Borough of Highland Park, NJ
Middlesex County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[Adopted 7-11-2017 by Ord. No. 17-1940]
The purpose of this article is to provide a process for the repair, maintenance or removal of a building or buildings, or part thereof, which are unfit for human habitation or occupancy, or use, due to dilapidation, defects increasing the hazards of fire, accidents or other calamities, lack of ventilation, light or sanitation facilities, or due to other conditions rendering such building or buildings, or part thereof, unsafe or insanitary, or dangerous or detrimental to the health or safety or otherwise inimical to the welfare of the residents of the Borough and to regulate vacant or abandoned properties.
The Borough Council, having adopted a resolution finding that building conditions of the character described in N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.3 exist within the Borough, is hereby authorized to adopt this article relating to such buildings within the Borough which are unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.5.
The Borough Council hereby designates the Code Enforcement Official to enforce this article in accordance with the powers described herein with regard to buildings that are deemed dangerous, unsafe or otherwise unfit for human habitation or occupation upon a finding that conditions exist in such building(s) that are dangerous or injurious to the health or safety of the occupants of such building(s), the occupants of neighboring buildings or other residents of the Borough. Such conditions shall be deemed to include, but are not limited to, the following: 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; such ordinance that may provide additional standards in determining the fitness of a building for human habitation or occupancy or use or is vacant or abandoned properties as defined herein below.
As used in this article, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
ABANDONED PROPERTY
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 (in accordance with N.J.S.A. 55:19-81) upon a determination by the Code Enforcement Official that:
A. 
The property is in need of rehabilitation in the reasonable judgment of the Code Enforcement Official, and no rehabilitation has taken place during that six-month period;
B. 
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 Code Enforcement Official pursuant to this section;
C. 
At least one installment of property tax remains unpaid and delinquent on that property in accordance with Chapter 4 of Title 54 of the Revised Statutes[1] on the date of the determination by the Code Enforcement Official pursuant to this article; or
D. 
The property has been determined to be a nuisance by the Code Enforcement Official 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 al.) so long as two-third or more of the total net square footage of the building was previously legally occupied as residential or commercial space and none of the residential or commercial 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 or Subsection D of this definition.
OWNER
Includes the title holder, any agent of the title holder having authority to act with respect to a vacant/abandoned property, any foreclosing entity subject to the provisions of N.J.S.A. 46:10B-51, or any other entity determined by the Borough of Highland Park to have authority to act with respect to the property.
VACANT PROPERTY
Any building used or to be used as a residence, commercial or industrial structure which is not legally occupied or at which substantially all lawful construction operations or occupancy has ceased, and which is in such condition that it cannot legally be reoccupied without repair or rehabilitation, including but not limited to any property meeting the definition of "abandoned property" in N.J.S.A. 55:19-54, 55:19-78, 55:19-79, 19-80 or 55:19-81; provided, however, that any property where all building systems are in working order, where the building and grounds are maintained in good order, or where the building is in habitable condition, and where the building is being actively marketed by its owner for sale or rental, shall not be deemed a vacant property for purposes of this article.
[1]
Editor's Note: See N.J.S.A. 54:4-1 et seq.
A. 
Effective August 1, 2017, the owner of any vacant or abandoned property as defined herein shall register with the Borough of Highland Park pursuant to § 303-12 of this article.
B. 
The owner of any vacant property registered under this article shall provide access to said property in accordance with § 303-13 of this article. Owners of vacant property are required to designate a responsible owner or agent pursuant to § 303-14 of this article.
The initial registration fee for each building or portion thereof shall be $500. The fee for the first renewal is $1,500, and the fee for the second renewal is $3,000. The fee for any subsequent renewal beyond the second renewal is $5,000.
Vacant or Abandoned Building Registration Fee Schedule
Registration Type
Fee
Initial annual registration
$500
First annual renewal
$1,500
Second annual renewal
$3,000
Subsequent annual renewal
$5,000
The owner of any property that has become vacant and any person maintaining or operating or collecting rent for any such building that has become vacant shall, within 30 days thereof:
A. 
Enclose and secure the property against unauthorized entry as provided in the applicable provisions of the Borough Code; and
B. 
Post a sign affixed to the property 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 this article), and the person responsible for the 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 eight inches by 10 inches; and
C. 
Secure the property from unauthorized entry and maintain the sign until the property is legally occupied or demolished or until repair or rehabilitation of the property is complete; and
D. 
Ensure that the exterior grounds of the property, including yards, fences, sidewalks, walkways, rights-of-way, alleys, retaining walls, attached or unattached accessory structures and driveways, are well maintained and free from trash, debris, loose litter, and grass and weed growth; and
E. 
Continue to maintain the property in a secure and closed condition, keep the grounds in a clean and well-maintained condition, and ensure that the sign is visible and intact until the property is again occupied, demolished, or until repair and/or rehabilitation of the building is complete; and
F. 
Continue to maintain the property consistent with the requirements of the Borough Code, including but not limited to Chapter 303, Property Maintenance.
Whenever a petition is filed with the Code Enforcement Official by at least five residents of the municipality charging that any building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use, or whenever it appears to the Code Enforcement Official (on his or her own motion) that any building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use, the Code Enforcement Official 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 building a complaint stating the charges in that respect and containing a notice that a hearing will be held before the Code Enforcement Official (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 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 place and time fixed in the complaint; and that the rules of evidence prevailing in the courts shall not be controlling in hearings before the Code Enforcement Official.
A. 
If, after such notice and hearing as required in § 303-14, the Code Enforcement Official determines that the building under consideration is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use, or that a public health nuisance, as defined in the Borough Board of Health Ordinance 3-4, exists on the property under consideration, 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 said building to be made by the owner, or the nuisance to be abated, 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 time set forth in the order;
B. 
If the building or nuisance is in such 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, or abate the nuisance, 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 the order of removal;
C. 
If the owner fails to comply with the order to repair, alter, improve or abate or, at the option of the owner, to vacate and close the building, the public officer may cause such building to be repaired, altered or improved, or to be vacated and closed, or such nuisance to be abated. The Code Enforcement Official 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."
D. 
If the owner fails to comply with the order to remove or demolish the building, the public officer may cause such building to be removed or demolished, or such nuisance to be abated, or may contract for the removal or demolition or abatement thereof after advertisement for, and receipt of, bids therefor.
A. 
A municipal lien shall be placed against the real property upon which the cost was incurred in the amount of:
(1) 
The cost of the filing of legal papers, expert witness fees, search fees and advertising charges incurred in the course of any proceeding taken under this article determined in favor of the municipality; and
(2) 
The cost of 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.
(3) 
If the building is removed or demolished by the Code Enforcement Official, he or she shall sell the materials of such building. There shall be credited against the cost of the removal or demolition, including the clearance and, if necessary, leveling of the site, the proceeds of any sale of such materials or any sum 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 costs and the amount due shall be filed with the Tax Collector or other custodian of records of tax liens, and a copy shall be forthwith forwarded to the owner by registered mail. If the total of the credits exceeds the costs, the balance shall be deposited in the Superior Court by the Code Enforcement Official, shall be secured in such manner as may be directed by the Court, and shall be disbursed according to the order of the Court to the persons entitled thereto. Any owner or party in interest may, within 30 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.
A. 
If an actual and immediate danger to life is posed by the threatened collapse of any fire-damaged or other structurally unsafe building, the Code Enforcement Official may, after taking such measures as may be necessary to make such building temporarily safe, seek a judgment in summary proceedings for the demolition thereof.
B. 
Nothing in this article shall be construed to impair or limit in any way the power of the municipality to define and declare nuisances and to cause their removal or abatement, by summary proceedings or otherwise, nor is anything in this article intended to limit the authority of the enforcing agency or Code Enforcement Official under the State Uniform Construction Code Act, P.L. 1975, c. 217 (N.J.S.A. 52:27D-119 et seq.), or any rules or regulations adopted thereunder.
Complaints or orders issued by the Code Enforcement Official shall be served upon persons either personally or by registered mail, but if the whereabouts of such persons is unknown and cannot be ascertained by the Code Enforcement Official in the exercise of reasonable diligence, the Code Enforcement Official 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 in a newspaper printed and published in the municipality or, in the absence of such newspaper, in one printed and published in the county and circulating in the municipality in which the building(s) are located. A copy of any complaint or order shall be posted in a conspicuous place on premises affected by the complaint or order. 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 building is located.
The Code Enforcement Official shall exercise such powers as may be necessary or convenient to carry out and effectuate the purposes and provisions of this article, including the following powers in addition to others granted herein:
A. 
To investigate the building conditions in the municipality in order to determine which buildings therein are unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use;
B. 
To administer oaths, affirmations, examine witnesses and receive evidence;
C. 
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;
D. 
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 article; and
E. 
To delegate any functions and powers under this article to such officers and agents as the Code Enforcement Official may designate.
Nothing in this article shall be construed to abrogate or impair the powers of the courts or of any department of the Borough to enforce any provisions of its ordinances or regulations, nor to prevent or punish violations thereof, and the powers conferred by this article shall be in addition and supplemental to the powers conferred upon the Borough by any other law or ordinance.