[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Committee of the Township of Little Egg Harbor; see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. I. Amendments noted where applicable.]
It is hereby found and declared that the existence or occupation of any building or buildings or parts thereof in the Township of Little Egg Harbor which are so old, dilapidated or have become so out of repair as to be dangerous, unsafe, insanitary or otherwise unfit for human habitation or occupancy is inimical to the welfare of the residents of said municipality and dangerous and injurious to the health and safety of the people of this municipality, and that a public necessity exists for the repair, closing or demolition of such building or buildings or parts thereof.
The words "governing body," "public authority," "public officer," "owner," "parties in interest" and "building," whenever used or referred to in this chapter, shall have the meanings and be defined as set forth in N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.4.
No owner or parties in interest shall continue the existence, use or occupancy of any building or buildings or parts of buildings in violation of the findings and declarations of § 148-1 hereof.
The public officer hereby designated and appointed to exercise the powers prescribed by this chapter shall be the Director of the Department of Community Development or his designee.
Whenever a petition shall be filed with the public officer by a public authority or by at least five residents of the municipality, charging that any building is unfit for human habitation, or whenever it appears to the public officer 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 such 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 days nor more than 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 courts of law or equity shall not be controlling in hearings before the public officer or his designated agent.
If, after such notice and hearing, the public officer determines that the building or buildings under consideration are 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 owners 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 the said building vacated and closed within the time set forth in the order; and
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 alter, repair 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; thereupon, 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; the use or occupation of this building is prohibited and unlawful."
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 and summary proceedings for the demolition thereof.
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 the 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 proceedings taken under this chapter determined in favor of the municipality, and the cost 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 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 public officer or other custodian of the records of tax liens, and a copy thereof shall be forthwith forwarded to the owner by registered 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 the 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 may determine that a building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use if he finds that conditions exist in such building which are dangerous or injurious to the health or safety of the occupants of such building, the occupants of neighboring buildings or other residents of such municipality; such conditions may include the following (without limiting the generality of the foregoing): defects therein increasing the hazards of fire, accident or other calamities; lack of adequate ventilation, light or sanitary facilities; dilapidation; disrepair, structural defects or uncleanliness; or failure to comply with the requirements of the building code or the certificate of occupancy.
Complaints or orders issued by the public officer pursuant to this chapter shall be served upon persons either personally or by 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 or his legal agent 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, and copy of such complaint or order shall be duly recorded or lodged for record with the County Clerk of Ocean County.
The public officer is hereby authorized to exercise such powers as shall 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, 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 provisions of the chapter.
Any action taken using revenues derived from the local property tax shall be taken only after advertisement for and receipt of bids therefor, unless the action is necessary to prevent imminent danger to life, limb or property.