[HISTORY: Adopted by the Mayor and Council of the Town of Secaucus 6-26-18 as Ord. No. 2018-23. Amendments noted where applicable.]
The Mayor and Council hereby find and declare that there has been a proliferation of what are commonly known as "unlawful or illegal apartments," meaning residential dwelling units which are occupied in violation of zoning and housing laws. These unlawful apartments often manifest themselves as a second residential unit in a building in a one-family zone. The Mayor and Council hereby further find and declare that such illegal units have a deleterious effect on the quality of life of Town residents, require the provision of Town services, generate young people who attend Town schools, increase the utilization of Town programs and services, contribute to the costs of the Town by increasing the generation of refuse (garbage) and sewer flow, contribute to overcrowding, generate traffic within the Town, generate automobiles which contribute to parking shortages throughout the Town and lead to the maintenance of dwelling units which can fail to meet health, safety and building code standards. By their nature, such units generally escape taxation as their maintenance and existence is normally hidden and is therefore not factored into tax assessment purposes. The use and maintenance of said illegal apartments is also unfair to the vast majority of Town residents who abide by Town laws.
- DWELLING UNIT
- One or more rooms occupied or intended for occupancy as a separate living quarters by one or more families, not common to the main residence and/or has its sole means of access from directly outside and/or has locked doors separating units.
- REAL ESTATE TITLE OWNER
- Any person or entity who is the named as grantee on the deed to the property and has legal title to the real property.
- SHORT-TERM RENTALS
- Any change in tenancy involving an occupancy of 30 days or less.
- UNLAWFUL OR ILLEGAL DWELLING UNIT
- For the purpose of this chapter an "Unlawful or Illegal Dwelling Unit" is defined as follows:
- (1) An additional dwelling unit, within a single-family or multi-family dwelling, for which no proper certificate of occupancy has been issued.
- (2) Any additional dwelling units for which legal documentation cannot be shown built as "pre-existing non-conforming," having a Board "Use Variance" per Secaucus Zoning Ordinance, or a zoning interpretation approval from the Secaucus Zoning Board as per the Municipal Land Use Act.
- (3) A dwelling unit that is considered to have its own separate area for providing cooking, sleeping and sanitary facilities or some combination of same.
- (4) A dwelling unit without the relevant building, electric, plumbing or fire permits.
- (5) Any other dwelling or rental unit which is in violation of any State, County or Municipal statute, regulation and/or ordinance.
[Amended 7-23-2019 by Ord. No. 2019-26]
No person shall charge, demand, receive or accept any rent or other payment for the use or occupancy of any unlawful or illegal dwelling unit or short-term rental as defined herein, within the Town of Secaucus. Each such charge, demand, receipt or acceptance of such rent or other payment in violation hereof shall constitute a separate offense.
No person, specifically including but not limited to those persons commonly known as "real estate agents," "brokers" or "salespersons," shall assist, aid or facilitate in the rental, sale, use or occupancy of any unlawful or illegal dwelling unit or short-term rental as defined herein within the Town of Secaucus. For purposes of this chapter, the acts of listing for rental or sale, advertising or otherwise offering for rent, lease or sale any lawful or illegal dwelling unit or short-term rental as defined herein, within the Town of Secaucus shall be deemed to constitute a violation of this chapter. Any person who is to receive a commission, profit or other form of remuneration or emolument as a result of a rental, lease or sale of residential premises shall have a duty to make reasonable written inquiry to determine whether or not the subject property contains an unlawful or illegal dwelling unit or short-term rental, as defined herein.
The Construction Official, Zoning Official or Town designee shall issue a violation notice for any violation of this chapter to the real estate title owner and/or any additional responsible party.
Real estate title owner and/or additional responsible party shall within 10 days following receipt of this violation notice abate the unlawful occupancy as long as there are no life safety issues as determined by the Construction Official. In case of life safety issues, the unlawful tenancy must be immediately abated.
Real estate title owner and/or additional responsible party shall serve and provide proof of service that all of the unlawful occupants using or occupying said residential premises have received a copy of this chapter. As an alternative notice, a copy of this chapter may be posted in a common area of the premises accessible to all the applicable tenant(s).
The Construction Official, Zoning Official or Town designee shall issue any court summons for any violation of this chapter to the real estate title owner and/or any additional responsible party.
The real estate title owner and/or additional responsible party shall place all rent that accrues during the pendency of the municipal action in an interest-bearing escrow account until finalization of the municipal action related to the issuance of the summons issued pursuant to section. The real estate title owner and/or additional responsible party shall have an affirmative obligation to produce proof of this escrow account to the Town designee.
Nothing in this section shall limit the authority of the Construction Official, Zoning Official or the Town designee from issuing additional violations or instituting further action against a responsible party for prior or subsequent health, safety and welfare violations or Uniform Construction Code violations.
Any person or entity that has been charged with violating any provision of this Ordinance shall be subject to review by the Municipal Court and subject to fines of not less than $500 or more than $2,000 per diem or by imprisonment for a term not exceeding 90 days, or both, for each separate violation. Each day that a violation is left unabated is considered a separate and district violation for penalty purposes.
In addition to requiring reimbursement from the real estate title owner and/or additional responsible party for tenant relocation assistance paid to a displaced tenant, and notwithstanding the provisions of Subsection A of this section, the Municipal Court may impose an additional fine for zoning or housing code violations for an unlawful occupancy up to an amount equal to six times the displaced tenant's monthly rental, pursuant to the provisions of N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1g(c).
As to second or subsequent violations, the Municipal Court may impose a additional fine equal to the annual tuition costs of any resident of the illegally occupied unit attending a public school, which fine shall be recovered in a civil action by a summary proceeding in the name of the municipality pursuant to Penalty Enforcement Law of 1999, (N.J.S.A. 2A:58-10 et seq.). The tuition costs shall be determined in the manner prescribed for nonresident pupils pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:38-19.
In those instances where a violation of this section is based on the maintenance of residential dwelling units above the number of units permitted by the Zoning Ordinance on a particular parcel of land (e.g., the maintenance of a structure with two residential dwelling units in a zoning district where single-family homes are permitted), the defendant who is the owner of a property may be required to permanently remove the unlawful kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, point of entrance/egress or any other offending structure, appliance or fixture. The Town Construction Official or their designee shall inspect the premises to insure compliance within 10 days of the date of the entry of the judgment imposition terms and conditions by the Municipal Court or by agreement of the parties.
Any tenant who receives a notice of eviction pursuant to the provisions of N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.2 that results from zoning or code enforcement activity for an illegal or unlawful occupancy may be considered a displaced person and may be entitled to relocation assistance in an amount equal to six times the monthly rental paid by the displaced person. The real estate title owner and/or additional responsible party of the structure shall be the sole party liable for the payment of relocation assistance pursuant to this section.
Any municipal payments or costs incurred by the municipality under this chapter shall be a municipal lien on the title property with statutory interest until satisfied. (See, N.J.S.A. 20:4-4.1, et al.)
Real estate title owner and/or additional responsible party can additionally be responsible for restitution and damages to Town, if the Mayor and Council determine that the unlawful residential use and occupancy has caused an unfair increase in the usage of Town services directed towards ensuring general health, safety and welfare. For example, but not limited to, the use of Town fire, police, sanitation, public works, education, and general administration, as well as the further generation of increased vehicular traffic, neighborhood parking spaces usage and the like, while escaping real estate taxation. The Town recognizes that such harm and detrimental damages to the Town are difficult to measure and hereby determine that the most reasonable way to calculate the damage and detriment caused to the Town by unlawful occupancy(ies) is by calculating same as a percentage of the rental payment charged by the owner to the occupant on account of the unlawful occupancy. The Town determines that a percentage of 66% (2/3) of the monthly rental charged to the Tenant shall be a fair and reasonable measure of the damage and detriment caused to the Town. The Mayor and Council may authorize the Town Attorney to recover from any real estate title owner and/or additional responsible party who charges, demands, receives or accepts rent or payment for such an unlawful occupancy to make such restitution to the Town for such damages during the period of illegal occupancy.
Nothing in this chapter shall prohibit senior citizens from leasing or renting rooms within single-family primary residence to one person pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:55D-68.4.
This chapter shall further create an annual registration process for which each and every rental unit within the Town, excepting such multi-unit dwellings which are already subject to State housing laws, must register with the Town Clerk on an annual basis based upon rules and regulations established by the Town of Secaucus. Each property owner shall be charged an annual registration fee and the amount of said annual fee shall be kept on file with the Town Clerk.
In order to effectuate the goals and purpose of this chapter, the Town Construction Official or their designee shall be considered the enforcement officer.