[HISTORY: Adopted by the Village Council of the Village of Ridgewood 6-11-2014 by Ord. No. 3417. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Property maintenance — See Ch. 223.
The purpose of this chapter is to notify property owners, lienholders and other interested parties of property within the Village of Ridgewood of the intent of the Village to adopt the Abandoned Properties Rehabilitation Act (N.J.S.A. 55:19-78 et seq.), its provisions, procedures, authority and lawful remedies, empowering the Village and its officials to act under the authority of same. This chapter modifies the Abandoned Properties Rehabilitation Act only for purposes of notification, order and context and preserves all substantive rights and obligations of the Act.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- PUBLIC OFFICER
- Any person designated or appointed by the Village Manager or Village Council to exercise the powers and authority prescribed by this chapter.
Except as provided in Section 6 of P.L. 2003, c. 210 (N.J.S.A. 55:19-83), 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:
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;
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 date of a determination by the public officer pursuant to this section;
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).
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 (4) of this section.
A property may be determined to be a nuisance if:
The property has been found to be unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use pursuant to Section 1 of P.L. 1942, c. 112 (N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.3);
The condition and vacancy 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; the owner has failed to take reasonable and necessary measures to secure the property; or the Village of Ridgewood has secured the property in order to prevent such hazards 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 for the area in close proximity to the property, and the owner has failed to take reasonable and necessary measures to remedy the conditions.
The Village Manager may direct the public officer to identify "abandoned property" for the purpose of establishing an abandoned property list throughout the Village, or within those parts of the Village as the Manager may designate. Each parcel so identified shall include the tax lot and block number, the name of the owner of record, if known, and the street address of the lot.
The public officer may add properties to the abandoned property list at any time and alternatively may delete or remove properties from the list at any time when the public officer finds that the property no longer meets the criteria of an abandoned property.
An abandoned property shall not be included on the abandoned property list if rehabilitation is being performed in a timely manner, as evidenced by building permits issued and diligent pursuit of rehabilitation work authorized by the permits. Removal of certain properties from the abandoned property list may be performed in accordance with any and all provisions of the Abandoned Properties Rehabilitation Act, N.J.S.A. 55:1-78 et seq.
The public officer shall establish the abandoned property list by publication in an official newspaper of the Village, which publication shall constitute public notice, and, within 10 days after publication, the public officer shall send a notice, by regular and certified mail, return receipt requested, to the record owner of each and every property included on the published list. The publication shall include the name of the record owner, tax lot and block number and street address. The public officer, in consultation with the Assessor, shall also send out notice by regular mail to any known mortgagee, servicing organization, or property tax processing organization that regularly receives a duplicate copy of the tax bill for the property. The mailed notice shall indicate the factual basis for the public officer's determination that the property is abandoned property, specifying the rules and regulations promulgated and the information relied upon in making such finding. The public officer is further required to satisfy all other prescribed notices and filings pursuant to the Abandoned Properties Rehabilitation Act and entitled to all other remedies and available procedures afforded by same.
An owner or lienholder may challenge the inclusion of his/her property on the abandoned property list as authorized above by appealing that determination to the public officer within 30 days of the owner's receipt of the certified or regular mailed notice or 40 days from the date upon which the notice was sent. An owner whose identity was not known to the public officer shall have 40 days from the date upon which notice was published or posted, whichever is the later, to challenge the inclusion of the property on the abandoned property list. For good cause shown to the public officer, a late challenge shall be accepted by the public officer. Within 30 days of receipt of a challenge, the public officer shall schedule a hearing for a redetermination of the inclusion. Any property included on the list is presumed to have satisfied the criteria for inclusion, and the burden is on the property owner to submit the proper paperwork and/or testimony that can demonstrate that the property was erroneously included on the list. The affidavit or certification shall be accompanied by supporting documentation, which may include but not be limited to photographs and repair invoices, bills and construction contracts. The sole ground for appeal shall be the property in question is not abandoned property. The public officer shall promptly, by certified mail, return receipt requested, and by regular mail notify the property owner of the decision and the reasons therefor.
The owner or lienholder may challenge an adverse determination of an appeal with the public officer pursuant to Subsection E of this section by instituting, in accordance with the New Jersey Court Rules, a summary proceeding in the Superior Court, Law Division, sitting in the county in which the property is located, which action shall be tried de novo. Such action shall be instituted within 20 days of the date of the notice of decision mailed by the public officer pursuant to Subsection E of this section. The sole ground for appeal shall be that the property in question is not abandoned property as that term is defined in Section 35 of P.L. 1996, c. 62 (N.J.S.A. 55:19-54). The failure to institute an action of appeal on a timely basis shall constitute a jurisdictional bar to challenging the adverse determination, except that, for good cause shown, the court may extend.
If an entity other than the Village of Ridgewood has purchased or taken assignment for the Village of a tax sale certificate on a property that has not been legally occupied for a period of six months, that property shall not be placed on the abandoned property list pursuant to Section 36 of P.L. 1996, c. 62 (N.J.S.A. 55:19-55) if 1) the owner of the certificate has continued to pay all Village of Ridgewood taxes and liens on the property in the tax year when due; and 2) the owner of the certificate takes action to initiate foreclosure proceedings within six months after the property is eligible for foreclosure pursuant to either Subdivision a or b of N.J.S.A. 54:5-86, as appropriate, and diligently pursues foreclosure proceedings in a timely fashion thereafter.
A property which is used on a seasonal basis shall be deemed to be abandoned only if the property meets any two of the additional criteria set forth in Section 4 of P.L. 2003, c. 210 (N.J.S.A. 55:19-81).
A determination that a property is abandoned property under the provisions of P.L. 2003, c. 210 (N.J.S.A. 55:19-78 et seq.), shall not constitute a finding that the use of the property has been abandoned for purposed of municipal zoning or land use regulation.
Upon request of a purchaser or assignee of a tax sale certificate seeking to bar the right of redemption on an abandoned property pursuant to Subdivision b of N.J.S.A. 54:5-86, the public officer or the tax collector shall, in a timely fashion, provide the requester with a certification that the property fulfills the definition of abandoned according to the criteria set forth in Sections 4 and 5 of P.L. 2003, c. 210 (N.J.S.A. 55:19-81 and 55:19-82).
An owner may remove a property from the list of abandoned properties prior to sale of the tax sale certificate by paying all taxes and Village liens due, including interest and penalties, and:
By posting cash or a bond equal to the cost of remediating all conditions because of which the property has been determined to be abandoned pursuant to Section 36 of P.L. 1996, c. 62 (N.J.S.A. 55:19-55) and depositing cash or a bond to cover the cost of any environmental cleanup required on the property, evidenced by a certification by a licensed engineer retained by the owner and reviewed and approved by the public officer stating that the cash or bond adequately covers the cost of the cleanup; or
By demonstrating to the satisfaction of the public officer that the conditions rendering the property abandoned have been remediated in full; provided, however, that where the public officer finds that the owner is actively engaged in remediating the conditions because of which that property was determined to be abandoned pursuant to Section 36 of P.L. 1996, c. 62 (N.J.S.A. 55:19-55), as evidenced by significant rehabilitation activity on the property, the public officer may grant an extension of time of not more than 120 days for the owner to complete all work, during which time no further proceeding will be taken against the owner or the property.
If the owner has posted cash or a bond in order to have a property removed from the abandoned property list and the conditions because of which the property was determined to be abandoned have not been fully remediated within one year of the date of posting the cash or bond, or, in the case of a property which requires a remediation of any known, suspected or threatened release of contaminants, if the owner has failed to enter into a memorandum of agreement with the Department of Environmental Protection or an administrative consent order, remediation in conformance with the agreement or order, then the cash or bond shall be forfeited to the Village, which shall use the cash or bond and any interest which has accrued thereon for the purpose of demolishing or rehabilitating the property or performing the environmental remediation. Any funds remaining after the property has been demolished, rehabilitated or cleaned up shall be returned to the owner.