Township of Elk, NJ
Gloucester County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Committee of the Township of Elk as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Brush, grass and weeds — See Ch. 45.
Numbering of buildings — See Ch. 46.
Unfit and dangerous buildings — See Ch. 47.
Uniform construction codes — See Ch. 54.
Solid waste — See Ch. 84.
Unfit dwellings — See Ch. 103.
Property maintenance (Board of Health) — See Ch. 110.
[Adopted 11-4-2004 by Ord. No. O-2004-8[1];5-6-2010 by Ord. No. O-2010-30]
[1]
This ordinance also repealed former Ch. 79, Property Maintenance, adopted 9-4-1997.

§ 79-1 Adoption of International Property Maintenance Code, current edition.

[Amended 6-16-2015 by Ord. No. O-8-2015]
The International Property Maintenance Code, current edition, a copy of which is on file in the office of the Municipal Clerk of the Township of Elk, being marked and designated as the International Property Maintenance Code of the Township of Elk, in the State of New Jersey, for the control of buildings and structures as herein provided; and each and all of the regulations, provisions, penalties, conditions and terms of said Property Maintenance Code are hereby referred to, adopted and made a part hereof, as if fully set out in this article, with the additions, insertions, deletions and changes, if any, prescribed in § 79-2 of this article.

§ 79-2 Modification of standards.

The following sections are hereby revised:
A. 
Section 101.1, insert: "Township of Elk."
B. 
Section 103.6, insert: "The sum of not less than $100 and not more than $1,000."
C. 
Section 302.4, insert: "10 inches in height."
D. 
Section 303.14, insert: "From April 1 to November 1."
E. 
Section 602.3, insert: "From September 1 to June 1."
F. 
Section 602.4, insert: "From September 1 to June 1."

§ 79-3 Violations and penalties.

A. 
Any person violating this article shall, upon conviction thereof, be punishable by one or more of the following: imprisonment in the county jail or any place provided by the Borough for the detention of prisoners, for any term not exceeding 90 days; by a period of community service not exceeding 90 days; by a fine of not less than $25 nor more than $1,250, at the discretion of the Judge.
B. 
Any person who is convicted of violating the provisions of this article within one year of the date of previous violation of the same chapter and who was fined for the previous violation shall be sentenced by the court to an additional fine as a repeat offender. The additional fine imposed by the court for a repeated offense shall not be less than the minimum or exceed the maximum fine fixed for a violation of this article, but shall be calculated separately from the fine imposed for the original violation of this article. Whenever such person shall have been officially notified or by service of a summons in a prosecution, or in any other official manner, that said person is committing a violation, each day's continuance of such violation after such notification shall constitute a separate offense, punishable by a like fine or penalty.

§ 79-4 Enforcement.

The Township's Code Enforcement Officer is hereby designated as the officer(s) to exercise the powers prescribed by this article.

§ 79-5 Construal of provisions.

Nothing in this article or in the Property Maintenance Code hereby adopted shall be construed to affect any suit or proceeding impending in any court, or any rights acquired, or liability incurred, or any cause or causes of action acquired or existing, under any act or ordinance hereby repealed as cited in § 79-2 of this article; nor shall any just or legal right or remedy of any character be lost, impaired or affected by this article.
[Adopted 12-16-2014 by Ord. No. O-6-2014]

§ 79-6 Purpose.

A. 
The purpose of this article is to establish a program for identifying and registering vacant, abandoned, and foreclosed properties; to establish the responsibilities of owners of vacant, abandoned and foreclosed properties; and to ensure that vacant, abandoned and foreclosed properties are maintained in compliance with applicable Township, county, state and federal codes.
B. 
The Township Committee finds, determines and declares that buildings and property which remain vacant and unoccupied for any appreciable period of time become a harborage for rodents, an invitation for illegal occupancy, illegal activities and a fire hazard. Unkempt grounds surrounding the property invite dumping and rubbish thereon, and such buildings become dilapidated, contributing to commercial and residential blight, depressing market values of surrounding property, and requiring additional government services. Unsupervised vacant, abandoned and foreclosed properties have a negative impact on surrounding properties and neighborhoods. Owners of such structures and properties should be held accountable for the physical condition of the property.
C. 
This article establishes responsibilities of owners of the vacant, abandoned and foreclosed properties and structures and provides for administration and enforcement of standards related to such properties and structures. This article incorporates the most recent copy of the International Property Maintenance Code and all applicable federal, state and local building and fire codes. This article shall apply to all vacant, abandoned and foreclosed property and structures within the Township of Elk.
D. 
It is in the public interest for the Township of Elk to impose a fee in conjunction with registration of vacant, abandoned and foreclosed properties in light of the disproportionate costs imposed on the Township by the presence of these properties.

§ 79-7 Definitions.

For the purposes of this article and unless otherwise expressly stated, the following words and phrases are defined as follows:
ABANDONED VACANT PROPERTY
Vacant property as defined in this article that has been vacant for 30 days or more and meets any one of the following criteria:
A. 
Provides a location for loitering, vagrancy, unauthorized entry or other criminal activity;
B. 
Has one or more broken windows, or two or more windows boarded up, for more than 30 days;
C. 
Has utilities disconnected or not in use;
D. 
Is not maintained in accordance with applicable codes, including, without limitation, New Jersey Residential and Building Codes, International Property Maintenance Code and Fire Prevention Code.
E. 
Has taxes in arrears for a period of time exceeding 365 days; or
F. 
Is only partially completed, is not fit for human occupancy and has no active building permits on the property that will result in restoration of the premises to a safe and habitable condition.
BORROWER
A borrower under a mortgage, who grants a lien or interest in property as security for the payment of a debt.
BUILDING
A structure with a roof supported by columns or walls to serve as shelter or enclosure.
EVIDENCE OF VACANCY
Any condition that on its own or combined with other conditions present would lead a reasonable person to believe the property is vacant. Such conditions include, but are not limited to, overgrown and/or dead vegetation; accumulation of newspapers, circulars, flyers and/or mail; past-due utility notices and/or disconnected utilities; accumulation of trash, junk and/or debris; broken or boarded-up window; abandoned vehicles, auto parts or materials; the absence of window coverings, such as curtains, blinds and/or shutters; the absence of furnishing and/or personal items consistent with habitation or occupation; and statements by neighbors, passersby, delivery agents or governmental employees that the property is vacant.
FORECLOSURE
The process by which a mortgage is enforced against a parcel of real property.
LENDER
A person, firm or corporation holding a mortgage on a property.
MORTGAGE
A recorded lien or interest in real property to secure payment of a loan.
OWNER
An individual, partnership, association, corporation, company, title holder, fiduciary, foreclosing entity that has filed a notice with the Municipal Clerk pursuant to the provisions of N.J.S.A. 46:10B-51 (P.L.2008, c. 127, § 17, as amended by P.L.2009, c. 296) or any other legal entity having a legal or equitable title or any interest in respect to the property.
POSSESSORY LENDER
A person, firm or corporation or other legal entity that has foreclosed a mortgage on a property may not have legal or equitable title.
SAFETY AND MAINTENANCE INSPECTION
A visual inspection to check compliance with requirements as set forth in the International Property Maintenance Code, for sanitary maintenance, life safety and other hazards and code violations. Such inspections will be done in accordance with a checklist maintained by the Township Construction Official.
STRUCTURE
Anything constructed or erected, the use of which requires location on or attachment to the ground and includes buildings.
VACANT PROPERTY
An unimproved lot or parcel of real property that is not currently used or occupied and an improved lot or parcel of real property with at least one building or structure that is not currently used or occupied.

§ 79-8 Registration required.

A. 
An owner of a vacant property in the Township of Elk shall be responsible for registering that property with the Construction Office/Code Enforcement Official by complying with the affidavit, registration, and inspection fee requirements in this article. In the event the owner shall fail or refuse to register the property, the lender or possessory lender shall be responsible for compliance with this provision.
B. 
Abandoned, vacant or foreclosed property shall be registered within 30 calendar days of the vacancy or 30 calendar days after assuming ownership of the vacant property, whichever is later. Failure to receive notice by the Township shall not constitute grounds for failing to register the property.

§ 79-9 Registration affidavit.

Effective January 1, 2015, the owners, lenders and/or possessory lenders who are required to register property pursuant to this article shall do so by submitting a copy of a driver's license (individual owners only) and an affidavit containing the information specified in this section. The affidavit may be provided by an agent, provided the agent's written authorization from the owner, lender, or possessory lender is submitted with the affidavit. The affidavit shall include the following:
A. 
Each property having a separate block and lot number as designated in official records of the Township shall be registered separately.
B. 
The name of the owner of the property.
C. 
A mailing address where mail may be sent that will be acknowledged as received by the owner. The owner shall be responsible to provide updated addresses as necessary. If certified mail/return receipt request is sent to the address and the mail is returned marked "refused" or "unclaimed" or if ordinary mail sent to the address is returned for whatever reason, then such occurrence shall be prima facie proof that the owner has failed to comply with this requirement.
D. 
The name of an individual or property manager or legal entity responsible for the care and control of the property. Such individual may be the owner or may be someone other than the owner with whom the owner has contracted.
E. 
A current address, telephone number, facsimile number and e-mail address where communications may be sent that will be acknowledged as received by the individual responsible for the care and control of the property. If certified mail return receipt requested is sent to the address and the mail is returned marked "refused" or "unclaimed," or if ordinary mail sent to the address is returned for whatever reason, then such occurrence shall be prime facie proof that the owner has failed to comply with this requirement.
F. 
The name of the lender, mortgage company, possessory lender, or lienholder, mailing address, contact person and phone number.

§ 79-10 Registration and inspection fees.

A. 
All fees applicable to this article shall be set and revised as necessary by resolution of the Township Committee. The initial registration fee is hereby set at $500. The fee for the first renewal is $1,500, and the fee for the second renewal is $3,000. The fee for any subsequent renewal beyond the second renewal is $5,000. All fees shall be payable on an annual basis based on a calendar year.
Vacant Property Registration Fee Schedule
Initial registration
$500
First renewal
$1,500
Second renewal
$3,000
Subsequent renewal
$5,000
Inspection fee (1st and 2nd inspection)
$50
Each Additional inspection
$30
B. 
Registration fees shall be paid at the time of submitting the registration affidavit. There shall also be a fee for the filing of any additional or new owner's affidavit, with such fee being set by resolution of the Township Committee. For properties that are not registered within the required time frame, an additional fee for the added cost of the Township's expenses in having to determine ownership, which may include, but are not limited to, title searches and professional fees, shall be assessed and immediately payable. The payment of all fees under this article is secured by a lien against the property, which may be placed on the tax roll for collection in the same manner and subject to the same interest and penalties applicable to delinquent special assessments and municipal liens.

§ 79-11 Requirement to keep information current.

If at any time the information contained in the affidavit is no longer valid, the property owner, lender or possessory lender has 10 days to file a new affidavit containing current information. There shall be no fee to update a registered owner's current information.

§ 79-12 Safety and maintenance inspections.

A. 
If vacant, abandoned or foreclosed property includes vacant or unoccupied buildings, the owner of that property is responsible for immediately obtaining and paying for the Township's "safety and maintenance inspection" (as defined herein) of the building and property, obtaining necessary permits, making required repairs and obtaining inspections from the Township annually thereafter until the building is lawfully occupied to ensure the buildings are safe, secured and well maintained. The owner shall demonstrate that all water, sewer, electrical, gas, HVAC and plumbing systems, exterior finishes and walls, concrete surfaces, accessory buildings and structures, swimming pools and spas, roofing, structural systems, foundation and drainage systems, gutters, doors, windows, driveways and sidewalks are sound, operational or properly disconnected.
B. 
If, at the time of the safety and maintenance inspection, the inspector deems that the electrical, plumbing or mechanical systems pose health or safety hazards and require additional inspection by the registered code official in that discipline, the owner shall be responsible to obtain and pay for that requested inspection.
C. 
If an owner fails or refuses to complete the inspections required by Subsection A of this section, the possessory lender shall be obligated to complete the inspection upon foreclosure of the property. Additionally, any lender who holds a mortgage on the property located within Elk Township shall obtain and pay for the inspection pursuant to Subsection A of this section to the extent permitted by law or under the mortgage, of the property that is the security for the mortgage, upon default by the borrower, within five days after either the filing of a complaint for foreclosure (if foreclosure is by judicial action) or publishing a notice of foreclosure (if foreclosure is by advertisement).

§ 79-13 Maintenance and security requirements.

All owners, possessory lenders, and lenders (to the extent permitted by law or the terms of a mortgage), are responsible for compliance with the requirements of this section which apply to all vacant properties from the time of vacancy, including the time between vacancy and when registration is required.
A. 
Property shall be kept free from weeds, overgrown grass, dry brush and dead vegetation in accordance with Township Ordinances, as well as trash, junk, debris, building materials, and accumulation of newspaper, circulars, flyers, notices (except those required by federal, state or local law), and discarded items. This subsection shall be broadly construed to include all items that lend to the appearance that the property is abandoned.
B. 
Property shall be maintained free from graffiti, tagging or similar markings by removal or painting over with an exterior-grade paint that matches the color of the exterior of the surface.
C. 
All front, side and rear yards shall be properly maintained, including landscaping. Maintenance includes, but is not limited to, regular watering, irrigation, cutting, pruning and mowing of required grasses and landscaping and removal of trimmings.
D. 
Pools, spas and other water features shall be kept drained and kept dry and free from debris. Properties with pools and/or spas must comply with the minimum security fencing and barrier requirements of applicable construction, building and property maintenance codes and ordinances.
E. 
Property shall be maintained in a secure manner so as not to be accessible to unauthorized persons. Secure manner includes, but is not limited to, the closure and locking of windows, doors, gates, and any other openings of such size that may allow a child to access the interior of the property and/or structures. Broken windows must be repaired or replaced within thirty (30) days.
F. 
Owners shall inspect or cause the inspection of vacant property on a regular basis to verify compliance with this section and other applicable laws. If the property is owned by a person other than an individual and/or the lender or possessory lender is located more than 30 miles away, a local property management company shall be contracted to perform weekly inspections to verify that the requirements of this section and any other applicable laws are being met. The owner must provide notice to the Township of Elk Construction Office/Code Enforcement Official, Elk Township Police Department and Elk Township Fire Department indicating the name, address and telephone number of the owner, the owner's authorized agent for the purpose of service of process, and the person responsible for day-to-day supervision and management of the building, if such person is different from the owner holding title or authorized agent.

§ 79-14 Fire damaged property.

If a building is fire damaged, the owner or possessory lender has 90 days from the date of the fire to apply for a permit to start construction or demolition. An additional ninety-day extension may be granted in the sole discretion of the Township official, provided the owner or possessory lender can demonstrate substantial progress towards completing repairs. Failure to do so will result in the property being deemed vacant and/or abandoned and subject to the requirements of this article.

§ 79-15 Right of entry.

If the owner, lender or possessory lender has failed to secure the property, and it has been secured by the Township, the Township or its contracted agent, may reenter the structure to conduct necessary inspections to assure compliance with the requirements of this code and to determine if there are emergency or hazardous health and safety conditions in existence.

§ 79-16 Re-occupancy; sale.

A vacant, abandoned, or foreclosed property shall not be occupied and/or sold until all violations have been corrected in accordance with the violation or correction notices issued and a certificate of occupancy has been issued by the Township Construction Office. All mechanical, electrical, plumbing and structural systems shall be certified by a licensed contractor as being in good repair, the provisions of the International Property Maintenance Code, or its successor, complied with and all blight removed. In addition, a certificate of occupancy shall not be issued until all outstanding costs, assessments, and liens owed to the Township have been paid in full.

§ 79-17 Violations and penalties.

A. 
Any person or entity that violates any provision of this article or the rules and regulations issued hereunder shall be fined not less than $100 and not more than $2,000 for each offense. Every day that a violation continues shall constitute a separate and distinct offense. Fines assessed under this article shall be recoverable from the owner and shall also be a lien on the property.
B. 
For the purpose of this section, failure to file a registration affidavit within 30 calendar days after a building becomes vacant property or within 30 calendar days after assuming ownership of a vacant property, whichever is later, or within 10 calendar days of receipt of notice by the Township, and failure to provide correct information on the registration affidavit, or failure to comply with the provisions of this article, or such provisions contained herein shall be deemed to be violations of this article.