[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Committee of the Township of Independence 8-11-1980 (Ch. 128 of the 1984 Code). Amendments noted where applicable.]
Unfit buildings — See Ch. 160.
It is hereby found and determined that, by reason of lack of maintenance and resulting progressive deterioration, the condition of certain properties has the effect of creating blighting conditions, and that, if the same are not curtailed and removed, the aforesaid conditions will grow and spread and will necessitate in time the expenditure of large amounts of public funds to correct and eliminate the same. Timely regulations and restrictions as indicated in this chapter will prevent the creation of blighting conditions and contribute to the maintenance of neighborhood and property values. The enhancement of neighborhoods and the public health, safety and welfare would be protected and fostered.
The purpose of this chapter is to protect the public health, safety, morals and welfare by establishing minimum standards governing the conditions and maintenance of dwelling units and lands and to fix certain responsibilities and duties upon owners, to authorize and establish procedures for the inspection of such dwellings and lands and to fix penalties for the violation of this chapter. This chapter is hereby declared to be remedial and essential for the public interest, and it is intended that the same shall be liberally construed to effectuate the purposes herein stated.
[Amended 9-8-1986 by Ord. No. 86-16]
Every dwelling used for human habitation, garages or other outbuildings, as well as other nondwellings, abandoned buildings or structures of any kind, and lands shall comply with the provisions of this chapter whether or not such dwelling or other structure shall have been constructed, altered or repaired before or after enactment of this chapter and irrespective of any permits or licenses which shall have been issued for the use or occupancy of said dwelling or other structure or for the construction or repair of the same. It is the purpose of this chapter to establish minimum standards for such dwellings and lands, and this chapter does not replace or modify standards otherwise established for the construction, repair, alteration or use of any said dwellings or other structures.
In any case where the provisions of this chapter impose a higher standard than that set forth in any other ordinance of the Township or under any law of the State of New Jersey, then the standards as set forth herein shall prevail; but if the provisions of this chapter impose a lower standard than any such ordinance or law, then and in that event the higher standard contained in any other such ordinance or law shall prevail.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- A building or structure or part thereof containing one or more dwelling units.
Every foundation, floor, wall, building, door, window, roof or other part of a building shall be kept in good repair and capable of the use intended by its design.
All vacant land, lots and premises with or without buildings thereon shall be clean and free from garbage, rubbish and debris and from any and all conditions which might result in a hazard to safety.
The owner or occupant shall be responsible for the maintenance of the area abutting such property between the street property line and the street or roadway, including landscape ground cover, sidewalk and curb or monolithic curb and gutter.
[Amended 12-10-1984 by Ord. No. 84-11]
The Construction Official of the Township of Independence is hereby designated as the Public Officer to exercise the powers prescribed by this chapter. He may appoint or designate such other public officials or employees of the Township to perform such duties as may be necessary for the enforcement of this chapter, including the making of inspections and holding hearings.
For the purpose of this chapter, the Public Officer may determine that a building or the surrounding property or vacant land, as herein described, is injurious to the health and safety of the occupants thereof or of neighboring buildings or other residents of the Township; such conditions may include, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, dilapidation, disrepair, uncleanliness or conditions deleterious to the well-being of the general public with reference to vacant land not properly maintained as required by this chapter.
[Amended 12-10-1984 by Ord. No. 84-11]
Whenever a petition is filed with the Public Officer by a public authority as defined in N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.4 or by at least five unrelated residents of the Township or it appears to the Public Officer on his own motion that any building is in a state of dilapidation, disrepair or uncleanliness, or conditions exist which are deleterious to the well-being of the general public with reference to surrounding land, vacant or occupied land not properly maintained as required by this chapter, the Public Officer shall, if his preliminary investigation discloses the above, issue and cause to be served upon the owner of the premises in question a complaint stating the charges and the basis therefor and containing a notice that a hearing will be held before the Public Officer or his designated agent at a place then fixed, not less than seven days nor more than 30 days after the serving of said complaint, and that the owner of the premises in question shall be given the right to file an answer to the complaint and to appear in person or by counsel and give testimony concerning the charges. The rules of evidence of the State of New Jersey shall not be controlling in hearings before the Public Officer. The Public Officer may determine the necessity for a hearing.
If, after the notice and hearing provided for herein, the Public Officer determines that the building is in a state of dilapidation, disrepair or uncleanliness or conditions deleterious to the well-being of the general public with reference to the surrounding land or vacant land not properly maintained as required by this chapter, 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 an order requiring the correction of the aforesaid deficiencies, and if the owner fails to make the correction directed in said order within the time set forth therein, then and in that event said owner shall be guilty of a violation of this chapter.
At the option of the owner, in lieu of making the required corrections, said owner may cause the premises to be vacated and closed within the time set forth in said order.
If the building or lands are 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 or lands within the time specified in the order, then the owner shall be required to repair, alter or improve the building or lands 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 the building or lands, or, at the option of the owner, to vacate and close the building, the Public Officer may cause such building or lands to be repaired, altered or improved or to be vacated and closed, in which latter event the Public Officer may cause to be posted on the main entrance of any building or lands so closed a placard with the following words: "This building or land is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use; the use or occupation of this building or land is prohibited and unlawful."
If the owner fails to comply with an order to remove or demolish the building or improve the land, the Public Officer may cause such building to be removed or demolished or may contract for the removal or demolition or improvement of the land thereof after advertisement for and receipt of bids therefor in accordance with the New Jersey Public Contracts Law.
Editor's Note: See N.J.S.A. 40A:11-1 et. seq., Local Public Contracts Law.
[Amended 12-10-1984 by Ord. No. 84-11]
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 municipality, and such costs 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 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 or other custodian of the records of tax liens and a copy thereof shall be forthwith forwarded to the owner by 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; provided, however, that nothing in this section shall be construed to impair or limit in any way the power of the municipality to define and declare nuisances and to cause their removal or abatement, by summary proceedings or otherwise. 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.
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 administer oaths, affirmations, examine witnesses and receive evidence.
To make and adopt such written rules and regulations as he may deem necessary and that the Township Committee approves by resolution, for the proper enforcement of the provisions of this chapter; provided, however, that such rules and regulations shall not be in conflict with the provisions of this chapter nor in anywise alter, amend or supersede any of the provisions thereof. The Public Officer shall file a certified copy of all such rules and regulations in his office and in the office of the Township Clerk.
Any person, firm or corporation aggrieved by any act of the Public Officer may appeal in writing such act of said Public Officer to the governing body within 20 days of such act of said Public Officer and request a hearing thereon by said governing body. The governing body shall hold a hearing on said appeal within 21 days after the filing of the notice of appeal. At said hearing, the appellant may be represented by counsel. The governing body is empowered to vacate any finding, in whole or in part, of said Public Officer.
Any person aggrieved by an order issued by the Public Officer 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 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 an order of the Public Officer.
[Added 12-10-1984 by Ord. No. 84-11]
For violation of any provision of this chapter, the penalty, upon conviction, shall be a minimum fine of $100 and a maximum penalty of one or more of the following: a fine not exceeding $2,000, imprisonment not exceeding 90 days or a period of community service not exceeding 90 days. Except as otherwise provided, each and every day in which a violation of any provision of this chapter exists shall constitute a separate violation.