[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Council of the Township of Ewing 11-24-1998 by Ord. No. 98-13 as Ch. 93 of the 1998 Code. Amendments noted where applicable.]
The regulation of unfit dwellings, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.3, heretofore provided for by the Township, is continued. The public officer to exercise the powers prescribed herein and in said statute is the Construction Official under the State Uniform Construction Code.
[Amended 3-10-2009 by Ord. No. 09-04]
The public officer may make preliminary investigations and issue complaints based thereon, charging dwellings to be unfit for human habitation. Such action may be initiated by petition of a public authority, or at least five residents of the municipality, alleging that any building is unfit for human habitation. The complaint of the public officer shall be served on the owner of the premises in question and shall state the charges and the time and place at which such charges will be heard before the public officer, which time shall not be less than seven nor more than 30 days after service of the complaint.
If after notice and hearing the public officer determines that the building under consideration is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use, the public officer shall state, in writing, 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 said 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 said building within the time specified in the order, then the owner shall be required to remove or demolish said building within a reasonable time as specified in said 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 or close the building, the public officer may cause such building to be repaired, altered or improved or to be vacated and closed. 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."
If the owner fails to comply with an order to remove or demolish the building, the public officer may cause such building to be removed or demolished or may contract for the removal or demolition thereof after advertisement for, and receipt of, bids therefor.
[Amended 3-10-2009 by Ord. No. 09-04]
[Amended 3-10-2009 by Ord. No. 09-04]
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 exceed 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.
[Added 3-10-2009 by Ord. No. 09-04]
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to impair or limit in any way the power of the municipality to define and declare nuisances and to cause their removal or abatement, by summary proceedings or otherwise, nor is anything in this act 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.
The public officer may determine that a building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use if the public officer finds that conditions exist in such building which are dangerous or injurious to the health or safety of the occupants of such building, the occupants of neighboring buildings or other residents of Ewing Township. Such conditions may include, but are not limited to:
The public officer, in reaching such determination, shall be guided, among other things, by the standards set by the Building Code, the Plumbing Code, any other provisions of law in effect in Ewing Township and the pertinent requirements of Title 26 of the Revised Statutes of New Jersey.
[Amended 3-26-2013 by Ord. No. 13-09]
Complaints or orders issued by the public officer pursuant to this chapter shall be served upon persons either personally or by registered mail. If the whereabouts of such persons is 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 municipality or, in the absence of such newspaper, in one printed and published in the county and circulating in the municipality in which the buildings are located, and by posting a copy of the complaint in a conspicuous place upon the 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.
The public officer is hereby authorized to exercise such powers as may be necessary or convenient to carry out and effectuate the purposes and provisions of this chapter, including the power to:
Investigate the building conditions in the municipality in order to determine which buildings therein are unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use.
Administer oaths, affirmations, examine witnesses and receive evidence.
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.
Appoint and fix the duties of such officers, agents and employees as are deemed necessary to carry out the purposes of this chapter.
Delegate any functions and powers under this chapter to such officers and agents as the public officer may designate.
[Added 4-23-2013 by Ord. No. 13-16]
Definitions. As used in this section, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- ABANDONED PROPERTY
- As defined in accordance with the Abandoned Properties Rehabilitation Act, N.J.S.A. 55:19-78 et seq., shall mean the following:
- (1) Except as provided in Section 6 of P.L. 2003, c. 210 (N.J.S.A. 55:19-83), any property that has not been legally occupied for a period of six months and which meets any one of the following additional criteria may be deemed to be abandoned property upon a determination by the public officer that:
- (a) The property is in need of rehabilitation in the reasonable judgment of the public officer, and no rehabilitation has taken place during that six-month period;
- (b) Construction was initiated on the property and was discontinued prior to completion, leaving the building unsuitable for occupancy, and no construction has taken place for at least six months as of the date of a determination by the public officer pursuant to this section;
- (d) The property has been determined to be a nuisance by the public officer in accordance with Section 5 of P.L. 2003, c. 210 (N.J.S.A. 55:19-82).
- (2) A property which contains both residential and non-residential space may be considered abandoned pursuant to P.L. 2003, c. 210 (N.J.S.A. 55:19-78 et seq.) so long as two-thirds or more of the total net square footage of the building was previously legally occupied as residential space and none of the residential space has been legally occupied for at least six months at the time of the determination of abandonment by the public officer and the property meets the criteria of either Subsection (1)(a) or Subsection (1)(d) of this Subsection A.
- (1) Any condition that on its own or combined with other conditions present would lead a reasonable person to believe that the property is or has been vacant for three or more months. Such evidence would include, but is not limited to, evidence of the existence of two or more of the following conditions at a property: overgrown or dead vegetation; accumulation of newspapers, circulars, flyers or mail; past-due utility notices or disconnected utilities; accumulation of trash, junk or debris; the absence of window coverings such as curtains, blinds or shutters; the absence of furnishings or personal items consistent with residential habitation; statements by neighbors, delivery agents, or government employees that the property is vacant or abandoned; infestation by insects, vermin, rats or other pests; windows or entrances that are boarded up or closed off; multiple window panes that are damaged, broken or unrepaired; doors that are smashed, broken, unhinged or continuously unlocked; or any uncorrected violation of a municipal building, housing or similar code during the preceding year.
- (2) Property determined to be "abandoned property" in accordance with the meaning of such term in the Abandoned Properties Rehabilitation Act, N.J.S.A. 55:19-78 et seq., shall also be deemed to be vacant property for the purposes of this section.
- Shall include the title holder, any agent of the title holder having authority to act with respect to a vacant property, any foreclosing entity subject to the provisions of C.46:10B-51 (P.L. 2008, c. 127, § 17), or any other entity determined by the Township of Ewing to have authority to act with respect to the property.
- VACANT PROPERTY
- Any building used or to be used as a residence which is not legally occupied or at which substantially all lawful construction operations or residential occupancy has ceased for a period of at least three months, and any commercial property that has not been legally occupied or at which substantially all lawful construction operations have ceased for a period of at least three months, and which exhibits evidence of vacancy such that a reasonable person would believe that the property is vacant. Any property that contains all building systems in working order, is being maintained on a regular basis, has not been cited by the Township for any violation of municipal ordinance within such time and is being actively marketed by its owner for sale or rental shall not be deemed vacant.
Editor's Note: See N.J.S.A. 54:4-1 et seq.
The owner of any vacant property as defined herein shall, within 30 days after the building becomes vacant property or within 30 days after assuming ownership of the vacant property, whichever is later, file a registration statement for each such vacant property with the Ewing Township Office of Code Enforcement on forms provided by the Office of Code Enforcement for such purposes. The registration shall remain valid until the end of the calendar year. The owner shall be required to renew the registration annually, no later than January 31, as long as the building remains vacant property and shall pay a registration or renewal fee in the amount prescribed in Subsection D of this section for each vacant property registered.
Any owner of any building that meets the definition of "vacant property" prior to April 23, 2013, shall file a registration statement for that property on or before June 15, 2013. The registration statement shall include the information required under Subsection C of this section, as well as any additional information that the Office of Code Enforcement may reasonably require.
The owner shall notify the Office of Code Enforcement within 30 days of any change in the registration information by filing an amended registration statement on a form provided by the Office of Code Enforcement for such purpose.
The registration statement shall be deemed prima facie proof of the statement therein contained in any administrative enforcement proceeding or court proceeding instituted by the Township of Ewing against the owner or owners of the building.
Registration statement requirements; property inspection.
After filing a registration statement or a renewal of a registration statement, the owner of any vacant property shall provide access to the Ewing Township Code Enforcement Official if requested, following reasonable notice, during the period covered by the initial registration or any subsequent renewal. If an inspection is required of the interior of the property due to complaints or other cause, the fee for such inspection shall be the same as that for a certificate of occupancy inspection as provided in the applicable provisions of the Code of the Township of Ewing.
The registration statement shall include the name, street address, and telephone number of a natural person 21 years of age or older, designated by the owner or owners as the authorized agent for receiving notices of code violations and for receiving process in any court proceeding or administrative enforcement proceeding, on behalf of such owner or owners in connection with the enforcement of any applicable code. The designated agent must have a contact number that will be available 24 hours per day on an emergency basis. The statement shall also include the name of the person responsible for maintaining and securing the property, if different from the designated agent.
An owner who is a natural person and who meets the requirements of this section as to availability of a contact number on a twenty-four-hour emergency basis may designate himself or herself as agent.
By designating an authorized agent under the provisions of this section, the owner consents to receive any and all notices of code violations concerning the registered vacant property and all process in any court proceeding or administrative enforcement proceeding brought to enforce code provisions concerning the registered building by service of the notice or process on the authorized agent. Any owner who has designated an authorized agent under the provisions of this section shall be deemed to consent to the continuation of the agent's designation for the purpose of this section until the owner notifies the Township of Ewing of a change of the authorized agent or until the owner files a new annual registration statement. The designation of an authorized agent in no way releases the owner from any requirement of this section.
Fee schedule. The initial registration fee for each building shall be $250. The fee for the first renewal is $500. The fee for any subsequent renewal is $1,000. After five years, the registration fee shall be $5,000.
Requirements for owners of vacant and abandoned property. The owner of any building that has become vacant and abandoned property, and any person maintaining, operating or collecting rent for any such building that has become vacant, shall, immediately:
Post a sign affixed to the inside of the building indicating the name, address and telephone number of the owner, the owner's authorized agent for the purpose of service of process (if designated pursuant to Subsection C of this section), and the person responsible for the day-to-day supervision and management of the building, if such person is different from the owner holding title or authorized agent. The sign shall be of a size and placed in such a location so as to be legible from the nearest public street or sidewalk, whichever is nearer, but shall be no smaller than 15 inches by 17 inches; and
Enclose and secure the building against unauthorized entry as provided in the applicable provisions of the Code of the Township of Ewing and maintain the sign required in Subsection E(1) above until the building is again legally occupied or demolished or until repair or rehabilitation of the building is complete; and
Make provision for the maintenance of the lawn and yard, including regular grass cutting as required by the applicable provisions of the Code of the Township of Ewing; and
Make provision for the cessation of the delivery of mail, newspapers and circulars to the property, including having the property listed on the exclusion list maintained by the Ewing Township Clerk for the delivery of circulars and advertisements to the property; and
Make provision for the winterizing of the property by the cessation of water service to the property and the draining of water lines; and
Make provision for the cessation of electric or gas utility services to the property; and
Make provision for the regular maintenance of the exterior of the property.
Administration. The Ewing Township Mayor and Council may issue rules and regulations for the administration of the provisions of this section.
Violations and penalties.
Any owner who is not in full compliance with this section or who otherwise violates any provision of this section or of the rules and regulations issued hereunder shall be subject to a fine of not less than $500 and not more than $1,000 for each offense. Every day that a violation continues shall constitute a separate and distinct offense. Fines assessed under this section shall be recoverable from the owner and shall be a lien on the property.
For purposes of this section, failure to file a registration statement in time, failure to provide correct information on the registration statement, failure to comply with the provisions of Subsection E of this section, or such other matters as may be established by the rules and regulations of the Council of the Township of Ewing shall be deemed to be violation of this section.
Compliance with other provisions. Nothing in this section is intended to nor shall be read to conflict or prevent the Township of Ewing from taking action against buildings found to be unfit for human habitation or unsafe structures as provided in applicable provisions of the Code of the Township of Ewing and/or the Uniform Construction Code. Further, any action taken under any such code provision other than the demolition of a structure shall not relieve an owner from its obligations under this section.