As used in this article, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- ABANDONED PROPERTY
- Any property that is determined to be abandoned pursuant to P.L. 2003, c. 210 (N.J.S.A. 55:19-78 et al.).
- PUBLIC OFFICER
- That person designated or appointed by the municipal governing body pursuant to Section 3 of P.L. 1942, c. 112 (N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.5), to wit, the Township Code Enforcement Officer or such other individual so designated.
The Township of Maple Shade may direct the public officer to identify abandoned property for the purpose of establishing an abandoned property list throughout the Township or within those parts of the Township as the governing body may designate. Each item of abandoned property so identified shall include the tax block and lot number, the name of the owner of record, if known, and the street address of the lot.
The public officer shall establish and maintain a list of abandoned property, to be known as the "abandoned property list." The Township of Maple Shade may add properties to the abandoned property list at any time and may delete properties at any time when the public officer finds that the property no longer meets the definition of an abandoned property. An interested party may request that a property be included on the abandoned property list following the procedure set forth in N.J.S.A. 55:19-105.
An abandoned property shall not be included on the abandoned property list if rehabilitation is being performed in a timely manner, as evidenced by building permits issued and diligent pursuit of rehabilitation work authorized by those permits. A property on which an entity other than the Township of Maple Shade has purchased or taken assignment from the Township of a tax sale certificate which has been placed on the abandoned property list may be removed in accordance with the provisions of N.J.S.A. 55:19-103.
The public officer shall establish the abandoned property list or any additions thereto by publication in the official newspaper of the Township, which publication shall constitute public notice, and, within 10 days after publication, shall send a notice by certified mail, return receipt requested, and by regular mail to the owner of record of every property included on the list. The published and mailed notices shall identify property determined to be abandoned, setting forth the owner of record, if known, the tax lot and block number and street address. The public officer, in consultation with the Tax Collector, shall also send out a notice by regular mail to any mortgagee, servicing organization, or property tax processing organization that receives a duplicate copy of the tax bill pursuant to Subsection d of N.J.S.A. 54:4-64. When the owner of record is not known for a particular property and cannot be ascertained by the exercise of reasonable diligence by the Tax Collector, notice shall not be mailed but instead shall be posted on the property in the manner as provided in N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.7. The mailed notice shall indicate the factual basis for the public officer's finding that the property is abandoned property as that term is defined in N.J.S.A. 55:19-54 and the rules and regulations promulgated thereunder, specifying the information relied upon in making such finding. In all cases a copy of the mailed or posted notice shall also be filed by the public officer in the office of the County Clerk or register of deeds and mortgages, as the case may be, of the county wherein the property is situate. This filing shall have the same force and effect as a notice of lis pendens under N.J.S.A. 2A:15-6. The notice shall be indexed by the name of the property owner as defendant and the name of the Township as plaintiff, as though an action had been commenced by the Township against the owner.
An owner or lienholder may challenge the inclusion of his property on the abandoned property list determined pursuant to Subsection B of this section by appealing that determination to the public officer within 30 days of the owner's receipt of the certified notice or 40 days from the date upon which the notice was sent. An owner whose identity was not known to the public officer shall have 40 days from the date upon which notice was published or posted, whichever is later, to challenge the inclusion of a property on the abandoned property list. For good cause shown, the public officer shall accept a late filing of an appeal. Within 30 days of receipt of a request for an appeal of the findings contained in the notice pursuant to Subsection D of this section, the public officer shall schedule a hearing for redetermination of the matter. Any property included on the list shall be presumed to be abandoned property unless the owner, through the submission of an affidavit or certification by the property owner averring that the property is not abandoned and stating the reasons for such averment, can demonstrate that the property was erroneously included on the list. The affidavit or certification shall be accompanied by supporting documentation, such as but not limited to photographs, and repair invoices, bills and construction contracts. The sole ground for appeal shall be that the property in question is not abandoned property as that term is defined in N.J.S.A. 55:19-54. The public officer shall decide any timely filed appeal within 10 days of the hearing on the appeal and shall promptly, by certified mail, return receipt requested, and by regular mail, notify the property owner of the decision and the reasons therefor.
The property owner may challenge an adverse determination of an appeal with the public officer pursuant to Subsection E of this section, by instituting a summary proceeding in the Superior Court, Law Division, which action shall be tried de novo. Such action shall be instituted within 20 days of the date of the notice of decision mailed by the public officer pursuant to Subsection E of this section. The sole ground for appeal shall be that the property in question is not abandoned property as that term is defined in N.J.S.A. 55:19-54. The failure to institute an action of appeal on a timely basis shall constitute a jurisdictional bar to challenging the adverse determination, except that, for good cause shown, the Court may extend the deadline for instituting the action.
The public officer shall promptly remove any property from the abandoned property list that has been determined not to be abandoned on appeal.
The abandoned property list shall become effective, and the Township shall have the right to pursue any legal remedy with respect to properties on the abandoned property list at such time as any one property has been placed on the list in accordance with the provisions of this section, upon the expiration of the period for appeal with respect to that property or upon the denial of an appeal brought by the property owner.
Notwithstanding N.J.S.A. 54:5-19 or the provisions of any other law to the contrary, if a property is included on the abandoned property list and the property taxes or other Township liens due on the property are delinquent six or more quarters as of the date of expiration of the right to appeal inclusion on the list, or, if an appeal has been filed, as of the date that all opportunities for appeal of inclusion on the list have been exhausted, then the tax lien on the property may be sold in accordance with the procedures in the "Tax Sale Law," N.J.S.A. 54:5-1 et seq., on or after the 90th day following the expiration of that time of appeal or final determination on an appeal, as appropriate. The Township may, at its option, require that the sale of the tax sale certificate or any subsequent assignment or transfer of a tax sale certificate held by the Township be subject to the express condition that the purchaser or assignee shall be obliged to perform and conclude any rehabilitation or repairs necessary to remove the property from the abandoned property list pursuant to N.J.S.A. 55:19-55 and to post a bond in favor of the Township to guarantee the rehabilitation or repair of the property. The public officer may waive a requirement to post a bond imposed by the Township for any purchaser, assignee or transferee of a tax sale certificate that provides documentation acceptable to the public officer that the purchaser, assignee or transferee is a qualified rehabilitation entity as defined in N.J.S.A. 55:19-80. The cost of rehabilitation and repairs and the cost of the bond shall be added to the amount required to be paid by the owner for redemption of the property. The purchaser, assignee or transferee of the tax sale certificate who is required to rehabilitate and repair the property shall be required to file the appropriate affidavits with the Tax Collector, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 54:5-62, representing the amounts of monies expended periodically toward the rehabilitation or repair of the property. A purchaser, assignee or transferee shall be entitled to interest on the amounts expended, as set forth in the affidavits, at the delinquent rate of interest for delinquencies in excess of $1,500 pursuant to N.J.S.A. 54:4-67 of the Township in effect for the time period when the amounts were expended. The tax sale certificate purchaser, assignee or transferee, under the auspices and with the authority of the Township, shall be permitted to enter in and upon the property for the purposes of appraising the costs of rehabilitation and repair and to perform all other acts required to guarantee the completion of the rehabilitation or repair of the property. No rehabilitation or repair work shall be commenced, however, until proof of adequate liability insurance and an indemnification agreement holding the Township harmless is filed with the public officer.
If the Township acquires the tax sale certificate for a property on the abandoned property list, then, upon 10 days' written notice to the property owner and any mortgagee as of the date of the filing of the lis pendens notice under Subsection d of N.J.S.A. 55:19-55, the Township or its designee shall be permitted to enter upon the property and remediate any conditions that caused the property to be included on the abandoned property list. No remediation shall be commenced, however, if within that ten-day period the owner or mortgagee shall have notified the Township, in writing, that the owner or mortgagee has elected to perform the remediation itself. When the owner or mortgagee elects to perform the remediation itself, it shall be required to post bond in favor of the Township, in order to ensure performance. The amount and conditions of the bond shall be determined by the public officer.
The cost of remediation incurred by the Township or its designee pursuant to this subsection, as so certified by the entity incurring the cost upon completion of the remediation, shall constitute a lien upon the property first in time and right to any other lien, whether the other lien was filed prior to or after the filing of any lien by the Township, except for Township taxes, liens and assessments and any lien imposed pursuant to the Spill Compensation and Control Act, P.L. 1976, c. 141 (N.J.S.A. 58:10-23.11 et seq.), together with any interest thereon. The certification of cost shall be filed and recorded as a lien by the entity incurring the cost with the county clerk or register of deeds and mortgages, as appropriate, in the county in which the property is located.
Failure to remediate.
Failure of an owner or lienholder to remove a property from the abandoned property list within the period of time for appeal of inclusion of the property on the list pursuant to Subsection e of Section 36 of P.L. 1996, c. 62 (N.J.S.A. 55:19-55), shall be prima facie evidence of the intent of the owner to continue to maintain the property as abandoned property.
An owner may remove a property from the list of abandoned properties prior to the sale of the tax sale certificate by paying all taxes and Township liens due, including interest and penalties; and
By posting cash or a bond equal to the cost of remediating all conditions because of which the property has been determined to be abandoned pursuant to N.J.S.A. 55:19-55, and posting cash or a bond to cover the cost of any environmental cleanup required on the property, evidenced by a certification by a licensed engineer retained by the owner and reviewed and approved by the public officer stating that the cash or bond adequately covers the cost of the cleanup; or
By demonstrating to the satisfaction of the public officer that the conditions rendering the property abandoned have been remediated in full; provided, however, that where the public officer finds that the owner is actively engaged in remediating the conditions because of which the property was determined to be abandoned pursuant to N.J.S.A. 55:19-55, as evidenced by significant rehabilitation activity on the property, the public officer may grant an extension of time of not more than 120 days for the owner to complete all work, during which time no further proceedings will be taken against the owner or the property.
If the owner has posted cash or a bond in order to have a property removed from the abandoned property list and the conditions because of which the property was determined to be abandoned have not been fully remediated within one year of the date of posting the cash or bond, or, in the case of a property which requires a remediation of any known, suspected or threatened release of contaminants, if the owner has failed to enter into a memorandum of agreement with the Department of Environmental Protection or an administrative consent order, as the case may be, or if an agreement or order is in effect but the owner has failed to perform the remediation in conformance with the agreement or order, then the cash or bond shall be forfeited to the Township, which shall use the cash or bond and any interest which has accrued thereon for the purpose of demolishing or rehabilitating the property or performing the environmental remediation. Any funds remaining after the property has been demolished, rehabilitated or cleaned up shall be returned to the owner.
When a person other than the Township or its designees acquires a tax sale certificate for a property on the abandoned property list at tax sale, the purchaser may institute an action to foreclose the right of redemption at any time after the expiration of six months following the date of the sale of the tax sale certificate.
When the Township is the purchaser at tax sale of any property on the abandoned property list pursuant to N.J.S.A. 54:5-34, an action to foreclose the right of redemption may be instituted in accordance with the provisions of Subsection b of N.J.S.A. 54:5-77.
After the foreclosure action is instituted, the right to redeem shall exist and continue to exist until barred by the judgment of the Superior Court; provided, however, that no redemption shall be permitted except where the owner:
Posts cash or a bond equal to the cost of remediating the conditions because of which the property was determined to be abandoned pursuant to N.J.S.A. 55:19-56, as determined by the Court; or
Demonstrates to the Court that the conditions because of which the property was determined to be abandoned pursuant to N.J.S.A. 55:19-56 have been remedied in full.