[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Committee of the Township of Franklin 1-28-2016 by Ord. No. 2016-04. Amendments noted where applicable.]
The purpose of this chapter is to create a regulation regarding registration and maintenance of vacant and abandoned residential properties in foreclosure.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- A state-chartered bank, savings and loan association or credit union, any person or entity required to be licensed under the provisions of the New Jersey Residential Mortgage Lending Act, P.L. 2009, c. 53 (N.J.S.A. 17:11C-51 et seq.), any foreclosing entity subject to the provisions of N.J.S.A. 46:10B-51 (P.L. 2008, c. 127, § 17, as amended from time to time) and any entity acting on behalf of the creditor named in the debt obligation, including, but not limited to, services.
- A. Consistent with N.J.S.A. 2A:50-73, means residential real estate where a notice of violation has been issued pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.12s, Subdivision b(1). Residential property shall further be deemed vacant and abandoned where a mortgaged property is not occupied by a mortgagor or tenant and at least two of the following conditions exist:
- (1) Overgrown or neglected vegetation;
- (2) The accumulation of newspapers, circulars, flyers or mail on the property;
- (3) Disconnected gas, electric, or water utility services to the property;
- (4) The accumulation of hazardous, noxious, or unhealthy substances or materials on the property;
- (5) The accumulation of junk, litter, trash or debris on the property;
- (6) The absence of window treatments such as blinds, curtains or shutters;
- (7) The absence of furnishings and personal items;
- (8) Statements of neighbors, association management, delivery persons, or government employees indicating that the residence is vacant and abandoned;
- (9) Windows or entrances to the property that are boarded up or closed off or multiple window panes that are damaged, broken and unrepaired;
- (10) Doors to the property that are smashed through, broken off, unhinged, or continuously unlocked;
- (11) A risk to the health, safety or welfare of the public, or any adjoining or adjacent property owners, exists due to acts of vandalism, loitering, criminal conduct, or the physical destruction or deterioration of the property;
- (12) An uncorrected violation of a municipal building, housing or similar code during the preceding year, or an order by municipal authorities declaring the property to be unfit for occupancy and to remain vacant and unoccupied;
- (13) The mortgagee or other authorized party has secured or winterized the property due to the property being deemed vacant and unprotected or in danger of freezing;
- (14) A written statement issued by any mortgagor expressing the clear intent of all mortgagors to abandon the property;
- (15) Any other reasonable indicia of abandonment.
- B. A residential property shall not be considered vacant and abandoned if, on the property:
- (1) There is an unoccupied building which is undergoing construction, renovation or rehabilitation that is proceeding diligently to completion, and the building is in compliance with all applicable ordinances, codes, regulations, and statutes;
- (2) There is a building occupied on a seasonal basis, but otherwise secure; or
- (3) There is a building that is secure, but is the subject of a probate action, action to quiet title or other ownership dispute.
[Added 6-28-2018 by Ord. No. 2018-11]
A creditor filing a summons and complaint in an action to foreclose on a vacant and abandoned property, or a creditor who has previously filed a summons and complaint to foreclose on a residential property which subsequently becomes vacant and abandoned, shall within 30 calendar days after the building becomes vacant and abandoned or within 30 calendar days after assuming ownership of the vacant and abandoned property, whichever is later; or within 10 calendar days of receipt of notice from the Township, and annually thereafter, file a registration statement for such vacant and abandoned property with the municipal clerk on forms provided by the Township for such purposes. Any failure to receive notice by the Township shall not constitute grounds for failing to register the vacant and abandoned property.
Each vacant and abandoned property having a separate block and lot number as designated in the official tax maps of the Township shall be registered separately.
The registration statement shall include name, street address, telephone number, and email address (if applicable) of a person 21 years or older, designated by the creditor as the authorized agent for receiving notices of code violations and for receiving process in any court proceeding or administrative enforcement proceeding on behalf of such creditor in connection with the enforcement of any applicable code.
The registration statement shall include the name, street address, telephone number, and email address (if applicable) of the firm and the actual name(s) of the firm's individual principal(s) responsible for maintaining the vacant and abandoned property. The individual or representative of the firm responsible for maintaining the vacant and abandoned property shall be available by telephone or in person on a twenty-four-hour-per-day, seven-day-per-week basis. The two entities may be the same or different persons. Both entities must maintain offices in the State of New Jersey or reside within the State of New Jersey.
The registration shall remain valid for one year from the date of registration except for the initial registration which shall be valid through December 31 of the year in which it was filed. The creditor shall be required to renew registration annually as long as the building remains vacant and abandoned and shall pay a registration or renewal fee in the amount prescribed in Subsection C of this section for each vacant and abandoned property registered.
The annual renewal shall be completed by January 1 each year. The initial registration fee shall be prorated for registration statements received less than 10 months prior to that date.
The creditor shall notify the municipal clerk within 30 calendar days of any change in the registration information by filing an amended registration statement on a form provided by the municipal clerk for such purpose.
The registration statement shall be deemed prima facie proof of the statements therein contained in any administrative enforcement proceeding or court proceeding instituted by the Township against the creditor.
The initial registration fee for each vacant and abandoned property under the provisions of this section shall be $500. The fee for the first annual renewal shall be $1,000 and the fee for the second annual renewal shall be $1,500. The fee for any subsequent annual renewal beyond the second renewal shall remain $2,000.
A creditor filing a summons and complaint in an action to foreclose on a residential property within the Township shall be immediately responsible for the care, maintenance, security and upkeep of the exterior of the property after the property becomes vacant and abandoned as defined in § 268-2.
Where a creditor is located out of state, the creditor shall be responsible for appointing an in-state representative or agent to act on the creditor's behalf for the purpose of satisfying the requirements of N.J.S.A. 2A:50-73d(1). Notice of said representative or agent shall be provided to the Municipal Clerk pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.12s, Subdivisions b(3) and c(1), and pursuant to N.J.S.A. 46:10B-51a(1).
A creditor filing a summons and complaint in an action to foreclose on a residential property within the Township shall post a sign affixed to the building indicating the name, address and telephone number of the owner, the owner's authorized agent for the purpose of service of process (if designated pursuant to Subsection B of this section), and the person responsible for day-to-day supervision and management of the building, if such person is different from the owner holding title or authorized agent. The sign shall be of a size and placed in such a location as to be legible from the nearest public street or sidewalk, whichever is nearer, but shall be no smaller than 18 inches by 24 inches.
The owner and/or creditor of any vacant property shall provide access to the Township to conduct an exterior and interior inspection of the building to determine compliance with the Municipal Code following reasonable notice.
The enforcement officers designated in § 268-5 shall be authorized to issue a notice to a creditor that has filed a summons and complaint in an action to foreclose on a residential property within the Township if the enforcement officer determines that the creditor has violated this chapter by failing to provide the care, maintenance, security and upkeep of the exterior of a vacant and abandoned property or has otherwise failed to comply with this chapter.
Where a creditor is an out-of-state creditor, the notice shall be issued to the representative or agent that has been identified by the creditor pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:50-73d(2) and N.J.S.A. 46:10B-51a(1).
The duty of administering and enforcing the provisions of this chapter is conferred upon the Municipal Clerk, Construction Official, Zoning Officer, Board of Health, Franklin Township police, and any other duly appointed representatives.
A creditor subject to this chapter that is found by the Municipal Court of the Township, or by any other court of competent jurisdiction, to be in violation of the requirement to correct a care, maintenance, security, or upkeep violation cited in a notice issued pursuant to this chapter shall be subject to a fine of $1,500 for each day of the violation. Any fines imposed pursuant to this subsection shall commence 31 days following the receipt of the notice, except if the violation presents an imminent risk to public health and safety, in which case any fines shall commence 11 days following receipt of the notice.
An out-of-state creditor subject to this chapter that is found by the Municipal Court of the Township, or by any other court of competent jurisdiction, to be in violation of the requirement to appoint an in-state representative or agent pursuant to this chapter shall be subject to a fine of $2,500 for each day of the violation. Any fines imposed on a creditor for the failure to appoint an in-state representative or agent shall commence on the day after the ten-day period set forth in N.J.S.A. 46:10B-51a(1) for providing notice to the Municipal Clerk that a summons and complaint in an action to foreclose on a mortgage has been served.