[HISTORY: Adopted by the Mayor and Council of the Township of Clinton as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
[Derived from Sec. 10-3 of the 1999 Code]
The Township Council finds that the existence of vacant or abandoned structures to which access is easily obtainable by reason of broken windows or doors or other physical deterioration constitutes a potential threat to the safety, health, morals and general welfare of the residents of the Township. Such structures may serve as sites for unlawful and immoral activities. Furthermore, persons attracted to them, such as transients and children, stand the risk of serious injury therein due to dilapidated and dangerous conditions. In addition, use of these structures by such persons also poses serious fire hazards from the careless use of matches and cigarettes. It is the intent of this article to prohibit the owner of any vacant or abandoned structure within the Township from allowing it to remain open so as to provide unobstructed access thereto by the general public.
As used in this article, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- CONSTRUCTION OFFICIAL
- The Construction Official of the Township of Clinton.
- The person or persons, firm, corporation or other entity which, either by conveyance or inheritance or otherwise, is vested with the title to the property on which the structure is situate or with the exclusive control of such structure in his/her capacity as a legal representative, such as administrator, executor, trustee, etc.
- A building or structure which is not currently inhabited or occupied and to which access to the interior thereof may be gained by reason of open, unlocked or broken windows or doors or because of other physical deterioration or damage thereof.
No owner shall maintain or suffer, permit or allow the existence of a structure after notice by the Construction Official as provided in § 242-4.
If the Construction Official shall determine that a building constitutes a structure, he/she shall notify the owner thereof, by certified mail, of such determination and shall direct the owner to board up the structure or take whatever other action may be appropriate to seal off the entrance or entrances thereto. The notice shall also advise the owner that, upon his/her failure to comply with the direction of the Construction Official within 30 days from the date of the receipt thereof by the owner, he/she shall be subject to prosecution for violation of this article and subject to a fine. The notice shall also advise that, in lieu of or in addition to such fine and subsequent to said 30 days, the Township may itself secure the structure and assess the cost thereof as a lien against the premises.
In order to properly seal off the entrance or entrances to a structure, the owner shall cause all doors and windows therein to be closed, using plywood which shall be at least 3/8 inch thick and shall be cut and fitted to cover the door frames and windows. The plywood shall be securely nailed to the building and prime painted.
The owner shall have 30 days from the date of the posting of the structure and the mailing of a copy of the notice to the last known owner of record or of the personal service of notice upon the owner to abate the violation. Failure to comply shall constitute a violation of this article. A conviction of an owner shall not bar further prosecutions for noncompliance with this article subsequent to such conviction. An offense against this article shall constitute a violation.
Subsequent to the notice provided for in § 242-4 or 242-8, as the case may be, and the failure of the owner to abate the violation, the Township, in lieu of or in addition to prosecution of the owner, may undertake to secure the structure, utilizing either Township personnel or independent contractors for the performance of the work. The cost thereof shall be assessed as a lien against the property in accordance with the laws of the State of New Jersey.
If the owner cannot be ascertained or is not locatable, then a notice may be published once in each of two consecutive weeks in the official newspaper of the Township, advising of the existence of a structure and that, if the same is not secured within 30 days from the date of the last publication, the Township will secure the structure and assess the cost thereof as a lien against the premises, which lien may be enforced as prescribed by law.
If the structure is owned by more than one owner, each owner shall jointly and severally be subject to prosecution for the violation of this article. Where one or more of the joint owners cannot be located or are without the jurisdiction of the court, the joint owner or owners who are within the jurisdiction nevertheless may be prosecuted.
[Adopted 6-27-2018 by Ord. No. 1116-18]
Editor's Note: This ordinance was originally adopted as Ch. 261 but was renumbered for organizational purposes.
As used in this article, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- 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 N.J.S.A. 46:10B-51 (P.L. 2008, c. 127, § 17, as amended), or any other person or entity determined by the Township of Clinton ("Township") to act with respect to the property.
- VACANT PROPERTY
- Any building used or to be used for residential or nonresidential purposes which is not legally occupied or at which substantially all lawful construction operations or residential occupancy has ceased, and which is in such condition that it cannot legally be reoccupied without repair or rehabilitation, including but not limited to any property meeting the definition of "abandoned property" in N.J.S.A. 55:19-78 et al.; provided, however, that any property where all building systems are in working order, where the building and grounds are maintained in good order, or where the building is in habitable condition, and where the building is being actively marketed by its owner for sale or rental, shall not be deemed a vacant property for purposes of this article.
The owner of any vacant property as defined herein shall, within 30 calendar days after the building becomes vacant property or within 30 calendar days after assuming ownership of the vacant property, whichever is later, or within 10 calendar days of receipt of notice from the Township of this article's registration requirements, file a registration statement for such vacant property with the Township Zoning Officer on forms provided by the Township for such purposes. Failure of the Township to send the notice referenced herein, or of the owner to receive said notice from the Township, shall not constitute grounds for failing to register the property.
Each property having a separate block and lot number as designated in official records of the Township shall be registered separately.
The registration statement shall include the name, street address, telephone number, and e-mail address (if applicable) of a person 21 years or older, designated by the owner or owners as the authorized agent for receiving notices of violations under this article 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 this article; and the name, street address, telephone number, and e-mail address (if applicable) of the individual or organization, and the actual name(s) of the organization's individual principal(s), responsible for maintaining the property. The individual or representative of the organization responsible for maintaining the property shall be available by telephone or in person on a twenty-four-hour-per-day, seven-day-per-week basis. The authorized agent and individual or organization responsible for maintaining the property may be the same or different persons, and shall both maintain offices in the State of New Jersey or reside within the State of New Jersey.
The registration shall remain valid for one year from the date of registration except for the initial registration period, which shall be prorated through January 30. The owner shall be required to renew the registration annually as long as the building remains a vacant property and shall pay a registration or renewal fee in the amount prescribed in § 242-15 of this article, for each vacant property registered.
The annual renewal shall be completed by February 1 each year or 10 days after the date of the Township's notice of this article's registration requirements. Failure of the Township to send, or of the owner to receive, said notice shall not eliminate the responsibility to pay charges due or any fines owing. The initial registration fee shall be prorated for registration statements received less than 10 months prior to the registration deadline as set forth herein.
The owner shall notify the Zoning Officer within 30 calendar days of any change in the registration information by filing an amended registration statement on a form provided by the Township for such purpose.
The registration statement shall be deemed prima facie proof of the truthfulness of the statements therein contained in any administrative enforcement proceeding or court proceeding instituted by the Township against the owner or owners of the building.
The owner of any vacant property registered under this article shall provide access to the Township to conduct exterior and interior inspections of the building to determine compliance with this article, upon reasonable notice to the property owner or the designated agent. Such inspections shall be carried out on weekdays between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. or at such other time as may be mutually agreed upon between the owner and the Township.
An owner who meets the requirements of this article with respect to the location of his or her residence or workplace in the State of New Jersey may designate himself or herself as the authorized agent and/or as the individual responsible for maintaining the property.
By designating an authorized agent under the provisions of this section the owner consents to receive any and all notices of violations concerning the registered vacant property and all process in any court proceeding or administrative enforcement proceeding brought to enforce laws or 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 purposes of this section until the owner notifies the Township in writing of a change of authorized agent or until the owner files a new annual registration statement.
If any owner fails to register vacant property under the provisions of this article, then the Township shall post notice of this article's registration requirements on the building, in plain view, and also by sending notice by regular and certified mail to the last known address of the owner of record of the property as shown on the Township's property tax records.
The initial registration fee for each vacant property shall be $250. The fee for the first renewal shall be $750 per vacant property, and the fee for the second renewal shall be $1,500 per vacant property. The fee for any subsequent renewal beyond the second renewal shall be $2,500 per vacant property.
The owner of any property that has become vacant as defined in this article, and any person designated by an owner as responsible for maintaining any such property that has become vacant shall, within 30 days thereof:
Enclose and secure the building against unauthorized entry in accordance with all applicable provisions of this Code and/or state law;
Post a sign affixed to 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 § 242-14 of this article), and the person responsible for maintenance 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 eight inches by 10 inches;
Secure the building from unauthorized entry and maintain the sign until the building is again legally occupied or demolished or until repair or rehabilitation of the building is complete;
Ensure that the exterior grounds of the structure, including yards, fences, sidewalks, walkways, rights-of-way, alleys, retaining walls, and attached or unattached accessory structures and driveways, are free from trash, debris, litter, and excessive growth of brush, hedges or other plant life that would constitute a dangerous condition or public safety hazard; and
Continue to maintain the structure in a secure and closed condition, keep the grounds free from trash, debris, litter and excessive growth of brush, hedges or other plant life that would constitute a dangerous condition or public safety hazard, and ensure that the sign is visible and intact until the building is again occupied or demolished, or until repair and/or rehabilitation of the building is complete.
The Zoning Officer, or his or her designee, shall have the authority to enforce the provisions of this article.
Any person who violates any provision of this article or of any rules and regulations that may be issued hereunder by the Council shall be fined not less than $100 and not more than $1,000 for each offense. Every day that a violation continues shall constitute a separate and distinct offense.
For purposes of this section, the failure to file a registration statement within 30 calendar days after a building becomes vacant property or within 30 calendar days after assuming ownership of a vacant property, whichever is later, or within 10 calendar days of receipt of notice from the Township of this article's registration requirements, or failure to provide correct information on the registration statement, or failure to comply with the provisions contained in this article shall be deemed to be violations hereof.
Violations of this article shall be prosecuted in municipal court. Complaints returnable in municipal court shall be served in accordance with applicable law.