[HISTORY: Adopted by the Merchantville Borough Council 1-25-1960. Amendments noted where applicable.]
The Chairman of the Committee of Public Safety be and he is hereby designated as the public officer to exercise powers prescribed by this chapter and by N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.3 et seq.
The public officer may determine that a building is unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use if he finds that such conditions exist in such building which are dangerous or injurious to the health or safety of the occupants of such buildings, the occupants of neighboring buildings or other residents of such municipality. 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; and uncleanliness.
The public officer may exercise such powers as may be necessary or convenient to carry out and effectuate the purposes and provisions of this chapter, including the following powers in addition to others herein granted:
To investigate the building conditions in the municipality in order to determine which buildings therein are unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use.
To administer oaths, affirmations, examine witnesses and receive evidence.
To enter upon premises for the purpose of making examinations.
To appoint and fix the duties of such officers, agents and employees as he deems necessary to carry out the purpose of this chapter. The officer, agent and employee to whom the powers and functions of the public officer have been delegated are hereby authorized to exercise the powers contained in § 16-3 A, B and C.
To delegate any of his functions and powers under this chapter to such officers and agents as he may designate.
Complaints or orders issued by said public officer shall be served upon persons either personally or by registered mail or if the whereabouts of such person is unknown and the same cannot be ascertained, then the serving of such complaint or order upon such persons may be made by publishing the same once a week for two (2) successive weeks in a newspaper printed and published in the county and circulating in the borough. A copy of such complaint or order shall be posted in a conspicuous place on the 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 Clerk.
Whenever a petition is filed with the public officer by a public authority, or by at least five (5) residents of the municipality, charging that any building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use or whenever it appears to the public officer, on his own motion, that any building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use, the public officer shall, if his 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 public officer (or his designated agent) at a place therein fixed not less than ten (10) days nor more than thirty (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 public officer.
If, after such notice and hearing, the public officer determines that the building under consideration is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use, 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 requiring the repair, alteration or improvement of the said building to 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 the said building vacated and closed within the time set forth in the order.
If the building 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 the building within the time specified in the order, then the owner shall be required to remove or demolish the building within a reasonable time as specified in the order of removal.
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 public officer may cause such building to be repaired, altered or improved, or to be vacated and closed. The public 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 occupancy of this building is prohibited and unlawful."
If the owner fails to comply with an order to remove or demolish the building, the public officer 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.
The amount of the cost of the filing of legal papers, expert witnesses' fees, search fees and advertising charges incurred in the course of any proceeding taken under this chapter determined in favor of the municipality, and the cost of the repairs, alterations or improvements, or vacating and closing, 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, shall be a municipal lien against the real property upon which such cost was incurred.
If the building is removed or demolished by the public officer, he shall sell the materials of such building. There shall be credited against the cost of the removal or demolition thereof 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 aforesaid costs and the amount so due shall be filed with the Municipal 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. If the total of the credits exceeds such costs, the balance remaining shall be deposited in the Superior Court by the public officer, shall be secured in such a manner as may be directed by such court and shall be disbursed according to the order or judgment of the court; provided, however, that nothing in this section 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. Any owner or party in interest may within sixty (60) days from the date of 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.
In the event that any provision or provisions of this chapter, as applied to any persons or circumstances, is held to be invalid, the remaining provisions of the ordinance and the application of such provisions to persons or circumstances other than those to which it is held invalid shall not be affected thereby.
The following terms whenever used or referred to in this chapter shall have the following respective meanings for the purposes of this chapter, unless a different meaning clearly appears from the context:
- Any building or structure or part thereof, whether used for human habitation or otherwise, and includes any outhouses and appurtenances belonging thereto or usually enjoyed therewith.
- GOVERNING BODY
- The Council of the Borough of Merchantville charged with governing the municipality.
- The holder of the title in fee simple.
- PARTIES IN INTEREST
- All individuals, associations and corporations who have interests of record in a building 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 Merchantville, County of Camden, State of New Jersey, relating to health, fire or building regulations or to other activities concerning dwellings in the Borough of Merchantville.
- PUBLIC OFFICER
- The officer or officers who are authorized by this chapter to exercise the powers prescribed by this chapter.
Ordinance No. 236 and Ordinance No. 300 are hereby repealed, and this chapter shall take effect upon due passage and publication according to law.