[HISTORY: Adopted by the Mayor and Council of the Borough of Somerville as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
[Adopted 9-17-62 as Ord. No. 585]
[Amended 2-6-67 by Ord. No. 629]
The Health Officer of the Borough of Somerville and the Building Inspector of the Borough of Somerville and his assistants or deputies or any one or all of them are hereby designated as the officers to exercise the powers prescribed by this chapter, and they shall serve in such capacity without any additional salary.
[Amended 8-5-68 by Ord. No. 659]
Pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 21, P.L. 1946 (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, except for amendments thereof as hereinafter set forth, as a standard to be used as a guide in determining whether dwellings in this municipality are safe, sanitary and fit for human habitation and rental. A copy of the New Jersey State Housing Code is annexed to this chapter and three (3) copies of the same have been placed on file in the office of the Borough Clerk and are available to all persons desiring to use and examine the same.
The New Jersey State Housing Code is hereby amended as follows:
Section 8.2 is amended as follows:
[Amended 8-5-68 by Ord. No. 659]
The Health Officer is hereby authorized and directed to make inspections to determine the condition of dwellings, dwelling units, rooming units and premises located within the Borough of Somerville in order that he may perform his duty of safeguarding the health and safety of the occupants of dwellings and of the general public. For the purpose of making such inspections the Health Officer is hereby authorized to enter, examine and survey at all reasonable times all dwellings, dwelling units, rooming units and premises. The owner or occupant of every dwelling, dwelling unit and rooming unit, or the person in charge thereof, shall give the Health Officer free access to such dwelling, dwelling unit or rooming unit and its premises at all reasonable times for the purpose of such inspection, examination and survey, except that the owner, occupant or person in charge thereof shall have the right to refuse such entry for a period not to exceed twenty-four (24) hours. Every occupant of a dwelling or dwelling unit shall give the owner thereof or his agent or employee access to any part of such dwelling or dwelling unit and its premises at all reasonable times for the purpose of making such repairs or alterations as are necessary to effect compliance with the provisions of this chapter or with any lawful rule or regulation adopted or any lawful order issued pursuant to the provisions of this chapter.
Whenever the Health Officer determines that there are reasonable grounds to believe that there has been a violation of any provision of this chapter or of any rule or regulation adopted pursuant thereto, he shall give notice of such alleged violation to the person or persons responsible therefor as hereinafter provided. Such notice shall be put in writing, shall include a statement of the reasons why it is being issued, shall allow a reasonable time for the performance of any act it requires and shall be served upon the owner or his agent or upon the occupant, as the case may require, provided that such notice shall be deemed to be properly served upon such owner or agent or upon such occupant if a copy thereof is served upon him personally, or if a copy thereof is sent by registered mail to his last known address, or if a copy thereof is posted in a conspicuous place in or about the dwelling affected by the notice, or if he is served with such notice by any other method authorized or required under the laws of this state. Such notice may contain an outline of remedial action which, if taken, will effect compliance with the provisions of this chapter and with rules and regulations adopted pursuant thereto.
Any person affected by any notice which has been issued in connection with the enforcement of any provision of this chapter or of any rule or regulation adopted pursuant thereto may request and shall be granted a hearing on the matter before the Health Officer, provided that such person shall file in the office of the Borough Clerk a written petition requesting such hearing and setting forth a brief statement of the grounds therefor within ten (10) days after the day the notice was served. Upon receipt of such petition the Health Officer shall set a time and place for such hearing and shall give the petitioner written notice thereof. At such hearing the petitioner shall be given an opportunity to be heard and to show why such notice should be modified or withdrawn. The hearing shall be commenced not later than ten (10) days after the day on which the petition was filed, provided that upon application of the petitioner the Health Officer may postpone the date of the hearing for a reasonable time beyond such ten-day period if in his judgment the petitioner has submitted a good and sufficient reason for such postponement. After such hearing the Health Officer shall sustain, modify or withdraw the notice, 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. If the Health Officer sustains or modifies such notice, it shall be deemed to be an order. Any notice served pursuant to this chapter shall automatically become an order if a written petition for a hearing is not filed in the office of the Borough Clerk within ten (10) days after such notice is served. The proceedings at such hearing, including the findings and decision of the Health Officer, shall be summarized, reduced to writing and entered as a matter of public record in the office of the Borough Clerk. Such record shall also include a copy of every notice or order issued, in connection with the matter. Any person aggrieved by the decision of the Health Officer may seek relief therefrom in any court of competent jurisdiction, as provided by the laws of the state.
Whenever the Health Officer finds that an emergency exists which requires immediate action to protect the public health or safety, he may, without notice or 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. Any person to whom such order is directed shall comply therewith immediately, but upon petition to the Borough Clerk 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 Health Officer shall continue such order in effect, or modify it or revoke it.
The Health Officer is hereby authorized and empowered to make and adopt such written rules and regulations as he may deem necessary for the proper enforcement of the provisions of this chapter; provided, however, that such rules and regulations shall not be in conflict with the provisions of this chapter nor in anywise alter, amend or supersede any of the provisions thereof. The Health Officer shall file a certified copy of all rules and regulations which he may adopt in his office and in the office of the Clerk of the Borough of Somerville.
[Amended 5-15-72 by Ord. No. 716]
No person shall occupy as owner-occupant nor rent to another for occupancy or allow a person to continue to occupy any dwelling or dwelling unit for the purpose of living therein which does not conform to the provisions of the New Jersey State Housing Code established hereby as the standard to be used in determining whether a dwelling is safe, sanitary and fit for human habitation.
[Amended 5-15-78 by Ord. No. 839A]
Any person, firm or corporation who shall violate any of the provisions of this chapter shall, upon conviction, be punished by a fine of not to exceed five hundred dollars ($500) or by imprisonment in the country jail for a period of not to exceed ninety (90) days, or by both such fine and imprisonment, and each violation of any of the provisions of this chapter and each day the same is violated shall be deemed and taken to be a separate and distinct offense.
[Adopted 4-6-2015 by Ord. No. 2466]
The Borough of Somerville and the residents thereof have experienced disturbances; damage and public expense resulting from carelessly granted and inadequately supervised rentals to irresponsible tenants by inept or indifferent landlords.
To preserve the peace and tranquility of the Borough, it is necessary and desirable to provide adequate means to curb and discourage those occasional excesses arising from irresponsible rentals.
The New Jersey Legislature authorized the governing body of any municipality to enact ordinances holding landlords to standards of responsibility in the selection of tenants and supervision of the rental premises, requiring that under certain circumstances, such landlords may be held responsible for the disorderly behavior of their tenants, and the consequences of such behavior.
Accordingly, it is the purpose of this section to take effective action to assure that excesses, when they occur, shall not be repeated, and that landlords be held to sufficient standards of responsibility.
As used in this section:
- DWELLING UNIT
- All or any part of a detached single-family structure or building or multi-household structure or building in which any room or rooms, or suite or apartment thereof, whether furnished or unfurnished, which is occupied, or intended, arranged or designed to be occupied, for sleeping or dwelling purposes by one or more persons, including but not limited to the owner thereof, or any of his servants, agents or employees, and shall include all privileges, services, furnishings, furniture, equipment, facilities and improvements connected with the use or occupancy thereof.
- HEARING OFFICER
- A person designated to hear and determine proceedings under this section.
- The person or persons who own or purport to own a building in which there is rented or offered for rent housing space for living or dwelling under either a written or oral lease, which building contains no more than four dwelling units. In the case of a mobile home park, "landlord" shall mean the owner of an individual dwelling unit within the mobile home park.
- QUALITY OF LIFE VIOLATION
- Disorderly, indecent, tumultuous, or riotous conduct, including, by way of example, but not limited to simple assault, terroristic threats, harassment, public urination or defecation, lewdness, criminal mischief, crimes against persons or property, excessive noise; or violation of police regulations, housing or property maintenance violations of the Ordinances of the Borough of Somerville. For purposes of this section, "quality of life violation" shall refer to the conduct listed here, which occurs on or in proximity to a rental premises and is attributable to any of the tenants of those premises or their guests. A quality of life violation shall be deemed to have occurred in proximity to a rental premises if such quality of life violation occurred in the adjacent public right-of-way or on any adjacent property.
- RENTAL PREMISES
- One or more dwelling units, which are occupied by persons other than the owner, his co-inhabitants, or guests, under either a written or oral lease.
- SUBSTANTIATED COMPLAINT
- A complaint which has been substantiated by prosecution and conviction in any court of competent jurisdiction.
No landlord shall knowingly permit a tenant to remain in occupancy of rental premises if that tenant, or that tenant's guests, commit repeated quality of life violations on or in proximity to the rental premises wherein such tenant resides.
If, in any twelve-month period, two substantiated complaints of quality of life violations on or in proximity to rental premises are attributable to any of the tenants of those premises or their guests, the governing body, or any officer or employee of the municipality designated by the governing body for the purpose, may institute the following proceedings to hold the landlord responsible for future quality of life violations.
Upon the occurrence of a substantiated complaint of a quality of life violation, the governing body, or the officer or employee designated to enforce this section, shall cause notice advising that the conduct specified has occurred to be served on the landlord, in person or by certified and regular mail, at the address appearing on the tax records of the municipality, and providing a copy of this section.
Upon the occurrence of a second substantiated complaint of a quality of life violation, the governing body or the officer or employee designated to enforce this section shall cause to be served upon the landlord, in person or by certified and regular mail to the address appearing on the tax records of the municipality, notice advising of a hearing to be held for the purpose of determining whether to hold the landlord responsible for future quality of life violations, together with particulars of the substantiated complaints forming the basis for the hearing, and of the time and place at which a hearing will be held in the matter, which shall be held in the municipal building, Municipal Court or other public place within the municipality, and which shall be no sooner than 30 days from the date upon which the notice is served or mailed.
At the hearing convened pursuant to the previous subsection of this section, the hearing officer shall give full hearing to both the complaint of the municipality and to any evidence in contradiction or mitigation that the landlord, if present or represented and offering such evidence, may present.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the hearing officer shall determine whether the landlord shall be held responsible for future quality of life violations.
If, prior to the date of the hearing, it shall be proven that the landlord has filed a complaint in the Superior Court, seeking eviction of the tenant or tenants convicted, or whose guests were convicted, of the quality of life violations, the hearing shall be adjourned for a period not to exceed 90 days. Should the landlord present proof that the tenant or tenants have been removed or otherwise no longer reside in the rental premises within this time, the proceeding shall be dismissed. Should the landlord fail to present such proof within the period of adjournment, the hearing shall be held and determined in accordance with this subsection.
It shall be a defense to this proceeding, if, by the time of the hearing, the landlord shall prove:
That the tenant or tenants convicted, or whose guests were convicted, of the quality of life violations no longer reside in the rental premises; or
That the landlord diligently prosecuted an eviction in good faith against a tenant subject to eviction under state law, but that, through no fault of the landlord, the Superior Court refused to evict the tenant. This defense shall be strictly construed against the landlord. It shall be within the discretion of the hearing officer to determine whether the landlord has established this defense.
If, following the hearing, the hearing officer determines that the landlord shall be responsible for future quality of life violations, each and every future quality of life violation committed by that landlord's tenant or that tenant's guests shall be deemed a separate violation of this section by the landlord, and the landlord shall be subject to a penalty in an amount equal to the fines and penalties levied against the tenant or the tenant's guest for such quality of life violation.
In addition, the landlord shall be liable for a sum equal to:
Any damage caused to public or private property and any damages consequent upon disruption of affected residents' rights of fair use and quiet possession of their premises resulting from the quality of life violation; and
The cost to the Borough of Somerville incurred in repressing and prosecuting the quality of life violation.
The fines, penalties, and liabilities herein shall be collected by way of summons and action in the Somerville Municipal Court or in the Superior Court as appropriate.
The landlord shall remain liable for future quality of life violations for a period of four years from the date of the most recent quality of life violation.
After a period of four years without a quality of life violation, the landlord shall be released from liability for further quality of life violations, unless new proceedings are instituted pursuant to this article.