[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Council of the Township of Little Falls 11-14-2011 by Ord. No. 1143; amended in its entirety 2-24-2014 by Ord. No. 1189. Subsequent amendments noted where applicable.]
This chapter shall be known as the "Property Maintenance Code of the Township of Little Falls" and may be referred to in the short form as the "Property Maintenance Code" or in this chapter as "this code."
It is hereby found and declared that there exists in the Township structures and vacant lots which are or may become in the future substandard with respect to structural integrity, equipment or maintenance and, further, that such conditions, including but not limited to structural deterioration, lack of maintenance of exterior premises and vacant lots, infestation, lack of maintenance or upkeep of essential facilities and utilities, existence of fire hazards and unsanitary conditions, constitute a menace to the health, safety, welfare, and reasonable comfort of the citizens and inhabitants of the Township. It is further found and declared that by reason of lack of maintenance and ensuing progressive deterioration, certain properties have the further effect of creating blighting conditions and that, by reason of timely regulations and restrictions, as herein contained, the growth of this blight may be prevented and the neighborhood and property values thereby maintained, the desirability and amenities of dwellings and neighborhoods enhanced and the public health, safety and welfare protected and fostered.
The purpose of this code is to protect the public health, safety and welfare by establishing minimum standards governing the maintenance and condition of the exterior of residential and nonresidential premises; to avoid, prevent and eliminate the maintenance of or creation of hazards to the public health or safety; to avoid, prevent and eliminate conditions which, if permitted to exist or continue, will depreciate or tend to depreciate the value of adjacent or surrounding properties; to prevent the creation, continuation, extension or aggravation of blight; to fix certain responsibilities and duties upon owners, operators and occupants of property; and to provide for administration and enforcement of this chapter.
Every residential and nonresidential structure and the premises on which they are situated in the Township used or intended to be used for dwelling, commercial, business or industrial occupancy shall comply with the provisions of this code, whether or not such structure shall have been constructed, altered or repaired before or after the enactment of this code and irrespective of any permits or licenses which shall have been issued for the use or occupancy of the structure or for the installation or repair of equipment or facilities prior to the effective date of this code.
In any case where the provisions of this code impose a higher standard than that set forth in any ordinance of the Township or under the laws of the State of New Jersey, then the standards as set forth herein shall prevail, but if the provisions of this code impose a lower standard than any ordinance of the Township or of the laws of the State of New Jersey, then the higher standard contained in any such other ordinance or law shall prevail.
Nothing in this chapter shall be deemed to abolish or impair existing remedies of the municipality or its officers or agencies relating to the removal or demolition of any buildings or structures which are deemed to be dangerous, unsafe or unsanitary.
Unless otherwise expressly stated, the following terms shall, for the purpose of this chapter, be defined as follows:
- The condition of a structure or part thereof characterized by holes, breaks, rot, crumbling, cracking, peeling, rusting or other evidence of physical decay or neglect, lack of maintenance or excessive use.
- For the purposes of this chapter, that portion of a residential lot existing for the purpose of parking vehicles.
- ENFORCEMENT OFFICER
- The Township of Little Falls Construction Official, Zoning Official and/or their assistants or designees, or such other Township employee as may be designated by the Township Administrator for such purpose. The terms "Enforcement Officer" and "Enforcement Official" shall be used interchangeably.
- EXTERIOR OF PREMISES
- Those portions of a building or structure which are exposed to public view or are visible from adjoining or adjacent properties, including all outside surfaces and appurtenances thereto, and the open space on the premises outside any building or structure erected thereon.
- The control and elimination of insects, rodents or other pests by eliminating their harborage places, by removing or making inaccessible materials that may serve as their food by poison spraying, fumigating, trapping or any other approved pest elimination methods.
- FIRE HAZARD
- Anything or any act which increases or may cause any increase of the hazard or menace of fire to a greater degree than that customarily recognized as normal by persons in the public service of preventing, suppressing or extinguishing fire or which may obstruct, delay or hinder or may become the cause of an obstruction, delay, hazard or hindrance to the prevention, suppression or extinguishment of fire.
- FRONT YARD
- That space on the same residential lot with a principal building situated between the front street line or lines and the front line of the building projected to the side property lines, specifically excluding any driveway for the purposes of this chapter.
- Animal and vegetable waste resulting from the handling, preparation, cooking and consumption of food.
- Any spray-painted writing, sign, symbol or picture, placed on any exterior surface of any wall exposed to view by the public.
- Any public or private condition that would constitute a "nuisance" according to the statutes, laws and regulations of the State of New Jersey, any of its agencies or this code; any physical condition existing in or on the exterior of any premises which is potentially dangerous, detrimental or hazardous to the health or safety of persons on, near or passing in proximity of the premises where said condition exists.
- Any occupant, owner, agent, tenant, lessee, caretaker or other person or corporation in charge of, residing, living or sleeping in or on the premises of or having actual possession or use of a business, dwelling unit or rooming unit or other premises affected by this chapter.
- Any person, persons or entity not the owner, who has charge, care or control of a structure or a part thereof, with or without the knowledge, consent or authority of the owner.
- Any person, persons or entity who shall have legal or equitable title in any form whatsoever to any premises or part thereof, with or without accompanying actual possession thereof, or who shall have charge, care or control of any lot, premises, building, structure or part thereof, as owner or agent of the owner, or as fiduciary, trustee, receiver, guardian, lessee or mortgagee in possession, regardless of how such possession was obtained. Any person, group of persons or entity who is a lessee, sublessee or assignee of a lessee of any part or all of any building, structure or land shall be deemed to be a co-owner with the lessor for the purposes of this section and shall have responsibility over that portion of the premises so sublet, leased or assigned.
- PORTABLE STORAGE UNIT
- Any container designed for the outdoor storage of personal property, including a portable on-demand storage structure ("PODS®") or similar storage container, which is typically rented to owners or occupants of property for their temporary use and which is delivered and removed by vehicle.
- A lot, plot or parcel of land, including the buildings, structures and improvements thereon.
- All combustible and noncombustible waste materials other than garbage, and the term shall include paper, rags, cartons, boxes, wood, tires, leather, tree branches, yard trimmings, tin cans, metals, mineral matter, glass, crockery and the residue from burning wood, coal or other combustible material, solid commercial and industrial waste, scrap construction materials and lumber, household appliances (including, but not limited to, refrigerators, boilers, hot-water heaters, television sets, boilers, and major appliances), scrap metal, inoperable machinery or inoperable vehicles and parts thereof. No chemicals such as those used in swimming pools, oil, gasoline or any other chemical which could cause a fire, explosion or obnoxious gas shall be considered "rubbish."
- Any means of motorized conveyance, whether operable or not, including, but not limited to, cars, boats, recreational vehicles, motorcycles, and trailers.
Owners, operators and occupants of all real property, buildings, and structures shall have all the duties, obligations and responsibilities prescribed in this chapter, and no such person or entity shall be relieved of any such duty, obligation or responsibility hereunder, nor may any such person or entity assert as a defense against any charge made under this chapter that another owner, operator or occupant or any other third person or entity is also responsible therefor and in violation thereof.
Exterior of premises. The exterior of all premises shall be kept free from hazards, which include but are not limited to the following:
Garbage and rubbish, as defined in this chapter. Garbage containers will be permitted adjacent to the roadway in the twenty-four-hour period customarily designated for garbage pickup by the municipality. Containers used for the storage of garbage and rubbish shall be limited to 50 pounds, including contents and container. Only garbage and rubbish resulting from the actual use of the premises may be permitted on the premises.
Unsafe structures: structurally unsafe or unsound buildings, structures or fences or abandoned, uncovered or structurally unsound wells, shafts, towers, exterior cellar openings, basement hatchways, foundations or excavations.
Discarded appliances: abandoned refrigerators, boilers, hot-water heaters, television sets and other similar major appliances.
Natural growth; lawns and shrubs.
Natural growth: dead and dying trees and limbs or other natural growth which by reason of rotting or deteriorating condition or storm damage constitutes a hazard to persons in the vicinity thereof. Trees shall be kept pruned and trimmed to prevent such condition.
Lawns and shrubs: All lawns shall be maintained. Grass shall be cut so as not to exceed a height of seven inches tall. All hedges and shrubs shall be trimmed to a neat appearance.
Overhangings: loose and overhanging objects, whether natural or man-made, and accumulations of ice and snow which by reason of location above ground level constitute a threat to the health and safety of people if caused to fall.
Ground surface hazards: hidden or uncovered ground or surface hazards, such as holes, sudden depressions, excavations, sharp or jagged projections or obstructions.
Recurring accumulations of stormwater: stagnant surface water or groundwater accumulations which create or are likely to create mosquito or other insect breeding areas.
Infestation: rodents, vermin, pest infestations and conditions causing same.
Inoperable vehicles: vehicles or parts thereof, including boats and trailers, motorized or not, regardless of whether licensed or registered, which vehicles or parts thereof are or have been abandoned, dismantled or are in a state of visible disrepair; provided, however, that a major overhaul, including body work, of a single vehicle of any type is permitted to be performed inside a structure or in a similarly enclosed area designed and approved for such purpose.
The placement of vehicles in the front yard.
The placement of any portable storage unit in the front yard.
Structural soundness. Every structure and accessory structure and every part thereof shall be kept structurally sound and in a state of good repair to avoid safety, health or fire hazards, including but not limited to the following:
Foundation walls: inadequate or unsafe foundation walls, piers and columns and other similarly unsound, damaged or defective load-bearing components which are incapable of supporting the imposed loads safely at all points.
Exterior porches, landings, balconies, stairs and fire escapes: structurally unsound, loose, dangerous, crumbling, missing, broken, rotted or unsafe exterior portions of buildings or structures, including but not limited to porches, landings, balconies, stairways, handrails, steps, walls, overhangs, roofs, fences, supporting members, timbers, abutments, fire escapes, signs and loose, crumbling or falling bricks, stones, mortar or plaster.
Projecting surfaces: exterior surfaces or parts of buildings or structures containing sharp, rough or projecting surfaces or objects which might cause injury to persons coming in contact therewith. All exposed surfaces susceptible to decay shall be kept at all times painted or otherwise provided with a protective coating sufficient to prevent deterioration. Damaged materials must be repaired or replaced. Places showing signs of rot, leakage, deterioration or corrosion, weathering or seepage are to be restored and protected. In addition, it shall also be the duty and responsibility of owners, occupants or operators to keep all exposed surfaces which have been painted or provided with a protective coating from flaking or badly fading. For the purpose of this article, "badly fading" means a surface which has been painted or provided with a protective coating which has deteriorated to such an extent that a reasonably prudent person shall deem the surface in need of repainting or recoating, taking into consideration not only the physical condition of the surface but also the aesthetics of the surface in the relationship to the building or structure as a whole and in consideration of maintaining value to the property and to maintain its integrity.
Windows, doors, etc., broken glass or windows, rotten, missing or substantially destroyed window frames and sashes, door frames, exterior doors or other junior exterior component parts of buildings or structures.
Exterior walls, sidings and roofs. Exterior walls, sidings, gutters and leaders and roofs shall be kept structurally sound, in good repair and free from defects.
Exterior chimneys. Exterior chimneys shall be maintained in a structurally sound condition, free from defects and so maintained as to capably perform at all times the functions for which they were designed.
Steps, walks, driveways and parking lots. Steps, walks, driveways, parking lots, parking spaces and similar paved areas shall be maintained so as to afford safe passage under normal use and weather conditions. Any holes or other hazards that may exist shall be filled, or necessary repairs or replacement shall be performed promptly.
Coordination of enforcement. Inspection of premises and the issuing of orders in connection therewith under the provisions of this code shall be the exclusive responsibility of the Enforcement Official and/or his or her assistants or designees. Wherever in the opinion of the Enforcement Official it is necessary or desirable to have inspections of any condition by any other department, he shall arrange for this to be done. No order for correction of any violation under this code shall be issued without the approval of the Enforcement Official, and it shall be the responsibility of that official before issuing any such order to determine that it has the concurrence of any other department or official of the government concerned with any matter involved on the case in question.
Inspections. The Enforcement Officer is authorized to enter upon any land at any reasonable time for the purpose of performing his duty under this code.
Enforcement procedure. Whenever an Enforcement Official determines that there is or has been a violation of any provision of this chapter, he shall give notice of such violation to the person, persons or entities responsible therefor under this section. Such notice shall be in writing and shall include a concise statement of the reasons for its issuance. Such notice shall be deemed to be properly and sufficiently served if a copy thereof is sent by certified and regular mail to the last known address of the person or entity upon which the same is served, as shown by the most recent tax records of the municipality, or a copy thereof handed to said person or persons, or a copy thereof left at the usual place of abode or office of said persons or entities. Notice shall be given as aforesaid within or without the municipality. The notice shall also state that unless the violation is abated, removed, cured, prevented or desisted within 10 days of the date of service of such notice (exclusive of the date of service), a summons shall be issued for such violation. The Enforcement Officer may extend the period for compliance with the requirements of this section in regard to the violation stated in the notice for a period in excess of the aforesaid 10 days if, in his judgment, the abatement, removal, prevention, cessation or cure of the condition violated cannot reasonably be effected within the ten-day period, and in such cases, the Enforcement Officer shall state such reasonably required extended period in the notice, which shall then be applicable instead of the aforesaid 10 days, such extension not to exceed 30 days. In the event that the violation is not abated, removed, cured, prevented or desisted from or otherwise fully remedied within said ten-day period or within such extended period as set forth in the notice, a summons may be issued against the person, persons, entity or entities so notified. If a person, persons, entity or entities are issued a notice for a violation of this chapter and thereafter such person, persons, entity or entities fail to abate, cure, prevent or remedy the violation, the Mayor and Council of the Township of Little Falls may authorize the Township of Little Falls to take such action as deemed necessary to remedy said violation and condition, and the cost of said remedy, together with any other charges incurred, shall be a principal lien against the real property upon which said costs and charges were incurred in the same manner of real property taxes, such costs to include the manpower cost per hour of Township employees required to complete said remedies as certified by the Director of Public Works, direct costs for materials, and costs of any third-party contractor.
Whenever the Enforcement Officer finds that an emergency condition in violation of this chapter exists, which condition requires immediate attention in order to protect the public health or safety, he may, without a hearing, issue an order reciting the existence of such a hazardous or serious violation or emergency and requiring that such action be taken as he deems necessary to meet the emergency or to remedy the hazardous or serious violation. Notwithstanding the other provisions of this chapter, such order shall be effective immediately but upon petition to the Enforcement Officer shall be afforded a hearing as soon as possible. After such hearing and decision by the Enforcement Officer, depending upon his findings as to whether or not the provisions of this chapter have been complied with, the Officer shall continue such order in effect, or modify or withdraw it, subject to the issuance of a summons for violation thereof if such order is continued.
In the event that the owner of the premises fails to correct said emergency condition within the period set forth in such order and such emergency condition is a hazard or inimical to public health and safety, the order may provide for the Township of Little Falls to take such action as deemed necessary to remedy said emergency condition, and the cost of said remedy, together with any other charges incurred, shall be a principal lien against the real property upon which said costs and charges were incurred, such costs to include the manpower cost per hour of Township employees required to complete said remedies as certified by the Director of Public Works, direct costs for materials, and costs of any third-party contractor.
Any person or entity who shall violate any of the provisions of this chapter shall, upon conviction, be punishable as follows:
In any case where a provision of this chapter is found to be in conflict with or inconsistent with a provision of any other ordinance which establishes a lower standard for the promotion and protection of the safety, health and welfare of its inhabitants, the provisions of this chapter shall prevail, and such other ordinance or parts thereof are hereby declared to be repealed to the extent that they may be so found to be in conflict with this chapter.