[HISTORY: Adopted by the Council of the Borough of Milford 9-2-2014 by Ord. No. 818-2014. Amendments noted where applicable.]
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- Any structure or part thereof, whether used for human habitation or otherwise, and includes any appurtenances belonging to or usually enjoyed therewith.
- Any building or structure or part thereof used and occupied for human habitation or intended to be so used, and includes any outhouses and appurtenances belonging thereto or usually enjoyed therewith.
- ENFORCEMENT OFFICER
- The New Jersey State Construction Official for the Borough of Milford is hereby designated and appointed to exercise the powers prescribed by this chapter.
- The holder of the title in fee simple.
- PARTIES IN INTEREST
- All individuals, associations and corporations who have an interest of record in a dwelling, and any who are in possession thereof.
- PUBLIC AUTHORITY
- Any housing authority or any officer who is in charge of any department or branch of the government of the Borough of Milford, County of Hunterdon or State of New Jersey relating to health, fire or building regulations or to other activities concerning dwellings in the Borough of Milford.
- RESIDENTIAL DWELLING
- Any building which is wholly or partly used or intended to be used for living and/or sleeping quarters by human occupants.
Pursuant to the provisions of P.L. 1946, c. 21 (N.J.S.A. 40:49-5.1), the New Jersey State Housing Code, as approved by the Departments of Health and Conservation and Economic Development and filed in the Secretary of State's office, is hereby accepted, adopted and established as a standard to be used as a guide in determining the fitness of a building for human habitation or occupancy or use. A copy of the New Jersey State Housing Code is annexed to this chapter, and three copies of the same have been placed on file in the office of the Milford Borough Clerk and are available to all persons desiring to use and examine the same.
The Construction Official and/or other designated enforcement officer of the Borough of Milford be and he or she is hereby designated as the officer to exercise the powers prescribed by the within chapter, and he or she shall serve in such capacity without any additional salary.
The enforcement officer shall have the authority to exercise all powers authorized in N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.3 et seq. and all powers necessary or convenient to carry out and effectuate the purposes and provisions of that Act, including but not limited to the power:
To investigate the dwelling conditions in the municipality of the Borough of Milford in order to determine which dwellings therein are unfit for human habitation or use.
To administer oaths and affirmations, examine witnesses and receive evidence.
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.
To appoint and fix the duties of such officers, agents and employees as he deems necessary to carry out the purposes of this chapter.
To delegate any of his functions and powers under this chapter to such officers and agents as he may designate.
Whenever a petition is filed with the Construction Official and/or enforcement officer by a public authority, as defined in N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.4, or by at least five residents of the municipality charging that any dwelling is unfit for human habitation or use as herein defined, or whenever it appears to the Construction Official and/or enforcement officer (on his or her own motion) that any dwelling is unfit for human habitation, as herein defined, 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 of 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 the Construction Official and/or enforcement officer (or his or her designated agent) at a place therein fixed not less than 10 days nor more than 30 days after the serving of said 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 complaints; and that the rules of evidence prevailing in courts of law or equity shall not be controlling in hearings before the Construction Official and/or enforcement officer.
Complaints or orders issued by the Construction Official and/or enforcement officer pursuant to this chapter shall be served upon persons either personally or by registered mail, but if the whereabouts of such persons is unknown and the same cannot be ascertained by said Construction Official and/or enforcement officer in the exercise of reasonable diligence, and the said Construction Official and/or enforcement officer shall make an affidavit to that effect, then the serving of such complaint or order upon such persons may be made by publishing the same once each week for two successive weeks in a newspaper printed and published in the Borough of Milford or, in the absence of such newspaper, one printed in Hunterdon County and circulated in the Borough in which the buildings are located. 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 Clerk of Hunterdon County.
The enforcement officer shall investigate the habitability of any building within the Borough whenever he deems it necessary to do so or whenever a petition is filed by at least five residents of the Borough charging that the building is unfit for human habitation.
If the enforcement officer's preliminary investigation discloses a basis for such charges, a complaint shall be served upon the owner of and parties in interest in such building stating the charges and containing the notice that a hearing will be held.
The enforcement officer shall hold a hearing on the complaint not more than 30 days nor less than 10 days after service. The owner and party in interest shall have the right to file an answer to the complaint and to appear in person or otherwise and give testimony. Formal rules of evidence shall not apply.
Findings and orders. If, after notice and hearing, the enforcement officer finds that the building under consideration is unfit for human habitation, the enforcement officer shall issue findings of facts in support of such determination and shall cause to be served upon the owner thereof and parties in interest an order stating:
Repairs, alterations or improvements of said building 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 have said building vacated and closed within the times 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 said building within the time specified in the order, then the owner shall be required to remove or demolish said building within a reasonable time as specified in said order of removal.
Failure to comply with order of the enforcement officer.
If the owner fails to comply with an order to repair, alter or improve or, at the option of the owner, to vacate and close the building, the enforcement officer may cause such building to be repaired, altered or improved or to be vacated and closed. The enforcement 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 habitation 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 enforcement officer, with the consent of the Borough Council, 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.
Demolition or correction of defects by Borough; recovery of costs. Where demolition, correction of a defect in the premises or work necessary to place the premises in a proper condition so as to conform to ordinances of the Borough or applicable laws of the State of New Jersey requires expending Borough moneys, the enforcement officer shall present to the Borough Council a report of work proposed to be done to accomplish the foregoing with an estimate of cost along with a summary of the proceedings undertaken by notices served upon the occupants, owners, operators or other agents, as the case may be. The Borough Council may thereupon, by resolution, authorize the demolition, correction of the defect or work necessary to place the premises in proper condition and in compliance with this chapter. The enforcement officer or the Commissioner of Public Works, depending upon the volume of work to be performed, may thereafter proceed to have the work performed in accordance with the resolution, at Borough expense, not to exceed the amount specified in the resolution, and shall, upon completion thereof, submit a report of the moneys expended and costs to the Borough Council. After review of the report, the Borough Council may approve the expense and costs, whereupon the same shall become a lien against the premises, collectible as provided by law. A copy of the resolution approving the expenses and costs shall be certified by the Borough Clerk, whereupon the same shall be filed with the Tax Collector of the Borough. The above remedy shall not be the exclusive remedy available to the Borough, and the Borough may take other action that it deems appropriate.
The amount of the costs of the filing of any legal papers, expert witness fees, search fees, public notices, advertising charges incurred in the course of any proceeding taken under this chapter determined in favor of the Borough, and the cost of any repairs, securing of the property, alterations or improvements, or vacating and closing, or removal or demolition, if any, shall be a municipal lien against the real property upon which such cost was incurred.
If the dwelling is removed or demolished by the enforcement officer, he shall sell the materials of such dwelling and shall credit the proceeds of such sale against the cost of the removal or demolition, and any balance remaining shall be deposited in the Superior Court by the Construction Code Official, 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 Borough of Milford to define and declare nuisances and to cause their removal or abatement, by summary proceedings or otherwise.
Upon final determination of a violation of the provisions of this chapter, the Construction Code Official and/or enforcement officer shall deliver a certified copy thereof and of the notice to the Borough Clerk, and the Borough Clerk and/or the Tax Assessor shall place the same on record as a lien against the property described therein. It shall also be the duty of the Construction Code Official and/or enforcement officer to file such other and further certificates as to work done and amounts due and/or paid as the circumstances may require.
A detailed statement of the aforesaid costs set forth in § 128-8, infra, and the amount so due shall be filed with the Milford Borough 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. All matters relating to the cost of repairs, alterations or improvements or vacating and closing or removal or demolition, if any, shall be controlled by the provisions of N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.5.
Upon failure of the owner of the premises found in violation of this chapter to remedy the conditions existing in violation of the requirements hereof within 30 days after mailing or personal service of notice to do so, then the Construction Code Official and/or enforcement officer shall proceed to have such conditions remedied, and the cost thereof shall be and become a lien against such property to the same extent and character as a lien for real estate taxes and with the same penalties and interest and with the same rights of collection, foreclosure, sale and forfeiture as obtained for tax liens.
A building shall be deemed unfit for human habitation if conditions exist in such building which are dangerous or injurious to the health or safety of the occupants of such building, the occupants of neighboring buildings or other residents. 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; failure to comply with the requirements of the Building Code or the certificate of occupancy. The enforcement officer shall use the New Jersey State Housing Code as a reference in determining habitability. (See also N.J.A.C. 5:23-2.32 et seq. as to unsafe structures.)
If, after such notice and hearing as set forth in § 128-5, the Construction Code Official determines that the dwelling under consideration is unfit for human habitation, he shall state in writing his 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 as follows:
If the repair, alteration or improvement of the said dwelling can be made at a cost not in excess of 50% of the value of the dwelling, said Construction Code Official shall require the owner within a period of not more than 90 days to repair, alter or improve the said dwelling to render it fit for human habitation or, at the option of the owner, to vacate and close the dwelling as a human habitation; or
If the repair, alteration or improvement of the said dwelling cannot be made at a cost of not more than 50% of the value of the said dwelling, the said Construction Code Official shall make an order requiring the owner, within a period of not more than 90 days from the date of such order, to remove or demolish such dwelling.
If the owner fails to comply with the order to repair, alter or improve or, at the option of the owner, to vacate and close the dwelling, the Construction Code Official may cause such dwelling to be repaired, altered or improved or to be vacated and closed. The Construction Code Official may cause to be posted on the main entrance of any such dwelling so closed a placard with the following words: "This building is unfit for human habitation. The use or occupation of this building for human habitation is prohibited and unlawful."
If the owner fails to comply with any such order to remove or demolish the dwelling house, the Construction Code Official may cause such dwelling to be removed or demolished.
Whenever the enforcement officer finds that an emergency exists which requires immediate action to protect the public health or safety, the officer may, without notice of hearing, issue an order reciting the existence of such an emergency and requiring that such action be taken as he deems necessary to meet the emergency. Notwithstanding the other provisions of this chapter, such order shall be effective immediately, but, upon petition to the Borough Council, the owner shall be afforded a hearing as soon as possible. After such hearing, depending upon his findings as to whether the provisions of this chapter and of the rules and regulations adopted pursuant thereto have been complied with, the Borough Council shall continue such order in effect or modify it.
Any person affected by any order issued by the enforcement officer shall be given an opportunity to be heard by the Borough Council, provided that a written request for a hearing is made to the Borough Clerk, and shall specify in detail the reasons why the person affected believes the order of the enforcement officer was not justified. The Borough Council may affirm, modify or revoke the order.
Any person aggrieved by an order issued by the Construction Code Official and/or enforcement officer under this chapter may, within 60 days after the posting and service of such order, bring an action for injunctive relief to restrain the Construction Code Official from carrying out the provisions of the order and for any other appropriate relief. The Court may proceed in the action in a summary manner or otherwise. The remedy herein provided shall be exclusive, and no person affected by an order of the Construction Code Official shall be entitled to recover any damages for action taken pursuant thereto or because of noncompliance by any person with any order of the Construction Code Official.
The enforcement officer may, upon receipt of a petition to determine fitness in accordance with § 128-7, apply to the Municipal Judge of the Borough of Milford for a search warrant.
The enforcement officer may apply to the Municipal Judge of the Milford Borough Municipal Court, or other court of competent jurisdiction, for a search warrant to gain access to any structure where he has probable cause to believe that a violation of this chapter is occurring or where such inspections are required as part of a routine inspection survey.
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to abrogate or impair the powers of the courts or any department of the Borough of Milford to enforce any provisions of its charter or its ordinances or regulations or to prevent or punish violations thereof, and the powers conferred by this chapter shall be in addition and supplemental to the powers conferred by any other law.
Any person who violates any provision of this chapter shall, upon conviction thereof, be punished by a fine not exceeding $2,000, imprisonment in the county jail for a term not exceeding 90 days, or a period of community service not exceeding 90 days, or any combination thereof as determined by the Municipal Court Judge. Each day on which a violation of this chapter exists shall be considered a separate and distinct violation and shall be subject to imposition of a separate penalty for each day of the violation as the Municipal Court Judge may determine.