Township of Hamilton, NJ
Mercer County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Council of the Township of Hamilton as Ch. 66, Art. II, of the 1994 Code of Ordinances. Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Uniform construction codes — See Ch. 167.
Housing standards — See Ch. 268.
Nuisances — See Ch. 317.
Property maintenance — See Ch. 362.
[Amended 4-7-2020 by Ord. No. 20-016]
The provisions of this article shall be enforced by the Director of Community and Economic Development as the Chairperson of and with assistance of the Board of Public Officers as established by Chapter 5, Part 5, Article XIX, Board of Public Officers.
[Amended 10-17-2012 by Ord. No. 12-042]
The following words, terms and phrases, when used in this chapter, shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this section, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning:
BUILDING
Any residential, commercial or other building or structure or part thereof, whether used for human habitation or otherwise, and includes any outhouses and appurtenances belonging thereto.
LIEN HOLDER or MORTGAGE HOLDER
Any person or entity holding a note, mortgage or other interest secured by the building or any part thereof.
OWNER
The holder 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.
PROPERTY
Any building or structure and the land appurtenant thereto.
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 or building regulations or to other activities concerning buildings in the Township.
PUBLIC OFFICERS
The Director of Community and Economic Development as the Chairperson of the Board of Public Officers of the Township as defined in § 146-1.
[Amended 4-7-2020 by Ord. No. 20-016]
QUALIFIED REHABILITATION ENTITY
An entity organized or authorized to do business under the New Jersey statutes which shall have as one of its purposes the construction or rehabilitation of residential or nonresidential buildings, the provision of affordable housing, the restoration of abandoned property, the revitalization and improvement of urban neighborhoods, or similar purpose, and which shall be well qualified by virtue of its staff, professional consultants, financial resources, and prior activities set forth in P.L. 2003, c.210 (N.J.S.A. 55:19-78 et al.) to carry out the rehabilitation of vacant buildings in urban areas.
UTILITY
Any electric or natural gas public utility that is regulated under the jurisdiction of the Board of Public Utilities.
Whenever a petition is filed with the public officers by a public authority or by at least five residents of the Township, charging that any building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy, or whenever it appears to the public officers on their own motion that any building is unfit for human habitation, they shall, if their 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 officers at a place therein fixed not less than seven days and not more than 30 days after the serving of the 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 time and place fixed in the complaint, and that the rules of evidence prevailing in courts of law or equity shall not be controlling in hearings before the public officers.
[1]
Editor's Note: Amended at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. II).
A. 
If after notice and hearing, as provided in § 146-3, the public officers determine that the building under consideration is unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use, they shall state in writing their 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 the building to be made by the owner within a reasonable time, which shall be set forth in the order, or, at the option of the owner, to vacate or to have the building vacated and closed within the time set forth in the order.
B. 
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 remove or demolish the building within a reasonable time as specified in the order of removal.
[Amended 5-6-2009 by Ord. No. 09-011; 10-17-2012 by Ord. No. 12-042]
A. 
If the owner fails to comply with an order under this article to repair, alter or improve, or, at the option of the owner, to vacate and close the building, the public officers may cause such building to be repaired, altered or improved, or to be vacated and closed. The public officers 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."
B. 
Posting of notice. Any dwelling or multifamily dwelling declared as "unfit for human habitation" shall be posted with a placard by the Construction Official. The placard shall include the following:
(1) 
Name of Township;
(2) 
The name of the authorized department having jurisdiction;
(3) 
The chapter and section of the ordinance under which it is issued;
(4) 
An order that the dwelling or multifamily dwelling when vacated shall remain vacant until the provisions of the order are complied with and the order to vacate is withdrawn;
(5) 
The date that the placard is posted;
(6) 
A statement of the penalty for defacing or removal of the placard. No person shall deface or remove the placard from any dwelling or multifamily dwelling which has been declared or placarded as unfit for human habitation except by authority, in writing, from the Construction Official.
C. 
Vacating of unfit building. Any dwelling or multifamily dwelling which has been declared and placarded as unfit for human habitation by the Construction Official shall be vacated within a reasonable time, as required by the Construction Official. The owner or operator of such dwelling shall not lease the dwelling or portion thereof to any person for human habitation. No person shall occupy any dwelling or multifamily dwelling which has been declared or placarded by the Construction Official as unfit for human habitation after the date set forth in the placard.
D. 
Reoccupancy of unfit building. No dwelling or multifamily dwelling which has been declared or placarded as unfit for human habitation shall again be used for human habitation until written approval is secured from the Construction Official. The Construction Official shall remove the placard whenever the defect or defects upon which the declaration and placard action were based have been eliminated and the proper certificate of approval for occupancy has been obtained from the Construction Official.
E. 
Vacant buildings. If for any reason a building remains vacant or untended for a period of 90 days, the owner shall close and secure all windows, doors and other openings so that access into the building is prevented. The early detection and containment of fire being a valid municipal concern, the boarding up of doors and windows shall not be permitted except with the permission of the enforcement authority, as constituted under § 146-16, in emergency situations. When doors and windows are boarded up, they shall be covered with no less than 1/2 inch exterior plywood or equivalent which shall be the same color as the building exterior. In no case shall the boarding up of doors and windows be permitted in excess of 60 days without authorization from the enforcing authority. The owner of any such dwelling shall not cause or permit such dwelling to be used in whole or in part for living purposes until the structure has been rehabilitated in accordance with the provisions of this chapter and a certificate of approval for occupancy has been issued by the Department of Community Planning and Compliance. Whenever a structure deemed unfit for human habitation or dangerous to life and health remains vacant for a period of at least six months, proceedings shall be instituted against the owner in accordance with provisions of Article I, Unfit Dwellings, of this chapter.
F. 
If the owner fails to comply with an order to remove or demolish the building, the public officers may cause such building to be removed or demolished or may contract for the removal or demolition thereof after advertisement and receipt of bids therefor.
A. 
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 article determined in favor of the Township, and the cost of repairs, alterations or improvements, or 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 cost was incurred.
B. 
If the building is removed or demolished by the public officers, they shall sell the materials of such building. There shall be credited against the cost of 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 such costs exceeds the total of such credits, a detailed statement of such 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 certified mail. If the total of the credits exceeds such costs, the balance remaining shall be deposited in the Superior Court by the public officers, shall be secured in such manner as may be directed by such 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 such court; provided, however, that nothing in this article 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.
C. 
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.[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: Amended at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. II).
Complaints or orders issued by the public officers pursuant to this article shall be served upon persons either personally or by certified mail, but, if the whereabouts of such person are unknown and the person's whereabouts cannot be ascertained by the public officers in the exercise of reasonable diligence, and the public officers shall make an affidavit to that effect, then the serving of the complaint or order upon such person may be made by publishing the complaint or order once in a newspaper having circulation in the Township. 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.
[1]
Editor's Note: Amended at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. II).
The public officers are 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 article, including the following in addition to others granted in this article:
A. 
To investigate the dwelling conditions in the Township in order to determine which dwellings therein are unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use.[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: Amended at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. II).
B. 
To administer oaths and affirmations, examine witnesses and receive evidence.
C. 
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.
D. 
To appoint and fix the duties of such officers, agents and employees as they deem necessary to carry out the purpose of this article.
E. 
To delegate any of their functions and powers under this article to such officers and agents as they may designate.
If an actual and immediate danger to life is posed by the threatened collapse of any fire-damaged or other 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.
[1]
Editor's Note: Added at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. II).
[Added 10-17-2012 by Ord. No. 12-042]
A. 
Any property that has not been legally occupied for a period of six months and which meets any one of the following additional criteria may be deemed to be abandoned property upon a determination by the public officer that:
(1) 
The property is in need of rehabilitation in the reasonable judgment of the public officer, and no rehabilitation has taken place during that six-month period;
(2) 
Construction was initiated on the property and was discontinued prior to completion, leaving the building unsuitable for occupancy, and no construction has taken place for at least six months as of the dated of a determination by the public officer pursuant to this section;
(3) 
At least one installment of property tax remains unpaid and delinquent on that property in accordance with Chapter 4 of Title 54 of the Revised Statutes as of the date of a determination by the public officer pursuant to this section; or
(4) 
The property has been determined to be a nuisance by the public officer in accordance with Section 5 of P.L. 2003, c.210 (N.J.S.A. 55:19-82).
B. 
A property which contains both residential and nonresidential space may be considered abandoned pursuant to P.L. 2003, c.210 (N.J.S.A. 55:19-78 et seq.) so long as two-thirds or more of the total net square footage of the building was previously legally occupied as residential space and none of the residential space has been legally occupied for at least six months at the time of the determination of abandonment by the public officer and the property meets the criteria of either Subsection A(1) or A(4) of this section.
A. 
A property may be determined to be a nuisance if:
(1) 
The property has been found to be unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use pursuant to § 146-4A and Section 1 of P.L. 1942, c.112 (N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.3);
(2) 
The condition and vacancy of the property materially increases the risk of fire to the property and adjacent properties;
(3) 
The property is subject to unauthorized entry leading to potential health and safety hazards; the owner has failed to take reasonable and necessary measures to secure the property; or the municipality has secured the property in order to prevent such hazards after the owner has failed to do so;
(4) 
The presence of vermin or the accumulation of debris, uncut vegetation or physical deterioration of the structure or grounds have created potential health and safety hazards and the owner has failed to take reasonable and necessary measures to remove the hazards; or
(5) 
The dilapidated appearance or other condition of the property materially affects the welfare, including the economic welfare, of the residents of the area in close proximity to the property, and the owner has failed to take reasonable and necessary measures to remedy the conditions.
B. 
A public officer who determines a property to be a nuisance pursuant to Subsection A(2) through (5) of this section shall follow the notification procedures set forth in P.L. 1942, c.112 (N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.3 et seq.).
A. 
Establishment of list. The public officer is hereby directed to identify abandoned properties within the municipality, place said properties on an abandoned property list established as provided in Section 36 of P.L. 1996, c.62 (N.J.S.A. 55:19-55), as amended, by Section 28 of P.L. 2003, c.210, and provide such notices and carry out such other tasks as are required to effectuate an abandoned property list as provided by law.
B. 
Applicability. The abandoned property list shall apply to the Township of Hamilton as a whole.
C. 
Public officer's responsibilities and powers. The public officer, for the purpose of carrying out the responsibilities established by this section, shall have all the responsibilities and powers provided by law and shall exercise the authority granted the public officer of a municipality pursuant to P.L. 1996, c.62 (N.J.S.A. 55:19-20 et seq.).
D. 
Public officer to report to Mayor and governing body. The public officer shall provide a report to the Mayor and governing body as required, with respect to the number and location of properties on the abandoned property list, the status of those properties and any actions taken by the municipality or by any qualified rehabilitation entity designated pursuant to the authority granted the public officer with respect to any property on the list or any other abandoned property within the Township of Hamilton.
A. 
Any person, company, corporation or beneficiary, whose property becomes vacant or shows evidence of vacancy shall, within 90 days of the property becoming vacant, or within 30 days of assuming ownership of such property, or within 10 days of receiving notice of declaration of vacancy, pursuant to the standards set forth in § 146-10, register said property with the Director of Community Planning and Compliance or his or her designee.
[Amended 3-1-2016 by Ord. No. 16-007]
B. 
The registration shall be filed on forms approved by the Director of Community Planning and Compliance or his or her designee and shall identify the property by tax lot and block number as well as street address and shall also contain the name of any owner, including any beneficiary, the direct street address of the owner (no P.O. boxes), a direct contact name and phone number, e-mail address, if available, and in the case of a corporation or other business entity the name, address and phone number for the local property manager and/or person responsible for security, maintenance and marketing of the property, if applicable.
C. 
The owner shall notify the Director of Community Planning and Compliance within 30 days of any change in the registration information by filing an amended registration statement on a form provided by the Township for such purpose.
D. 
An initial registration fee as set forth in Chapter 215, Fees, of the Township Code shall accompany the registration form filing. The fees for subsequent renewals shall be as set forth in Chapter 215, Fees, of the Township Code, and shall be due by the anniversary date of the initial registration each year. The registration fee will not be prorated or refunded. The yearly fee required to be paid by the initial registrant and any subsequent registrant for the same property shall be based upon the filing date of the initial registration. The owner shall be required to renew the registration annually as long as the property remains vacant. If a building is to be occupied within nine months a change of occupancy inspection may be ordered in accordance with § 268-3A.
[Amended 7-19-2016 by Ord. No. 16-028[1]]
[1]
Editor's Note: Amended at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. II).
E. 
After registering a vacant property or renewing such registration, and upon reasonable notice, the owner of any vacant property shall provide access to Township officials to conduct an exterior and interior inspection of the building to determine compliance with the Municipal Code during the period covered by the initial registration or any subsequent renewal.
A. 
It is the responsibility of the owner to secure the property registered under this article. For purposes of this section, "secure" means, but is not limited to, the closure and locking of windows, doors (including garage and out buildings), gutters and any other opening. In the case of windows, such shall be secured by means of reglazing or boarding of same.
B. 
If the property is owned by a corporation, business entity, or out of area owner, they must supply the Hamilton Township Department of Community Planning and Compliance with the contact information for the person, or management company, or entity, responsible for the day-to-day supervision and maintenance of the property. "Out-of-the-area" shall mean any owner located at least 50 miles away from subject property. The property, if vacant, shall be posted with a name and twenty-four-hour contact number of the local property management company or a twenty-four-hour number for the owner. The posting shall be no less than three inches by five inches with words in a prominent font and legible. The words "property managed by" and "to report problems or concerns call, email address" shall appear on the posted sign. The posting shall be on the inside of an interior window facing the street or on at least one boarded window facing the street or secured on the exterior of the building facing the street where such can be read from the street.
C. 
The posting of such on a visible stake in front of the property is acceptable.
A. 
Properties subject to this article shall be kept free of all weeds, dry bushes, dead trees, vegetation, junk, debris, building material and garbage. Furthermore, there shall not be permitted any accumulation of flyers, notices, or discarded personal items of any sort that give the appearance that the property is vacant or abandoned. The property owner shall be responsible for the removal of any graffiti. Visible front side yards and back yards shall be kept properly landscaped according to existing housing standards and regulations.
B. 
Unoccupied or vacant buildings shall not be utilized for storage of any materials, whether solid or liquid, including the yard portion of that building.
C. 
When a vacant building is found to be infested with rats, termites, roaches or any other insects or vermin, the owner or operator shall provide for the extermination and prevention of such nuisance.
D. 
Every foundation, exterior wall or exterior roof of an unoccupied or vacant building shall be weathertight, watertight and rodentproof and shall be kept in sound condition and good repair and shall be safe to use and capable of supporting a load which normal use may cause to be placed thereon.
E. 
Every floor, interior wall and ceiling of an unoccupied or vacant building shall be substantially rodentproof, shall be kept in sound condition and good repair, and shall be safe to use and capable of supporting a load which normal use may cause to be placed thereon.
F. 
Every window, exterior door and basement or cellar door and hatchway of an unoccupied or vacant building shall be weathertight, watertight and rodentproof and locked and shall be kept in sound working condition and good repair.
G. 
Every inside and outside stair, porch and any appurtenance thereto of an unoccupied or vacant building shall be safe to use and capable of supporting a load that normal use may cause to be placed thereon and shall be kept in sound condition and good repair.
H. 
Every yard of an unoccupied or vacant building shall be properly graded so as to prevent the accumulation of stagnant water.
I. 
There shall be a control method of disposing of water from roofs of an unoccupied or vacant building by use of gutters and downspouts which shall be installed and maintained in sound condition, free of leaks and obstructions.
J. 
Every dwelling, cellar, basement and crawl space of an unoccupied or vacant building shall be maintained reasonably free from dampness.
K. 
The exterior of every structure or accessory structure of an unoccupied or vacant building shall be maintained free of broken windows, loose shingles, crumbling stone or brick or excess peeling paint.
L. 
The exterior of the premises and the condition of accessory structures of an unoccupied or vacant building shall be maintained so that the appearance of the premises and all buildings thereof shall reflect the level of maintenance in keeping with the standards of the neighborhood in such that the appearance of the premises and structure shall not constitute a blighting factor for adjoining property owners leading to the progressive deterioration and downgrading of the neighborhood with the accompanying diminution of property values.
M. 
All doors and/or lids on appliances, furniture utilized for storage or on heating furnaces located on the premises of an unoccupied or vacant building shall be locked in order to deny entry to any individuals where the potential for physical harm or death may result should said door close to prevent the individual's escape.
N. 
All pools, ponds and/or other bodies of standing water located on the premises of an unoccupied or vacant building shall be drained or properly cleaned and maintained so as to prevent the breeding or existence of mosquito larvae or other nuisances.
A. 
Inspectors under the authority of the Director shall have the authority to issue a summons for any violations found under any section in this chapter. The Hamilton Township Police Division is also authorized herein to issue appropriate summonses.
B. 
The Director of Community Planning and Compliance, or his or her designee, shall have the authority to require the owner/beneficiary to implement additional maintenance and/or security measures including those listed in § 268-8, including requiring a specific type of material for closure purposes, requiring additional lighting, the providing of security guard protection if such a building is located in an industrial area or isolated area as determined by the Director, or any other reasonable measures designed to assist in securing the property or securing it from further decline.
The penalties set forth in Chapter 1, General Provisions, § 1-2, Violations; penalties, of the Code of the Township of Hamilton shall be imposed for each violation of this article for which the culpable party is found responsible. Such fines shall only be issued by the Municipal Court after entertainment of the summons and proper due process provided. Each day a violation exists may be considered a separate violation for penalty purposes.
[1]
Editor's Note: Amended at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. II).
A. 
Filing of complaint. Pursuant to the requirements of N.J.S.A. 55:19-78 et seq., the Township may file an action in the Superior Court of New Jersey to acquire ownership and title to abandoned property in need of rehabilitation. The Township shall give the owner or party in interest notice of its intention to take possession of the abandoned property at least 30 days prior to filing the complaint.
B. 
Rehabilitation plan. The owner or party in interest may defend against the complaint by submitting a plan, within 60 days of the filing of the complaint, for the rehabilitation and reuse of the property and by posting a bond equal to 125% of the amount determined by the public officer to represent the project cost of rehabilitation. The plan requires a financial feasibility analysis, a budget and timetable for rehabilitation of the property and documentation and qualifications of those who will perform the rehabilitation.
C. 
Rehabilitation plan approval. The court shall approve the plan if the plan is realistic and likely to result in the expeditious rehabilitation and reuse of the property. If the court approves of the owner's plan, it may appoint the public officer to act as monitor of the owner's compliance. If the owner or party in interest fails to carry out any step in the approved plan, the public officer shall notify the court, which may order the bond forfeited, grant the Township possession of the property, and authorize the Township to use the proceeds of the bond for rehabilitation of the property.
D. 
Quarterly progress reports required. The owner or party in interest shall provide quarterly reports to the Township on the owner's progress toward rehabilitation and reuse of the property. These reports shall be provided to the court as the court determines are necessary.
E. 
Alternate entities for implementation of rehabilitation plan. If an owner or party in interest fails to successfully defend against a complaint, a mortgage holder or lien holder may seek to be designated in possession of the property by submitting a plan and posting a bond meeting the same conditions described above. If no mortgage holder or lien holder meets these conditions, the Township shall submit a plan which shall designate an entity that shall implement the plan. This entity may be the Township or a qualified rehabilitation entity, organized or authorized to do business under New Jersey law, which shall have as one of its purposes the construction or rehabilitation of residential or nonresidential buildings, the provision of affordable housing and the restoration of abandoned property, among others.
F. 
Possession of property by the Township. If the Township is granted possession of the property under this section, the Township shall be deemed to have an ownership interest in the property for the purpose of filing plans with public agencies and any state program of grants or loans. Where the Township borrows funds for the express purpose of rehabilitating the property, the court may authorize the Township to grant a lien or security interest with priority over all other liens or mortgages other than Township liens.
G. 
Owner responsibilities while under Township possession. With the granting of possession by the court to the Township of a property determined to be abandoned, the owner shall continue to be responsible for all taxes or other municipal liens and charges, or mortgages or liens to any party, incurred on the property, whether those taxes, charges or liens are incurred before or after the granting of possession; nor shall the owner be relieved of any operating or maintenance expense associated with the property. Similarly, although the Township is required to maintain, safeguard, and maintain insurance on the property, the owner shall not be relieved of any civil or criminal liability or any duty imposed by reason of acts or omissions of the owner relating to the property.
H. 
Township authorized to seek approval to assign rights to another entity. The Township is authorized to seek court approval to assign its rights to another entity, which may be granted under the circumstances enumerated in this section.
I. 
Reinstatement of owner's rights. An owner may petition for reinstatement of the owner's control and possession of the property. The petition's requirements and conditions shall be determined by the court for reinstating the owner's rights.
J. 
Township sale of property. If the Township sells the property, this section sets forth the order of distribution of the proceeds of such a sale. This section authorizes the public officer, with the approval of the court, to place a lien on the property to cover any costs the Township incurred prior to the granting by the court of an order of possession, which may include costs incurred to stabilize or secure the property.
K. 
Special tax sales. This section authorizes the Township to hold special tax sales with respect to those properties eligible for tax sale under N.J.S.A. 54:5-19, which are also on an abandoned property list and sets forth procedures governing those special tax sales. In the case of any eminent domain proceeding carried out under Section 37 of P.L. 1996, c.62 (N.J.S.A. 55:19-56), this section establishes the parameters for establishing fair market value.