[HISTORY: Adopted by the Borough Council of the Borough of Mountain Lakes 6-23-1980 as Sec. 11-5 of the 1980 Code. Amendments noted where applicable.]
For the purpose of this chapter, the construction official may determine that a dwelling is unfit for human habitation if conditions exist in such dwelling which are dangerous or injurious to the health or safety of the occupants of such dwelling, the occupants of neighboring dwellings or other residents of the Borough. Such conditions may include, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, defects therein increasing the hazards of fire, accidents or other calamities, lack of adequate ventilation, light or sanitary facilities, dilapidation, disrepair, structural defects or uncleanliness.
Whenever a petition is filed with the construction official by a public authority, as defined in N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.4, or by at least five residents of the Borough, charging that any building is unfit for human habitation, as herein defined, or is otherwise so old, dilapidated or has become so out of repair as to be dangerous, unsafe or unsanitary, or whenever it appears to the construction official on his own motion that any building is in such condition, he 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 shall be held before the construction official at a place therein fixed, not less than seven days nor more than 30 days after the serving of the 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 time and place fixed in the complaints; and that the rules of evidence prevailing in courts of law or equity shall not be controlling in hearings before the construction official.
If, after notice and hearing, the construction official determines that the building under consideration is unfit for human habitation, 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 shall be set forth in the order, or, at the option of the owner, to vacate or to have the building vacated and closed within the time set forth in the order.
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, that the owner shall 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 construction official may cause such building to be repaired, altered or improved or to be vacated and closed, and he 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."
If the owner fails to comply with an order to remove or demolish the building, the construction official may cause such building to be removed or demolished.
The amount of such cost of such repairs, alterations or improvements, or vacation and closing, or removal or demolition, shall be a lien against the real property upon which such cost was incurred. A detailed statement of the aforesaid costs shall be filed with the Borough Tax Collector, and a copy of the detailed statement shall be forwarded to the owner by registered mail. If the building is removed or demolished by order of the construction official, he shall sell the materials of such building and shall credit the proceeds of the sale against the cost of the removal or demolition, and any balance remaining shall be deposited in the Superior Court by the construction official and shall be secured in such a manner as may be directed by the Court. It 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, provided that nothing in this section shall be construed to impair or limit in any way the power of the Borough 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 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.
Complaints or orders issued by the construction official pursuant to this chapter shall be served upon persons either personally or by certified mail, but if the whereabouts of such persons is unknown and the same cannot be ascertained by the construction official in the exercise of reasonable diligence, and the construction official shall make an affidavit to that effect, then the serving of the complaint or order upon such persons may be made by publishing the same once a week for two successive weeks in a newspaper having circulation 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, and a copy of such complaint or order shall be duly recorded or lodged for record with the Borough Clerk.
The construction official is hereby authorized to exercise such powers as may be necessary or convenient to carry out and effectuate the purpose and provisions of this chapter, including the following powers:
To investigate the building conditions in the Borough in order to determine which buildings therein are unfit for human habitation.
To administer oaths and 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 a 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 purpose of this chapter. The officer, agent or employee to whom the powers and functions of the construction official have been delegated is hereby authorized to exercise the powers contained herein.
To delegate any of his functions and powers under this chapter to such officers and agents as he may designate.
Whenever the construction official 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 the construction official 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 construction official, 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 regulation adopted pursuant thereto have been complied with, the construction official shall continue such order in effect or modify or revoke it.
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to abrogate or impair the power of the Borough, or any officer or department, to enforce any provisions of its ordinances or regulations, or to prevent or punish violations thereof. The powers conferred by this chapter shall be in addition and supplemental to the powers conferred upon the Borough by any other law or ordinance.