Township of Burlington, NJ
Burlington County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Council of the Township of Burlington as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Property maintenance — See Ch. 442.
[Adopted 10-27-2015 by Ord. No. 2015-OR-027]

§ 443-1 Definitions.

As used in this article, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
OWNER
Shall include the title holder and any agent of the title holder having authority to act with respect to a vacant property, any foreclosing entity subject to N.J.S.A. 46:10B-51 or any other entity determined by the Township to have authority to act with respect to the property.
A. 
Any building that has not been legally occupied for a period of six months which, in the reasonable judgment of the public officer, is in need of rehabilitation, or any building wherein construction was initiated and was discontinued prior to completion, leaving the building unsuitable for occupancy, and no construction has taken place for at least six months from the date of the public official's determination that the building is unsuitable for occupancy, and at least two of the following conditions are found to exist:
(1) 
Overgrown or neglected vegetation, including, but not limited to, brush, weeds, dead or dying trees;
(2) 
Infestation of insects, vermin, rats, or other pests;
(3) 
The accumulation of newspapers, circulars, flyers, or mail on the property;
(4) 
Disconnected gas, electric, or water utility services to the property;
(5) 
The accumulation of hazardous, noxious, or unhealthy substances or materials on the property;
(6) 
The accumulation of junk, letters, trash, or debris on the property;
(7) 
The absence of window treatments such as blinds, curtains, or shutters;
(8) 
The absence of furnishings and personal items;
(9) 
Statements by neighbors, delivery persons, or government employees indicating that the residence is vacant and abandoned;
(10) 
Windows or entrances to the property that are boarded up or closed off, or multiple window panes that are damaged, broken, and unrepaired;
(11) 
Doors to the property that are smashed through, broken off, unhinged, or continually unlocked;
(12) 
A risk to the health, safety, or welfare of the public or any adjoining or adjacent property owners that exists due to acts of vandalism, loitering, criminal conduct, or the physical destruction or deterioration of the property;
(13) 
An uncorrected violation of a municipal building, housing, or similar code during the preceding 12 months, or any order by a public official declaring the property to be unfit for occupancy and to remain vacant and unoccupied;
(14) 
The mortgagee or other authorized party has secured or winterized the property due to the property being deemed vacant and unprotected or in danger of freezing;
(15) 
A written statement issued by a mortgager expressing the clear intent of all mortgagors to abandon the property; or
(16) 
Any other reasonable indicia of abandonment.
B. 
A building where all systems are in working order, where the building and grounds are maintained in good order, or where the building is in habitable condition, and where the building is being actively marketed by its owner for sale or rental, shall not be deemed a vacant and abandoned property for purposes of this article.

§ 443-2 Registration required.

Effective January 1, 2016, the owner of any vacant property as defined herein shall, within 30 calendar days after the building becomes vacant or within 30 calendar days after assuming ownership of the vacant property, whichever is later, or within 10 calendar days of receipt of notice by the Township, file a registration statement for such vacant property with the Township Clerk on forms provided by the Township for such purposes. Failure to receive notice from the Township shall not constitute grounds for failing to register the property.
A. 
Each property having a separate block and lot number as designated on the Township's official records shall be registered separately.
B. 
The registration statement shall include the name, street address, telephone number, and email address (if applicable) of a person 21 years or older, designated by the owner or owners as the authorized agent for receiving notices of code violations and for receiving process in any judicial or administrative enforcement proceeding on behalf of such owner or owners in connection with the enforcement of any applicable code; and the name, street address, telephone number, and email address (if applicable) of the firm and the actual name(s) of the firm's individual principal(s) responsible for maintaining the property. The individual or representative of the firm responsible for maintaining the property shall be available by telephone or in person on a twenty-four-hour-per-day, seven-day-per-week basis. The two entities may be the same or different persons. Any entity shown on the statement must maintain an office in the State of New Jersey or reside within the State of New Jersey.
C. 
The registration shall remain valid for one year from the date of registration, except for the initial registration which shall be prorated through December 31. The owner shall be required to renew the registration annually as long as the building remains a vacant property and shall pay a registration or renewal fee in the amount prescribed in this article for each vacant property.
D. 
The annual renewal shall be completed by January 1 of each year.
E. 
The owner shall notify the Township Clerk within 30 calendar days of any change in the registration information by filing an amended registration statement on the form provided for that purpose.
F. 
The registration statement shall be deemed prima facie proof of the statements therein contained in any enforcement proceeding instituted by the Township against the owner or owners of the property.

§ 443-3 Access to vacant properties.

The owner of any registered vacant property shall provide access to the Township Code Official to conduct exterior and interior inspections of the property to determine compliance with Township codes, upon reasonable notice to the property owner or the designated agent. Such inspections shall be carried out on weekdays between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., or such other time as may be mutually agreed upon between the owner and the Township Code Official.

§ 443-4 Fee schedule.

The initial registration fee for each building is $250, which fee may be prorated. The fee for the first renewal is $500. The fee for any subsequent renewal is $750.

§ 443-5 Owner requirements.

The owner of any building that has become a vacant and abandoned property, and any person maintaining, operating, or collecting rent for any such property, shall, within 30 days thereof:
A. 
Enclose and secure the building against unauthorized entry, as provided in the applicable provisions of the Township Code, or as set forth in rules and regulations supplementing those codes.
B. 
Post a sign affixed to the inside of the building indicating the name, address, and telephone number of the owner, the owner's authorized agent for the purpose of service of process, if designated pursuant to § 443-2 of this article, 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.
C. 
Secure the building from unauthorized entry and maintain the sign until the building is again legally occupied or demolished or until repair or rehabilitation of the building is complete.
D. 
Ensure that the exterior grounds of the structure, including yards, fences, sidewalks, walkways, rights-of-way, alleys, retaining walls, attached or unattached accessory structures and driveways, are well maintained and free from trash, debris, loose litter, and grass and weed growth.
E. 
Continue to maintain the structure in a secure and closed condition, keep the grounds in a clean and well-maintained condition, and ensure that the sign is visible and intact until the building is again occupied, demolished, or until repair and/or rehabilitation of the building is completed.

§ 443-6 Violations and penalties.

A. 
Any person who violates any provision of this article shall be subject to the general penalty and violation provisions in §§ 1-18 and 1-19.
B. 
Failure to file a registration statement 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 from the Township, failure to provide correct information on the registration statement, or failure to comply with any of the provisions contained herein shall be deemed to be a violation of this article.
[Adopted 10-27-2015 by Ord. No. 2015-OR-028]

§ 443-7 Public officer designated.

The public officer shall be the Construction Official, or such other person as designated annually by the Mayor, who shall be responsible for identifying abandoned properties, placing said properties on the abandoned property list established pursuant to N.J.S.A. 55:19-55, and providing such notices and carrying out such other tasks as are required to create an abandoned property list. Each abandoned property shall be identified by the tax block and lot number, the name of the owner of record, if known, and the street address of the lot.

§ 443-8 Applicability.

The abandoned property list shall apply to the Township as a whole.

§ 443-9 Determination of abandonment.

A. 
Except as provided in § 443-13 or pursuant to N.J.S.A. 55:19-83, any property that has not been legally occupied for a period of six months and which meets any one of the following additional criteria may be deemed to be abandoned property upon a determination by the public officer that:
(1) 
The property is in need of rehabilitation in the reasonable judgment of the public officer, and no rehabilitation has taken place during that six-month period;
(2) 
Construction was initiated on the property and was discontinued prior to completion, leaving the building unsuitable for occupancy, and no construction has taken place for at least six months as of the date of a determination by the public officer pursuant to this section;
(3) 
At least one installment of property tax remains unpaid and delinquent on that property in accordance with Chapter 4 of Title 54 of the Revised Statutes as of the date of a determination by the public officer pursuant to this section; or
(4) 
The property has been determined to be a nuisance by the public officer in accordance with § 443-10.
B. 
A property which contains both residential and nonresidential space may be considered abandoned pursuant to N.J.S.A. 55:19-78 et seq., so long as 2/3 or more of the total net square footage of the building was previously legally occupied as residential space and none of the residential space has been legally occupied for at least six months at the time of the determination of abandonment by the public officer and the property meets the criteria of either Subsection A(1) or (4) of this section.

§ 443-10 Determination of nuisance.

A. 
A property may be determined to be a nuisance if:
(1) 
The property has been found to be unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.3;
(2) 
The condition and vacancy of the property materially increases the risk of fire to the property and adjacent properties;
(3) 
The property is subject to unauthorized entry leading to potential health and safety hazards; the owner has failed to take reasonable and necessary measures to secure the property; or the municipality has secured the property in order to prevent such hazards after the owner has failed to do so;
(4) 
The presence of vermin or the accumulation of debris, uncut vegetation or physical deterioration of the structure or grounds has created potential health and safety hazards, and the owner has failed to take reasonable and necessary measures to remove the hazards; or
(5) 
The dilapidated appearance or other condition of the property materially affects the welfare, including the economic welfare, of the residents of the area in close proximity to the property, and the owner has failed to take reasonable and necessary measures to remedy the conditions.
B. 
A public officer who determines a property to be a nuisance pursuant to Subsection A(1) through (5) of this section shall follow the notification procedures set forth in N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.3 et seq.

§ 443-11 Additions to and deletions from list.

The Township may add properties to the abandoned property list at any time, and may delete properties at any time when the public officer finds that the property no longer meets the definition of an "abandoned property."

§ 443-12 Request for inclusion of property on list.

Any interested party may submit a written request to the public officer that a property be included on the abandoned property list, specifying the street address and block and lot number of the property to be included, and the basis for the request that the property be included on the abandoned property list. Within 30 days of receipt of any such request, the public officer shall provide a written response to the party, either indicating that the property will be added to the list of abandoned properties, or if not, the reasons for not adding the property to the list. An interested party includes a resident of the Township, any owner or operator of a business within the Township or any organization representing the interests of residents or engaged in furthering the revitalization and improvement of the neighborhood in which the property is located.

§ 443-13 Exclusion of any property being rehabilitated.

A property shall not be included on the abandoned property list if building permits have been obtained and rehabilitation work is being performed in a timely manner.

§ 443-14 Procedure for adding properties to list.

The public officer shall establish the abandoned property list, and any additions by publication in the official newspaper of the Township, which publication shall constitute public notice, and, within 10 days after publication, the public officer shall send a notice, by certified mail, return receipt requested, and by regular mail, to the owner of record of every property included on the list. The published and mailed notices shall identify the property determined to be abandoned setting forth the owner of record, if known, the tax lot and block number and street address. The public officer, in consultation with the Tax Collector, shall also send out a notice by regular mail to any mortgagee, servicing organization, or property tax processing organization that receives a duplicate copy of the tax bill pursuant to N.J.S.A. 54:4-64. The mailed notice shall set forth the factual basis for the public officer's finding that the property is abandoned property as determined pursuant to N.J.S.A. 55:19-78 et seq., and the rules and regulations promulgated thereunder, specifying the information relied upon in making such finding. When the identity of the owner of record is unknown, and cannot be determined following the exercise of reasonable diligence by the Tax Collector, notice shall not be mailed but instead shall be posted on the property in the manner set forth in N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.7. In all cases, a copy of the mailed or posted notice shall also be filed by the public officer in the office of the Burlington County Clerk. The public officer, within 10 days of the establishment of the abandoned property list, or any additions thereto, shall send by regular mail, facsimile or electronic mail, a copy of the abandoned property list to the electric and gas utilities serving the Township.

§ 443-15 Appeals.

An owner or lienholder may challenge the inclusion of a property on the abandoned property list by appealing that determination to the public officer within 30 days of the owner's or lienholder's receipt of the certified notice or 40 days from the date upon which the notice was sent. An owner whose identity was not known to the public officer shall have 40 days from the date upon which notice was published or posted, whichever is later, to challenge the inclusion of the property on the abandoned property list. For good cause shown, the public officer shall accept a late filing of an appeal. Within 30 days of receipt of a request for an appeal of the findings contained in the notice the public officer shall schedule a hearing for redetermination of the matter. Any property included on the list shall be presumed to be abandoned property unless the owner, through the submission of an affidavit or certification by the property owner averring that the property is not abandoned and stating the reasons for such averment, can demonstrate that the property was erroneously included on the list. The affidavit or certification shall be accompanied by supporting documentation, such as, but not limited to, photographs, repair invoices, bills and construction contracts. The sole ground for appeal shall be that the property in question is not abandoned property. The public officer shall decide any timely filed appeal within 10 days of the hearing on the appeal and shall promptly, by certified mail, return receipt requested, and by regular mail, notify the property owner of the decision and the reasons therefore. The property owner or lienholder may challenge an adverse determination by filing a summary proceeding in the Superior Court, Law Division, within 20 days of the date of the notice of decision mailed by the public officer. The sole ground for appeal shall be that the property is not an abandoned property.