[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Committee of the Township of Harmony 8-7-1984 as Ord. No. 0:84-3. Amendments noted where applicable.]
The following terms, whenever used or referred to in this chapter, shall have the following respective meanings for the purpose of this chapter, unless a different meaning clearly appears from the context:
- Any building, structure or part thereof, whether used for human habitation or otherwise, and includes any outhouses and appurtenances belonging thereto or usually enjoyed therewith.
- The holder or holders of the title in fee simple.
- PARTIES IN INTEREST
- All individuals, associations and corporations who have an interest of record in a building and who are in actual ion thereof.
- PUBLIC AUTHORITY
- Any housing authority or any officer who is in charge of any department or branch of the government of the Township of Harmony relating to health, fire, building regulation or to other activities concerning buildings in the Township of Harmony.
- PUBLIC OFFICER
- The officer or officers, board or body authorized by this chapter to exercise the powers prescribed herein and pursuant to statute.
The public officer shall be appointed annually at the reorganizational meeting of the Harmony Township Committee, except that the initial appointment shall be made contemporaneously with the adoption of this chapter, to the end that such public officer might exercise the powers and fulfill the duties prescribed by this chapter. The public officer shall receive no compensation for the performance of his duties unless provision is made therefor in accordance with the terms of the ordinance fixing the salaries of the township officers and officials which is adopted annually by the Township of Harmony.
Whenever a petition is filed with the public officer by a public authority or by at least five (5) residents of the Township of Harmony charging that any building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use or whenever it appears to the public officer, on his own motion, that any building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use, the public officer 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 said 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 (7) days nor more than thirty (30) days after the serving of said complaint; that 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 complaint; and that the rules of evidence prevailing in the courts shall not be controlling in hearings before the public officer.
If, 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 parties in interest an order requiring the repair, alteration or improvement of said building to 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 said 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 said building within the time specified in the order, then the owner shall be required to remove or demolish said building within a reasonable time as specified in 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 such building to be repaired, altered or improved or to be vacated and closed; and. 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 the 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 township and the cost of such repairs, alterations or improvements or vacating and closing or removal or demolition, if any, or 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 clearance 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, and a copy thereof shall be forthwith forwarded to the owner by registered or certified mail. If the total of the credits exceeds 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 the Court to the persons found to be entitled thereto by final order or judgment of such court. Any owner or party in interest may, within thirty (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 an actual and immediate danger to life is posed by the threatened collapse of any fire-damaged or other 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.
Complaints or orders issued by a public officer pursuant to this chapter shall be served upon persons either personally or by certified or 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 in a newspaper printed and published in the municipality or, in the absence of such newspaper, in one printed and published in the county and circulating in the municipality in which the buildings are located. 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 recording officer of the county in which the building is located.
The public officer is authorized 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 powers, in addition to others herein granted:
To investigate the building conditions in the municipality in order to determine which buildings therein are unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use.
To administer oaths and 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 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 purpose of this chapter.
To delegate any of his functions and powers under this chapter to such officers and agents as he may designate.
In all references herein to any parties, persons, entities or corporations, the use of any particular gender or the plural or singular number is intended to include the appropriate gender or number as the text of the within instrument may require.