[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Council of the Township of Mine Hill 7-16-2009 by Ord. No. 12-09; amended in its entirety 6-26-2014 by Ord. No. 18-14. Subsequent amendments noted where applicable.]
The Housing Officer, Construction Official, or Health Officer of the Township are designated as the public officers authorized to exercise the powers prescribed by this chapter, and they shall serve in such capacity without any additional salary. Each may act individually to exercise the powers established under this chapter.
For the purpose of the within chapter, the public officers may determine that a dwelling is unfit for human habitation if they find that conditions exist in such dwelling which are dangerous or injurious to the health or safety of the occupants of the dwelling, the occupants of neighboring 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; uncleanliness; or a failure to comply with the requirements of the Building Code or the certificate of occupancy for the building.
Pursuant to the provisions of N.J.S.A. 40:49-5.1, the New Jersey State Housing Code is accepted, adopted and established as a standard to be used as a guide in determining the fitness of a building for human habitation, occupancy, or use.
Whenever a petition is filed with one of the public officers by a public authority as defined in N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.4, or by at least five residents of the Township charging that any dwelling is unfit for human habitation as defined in this chapter or whenever it appears to the public officers (on his or her own motion) that the dwelling is unfit for human habitation as defined in this chapter, he or she shall, if his or her preliminary investigation discloses a basis for such charges, issue and cause to be served upon the owner and parties in interest in such dwelling a complaint stating the charges in that respect and containing a notice that a hearing will be held before a public officer (or his or her designated agent) at a place therein fixed not less than seven days nor 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 a public officer.
If after such notice and hearing the public officer determines that the dwelling under consideration is unfit for human habitation, as defined in this chapter, he or she 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 the building 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 to 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 the owner fails to repair, alter or improve the building within the time specified in the order, that the owner remove or demolish the building within a reasonable time as specified in the order of removal.
If the owner fails to comply with an order to repair, alter or improve or, at the option of the owner, vacate and close the building, the public officer may cause such building to be repaired, altered or improved or to be vacated and closed; that 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 habilitation 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 may contract for the removal or demolition thereof after advertisement for, and receipt of, bids therefor.
That 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 section determined in favor of the Township; and such costs of such 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. If the building is removed or demolished by the public officer, he or she shall sell the materials of such building. These shall be credited against the cost of the removal or demolition thereof, proceeds of any sale of such material or any 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 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. 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 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 chapter 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. Any owner or party in interest may, within 60 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.
Complaints or orders issued by the public officers pursuant to this chapter shall be served upon persons either personally or by registered mail, but if the whereabouts of such person is unknown and the same 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 such complaint or order upon such person may be made by publishing the same once each week for two successive weeks in a newspaper circulated 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 of the county in which the dwelling is located.
The public officer is 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 dwelling conditions in the Township in order to determine which dwellings therein are unfit for human habitation;
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 a 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 he or she deems necessary to carry out the purposes of this chapter; and
To delegate any of his or her functions and powers under this chapter to such officers and agents as he or she may designate.
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to abrogate or impair the power of the Township or any officer or department to enforce any provisions of this chapter, or its ordinances 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 upon the Township by any other law or ordinance.