[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Committee of the Township of Harding 7-9-1968 by Ord. No. 3-68 (Ch. 43 of the 1990 Code); amended in its entirety at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. I). Amendments noted where applicable.]
It is hereby found and declared that the existence or occupation of any building or buildings, or parts thereof, in the Township of Harding ("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 residents of the Township and that a public necessity exists for the repair, closing or demolition of such building or buildings or part thereof. It is hereby found that there may exist in the Township a building or 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, light or sanitation facilities, or due to other conditions rendering such building or buildings, or part thereof, unsafe or unsanitary, or dangerous, or detrimental to the health or safety or otherwise inimical to the welfare of the residents of the Township, and as to which the Township has the power, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.3 et seq., to exercise its police powers to repair, close or demolish, or cause or require the repairing, closing or demolition of such buildings, or part thereof, in the manner herein provided.
Any building or buildings or parts thereof which have been damaged to such an extent that nothing remains but the walls or parts of the walls and other supports shall, regardless of the safety and sturdiness of those remaining walls or parts thereof, be deemed inimical to the welfare of the residents of the Township, and the Township may exercise its police powers to repair, demolish or cause the repairing or demolishing of the building or buildings or parts thereof pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.3 et seq., and the procedure set forth herein.
The following, whenever used or referred to in this chapter, unless a different meaning clearly appears from the context, shall mean:
- BUILDING or DWELLING
- Any building or structure or part thereof, whether used for human habitation or otherwise, and includes any outhouses, and appurtenances belonging thereto or usually enjoyed therewith.
- 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 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 Zoning Officer or such other officer, board or body that is or are appointed by the Mayor with the consent of the Township Committee to exercise the powers described herein.
For the purpose of this chapter, the Public Officer may determine that a building or dwelling is unsafe or unfit for human habitation or use if the Public Officer finds that conditions exist in such building or dwelling which are dangerous or injurious to the health or safety of the occupants of such building or dwelling, the occupants of neighboring buildings or dwellings or other residents of the Township; such conditions may include the following (without limiting the generality of the foregoing): defects therein increasing the hazards of fire, accident or other calamities; lack of adequate ventilation, light or sanitary facilities; dilapidation; disrepair; structural defects; and uncleanliness.
Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:49-5.1 et seq., the New Jersey State Housing Code approved by the Department of Community Affairs (N.J.A.C. 5:28-1.1), the State Uniform Construction Code (N.J.S.A. 52:27D-119 et seq.) and the State Uniform Fire Safety Act (N.J.S.A. 52:27D-192 et seq.), and any rules or regulations adopted thereunder, are hereby accepted, adopted and established as standards to be used as guides in determining the fitness of a building for human habitation, occupancy or use. A copy of these codes are made a part of this chapter, and three copies thereof have been placed on file in the office of the Township Clerk and will remain on file there for the use and examination of the public.
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 or dwelling 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 or dwelling is unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use or that any building or dwelling is dangerous or unsafe, 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 or dwelling a complaint stating the charges in that respect and containing a notice that hearing will be held before the Public Officer, or designated agent, at a place therein fixed not less than seven days nor more than 30 days after the service 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 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.
If, after such notice and hearing, the Public Officer determines that the building or dwelling under consideration is unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use, or is dangerous or unsafe, the Public Officer shall state, in writing, his or her 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 the repair, alteration or improvement of said building or dwelling 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 said building or dwelling 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 said building within the time specified in the order, then the owner may be required to remove or demolish said building or dwelling 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 or dwelling, the Public Officer may cause such building to be repaired, altered or improved or to be vacated and closed; the Public Officer may cause to be posted, on the main entrance of any building or dwelling so closed, a placard with the following words: "This building or dwelling is unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use; the use or occupation of this building or dwelling is prohibited and unlawful."
If the owner fails to comply with an order to remove or demolish the building or dwelling, the Public Officer may cause such building or dwelling 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 fails to comply with an order to repair, alter or improve, the Public Officer may appoint a custodian of such building or dwelling on behalf of the Township, who may be either an official of the Township or any other person specially designated to enter into and take charge of the premises and supervise abatement of the nuisance, the correction of the defective condition or the maintenance of the premises in a proper condition so as to conform to the requirements of the Township Code and state laws applicable thereto; compensation of the custodian, which shall be part of the expenses provided for below, shall be at a rate to be established by resolution of the Mayor and Township Committee but in no event more than $100 per day.
If the owner violates this chapter or fails to abate a condition harmful to the health and safety of the occupants of the building or dwelling and the general public in the Township after notice and opportunity so to do, the Public Officer may, by and with the approval of the Mayor and Township Committee, bring an action in the Superior Court to be appointed receiver ex officio of the rents and income in the manner described in N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.12h through 40:48-2.12k.
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 and the cost of repairs, alterations or improvements, or vacating and closing, or removal or demolitions, 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 dwelling or from any contract for removal or demolition thereof, including the clearance and, if necessary, leveling of the site shall be a municipal lien against the real property upon which such costs were incurred. If the building or dwelling is removed or demolished by order of the Public Officer, he or she shall sell the materials of such building or dwelling. There shall be credited against the cost of the removal or demolition thereof the proceeds of any sale of such materials or any such 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 Township Tax Assessor and the Township Tax Collector, and a copy thereof shall be forthwith forwarded to the owner by registered or certified mail. If the total of the credits exceeds such costs, the balance remaining shall be deposited in the Superior Court by the Public Officer and shall be disbursed according to the order of judgment of the Court to the persons found to be entitled thereto by final order of 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 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 an actual and immediate danger to life is posed by the threatened collapse of any fire-damaged or other structurally unsafe building or dwelling, the Public Officer may, after taking such measures as may be necessary to make such building or dwelling temporarily safe, seek a judgment in summary proceedings for the demolition thereof. Nothing herein 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, nor is anything in this chapter intended to limit the authority of the enforcing agency or Construction Official under the State Uniform Construction Code, N.J.S.A. 52:27D-119 et seq., the State Uniform Fire Safety Act, N.J.S.A. 52:27D-192 et seq., or any rules or regulations adopted thereunder.
Any building or buildings, or parts thereof, which have come into a state of disrepair through neglect, lack of maintenance or use, fire, accident or other calamities, or through any other act rendering the building or buildings, or parts thereof, in a state of disrepair, to the extent that the building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use, shall be deemed inimical to the welfare of the residents of the Township wherein it is located, and the Construction Official may exercise his/her powers to repair, demolish, or cause the repairing or demolition of the building or buildings, or parts thereof.
Complaints or orders issued by the Public Officer pursuant to this chapter shall be served upon persons either personally or by registered or certified mail, but if the whereabouts of such persons are 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 such complaint or order upon such persons may be made by publishing the same once in a newspaper printed and published in the County of Morris and circulating in the Township. A copy of such complaint or order shall be posted in a conspicuous place on premises affected by the complaint or order, and a copy shall be recorded or lodged for record with the Register of Morris County.
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 summary manner or otherwise. 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.
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 powers in addition to others herein granted:
To invest the building or dwelling conditions in the Township in order to determine which buildings or dwellings therein are unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use.
To administer oaths, 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 the duties of such officers, agents and employees as the Public Officer deems necessary to carry out the purposes of this chapter.
To delegate any of the Public Officer's functions and powers under this chapter to such officers and agents as he or she may designate.
The Mayor and Township Committee shall prepare an estimate of the annual expenses or costs to provide the equipment, personnel and supplies necessary for periodic examinations and investigations of the buildings or dwellings in the Township for the purpose of determining the fitness of such buildings or dwellings for human habitation, occupancy or use, and the enforcement and administration of this chapter, and shall authorize such appropriation from its revenues as it may deem necessary for this purpose and may accept and apply grants or donations to assist it in carrying out the provisions of this chapter.
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to abrogate or impair the powers of the courts or any department of the Township to enforce any provisions of its charter, ordinances, Code or regulations, nor to prevent or punish violations thereof, and the powers conferred by this chapter shall be in addition and supplemental to the powers conferred by any other law.
Any person, firm or corporation violating any of the provisions of this chapter shall, upon conviction, be subject to a fine not to exceed $1,200 or to imprisonment for a period not to exceed 90 days, or both. Each violation of any of the provisions of this chapter and each day the same shall continue to be violated shall constitute a separate, distinct offense.