Zoning Officer, or Public Officer and shall be granted the same within 15 days of request, provided that a written petition requesting the hearing and setting forth a brief statement of the grounds shall be served on the public officer and filed with the Office of the Township Administrator. The hearing shall be within 30 days of the date of the receipt of the request. At the hearing, the petitioner shall be given opportunity to be heard and to show why the notice should be modified or withdrawn. The Administrator, Zoning Officer, or Public Officer, after the hearing, shall sustain, modify or withdraw the notice, in writing.
Except as set forth in § 73-10 and herein, any person, firm, corporation or entity violating any provision of this chapter shall, upon conviction, be punishable as provided in this Code. A creditor required to care, maintain, secure and keep up a property under this chapter cited in a notice issued pursuant to § 73-9 shall be subject to a fine of $1,500 for each day of the violation.