[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Committee of the Township of Woolwich as Article VI of an ordinance adopted 4-3-1961; amended in its entirety at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. I). Amendments noted where applicable.]
It is found that the existence or occupation of any building or buildings or parts thereof in the township which are so old, dilapidated or have become so out of repair as to be dangerous, unsafe, unsanitary or otherwise unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use are inimical to the welfare and dangerous and injurious to the health and safety of the people of the township and that a public necessity exists for the repair, closing or demolition of such building or buildings or part thereof. There exists in the township buildings which are unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use, due to dilapidation, defects increasing the hazards of fire, accidents or other calamities, lack of ventilation, lack of sanitary facilities or due to other conditions rendering the building or buildings or part thereof unsafe or unsanitary or dangerous or detrimental to the safety or otherwise inimical to the welfare of the residents of the township. The township has the power pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.3 et seq., as amended, to exercise its police powers to repair, close or demolish or cause or require the repairing, closing or demolition of such building or buildings or part thereof in the manner herein provided.
The following terms whenever used or referred to in this chapter, unless a different meaning clearly appears from the context, shall have the following meanings:
- ASSISTANT PUBLIC OFFICER
- The officer designated as assistant to the Public Officer.
- Any building or structure or part thereof, whether used for human habitation or otherwise, and includes outhouses and appurtenances belonging thereto or usually enjoyed therewith.
- DWELLING UNIT
- A building or portion thereof providing living facilities for one or more persons.
- 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 relating to health, fire, building regulations or to other activities concerning buildings in the township.
- PUBLIC OFFICER
- The officer who is authorized by this chapter to exercise the powers prescribed for him or her.
The Public Officer, who shall be appointed for a term of one year, shall be nominated by the Mayor and confirmed by the Township Committee.
The Assistant Public Officer, who shall be appointed for a term of one year, shall be nominated by the Mayor and confirmed by the Township Committee, and when so appointed, he or she shall exercise all of the powers prescribed for the Public Officer at the direction of the Public Officer or in the event of the disability or temporary absence of the Public Officer.
The Public Officer is hereby 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, occupancy or use.
To administer oaths and 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.
The public officer may request the Substandard Housing Committee to assist him or her in determining whether a building under this chapter shall be demolished or repaired pursuant to the provisions of this chapter, but the final order or determination in any case shall be deemed to be the order or determination of the Public Officer.
The Public Officer shall delegate and fix the duties of such officers, agents and employees as he or she deems necessary to assist him or her in carrying out the purposes of this chapter, subject to the confirmation by resolution of the Township Committee, and may delegate any of his or her functions and powers under this chapter to such officers, agents and employees as he or she may designate.
Whenever a petition is filed with the Public Officer by a public authority or by at least five residents of the township charging that any building is unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use or whenever it appears to the Public Officer, on his or her own motion, that any building is unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use, the Public Officer shall, if his or her 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 or her designated agent, at a place therein fixed, not less than seven days nor more than 30 days after the service of the complaint, and 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 give testimony at the place and time fixed in the complaint, and that the rules of evidence prevailing in the courts shall not be controlling in hearings before the Public Officer.
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 shall make an affidavit to that effect, then the serving of the complaint or order upon these persons may be made by publishing the same once in a newspaper printed and published in the township or, in the absence of a newspaper, in one printed and published in the County of Gloucester and circulating in the township. A copy of the complaint or order shall be posted in a conspicuous place on the premises affected by the complaint or order. A copy of the complaint or order shall be fully recorded or lodged for record with the County Clerk of the County of Gloucester.
If the public officer shall determine after such notice and hearing that the building under consideration is unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use, he or she shall state, in writing, his or her findings of fact in support of his or her determination and shall issue and cause to be served upon the owner thereof and parties in interest an order as follows:
Requiring the repair, alteration or improvement of the 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 building vacated and closed within the time set forth in the order.
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 the building within the time specified in the order, then the owner shall be required to remove or demolish the building within a reasonable time, as specified in the 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, the Public Officer may cause the building to be repaired, altered or improved or to be vacated and closed, provided that the Public Officer shall not incur any expense to repair, alter or improve any building without the approval, by resolution, of the Township Committee.
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, occupancy or use. The use or occupation of this building is prohibited and unlawful."
If the owner fails to comply with an order to remove or demolish the building, the Public Officer may cause the building to be removed or demolished, subject to the approval, by resolution, of the Township Committee.
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, the cost of such repairs, alterations or improvements or vacating and closing or removal and demolition, if any, and the amount of the balance thereof remaining after deduction of the sum, if any, realized from the sale of materials derived from the building or from any contract for removal or demolition thereof, shall be a municipal lien against the real property upon which the cost was incurred. If the building is removed or demolished by the Public Officer, he or she shall sell the materials of the 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 the costs exceeds the total of the 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 registered mail. If the total of the credits exceeds the 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 the 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. Nothing in this section shall be construed to impair or limit in any way the power of the township to define and declare nuisances and to cause their removal or abatement by summary proceedings or otherwise. Any owner or party in interest, within 30 days from the date of the filing of the lien certificate, may 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, occupancy or use if he or she finds that conditions exist in the building which are dangerous or injurious to the health or safety of the occupants of the building, the occupants of neighboring buildings or other residents of the township. Such conditions may include the following, without limiting the generality of the foregoing:
Any person aggrieved by an order issued by the Public Officer pursuant to this chapter may, within 30 days after the posting and service of the order, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.8, appeal for injunctive relief to restrain the Public Officer from carrying out the provisions of the order. A decision on the appeal shall be at the discretion of the court. 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 any order of the Public Officer.