[HISTORY: Adopted by the Council of the City of Northfield 12-22-2009 by Ord. No. 17-2009. Amendments noted where applicable.]
The Construction Official of the City of Northfield is hereby designated and appointed to exercise the following power enumerated within this chapter, and is hereinafter referred to in this chapter as the "public officer."
The public officer may determine that a building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use if he finds that conditions exist in such building which are dangerous or injurious to the health or safety of the occupants of such building, of the occupants of neighboring buildings or of other residents or of the City of Northfield; such conditions shall be deemed to 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; uncleanliness; failure to comply with the requirements of the building code or the certificate of occupancy; being so decayed, unsanitary, unsafe or vermin-infested that it creates a serious hazard to the health or safety of the occupants or the public, being likely to increase the risk of fire, dilapidation, destruction, accidents, or other calamities.
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 City of Northfield in order to determine which buildings therein are unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use;
To administer oaths, affirmations, examine witnesses and receive evidence;
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;
To appoint and fix the duties of such officers, agents and employees as he deems necessary to carry out the purposes of this chapter; and
To delegate any of his functions and powers under this chapter to such officers and agents as he may designate.
Whenever a petition is filed with the public officer by a public authority or 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 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 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 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 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 building vacated and closed within the time set forth in the order; and
If the building is in such a 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, requiring the owner to remove or demolish the building within a reasonable time as specified in the order of removal.
The order to repair or demolish shall contain a description of the property affected, sufficiently definite in terms to identify same, as well as the manner in which such repair, removal or destruction is to be carried out, and a notice or further order that unless such building is repaired, removed or destroyed within 30 days after service of such notice, the City will proceed with such repair, removal or destruction, or cause the same to be repaired, removed or destroyed, under the provisions of this chapter, and the statutes in such case made and provided, and the cost of such repair, removal or destruction shall be charged against the property affected as a municipal lien.
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; provided that 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 occupation of this building is prohibited and unlawful."
The City of Northfield, by resolution of its governing body, may abate a nuisance, correct a defect, or put the premises in proper condition so as to comply with the requirements of any municipal ordinance or state law applicable thereto, at the cost of the owner or lessor, and expend municipal funds for such purpose and charge the same against the premises, and the amount thereof, as determined by the governing body of the City of Northfield, shall be a lien against the premises and collectible as provided in this chapter.
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 such cost of such 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, 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, 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 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 manner as may be directed by such court, and shall be disbursed according to the order or judgment of the court to the persons found to be entitled thereto by final order or judgment of such court. 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.
In addition to assessing the cost of such removal or demolition as a municipal lien against the premises as provided for in this chapter, the governing body of the City of Northfield may enforce the payment of such assessment, together with interest, as a debt of the owner of the premises and may authorize the institution of an action at law for the collection thereof. The Superior Court shall have jurisdiction of any such action.
If an actual and immediate danger to life is posed by the threatened collapse of any fire-damaged or other structurally unsafe building, the public officer 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.
Complaints or orders issued by a public officer pursuant to this chapter shall be served upon persons either personally or by registered mail, but if the whereabouts of such persons are unknown and the same cannot be ascertained by the public officer in the exercise of reasonable diligence, and the public officer 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 City of Northfield, or, in the absence of such newspaper, in one printed and published in Atlantic County and circulating in the City of Northfield in which the buildings are located. A copy of such 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.
Any person aggrieved by an order issued by a public officer under this chapter may, within 30 days after the posting and service of such order, bring an action for injunctive relief to restrain the public officer from carrying out the provisions of the order and for any other appropriate relief. The court may proceed in the action in a summary manner or otherwise. The remedy herein provided shall be exclusive, and no person affected by an order of the public officer shall be entitled to recover any damages for action taken pursuant thereto, or because of noncompliance by any person with any order of the public officer.
In the event of the imposition of a fine or penalty by the Municipal Court of the municipality or any other court of competent jurisdiction against the owner or lessor of any such building or structure in the City of Northfield for the violation of any ordinance of the City of Northfield or of any state law applicable to the City of Northfield, any such fine or penalty shall be collectible as provided in this chapter.
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to impair or limit in any way the power of the City of Northfield to define and declare nuisances and to cause their removal or abatement, by summary proceedings or otherwise, nor is anything in this chapter intended to limit the authority of the enforcing agency or construction 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.
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to abrogate or impair the powers of the courts or of any department of the City of Northfield to enforce any provisions of its charter or its ordinances or regulations, nor to prevent or punish violations thereof; and the powers conferred by this chapter shall be in addition and supplemental to the powers conferred by any other law.