[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Council of the Town of Newton as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Article I General Provisions
Article II Registration of Abandoned and Vacant Property
[Adopted 5-27-2009 by Ord. No. 2009-15]
The Town of Newton hereby grants to itself all such powers granted to municipalities by the State of New Jersey for the rehabilitation of abandoned property. Such powers are set forth, inter alia, in the "Abandoned Properties Rehabilitation Act" (N.J.S.A. 55:19-78 et seq.) and in applicable portions of the "New Jersey Urban Development Corporation Act" (N.J.S.A. 55- 19-1 though -77). These state statutory powers are collectively referred to herein as the "enabling statutes."
The Public Officer, as defined in N.J.S.A. 55:19-80, who is responsible for executing the provisions of this article for the rehabilitation of abandoned property, shall be designated by resolution of the Town Council.
The Public Officer shall designate a property as an "abandoned property" if said property meets the criteria set forth in N.J.S.A. 55:19-81 (abandoned property criteria) and/or N.J.S.A. 55:19-82 (nuisance property criteria). The Public Officer's designation is limited by the provisions of N.J.S.A. 55:19-83.
The Public Officer shall establish an Abandoned Property List pursuant to N.J.S.A. 55:19-55. An interested party (as that term is defined in N.J.S.A. 55:19-105a) may request that the Public Officer include a property on the Abandoned Property List, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 55:19-105.
The owner of a property on the Abandoned Property List has such rights designated to said owner by the enabling statutes. Such powers include but are not limited to:
Town of Newton has such powers and rights regarding abandoned properties as set forth in the enabling statutes. Such powers include but are not limited to:
Sale of tax lien, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 55:19-56;
Special tax sales, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 55:19-101;
Foreclosing the right to redemption, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 55:19-58;
Recourse directly against property owner, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 55:19-100;
Possession and control of property, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 55:19-84 to 55:19-92 et seq.;
Rehabilitation and reuse of property, while in possession and control, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 55:19-90;
Borrowing money and making applications for rehabilitation of property, while in possession and control, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 55:19-91;
Sale of property, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 55:19-96;
Purchase of property, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 55:19-96;
Recover rehabilitation costs by lien on property, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 55:19-98;
Clearance, development, redevelopment or repair of property through power of eminent domain, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 55:19-56, 55:19-102.
Electric and natural gas utilities are granted such rights to abandoned properties as are set forth in N.J.S.A. 55:19-106.
All references in this article to state statutes include reference to all amendments thereto. References to particular sections of the enabling statutes are for ease of reference, but may not be exhaustive and are not meant to be exclusive of other applicable statutory provisions contained in the enabling statutes or elsewhere in the New Jersey statutes.
[Adopted 5-22-2017 by Ord. No. 2017-10]
Editor's Note: This ordinance was adopted as Ch. 42, but was renumbered to maintain the organization of the Code.
As used in this article, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- ABANDONED PROPERTY
- As defined by Newton Town Code § 41-3, in accordance with the Abandoned Properties Rehabilitation Act, N.J.S.A. 55:19-81 and 55:19-82.
- ACTIVELY MARKETED VACANT PROPERTIES
- Owners of properties meeting the definition of "vacant property" that are being actively marketed for sale in a bona fide manner shall file a registration statement with the Town in accordance with the terms and conditions of this article, but shall be exempt from the payment of a registration fee. The owner of any such property in order to be exempt from the payment of a registration fee shall provide adequate proof to the Town of the bona fide active marketing of the property for sale by providing such evidence of such bona fide active marketing activities as shall be reasonably required by the Town, including, but not limited to, copies of listing agreements and/or pending contracts of sale or other advertising or marketing efforts being made by the property owner directly to promote the sale of the property. Retention of a realtor is not required to actively market a property under this article. Although exempt from the payment of any registration fee, in all other respects, the property owner of any vacant property that is being actively marketed for sale in a bona fide manner shall be required to maintain the property while it is being actively marketed in a bona fide manner in accordance with this article and all other ordinances of the Town of Newton.
- A. Any condition that on its own or combined with other conditions present would lead a reasonable person to believe that the property is or has been vacant for three or more months. Such evidence would include, but is not limited to, evidence of the existence of two or more of the following conditions at a property: overgrown or dead vegetation; accumulation of newspapers, circulars, flyers or mail; past-due utility notices or disconnected utilities; accumulation of trash, junk or debris; the absence of window coverings such as curtains, blinds or shutters; the absence of furnishings or personal items consistent with residential habitation; statements by neighbors, delivery agents, or government employees that the property is vacant or abandoned; infestation by insects, vermin, rats or other pests; windows or entrances that are boarded up or closed off; multiple window panes that are damaged, broken or unrepaired; doors that are smashed, broken, unhinged or continuously unlocked; or any uncorrected violation of a municipal building, housing or similar code during the preceding year.
- B. Property determined to be "abandoned property" in accordance with Newton Town Code § 41-3 and the Abandoned Properties Rehabilitation Act, N.J.S.A. 55:19-78 et seq., shall also be deemed to be vacant property for the purposes of this article.
- Shall include the titleholder, any agent of the titleholder having authority to act with respect to a vacant or abandoned property, any foreclosing entity subject to the provisions of N.J.S.A. 46:10B-51, or any other entity determined by the Town of Newton to act with respect to the property. The term "owner" shall not include any duly licensed real estate agent engaged solely in the sale of the property on behalf of the owner.
- PROPERTIES UNDER REPAIR OR RENOVATION
- Owners of properties meeting the definition of "vacant property" that are in the process of being repaired or renovated shall file a registration statement with the Town in accordance with the terms and conditions of this article, but shall be exempt from the payment of a registration fee. The owner of any such property in order to be exempt from the payment of a registration fee shall have obtained all necessary permits and approvals from the Town to repair or renovate the property and shall demonstrate proof to the Town of diligent continuous efforts by the owner to promptly complete the repair or renovation of any such property.
- SEASONALLY OCCUPIED PROPERTIES
- Seasonally occupied properties shall be those properties in the Town which are occupied on a limited, part-time or seasonal basis and not on a year-round basis by the owner. Owners of seasonably occupied residences shall be required to file a registration statement with the Town, but shall be exempt from payment of any registration fee and the posting of a placard on the property as otherwise required this article.
- VACANT PROPERTY
- Any building used or to be used as a residence which is not legally occupied or at which substantially all lawful construction operations or residential occupancy has ceased for a period of at least three months, and any commercial property that has not been legally occupied or at which substantially all lawful construction operations have ceased for a period of at least three months, and which exhibits evidence of vacancy such that a reasonable person would believe that the property is vacant. Any property that contains all building systems in working order, is being maintained on a regular basis, has not been cited by the Town for any violation of municipal ordinance within such time and is being actively marketed by its owner for sale or rental shall not be deemed vacant.
The owner of any vacant or abandoned property as defined herein shall, within 30 days after the building becomes vacant property or within 30 days after assuming ownership of the vacant property, whichever is later, file a registration statement for each such vacant property with the Town of Newton Clerk's office on forms provided by the Town of Newton for such purposes. The registration shall remain valid until the end of the calendar year. The owner shall be required to renew the registration annually, no later than January 31, as long as the building remains vacant property and shall pay a registration or renewal fee to the Town Clerk's office in the amount prescribed in § 42-12 for each vacant property registered. The initial and renewal fees shall be prorated and/or credited accordingly upon legal occupancy.
Any owner of any building that meets the definition of "vacant property" or "abandoned property" prior to May 22, 2017, shall file with the Town Clerk's office a registration statement for that property on or before July 21, 2017. The registration statement shall include the information required under § 41-11, as well as any additional information that the Construction Official may reasonably require. Each vacant or abandoned property having a separate block and lot number by the Town shall be registered separately.
The owner shall notify the Town of Newton Clerk's office within 30 days of any change in the registration information by filing an amended registration statement on a form provided by the Town of Newton for such purpose.
The registration statement shall be deemed prima facie proof of the statement therein contained in any administrative enforcement proceeding or court proceeding instituted by the Town of Newton against the owner or owners of the building.
"Actively marketed vacant properties," "properties under repair or renovation" and "seasonally occupied properties," as defined in this article, shall be required to file a registration statement, but shall be exempt from payment of a registration fee.
After filing a registration statement or a renewal of a registration statement, the owner of any vacant or abandoned property shall provide access to the Town of Newton Construction Official if requested, following reasonable notice, during the period covered by the initial registration or any subsequent renewal. If an inspection is required of the interior of the property due to complaints or other cause, the fee for such inspection shall be the same as that for a certificate of compliance as provided in Newton Town Code § 100-21A, as may be amended.
The registration statement shall include the name, street address, e-mail address, and telephone number of a natural person 21 years of age or older, designated by the owner or owners as the authorized agent for receiving notices of code violations and for receiving process in any court proceeding or administrative enforcement proceeding, on behalf of such owner or owners in connection with the enforcement of any applicable code. The designated agent must have a contact number that will be available 24 hours per day on an emergency basis. The statement shall also include the name of the person responsible for maintaining and securing the property, if different from the designated agent.
An owner who is a natural person and who meets the requirements of this article as to availability of a contact number on a twenty-four-hour emergency basis may designate himself or herself as agent.
By designating an authorized agent under the provisions of this article, the owner consents to receive any and all notices of code violations concerning the registered vacant property and all process in any court proceeding or administrative enforcement proceeding brought to enforce code provisions concerning the registered building by service of the notice or process on the authorized agent. Any owner who has designated an authorized agent under the provisions of this article shall be deemed to consent to the continuation of the agent's designation for the purpose of this article until the owner notifies the Town of Newton of a change of the authorized agent or until the owner files a new annual registration statement. The designation of an authorized agent in no way releases the owner from any requirement of this article.
The vacant and abandoned property registration fee schedule shall be as follows:
The owner of any building that has become vacant or abandoned property, and any person maintaining, operating or collecting rent for any such building that has become vacant or abandoned, shall, immediately:
Post a sign affixed to the inside of the building indicating the name, address and telephone number of the owner, the owner's authorized agent for the purpose of service of process (if designated pursuant to § 41-11), and the person responsible for the day-to-day supervision and management of the building, if such person is different from the owner holding title or authorized agent. The sign shall be of a size and placed in such a location so as to be legible from the nearest public street or sidewalk, whichever is nearer, but shall be no smaller than 12 inches by 12 inches; and
Enclose and secure the building against unauthorized entry as provided in the applicable provisions of the Code of the Town of Newton and maintain the sign required in Subsection A above until the building is again legally occupied or demolished or until repair or rehabilitation of the building is complete; and
Make provision for the maintenance of the lawn and yard, including regular grass cutting as required by the applicable provisions of the Code of the Town of Newton; and
Make provision for the cessation of the delivery of mail, newspapers and circulars to the property, including having the property listed on the exclusion list maintained by the Town of Newton for the delivery of circulars and advertisements to the property; and
Make provision for the winterizing of the property by the cessation of water service to the property and the draining of water lines, other than buildings with a fire sprinkler system; and
Make provision for the cessation of electric or gas utility services to the property, other than buildings with a fire sprinkler system; and
Make provision for the regular maintenance of the exterior of the property.
Any owner who is not in full compliance with this article or who otherwise violates any provision of this article or of the rules and regulations issued hereunder shall be subject to a fine of not less than $500 and not more than $1,000 for each offense, payable to the Town of Newton, at the Clerk's office. Every day that a violation continues shall constitute a separate and distinct offense. Fines assessed under this article shall be recoverable from the owner and shall be a lien on the property.
Nothing in this article is intended to nor shall be read to conflict or prevent the Town of Newton from taking action permitted by law of Newton Town Code, including buildings found to be unfit for human habitation or unsafe structures as provided in applicable provisions of the Code of the Town of Newton and/or the Uniform Construction Code. Further, any action taken under any such code provision other than the demolition of a structure shall not relieve an owner from its obligations under this article.
Any owner having received notice from the Town that their property has been determined to be either vacant or abandoned may make a request, in writing, to the Town for an exemption from any of the provisions of this article by demonstrating to the Town such special circumstances peculiar to the property that warrants either a temporary or permanent exemption from any of the provisions of this article. In the event of a denial of any such exemption request, the owner shall have the right to file an appeal in accordance with § 41-17, below.
Any owner having received notice from the Town that their property has been determined to be either vacant or abandoned shall have the right to appeal any such determination by any Town official directly to the governing body of the Town of Newton. Any such appeal shall be taken within 45 days of the date of the receipt of notice from the Town of such vacant or abandoned property determination. The appeal shall be in writing and served on the Town Clerk with a copy to the Town Zoning Officer. Upon the filing of the appeal, all proceedings against the property shall be stayed pending the appeal process. The governing body shall schedule a hearing on the appeal as soon as practical at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Mayor and Council, at which time the property owner shall have the right to present relevant evidence to the Town Council that the property is neither vacant or abandoned. Any such property owner shall have the right to be represented at any such hearing and shall have the right to call witnesses and present other relevant proof. The Mayor shall preside all such hearings, which shall to the extent applicable, be in accordance with the provisions of N.J.S.A. 40:55D-10.