[HISTORY: Adopted by the City Council of the City of Englewood as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
[Adopted 2-26-2013 by Ord. No. 13-02]
It is the purpose and intent of this article to establish a process to mitigate the amount of deteriorating property located within the City of Englewood, which is in default and vacant, for which a public notice of default has been filed regardless of occupancy, is in foreclosure, or where ownership has been transferred to lender or mortgagee by any legal method. It is further intended to establish a registration program as a mechanism to protect neighborhoods from becoming blighted through the lack of adequate maintenance of abandoned and vacated properties subject to a mortgage or properties subject to mortgages that are in default.
The following words, terms and phrases, when used in this article, shall have the meanings ascribed to them, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning. Where the context will permit and no definitions are provided herein, the definitions provided in the State of New Jersey Building Code shall apply.
- ABANDONED REAL PROPERTY
- Any real property that is vacant and/or is under a current notice of default, notice of mortgagee's sale, pending tax assessor's lien sale and/or properties that have been the subject of a foreclosure sale where title is retained by the beneficiary of a mortgage involved in the foreclosure, and any properties transferred under a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure sale, a short sale or any other legal means.
- ACCESSIBLE PROPERTY
- A property that is accessible through a compromised/breached gate, fence, wall, etc.
- ACCESSIBLE STRUCTURE
- A structure/building that is unsecured and/or breached in such a way as to allow access to the interior space by unauthorized persons.
- Mortgagee declares said mortgage to be in default either in writing, by recording a lis pendens, or by its actions, or commences foreclosure proceedings.
- ENFORCEMENT OFFICER
- Any full-time law enforcement officer, Building Official, Fire Inspector or Code Enforcement Officer employed by, contracted for, or servicing the City of Englewood.
- EVIDENCE OF VACANCY
- Any condition that on its own, or combined with other conditions present would lead a reasonable person to believe that the property is vacant. Such conditions may include, but not be limited to, overgrown and/or dead vegetation; electricity, water or other utilities turned off; stagnant swimming pool; and statements by neighbors, passers-by, delivery agents or government agents, among other evidence.
- The judicial process by which a property, placed as security for a mortgage loan, after a judicial process, is to be sold at an auction to satisfy a debt upon which the borrower has defaulted.
- LOCAL PROPERTY MANAGER
- An individual property manager, property management company, property maintenance company or similar entity located within Bergen County, designated by the owner or mortgagee which is responsible for the maintenance of abandoned real property.
- PUBLIC PROPERTY
- Canals, all waterways, lands and improvements owned by any governmental body or any governmental agency including but not limited to easements and rights-of-way, but excluding the campus of any institution of the state university system.
- RESIDENTIAL BUILDING
- Any improved real property, or portion thereof, situated in the City, designed or permitted to be used for dwelling purposes, and shall include the buildings and structures located on such improved real property.
- Any building or structure that is not lawfully occupied or inhabited by human beings.
This article relates to abandoned and vacant property and to property subject to a mortgage that has been determined by the mortgagee to be in default. This article shall be considered cumulative and is not superseding or subject to any other law or provision for same, but shall rather be an additional remedy available to the City above and beyond any other state, county and/or local provisions for same. This article shall apply retroactively with an effective date of January 1, 2012.
Any mortgagee who holds a mortgage on real property located within the City of Englewood shall perform an inspection of the property that is the security for the mortgage, upon default by the mortgagor, or issuance of a notice of default. If the property is found to be vacant or shows evidence of vacancy, it shall be deemed abandoned and the mortgagee shall, within 10 days of the inspection, register the property with the Code Compliance Official, designee, or other authorized representative, on forms provided by the City of Englewood. A registration is required for each vacant property.
If the property is occupied but remains in default, it shall be inspected by the mortgagee or his designee monthly until the mortgagor or other party remedies the default, or it is found to be vacant or shows evidence of vacancy at which time it is deemed abandoned, and the mortgagee shall, within 10 days of that inspection, register the property with the Code Compliance Official, his/her designee, or City-authorized representative, electronically via the City or other designated website or on forms provided by the City of Englewood.
Within 10 days of the date the mortgagee declares its mortgage to be in default through public notice or recordation, the mortgagee shall register the real property with the City or its designee and, at the time of registration, shall designate in writing a local property manager to inspect, maintain and secure the real property subject to the mortgage in default.
Registration. Registration pursuant to this section shall contain at a minimum the name of the mortgagee and servicer along with the corresponding mailing addresses of both mortgagee/servicer, e-mail addresses, and telephone numbers and name of the local property manager and said person's address, e-mail address, and telephone number. The local property manager shall be responsible to inspect, secure and maintain the property. The property manager named in the registration shall be located within Bergen County and available to be contacted Monday through Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., holidays and lunch hours excepted. If the subject of the registration is investor or bank owned, the registration shall contain at the minimum the name of the owner, the mailing address of the owner, e-mail address, and telephone number, asset manager along with the property manager.
An annual registration fee to be determined by resolution or administrative order, per property, shall accompany the registration or a modification of registration. There is no fee for modifying contact information if the organizational information remains the same and within one year of the last registration payment. The City of Englewood may assign and delegate the collection of such fee to an independent contractor, as noted on the registration form.
This section shall also apply to properties that have been the subject of a foreclosure sale where title is transferred to a beneficiary of a mortgage involved in the foreclosure and any properties transferred to the mortgagee under a deed in lieu of foreclosure/sale.
Any person or other legal entity that has registered a property under this article must report any change of information contained in the registration within 10 days of the change.
Properties subject to this section shall remain under the annual registration requirement, inspection, security, and maintenance standards of this section as long as they remain vacant or subject to having been declared by a mortgagee to be in default.
Failure of the mortgagee and/or property owner of record to properly register or to revise from time to time the registration to reflect a change of circumstances as required by this article is a violation of the codes of the City of Englewood and may result in a citation by the Code Compliance Division. Pursuant to a finding and determination by the Code Official that any property is in violation of City ordinances, the City of Englewood may take the necessary action to ensure compliance with its ordinances and place a lien/s on the property for the cost of the work performed to benefit the property and to bring it into compliance, which lien may be assigned to either the entity that performs the work or arranges to have the work performed.
At such time that the property becomes abandoned the mortgagee shall submit a No Trespass Affidavit with the Code Official and/or assignee.
Properties subject to this article shall be kept free of weeds, overgrown brush, dead vegetation, trash, junk, debris, building materials, any accumulation of newspapers, circulars, flyers, notices, except those required by federal, state, or local law, discarded personal items, including, but not limited to, furniture, clothing, large and small appliances, or any other items that give the appearance that the property is abandoned or not being properly maintained. Weeds, overgrown brush or dead vegetation over the height limitations imposed by the City of Englewood's codes are prohibited.
The property shall be maintained free of graffiti or similar markings by removal or painting over with an exterior grade paint that matches the color of the exterior structure. Yards shall be landscaped and maintained pursuant to the standards set forth in the Code. Landscaping shall include, but not be limited to, grass, ground cover, bushes, shrubs, hedges or similar plantings, decorative rock or bark or artificial turf/sod designed specifically for residential, commercial or industrial installation, as applicable. Landscaping shall not include weeds, gravel, broken concrete, asphalt or similar material.
Maintenance shall include, but not be limited to, watering, irrigation, cutting and mowing of required landscape and removal of all trimmings and weeds.
Pools and spas shall be kept in working order so that pool and spa water remains free and clear of pollutants and debris. Pools and spas shall comply with the enclosure requirements of the City of Englewood Codes and the State of New Jersey Building Code.
Failure of the mortgagee and/or property owner of record to properly maintain the property is a violation of the code of ordinances of the City of Englewood and may result in the issuance of a citation by the Code Compliance Division. Pursuant to a finding and determination by the Code Official may take the necessary action to ensure compliance with its ordinances and place a lien/s on the property and assign it as provided herein.
Properties subject to this article shall be maintained in a secure manner so as not to be accessible to unauthorized persons.
A "secure manner" shall include, but not be limited to, the closure and locking of windows, doors, gates and other openings of such size that may allow a child or adult to access the interior of the property and/or structure. Broken windows shall be secured by reglazing or boarding.
If a mortgage on the property is in default on the property and has become vacant or abandoned, a local property manager shall be designated by the mortgagee to perform the work necessary to bring the property into compliance with the code of ordinances and the local property manager must perform weekly inspections to verify compliance with the requirements of this section, and any other applicable laws or ordinances of the City of Englewood.
When the property becomes vacant or abandoned, it shall be posted with the name and twenty-four-hour contact telephone number of the local property manager. The posting shall be no less than 18 inches by 24 inches, and shall be of a font that is legible from a distance of 45 feet. The posting shall contain the following language: "THIS PROPERTY IS MANAGED BY (Name of Local Property Manager). TO REPORT PROBLEMS OR CONCERNS CALL (Telephone number of Local Property Manager)."
The posting shall be placed on the interior of a window facing the street to the front of the property so that it is visible from the street, or secured to the exterior of the building/structure facing the street to the front of the property so that it is visible from the street or if no such area exists, on a stake of sufficient size to support the posting in a location that is at all times visual from the street to the front of the property but not readily accessible to vandals. Exterior posting shall be constructed of and printed with weather-resistant materials.
The local property manager shall inspect the property on a biweekly basis to ensure that the property is in compliance with this section. Upon the request of the City of Englewood, or its authorized representative, the local property manager shall provide a copy of the inspection reports to the Code Compliance Division.
Failure of the mortgagee and/or property owner of record to properly inspect and secure the property, and post and maintain the signage noted in this section, is a violation of this article and shall result in the issuance of a notice of violation by a code compliance officer. Pursuant to a finding and determination by the City of Englewood or its designee, may take the necessary action to ensure compliance with this section, and place a lien/s on the property and assign it as provided herein.
The Code Compliance Official, designee, or other authorized representative shall have authority to require the mortgagee and/or owner of record of any property affected by this section, to implement additional maintenance and/or security measures including, but not limited to, securing any and all door, window or other openings, employment of an on-site security guard, or other measures as may be reasonably required to help prevent further decline of the property.
Nothing contained in this article shall prohibit City of Englewood from enforcing its codes by any other means, including, but not limited to, injunction, abatement or as otherwise provided by code.