Borough of Wharton, NJ
Morris County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents

§ 231-3 Title; scope; intent.

A. 
Title. This chapter shall be known as the "Property Maintenance Code of the Borough of Wharton," hereinafter referred to as "this chapter."
B. 
Scope. The provisions of this chapter shall apply to all existing residential and nonresidential structures and all existing premises and constitute minimum requirements and standards for premises, structures, equipment and facilities for light, ventilation, space, heating, sanitation, protection from the elements, life safety, safety from fire and other hazards, and for safe and sanitary maintenance; the responsibility of owners, operators and occupants; the occupancy of existing structures and premises; and for administration, enforcement and penalties.
C. 
Intent. This chapter shall be construed to secure its expressed intent, which is to ensure public health, safety and welfare insofar as they are affected by the continued occupancy and maintenance of structures and premises. Existing structures and premises that do not comply with these provisions shall be altered or repaired to provide a minimum level of health and safety as required herein. Repairs, alterations, additions to and change of occupancy in existing buildings shall comply with the International Existing Building Code.
D. 
Compliance required. Every residential and nonresidential building, structure and lot and the premises or part of the premises on which it is situated in the Borough of Wharton previously or presently used or intended to be used for dwelling, commercial business, recreational, service, transportation, institutional, religious, charitable, quasi-public, professional, warehousing, or industrial occupancy and uses accessory thereto shall comply with the provisions of this chapter, whether or not any such building or structure or use of the premises shall have been constructed, altered or repaired before or after the enactment of this chapter and irrespective of any permits or license which may have been issued for the use or occupancy of such building or for the installation or repair of equipment or facilities prior to the effective date of this chapter. Vacant lots, lands and premises are also required to comply with the provisions of this chapter.
E. 
Higher standards to prevail. In any case where the provisions of this chapter impose a higher standard than those set forth in any other ordinance or regulation of the Borough of Wharton or impose a higher standard than those set forth in the laws of the State of New Jersey or any of its agencies, then the higher standard shall prevail.
F. 
Compliance with other ordinances. Compliance with this chapter shall not constitute a defense against any violation of any other ordinance of the Borough of Wharton applicable to any structure or premises, nor shall any one act of compliance constitute a defense against any subsequent or other violation of this chapter.

§ 231-4 Applicability.

A. 
General. The provisions of this chapter shall apply to all matters affecting or relating to structures and premises, as set forth in § 231-3 above. Where, in a specific case, different sections of this chapter specify different requirements, the most restrictive shall govern.
B. 
Maintenance. Equipment, systems, devices and safeguards required by this chapter or a previous regulation or code under which the structure or premises was constructed, altered or repaired shall be maintained in good working order. No owner, operator or occupant shall cause any service, facility, equipment or utility which is required under this section to be removed from or shut off from or discontinued for any occupied dwelling, except for such temporary interruption as necessary while repairs or alterations are in progress. The requirements of this chapter are not intended to provide the basis for removal or abrogation of fire protection and safety systems and devices in existing structures. Except as otherwise specified herein, the owner or the owner's designated agent shall be responsible for the maintenance of buildings, structures and premises.
C. 
Application of other codes. Repairs, additions or alterations to a structure or changes of occupancy shall be done in accordance with the procedures and provisions of the International Existing Building Code. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to cancel, modify or set aside any provision of the Land Use and Development Code of the Borough of Wharton (Chapter 165).
D. 
Existing remedies. The provisions of this chapter shall not be construed to abolish or impair existing remedies of the jurisdiction or its officers or agencies relating to the removal or demolition of any structure which is dangerous, unsafe and unsanitary.
E. 
Workmanship. Repairs, maintenance work, alterations or installations which are caused directly or indirectly by the enforcement of this chapter shall be executed and installed in a workmanlike manner and installed in accordance with the manufacturer's installation instructions.
F. 
Historic buildings. The provisions of this chapter shall not be mandatory for existing buildings or structures designated as historic buildings when such buildings or structures are judged by the Housing Officer to be safe and in the public interest of health, safety and welfare.
G. 
Referenced codes and standards. The codes and standards referenced in this chapter shall be those that are listed in this chapter and considered part of the requirements of this chapter to the prescribed extent of each such reference. Where differences occur between provisions of this chapter and the referenced standards, the provisions of this chapter shall apply.
H. 
Requirements not covered by the property maintenance code. Requirements necessary for the strength, stability or proper operation of an existing fixture, structure or equipment, or for the public safety, health and general welfare, not specifically covered by this chapter, shall be determined by the Housing Officer.

§ 231-5 Property maintenance inspection.

A. 
General. The Housing Officer is hereby designated as the code official for the purposes of enforcement of this chapter. The administration of the Borough may designate other officers, agents or employees of the Borough, including, but not limited to, the Borough Administrator, the Deputy Administrator, and the Director of Public Works, to enforce this chapter.
B. 
Appointment. The Housing Officer shall annually be appointed by the chief appointing authority of the Borough, and the Housing Officer shall not be removed from office except for cause and after full opportunity to be heard on specific and relevant charges by and before the appointing authority.
C. 
Deputies. In accordance with the prescribed procedures of the Borough and with the concurrence of the appointing authority, the Housing Officer shall have the authority to appoint a deputy code official, other related technical officers, inspectors and other employees.
D. 
Liability.
(1) 
The Housing Officer or employee charged with the enforcement of this chapter while acting for the Borough shall not thereby be rendered liable personally and is hereby relieved from all personal liability for any damage accruing to persons or property as a result of an act required or permitted in the discharge of official duties.
(2) 
Any suit instituted against any officer or employee because of an act performed by that officer or employee in the lawful discharge of duties and under the provisions of this chapter shall be defended by the legal representative of the Borough until the final termination of the proceedings. The Housing Officer or any subordinate shall not be liable for costs in an action, suit or proceeding that is instituted in pursuance of the provisions of this chapter, and any officer of the Borough acting in good faith and without malice shall be free from liability for acts performed under any of its provisions or by reason of any act or omission in the performance of official duties in connection therewith.

§ 231-6 Duties and powers of Housing Officer.

A. 
General. The Housing Officer shall enforce the provisions of this chapter, along with the Administrator, the Deputy Administrator, the Director of Public Works and any other agent, officer or employee of the Borough as may be designated by the administration of the Borough.[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: Original Subsection 21-2.3d.B, Rule-making Authority, which immediately followed this subsection, was deleted at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. II).
B. 
Inspections. The Housing Officer shall make all of the required inspections or shall accept reports of inspections by approved agencies or individuals. All reports of such inspections shall be in writing and be certified by a responsible officer of such approved agency or by the responsible individual. The Housing Officer is authorized to engage such expert opinion as deemed necessary to report upon unusual technical issues that arise, subject to the approval of the appointing authority.
C. 
Right of entry. The Housing Officer is authorized to enter the structure or premises at reasonable times to inspect subject to constitutional restrictions on unreasonable searches and seizures. If entry is refused or not obtained, the Housing Officer is authorized to pursue recourse as provided by law.
D. 
Identification. The Housing Officer shall carry proper identification when inspecting structures or premises in the performance of duties under this chapter.
E. 
Notices and orders. The Housing Officer shall issue all necessary notices or orders to ensure compliance with this chapter.
F. 
Records. The Housing Officer shall keep official records of all business and activities in the provisions of this chapter. Such records shall be retained in the official records as long as the building or structure to which such records relate remains in existence, unless otherwise provided for by other regulations.
G. 
Coordination of inspections. Whenever in the enforcement of this chapter or another code or ordinance the responsibility of more than one code official of the Borough is involved, it shall be the duty of the code officials involved to coordinate their inspections and administrative orders as fully as practicable so that the owners and occupants of the structure shall not be subjected to visits by numerous inspectors or multiple or conflicting orders. Whenever an inspector from any agency or department observes an apparent or actual violation of some provision of some law, ordinance or code not within the inspector's authority to enforce, the inspector shall report the findings to the code official having such jurisdiction.

§ 231-7 Approvals required.

A. 
Modifications. Whenever there are practical difficulties involved in carrying out the provisions of this chapter, the Housing Officer shall have the authority to grant modifications for individual cases, provided the Housing Officer shall first find that special individual reason makes the strict letter of this chapter impractical and the modification is in compliance with the intent and purpose of this chapter and that such modification does not lessen health, life and fire safety requirements. The details of action granting modifications shall be recorded and entered in the official files.
B. 
Alternative materials, methods and equipment. The provisions of this chapter are not intended to prevent the installation of any material or to prohibit any method of construction not specifically prescribed by this chapter, provided that any such alternative has been approved. An alternative material or method of construction shall be approved where the Housing Officer finds that the proposed design is satisfactory and complies with the intent of the provisions of this chapter and that the material, method or work offered is, for the purpose intended, at least the equivalent of that prescribed in this chapter in quality, strength, effectiveness, fire resistance, durability and safety.
C. 
Required testing. Whenever there is insufficient evidence of compliance with the provisions of this chapter or evidence that a material or method does not conform to the requirements of this chapter or in order to substantiate claims for alternative materials or methods, the Housing Officer shall have the authority to require tests to be made as evidence of compliance at no expense to the Borough.
(1) 
Test methods. Test methods shall be as specified in this chapter or by other recognized test standards. In the absence of recognized and accepted test methods, the Housing Officer shall be permitted to approve appropriate testing procedures performed by an approved agency.
(2) 
Test reports. Reports of tests shall be retained by the Housing Officer for the period required for retention of public records.
(3) 
Material and equipment reuse. Materials, equipment and devices shall not be reused unless such elements are in good repair or have been reconditioned and tested when necessary, placed in good and proper working condition and approved.

§ 231-8 Unsafe structures and equipment.

A. 
General. When a structure or equipment is found by the Housing Officer to be unsafe or when a structure is found unfit for human occupancy or is found unlawful, such structure may be condemned pursuant to the provisions of this chapter.
(1) 
Unsafe structures. An unsafe structure is one that is found to be dangerous to the life, health, property or safety of the public or the occupants of the structure by not providing minimum safeguards to protect or warn occupants in the event of fire or because such structure contains unsafe equipment or is so damaged, decayed, dilapidated, structurally unsafe or of such faulty construction or unstable foundation that partial or complete collapse is possible.
(2) 
Unsafe equipment. Unsafe equipment includes any boiler, heating equipment, elevator, moving stairway, electrical wiring or device, flammable liquid containers or other equipment on the premises or within the structure which is in such disrepair or condition that such equipment is a hazard to life, health, property or safety of the public or occupants of the premises or structure.
(3) 
Structure unfit for human occupancy. A structure is unfit for human occupancy whenever the Housing Officer finds that such structure is unsafe, unlawful or, because of the degree to which the structure is in disrepair or lacks maintenance, is unsanitary, vermin- or rat-infested, contains filth and contamination, or lacks ventilation, illumination, sanitary or heating facilities or other essential equipment required by this chapter, or because the location of the structure constitutes a hazard to the occupants of the structure or to the public.
(4) 
Unlawful structure. An unlawful structure is one found in whole or in part to be occupied by more persons than permitted under this chapter or that was erected, altered or occupied contrary to law.
B. 
Closing of vacant structures. If the structure is vacant and unfit for human habitation and occupancy and is not in danger of structural collapse, the Housing Officer is authorized to post a notice of condemnation on the premises and order all external areas closed and windows secured so as not to be an attractive nuisance. Upon failure of the owner to close the premises within the time specified in the order, the Housing Officer shall cause the premises to be closed and secured through any available public agency or by contract or arrangement by private persons, and the cost thereof shall be charged against the real estate upon which the structure is located and shall be a lien upon such real estate and may be collected by any other legal remedy.
C. 
Notice. Whenever the Housing Officer has condemned a structure or equipment under the provisions of this section, notice shall be posted in a conspicuous place in or about the structure affected by such notice and served on the owner or the person or persons responsible for the structure or equipment in accordance with § 231-33. If the notice pertains to equipment, it shall also be placed on the condemned equipment. The notice shall be in the form prescribed in this chapter.
D. 
Placarding.
(1) 
Upon failure of the owner or person responsible to comply with the notice provisions within the time given, the Housing Officer shall post on the premises or on defective equipment a placard bearing the word "condemned" and a statement of the penalties provided for occupying the premises, operating the equipment or removing the placard.
(2) 
Placard removal. The Housing Officer shall remove the condemnation placard whenever the defect or defects upon which the condemnation and placarding action were based have been eliminated. Any person who defaces or removes a condemnation placard without the approval of the Housing Officer shall be subject to the penalties provided by this chapter.
E. 
Prohibited occupancy. Any occupied structure condemned and placarded by the Housing Officer shall be vacated as ordered by the Housing Officer. Any person who shall occupy placarded premises or shall operate placarded equipment and any owner or any person responsible for the premises who shall let anyone occupy placarded premises or operate placarded equipment shall be liable for the penalties provided by this chapter.

§ 231-9 Emergency measures.

A. 
Imminent danger. When in the opinion of the Housing Officer there is imminent danger of failure or collapse of a building or structure which endangers life, or when any structure or part of a structure has fallen and life is endangered by the occupation of the structure, or when there is actual or potential danger to the building occupants or those in the proximity of any structure because of explosives, explosive fumes or vapors or the presence of toxic fumes, gases or materials, or operation of defective or dangerous equipment, the Housing Officer is authorized and empowered to order and require the occupants to vacate the premises forthwith. The Housing Officer shall cause to be posted at each entrance to such structure a notice reading as follows: "This Structure is Unsafe and Its Occupancy Has Been Prohibited by the Housing Officer." It shall be unlawful for any person to enter such structure except for the purpose of securing the structure, making the requirement repairs, removing the hazardous condition or of demolishing the same.
B. 
Temporary safeguards. Notwithstanding other provisions of this chapter, whenever in the opinion of the Housing Officer there is imminent danger due to an unsafe condition, the Housing Officer shall order the necessary work to be done, including the boarding up of openings, to render such structure temporarily safe whether or not the legal procedure herein described has been instituted and shall cause such other action to be taken as the Housing Officer deems necessary to meet such emergency.
C. 
Closing streets. When necessary for public safety, the Housing Officer shall temporarily close structures and close or order the authority having jurisdiction to close sidewalks, streets, public ways and places adjacent to unsafe structures and prohibit the same from being utilized.
D. 
Emergency repairs. For the purposes of this section, the Housing Officer shall employ the necessary labor and materials to perform the required work as expeditiously as possible.
E. 
Costs of emergency repairs. Costs incurred in the performance of emergency work shall be paid by the Borough. The legal counsel of the Borough may institute appropriate action against the owner of the premises where the unsafe structure is or was located for the recovery of such costs and it shall be a lien upon such real estate.
F. 
Hearing. Any person ordered to take emergency measures shall comply with such order forthwith. Any affected person shall thereafter, upon petition directed to the Appeal Committee, be afforded a hearing as described in this chapter.

§ 231-10 Demolition.

A. 
General. The Housing Officer shall order the owner of any premises upon which is located any structure which in the Housing Officer's judgment is so old, dilapidated or has become so out of repair as to be dangerous, unsafe, unsanitary or otherwise unfit for human habitation or occupancy, and such that it is unreasonable to repair the structure, to demolish and remove such structure; or, if such structure is capable of being made safe by repairs, to repair and make safe and sanitary or to demolish and remove at the owner's option; or, where there has been a cessation of normal construction of any structure for a period of more than two years, to demolish and remove such structure.
B. 
Notices and orders. All notices and orders shall comply with this chapter.
C. 
Failure to comply. If the owner of a premises fails to comply with a demolition order within the time prescribed, the Housing Officer shall cause the structure to be demolished and removed, either through an available public agency or by contract or arrangement with private persons, and the cost of such demolition and removal shall be charged against the real estate upon which the structure is located and shall be a lien upon such real estate.
D. 
Salvage materials. Whenever any structure has been ordered demolished and removed, the governing body or other designated officer under said contract or arrangement aforesaid shall have the right to sell the salvage and valuable materials at the highest price obtainable. The next proceeds of such sale, after deducting the expenses of such demolition and removal, shall be promptly remitted with a report of such sale or transaction, including the items of expense and the amounts deducted, for the person who is entitled thereto, subject to any order of a court. If such a surplus does not remain to be turned over, the report shall so state.

§ 231-11 Means of appeal.

A. 
Any person affected by a decision of the Housing Officer or a notice or demolition issued under this chapter, except when the Housing Officer has filed a summons and complaint in the Municipal Court, shall have the right to appeal to a committee consisting of three members of the Council of the Borough, appointed by the Mayor, provided that a written application for appeal is filed within 20 days after the date of the decision, notice or order was served. An application for appeal shall be based on a claim that the true intent of this chapter or the rules legally adopted thereunder have been incorrectly interpreted, the provisions of this chapter do not fully apply, or the requirements of this chapter are adequately satisfied by other means.
B. 
Notice of meeting. The Committee shall meet upon notice from the Clerk, within 10 days of the filing of an appeal or at scheduled regular meetings.
C. 
Open hearing. All hearings before the Committee shall be open to the public. The appellant, the appellant's representative, the Housing Officer, and any person whose interests are affected shall be given an opportunity to be heard.
D. 
Procedure. The Council shall adopt and make available to the public through the Clerk procedures under which a hearing will be conducted. The procedures shall not require compliance with strict rules of evidence but shall mandate that only relevant information be received.
E. 
Postponed hearing. When two members are not present to hear an appeal, either the appellant or the appellant's representative shall have the right to request a postponement of the hearing.
F. 
Decision. The Committee may modify or reverse the decision of the Housing Officer by a concurring vote of a majority of members eligible to vote.
G. 
Resolution. The decision of the Committee shall be by resolution. Certified copies shall be furnished to the appellant and to the Housing Officer.
H. 
Administration. The Housing Officer shall take immediate action in accordance with the decision of the Committee.
I. 
Court review. Any person, whether or not a previous party of the appeal, shall have the right to apply to an appropriate court to correct errors of law. Application for review shall be made in the manner and time required by law.

§ 231-12 Definitions.

A. 
General.
(1) 
Scope. Unless otherwise expressly stated, the following terms shall, for the purposes of this chapter, have the meanings shown.
(2) 
Interchangeability. Words stated in the present tense include the future; words stated in the masculine gender include the feminine and neuter; the singular number includes the plural and the plural, the singular.
(3) 
Terms defined in other codes. Where terms are not defined in this chapter and are defined in the International Building Code, International Zoning Code, International Plumbing Code, International Mechanical Code, International Existing Building Code or the ICC Electrical Code, such terms have the meanings ascribed to them as in those codes.
(4) 
Terms not defined. Where terms are not defined through the methods authorized by this section, such terms shall have ordinarily accepted meanings such as the context implies.
(5) 
Parts. Whenever the words "dwelling unit," "dwelling," "premises." "building," "rooming unit," "housekeeping unit" or "story" are stated in this chapter, they shall be construed as though they were followed by the words "or any part thereof."
B. 
General definitions. As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
APPROVED
Approved by the Housing Officer.
BASEMENT
That portion of a building which is partly or completely below grade.
BATHROOM
A room containing plumbing fixtures including a bathtub and/or shower.
BEDROOM
Any room or space used or intended to be used for sleeping purposes.
CODE OFFICIAL
The official who is charged with the administration and enforcement of this chapter or any duly authorized representative.
CONDEMN
To adjudge unfit for occupancy.
DWELLING UNIT
A single unit providing complete, independent living facilities for one or more persons, including provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation.
EASEMENT
That portion of land or property reserved for present or future use by a person or agency other than the legal fee owner(s) of the property. The easement shall be permitted to be for use under, on or above a said lot or lots.
EXTERIOR PROPERTY
Those portions of a building or structure which are exposed to public view or are visible from adjoining or adjacent lots, including all outside surfaces and appurtenances thereto, all fences and walls, and the open land space of any premises outside of any building or structure erected thereon.
EXTERMINATION
The control and elimination of insects, rodents or other pests by eliminating their harborage places; by removing or making inaccessible materials that serve as their food; by poison spraying, fumigating, trapping or by any other approved pest elimination methods.
GARBAGE
The animal or vegetable waste resulting from the handling, preparation, cooking and consumption of food.
GUARD
A building component or a system of building components located at or near the open sides of elevated walking surfaces that minimizes the possibility of a fall from the walking surface to a lower level.
HABITABLE SPACE
Space in a structure for living, sleeping, eating or cooking. Bathrooms, toilet rooms, closets, halls, storage or utility spaces, and similar areas are not considered habitable spaces.
HOUSEKEEPING UNIT
A room or group of rooms forming a single habitable space equipped and intended to be used for living, sleeping, cooking and eating, which does not contain within such a unit a toilet, lavatory and bathtub or shower.
IMMINENT DANGER
A condition which could cause serious or life-threatening injury or death at any time.
INFESTATION
The presence, within or contiguous to, a structure or premises of insects, rodents, vermin or other pests.
INOPERABLE MOTOR VEHICLE
A vehicle which cannot be driven upon the public streets for reasons including but not limited to being unlicensed, wrecked, abandoned, in a state of disrepair, or incapable of being moved under its own power.
LABELED
Devices, equipment, appliances or materials to which has been affixed a label, seal, symbol or other identifying mark of a nationally recognized testing laboratory, inspection agency or other organization concerned with product evaluation that maintains periodic inspection of the production of the above labeled items and by whose label the manufacturer attests to compliance with applicable nationally recognized standards.
LET FOR OCCUPANCY or LET
To permit, provide or offer possession or occupancy of a dwelling, dwelling unit, rooming unit, building, premises or structure by a person who is or is not the legal owner of record thereof, pursuant to a written or unwritten lease, agreement or license, or pursuant to a recorded or unrecorded agreement of contract for the sale of land.
NUISANCE
Any public or private condition that would constitute a nuisance according to the statutes, laws and regulations of the State of New Jersey, its governmental agencies or the ordinances of the Borough of Wharton. Any physical condition existing in or on the exterior of any premises which is potentially dangerous, detrimental or hazardous to the life, health or safety of persons on, near or passing within the proximity of premises where said condition exists.
OCCUPANCY
The purpose for which a building or portion thereof is utilized or occupied.
OCCUPANT
Any individual living or sleeping in a building or having possession of a space within a building.
OPENABLE AREA
That part of a window, skylight or door which is available for unobstructed ventilation and which opens directly to the outdoors.
OPERATOR
Any person who has charge, care or control of a structure or premises which is let or offered for occupancy.
OWNER
Any person, agent, operator, firm or corporation having a legal or equitable interest in the property, or recorded in the official records of the state, county or municipality as holding title to the property, or otherwise having control of the property, including the guardian of the estate of any such person and the executor or administrator of the estate of such person if ordered to take possession of real property by a court.
PERSON
An individual, corporation, partnership or any other group acting as a unit.
PREMISES
A lot, plot or parcel of land, easement or public way, including any structures thereon.
PUBLIC WAY
Any street, alley or similar parcel of land, essentially unobstructed from the ground to the sky, which is deeded, dedicated or otherwise permanently appropriated to the public for public use.
ROOMING HOUSE
A building arranged or occupied for lodging, with or without meals, for compensation and not occupied as a one- or two-family dwelling.
ROOMING UNIT
Any room or group of rooms forming a single habitable unit occupied or intended to be occupied for sleeping or living but not for cooking purposes.
RUBBISH AND/OR REFUSE
All discarded, useless, unusable, unused or worthless solid waste matter or materials, combustible or noncombustible, including but not limited to garbage; trash; ashes; paper, paper goods and products; wrappings; cans, bottles, containers; yard clippings, garden waste; debris; junk; glass; boxes; crockery; wood; mineral matter; plastic; rubber; leather; furniture; household goods; appliances or parts thereof; bedding; scrap lumber; scrap metal; construction material; inoperable machinery or parts thereof; garden or farming implements; dead or rotting vegetation; tires; abandoned, inoperative or unusable automobiles and vehicles or their components; and solid commercial or industrial waste.
STRICT LIABILITY OFFENSE
An offense in which the prosecution in a legal proceeding is not required to prove criminal intent as a part of its case. It is enough to prove that the defendant either did an act which was prohibited or failed to do an act which the defendant was legally required to do.
STRUCTURE
That which is built or constructed or a portion thereof.
TENANT
A person, corporation, partnership or group, whether or not the legal owner of record, occupying a building or portion thereof as a unit.
TOILET ROOM
A room containing a water closet or urinal but not a bathtub or shower.
VENTILATION
The natural or mechanical process of supplying conditioned or unconditioned air to or removing such air from any space.
WORKMANLIKE
Executed in a skilled manner, e.g., generally plumb, level, square, in line, undamaged and without marring adjacent work.
YARD
An open space on the same lot with a structure.