[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Committee of the Township of Washington 11-13-1963. 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 or structure or part thereof, whether used for human habitation or otherwise, and including any outhouses and appurtenances belonging thereto or usually enjoyed therewith.
- GOVERNING BODY
- The Township Committee of the Township of Washington, Warren County, New Jersey.
- The holder or holders of the title in fee simple.
- PARTIES IN INTEREST
- All individuals, associations and corporations who have interests of record in a building and any who are in actual possession 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 Washington, county or state, relating to health, fire or building regulations or to other activities concerning buildings in the Township of Washington.
- PUBLIC OFFICER
- The officer, officers, board or body who is or are authorized by ordinances adopted hereunder to exercise the powers prescribed by such ordinances and by this chapter.
The Health Officer of the Township of Washington be and he is hereby designated as the administrative authority and the public officer to exercise the powers prescribed by this chapter, and he shall serve in such capacity without any additional salary.
For the purpose of this chapter, the Health Officer may determine that a building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use if he finds that conditions exist in such building and/or on or about its premises 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 the Township of Washington. Such conditions may include the following, without limiting the generality of the foregoing:
Whenever a petition is filed with the Health Officer by a public authority or by at least five residents of the Township of Washington charging that any building and/or its premises is unfit for human habitation as hereby defined, or whenever it appears to the Health Officer, on his own motion, that any building and/or its premises is unfit for human habitation as herein defined, he 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 dwelling a complaint stating the charges in that respect and containing a notice that a hearing will be held before the Health Offices, or his designated agent, at a place therein fixed not less than 10 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 time and place fixed in the complaints; and that the rules of evidence prevailing in courts of law or equity shall not be controlling in hearings before the Health Officer.
If, after such notice and hearing, the Health Officer determines that the dwelling under consideration and/or its premises are unfit for human habitation as herein defined, he shall state in writing his findings of fact and serve upon the owner thereof and parties in interest an order requiring the repair, alteration or improvement of said building and/or its premises to be made by the owner within a reasonable time, which time shall be set forth in the order, or requiring the owner, at his option, to vacate or to have said building and/or its premises vacated and closed within the time set forth in the order.
If the building is in such 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 and/or its premises, the Health Officer may cause such building and/or its premises to be repaired, altered or improved or to be vacated and closed and the Health 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 use; the use or occupation of this building is prohibited and is unlawful."
If the owner fails to comply with an order to remove or demolish the building, the Health 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.
If the owner or parties in interest appeal any such order of the Health Officer to a court having jurisdiction, all action prescribed in the order so appealed shall not be taken until the final disposition of such appeal.
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 of Washington and the cost of such repairs, alterations and 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 Health 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 Municipal Tax Assessor or other custodian of the records of tax liens, and a copy thereof shall be forwarded forthwith to the owner by registered mail. If the total of the credits exceed such costs, the balance remaining shall be deposited in the Superior Court by the Health 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 or declare nuisances and to cause their removal or abatement by summary proceedings or otherwise. Any owner or party in interest may, within 60 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.
Complaints or orders issued by the Health Officer pursuant to this chapter shall be served upon persons either personally or by registered mail, but if the whereabouts of such a person is unknown and same cannot be ascertained by the Health Officer in the exercise of reasonable diligence, and the Health Officer shall make an affidavit to that effect, then the serving of such complaint or order upon such a person may be made by publishing the same once every week for two successive weeks in a newspaper printed and published in the Township of Washington or, in the absence of such newspaper, in one printed and published in the county and circulated in the Township of Washington. A copy of such a complaint or order shall be posted in a conspicuous place on the premises affected by the complaint or order. A copy of such a complaint or order shall be duly recorded or lodged for record with the Warren County Clerk.
The Health 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 township in order to determine which buildings therein are unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use.
To administer oaths or affirmations, examine witnesses and receive evidence.
To enter upon premises for the purpose of making examination, 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 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.
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to abrogate or impair the powers of the township or any officer or department thereof to enforce any provisions of its ordinances or regulations or to prevent or punish violations thereof, and the powers conferred by this chapter shall be in addition and supplemental to the powers conferred upon the township by any other law or ordinance.