[HISTORY: Adopted by the Common Council of the City of Linwood 12-13-1967 as Ch. 51 of the 1967 Code; amended in its entirety 7-10-1985 by Ord. No. 5-1985. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Uniform Construction Codes — See Ch. 119.
The Building Inspector of said City is hereby designated as the public officer to exercise the powers prescribed by this chapter.
For the purposes of this chapter, 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 or may become dangerous or injurious to the health or safety of the occupants of such building, the occupants of neighboring buildings or other residents of the City of Linwood. Such conditions may include the following, without limiting the generality of the foregoing:
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 residents of the municipality charging that any building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use as herein defined, or whenever it appears to the public officer, on his own motion, that any building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use, 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 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.
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 to give testimony at the place and time fixed in the complaint.
The rules of evidence prevailing in courts of law or equity shall not be controlling in the hearings.
If, after such notice and hearing, the public officer determines that the building under consideration is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use, as herein defined, 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 and parties in interest an order requiring that:
The repair, alteration or improvement of the said building 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 that owner fails to repair, alter or improve the said building within the time specified in the order, then the owner shall be required to remove 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 or, at the option of the owner, to vacate and close the building, 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 or 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 such building to be removed or demolished or make contract for the removal or demolition thereof after advertisement for and receipt of bids thereof.
The total amount of the cost of filing of legal papers, expert witness' 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 cost of such repairs, alterations or improvements, where 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 costs were 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 cost of clearing and, if necessary, leveling of the site, the proceeds of any sale of any 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 amounts 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, return receipt requested. 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 dispersed according to the order or judgment of such Court. 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.
If any actual and immediate danger to life is imposed by the threatened collapse of a fire-damaged or structurally unsafe building, the public officer may, after taking such measures as may be necessary to make such building temporarily safe, seek a judgment in summary proceedings for the demolition thereof.
Nothing in this section shall be construed to impair or limit in any way the power of the City to define and declare nuisances to cause the removal or abatement by summary proceedings or otherwise, nor is anything in this chapter intended to limit the authority of the Construction Code Official under the State Uniform Construction Code Act (N.J.S.A. 52:27D-119 et seq.) or any rules or regulations adopted thereunder.
Complaints or orders issued by the public officer pursuant to this chapter shall be served upon the owner or owners resident in the City of Linwood, in person or by leaving the same at his usual place of residence with a member of his family above the age of 14 years. In case any such owner shall not reside in the City of Linwood, notice may be served upon him or her personally or by registered mail to his or her last known post office address or it may be served upon the occupant of the property or upon the agent of the owner in charge thereof. In case the whereabouts of such persons is unknown and the same cannot be ascertained by said public officer in the exercise of reasonable diligence, and the public officer 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 the newspaper printed and published in the County of Atlantic and circulated in the City. A copy of such complaint or order shall be posted in a conspicuous place on the premises affected by the complaint or order, and a copy of such complaint or order shall be duly recorded or lodged for record with the county recording officer of Atlantic County. Notice to infant owners or owners of unsound mind shall be served upon their guardians. Where lands are held in trusts, service shall be made upon the trustee. Where lands are held by two or more joint tenants, tenants in common or tenants by the entirety, service upon one of such owners shall be sufficient and shall be deemed taken as notice to all.
Any person aggrieved by an order issued by the public officer under this chapter 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 court may proceed in the action in a summary manner or otherwise. The remedy herein provided shall be exclusive, and no person affected by the 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.
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 investigate the conditions of buildings in the City of Linwood in order to determine which buildings therein are unfit for human habitation.
To administer oaths and affirmations, examine witnesses and receive evidence.
To enter upon premises for the purpose of making examination, provided that such entry 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 that he deems necessary to carry out the purposes of this chapter.
To delegate any of his functions and powers under this chapter to such officer and agents as he may designate.
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to abrogate or impair the power of the City or any officer or department to enforce any provisions of its chapter or its ordinances or regulations, nor to prevent or punish violations thereof, and powers conferred by this chapter shall be in addition and supplemental to the powers conferred upon the City by any other law or ordinance.
In the event that any building or structure is removed or demolished pursuant to this chapter because it is found to be dangerous to human life or the public welfare or because it constitutes a fire hazard, the City Council, in addition to assessing the cost of such removal or demolition as a municipal lien against the premises, may force the payment of such assessment, together with interest, as a debt of the owner of the premises and may also raise the institution of an action at law for the collection thereof.