[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Committee of the Township of Colts Neck 10-29-2014. Amendments noted where applicable.]
The public officer.
The Township Administrator is hereby designated to serve as the public officer hereunder, and all inspections, regulations, enforcement and hearings on violations of the provisions of this chapter, unless expressly stated to the contrary, shall be under his or her direction and supervision. He or she may appoint or designate such other local public officers or employees to perform duties as may be necessary to the enforcement of this chapter, including the making of inspections and the holding of hearings.
The public officer is hereby designated to identify abandoned property throughout the Township for the purpose of establishing an abandoned property list in accordance with the provisions of N.J.S.A. 50:19-55 and 55:19-78 et seq. The municipality may add or delete properties to or from the list at any time. Any interested party may make recommendations to the public officer for the inclusion of a property on this list.
The public officer shall establish the abandoned property list or any additions thereto by publication in the official newspaper of the municipality, which publication shall constitute public notice, and, within 10 days after publication, shall send a notice, by certified mail, return receipt requested, and by regular mail, to the owner of record of every property on the list. The published and mailed notices shall identify property determined to be abandoned, setting forth the owner of record, if known, the tax lot and block number and street address.
The public officer, in consultation with the tax collector, shall also send out a notice by regular mail to any mortgagee, servicing organization, or property tax processing organization that receives a duplicate copy of the tax bill. When the owner of record is not known for a particular property and cannot be ascertained by the exercise of reasonable diligence by the tax collector, notice shall be posted on the property. The mailed notice shall include the factual basis for the determination of the public officer that the subject property is an "abandoned property" in accordance with the criteria set forth in N.J.S.A. 55:19-81.
In all cases, a copy of the mailed or posted notice shall also be filed by the public officer in the office of the County Clerk or Register of Deeds and Mortgages, as the case may be, of the county where the property is located. This filing shall have the same force and effect as a notice of lis pendens. The notice shall be indexed by the name of the property owner as defendant and the name of the municipality as plaintiff, as though an action had been commenced by the municipality against the owner.
The public officer, within 10 days of the establishment of the abandoned property list, or additions to the list, shall send a copy of the list to the electric and gas utilities serving the municipality.
An owner or lienholder may challenge the including of the property on the abandoned property list by appealing that determination to the public officer within 30 days of the owner's receipt of the certified notice or within 40 days of the date on which the notice was sent. Within 30 days of receipt of an appeal request, the public officer shall schedule a hearing for redetermination of the matter. Any property part of the list shall be presumed to be abandoned. It shall be the burden of appellant to demonstrate, through evidence, that the property is not abandoned or a nuisance as the public officer's findings allege. A determination of the hearing must be found within 10 days of the hearing in accordance with N.J.S.A. 55:19-55.
Appeal of the municipal redetermination may be brought by way of summary proceeding in the Superior Court pursuant to the provisions of N.J.S.A. 55:19-55. The sole grounds for appeal shall be that the property is not abandoned.
Criteria. The threshold requirement for a property to meet the definition of "abandoned property" is that it must have not been legally occupied for six months prior to the time the public officer makes a determination that the property is abandoned. If the property meets this minimum threshold, it must then meet any one of the following elements:
It is in need of rehabilitation and no work has taken place during that six-month period; or
Construction began, but was discontinued before the building was suitable for occupancy or use, and no construction has taken place during that six-month period; or
At least one installment of property tax is delinquent at the time the public officer makes the determination; or
The property has been determined to be a nuisance by the public officer. Nuisance shall be determined by the public officer by making a finding of any one of the following elements:
The property has been found to be unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.3.
The condition of the property materially increases the risk of fire to the property and adjacent properties.
The property is subject to unauthorized entry leading to potential health and safety hazards and the owner has failed to take reasonable and necessary measures to secure the property; or the municipality has secured the property after the owner has failed to do so;
The presence of vermin or the accumulation of debris, uncut vegetation or physical deterioration of the structure or grounds has created potential health and safety hazards and the owner has failed to take reasonable and necessary measures to remove the hazards; or
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.
Powers. The adoption and creation of the abandoned property list shall give the Township the right to pursue any and all remedies as provided in N.J.S.A. 55:19-79 et seq., the "Abandoned Properties Act," for those properties properly designated to the Township Abandoned Properties List. Such remedies shall include but are not limited to accelerated foreclosure, special tax sale, becoming an entity in possession, or the use of eminent domain.
The creditor filing the summons and complaint in an action to foreclosure shall be responsible for the care, maintenance, security and upkeep of the exterior of the vacant and abandoned residential property, and if located out-of-state, shall be responsible for appointing an in-state representative or agent to act for the foreclosing creditor.
Failure of creditor to properly maintain an abandoned property shall result in the public officer issuing a notice of violation to the creditor. Such notice shall require the person or entity to correct the violation within 30 days of receipt of the notice, or 10 days of receipt of the notice if the violation presents an imminent threat to the public health and safety.
Out-of-state creditors shall provide full name and contact information of the in-state representative or agent.
Any out-of-state creditor subject to this chapter and in violation of the requirement to appoint an in-state representative shall be subject to a fine of $2,500 per day, per violation. Any creditor subject to this chapter who fails to care for, maintain, secure and upkeep the property shall be subject to a fine of $1,500 per day, per violation.