Borough of Milford, NJ
Hunterdon County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Council of the Borough of Milford as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Brush, grass and weeds — See Ch. 62.
Unsafe buildings — See Ch. 67.
Housing standards — See Ch. 108.
Public health nuisances — See Ch. 127.
[Adopted 3-21-2016 by Ord. No. 851-2016[1]]
[1]
Editor's Note: This ordinance was originally adopted as Ch. 129 but was renumbered for organizational purposes.

§ 148-1 Legislative purpose.

The Milford Borough Common Council finds that it is in the best interests of the Borough to amend the Borough Code, as hereinafter provided, to ensure that the health, safety and well-being of the Borough's residents are protected by establishing standards of accountability on the owners or other responsible parties of the vacant and abandoned properties, and that it is in the public interest for the Borough to impose a fee in conjunction with the registration of vacant structures.

§ 148-2 Definitions.

As used in this Chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
ABANDONED BUILDING OR STRUCTURE
Any property that has not been legally occupied for a period of at least six months and which meets any one of the following criteria may be deemed to be an abandoned building or structure upon a determination by the Zoning Officer that:
A. 
The building or structure is in need of rehabilitation in the reasonable judgment of the Zoning Officer, and no rehabilitation has taken place during that six-month period;
B. 
Construction that was initiated on the building or structure 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 Zoning Officer pursuant to this article;
C. 
At least one installment of property tax remains unpaid and delinquent on that property on the date of the determination by the Zoning Officer pursuant to this article; or
D. 
The building or structure has been determined to be a nuisance by the Zoning Officer. A property which contains both residential and nonresidential space may be considered abandoned as long as 2/3 or more of the total net square footage of the building was previously legally occupied as residential or commercial space and none of the residential or commercial space has been legally occupied for at least six months at the time of the determination of abandonment by the Zoning Officer and the property meets the criteria of either Subsection A or Subsection D of this definition for abandoned building or structure.
OWNER
Includes the title holder, any agent of the title holder having authority to act regarding a vacant building or structure, or any foreclosing entity that has filed a notice with the Borough Clerk pursuant to Chapter 130.
VACANT BUILDING OR STRUCTURE
Any building or structure which is not legally occupied or at which all lawful business or construction operations or renovation work or occupancy have substantially ceased, and which is in such condition that it cannot legally be reoccupied without repair or rehabilitation; 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 a habitable condition, and where the building is being actively marketed by its owner for sale or rental, shall not be deemed vacant for purposes of this article.
ZONING OFFICER
The official who is charged with the administration and enforcement of this article, or any duly authorized representative.

§ 148-3 Registration requirements.

The owner of any vacant building or structure as defined in this article shall:
A. 
Within 30 calendar days after the building or structure becoming vacant, file a registration statement for such vacant building or structure with the Borough Clerk; or
B. 
Within 30 calendar days after assuming ownership of a vacant building or structure, file a registration statement for such vacant building or structure with the Borough Clerk; or
C. 
Within 10 calendar days of receipt of notice by the Borough, file a registration statement for such vacant building or structure with the Clerk on forms provided by the Borough for such purposes. Failure to receive notice from the Borough shall not constitute grounds for failing to register the building or structure.
(1) 
Each property having a separate block and lot number as designated on official records of the Borough shall be registered separately.
(2) 
The registration statement shall include the name, street address, telephone number, and e-mail address (if applicable) of a person 21 years of age or older, designated by the owner or owners as the authorized agent for receiving notices of any violation of the Milford Borough Code, and applicable law 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 law, code or ordinance; and the name, street address, telephone number, and e-mail address (if applicable) of the firm and the actual name(s) of the firm's individual principal(s) responsible for maintaining the property. The individual or a representative of the firm 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 two entities may be the same or different persons. Both entities shown on the statement must maintain offices in the State of New Jersey or reside within the State of New Jersey.
(3) 
The registration shall remain valid for one year from the date of registration for each vacant building or structure registered.
(4) 
The owner shall notify the Borough Clerk within 30 calendar days of any change in the registration information by filing an amended registration statement on a form provided by the Borough for such purpose.
(5) 
The registration statement shall be deemed prima facie proof of the statements therein contained in any administrative enforcement or court proceeding instituted by the Borough against the owner or owners of the building or structure.
(6) 
The registration statement may include any additional information that the Borough Clerk may reasonably require.

§ 148-4 Restoration of vacant building or structure.

Any owner of a vacant building or structure who plans to restore the property to productive use and occupancy during the twelve-month period following the date of the initial registration shall file a sufficiently detailed statement of the owner's plans for restoration of the property with the registration statement along with a schedule. Any owner who within the initial registration period completes restoration of the property whereby the property no longer is defined as vacant may request a 50% refund of the registration fee from the Borough Clerk upon presentation of a certificate of occupancy.

§ 148-5 Access to vacant buildings or structures.

The owner of any vacant building or structure registered under this article consents to and shall provide access to the Borough to conduct exterior and interior inspections of the building, structure or property to determine compliance with the Borough Code, or applicable law, upon reasonable notice to the property owner or the designated agent. Such inspections shall be conducted on weekdays during the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. or such other time as may be mutually agreed upon between the owner and the Borough.

§ 148-6 Responsible owner or agent.

A. 
An owner who meets the requirements of this article regarding the location of his or her residence or workplace in the State of New Jersey may designate himself or herself as agent or as the individual responsible for maintaining the property.
B. 
By designating an authorized agent under the provisions of this article, the owner consents to receive any and all notices of violations of the Borough's Code, or other applicable law violations concerning the registered property and all process in any administrative enforcement or court proceeding brought to enforce this article regarding the registered building or structure by service of the notice or process on the authorized agent. Any owner who has designated an authorized agent under the provisions of this article shall be deemed to consent to the continuation of the agent's designation for the purposes of this article until the owner notifies the Borough Clerk in writing of a change of authorized agent or until the owner files a new annual registration statement.
C. 
Any owner who fails to register a vacant building or structure under the provisions of this article shall further be deemed to consent to receive, by posting on the building, in plain view, and by service notice at the last known address of the owner of the property on record with the Borough by regular and certified mail, any and all notices under the Borough's Code, or applicable law violations and all process in an administrative or court proceeding brought to enforce the Housing Code or other applicable law.

§ 148-7 Owner requirements.

The owner of any building or structure that has become vacant, and any person responsible for maintaining any such building or structure that has become vacant shall, within 30 calendar days of the building or structure becoming vacant or within 30 calendar days of the owner taking title to the property, perform the following:
A. 
Board and secure the building or structure and all unattached accessory structures, garages or similar structures as provided for by applicable law.
B. 
Ensure that the exterior grounds of the building or structure, including yards, fences, sidewalks, walkways, rights-of-way, alleys, retaining walls, swimming pools both above or below ground, attached or unattached accessory structures and driveways, are well-maintained and free from trash, debris, loose litter, grass and weed overgrowth, and snow and ice.
C. 
Post a sign affixed and protected from the elements, to the building or structure indicating the name, address and telephone number of the owner and the owner's authorized agent for the purpose of service of process, and the name, address and telephone number of the entity responsible for maintenance of the property, which may be the same as the owner or authorized agent. The sign shall include the words "No Trespassing" and "To report problems with this building, call. . .," shall be of sufficient size and shall be placed in a location where it is clearly visible from the nearest public street or sidewalk, whichever is nearer.
D. 
Continue to maintain the building or structure in a secure and closed condition, keep the grounds in a clean and well-maintained condition, and ensure that the sign is visible and intact until the building is again occupied, demolished, or until repair and/or rehabilitation of the building or structure is complete.

§ 148-8 Registration fees.

The registration for each building or structure shall be as follows:
A. 
Initial registration: $50; and
B. 
If not paid within two months of notification by the Borough, the registration payment shall increase to $250.

§ 148-9 Violations and penalties.

A. 
Any person who violates any provision of this article shall be fined not greater than $1,250 for each offense. Every day that a violation continues shall constitute a separate and distinct offense. Fines assessed under this article shall be recoverable from the owner and shall be a lien on the property.
B. 
For purposes of this article, failure to file a registration statement within 30 calendar days after a building or structure becoming vacant or within 30 calendar days after assuming ownership of a vacant building or structure, whichever is later; or within 10 calendar days of receipt of notice from the Borough, and failure to provide correct information on the registration statement, failure to comply with the provisions of §§ 148-4 and 148-7, or such provisions contained herein shall be deemed to be violations of this article.

§ 148-10 Severability.

Should any paragraph, section, part of any section, or any clause or phrase of this article for any reason be held to be invalid or unconstitutional, such decision shall not affect the remaining provisions of this article, and shall remain in full force and effect, and to that end the provisions of this article are hereby declared to be severable.

§ 148-11 Repealer.

All ordinances or parts of ordinances in conflict herewith, are and the same are hereby repealed.

§ 148-12 When effective.

This article shall become effective upon passage and publication as required by law.
[Adopted 3-21-2016 by Ord. No. 852-2016[1]]
[1]
Editor's Note: This ordinance was originally adopted as Ch. 130 but was renumbered for organizational purposes.

§ 148-13 Legislative purpose.

The Milford Borough Common Council finds that it is in the best interests of the Borough to amend the Borough Code, as hereinafter provided, to enact the provisions of P.L. 2014, c. 35., to ensure that the health, safety and well-being of the Borough's residents are protected by mandating that a creditor remain responsible for the care, maintenance, security and upkeep of the exterior of any residential property that is the subject of a summons and complaint in an action to foreclose.

§ 148-14 Definitions.

As used in this article, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
CREDITOR
Consistent with Section 3 of P.L. 2008, c. 86, a federal or state chartered bank, savings bank, savings and loan association or any credit union, any person required to be licensed under the provisions of the New Jersey Residential Mortgage Lending Act, P.L. 1996, c. 157 (N.J.S.A. 17:11C-1 et seq.) and any entity acting on behalf of the creditor named in the debt obligation, including but not limited to servicers.
VACANT AND ABANDONED RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY
Consistent with Section 1 of P.L. 2010, c. 70 (N.J.S.A. 2A:50-73), residential real estate for which a notice of violation has been issued pursuant to § 148-15 of this article and Subsection b. of Section 1 of P.L. 2014, c. 35. Where a notice of violation has not been issued pursuant to § 148-18 of this article and Subsection b. of Section 1 of P.L. 2014, c. 35, residential property shall be deemed vacant and abandoned where a mortgaged property is not occupied by a mortgagor or tenant as evidenced by a lease agreement entered into prior to the service of a notice of intention to commence foreclosure according to Section 4 of the Fair Foreclosure Act, P.L. 1995, c. 44 (N.J.S.A. 2A:50-53 et seq.) and at least two of the following conditions exist:
A. 
Overgrown or neglected vegetation;
B. 
The accumulation of newspapers, circulars, flyers or mail on the property;
C. 
Disconnected gas, electric, or water utility services to the property;
D. 
The accumulation of hazardous, noxious, or unhealthy substances or materials on the property;
E. 
The accumulation of junk, litter, trash or debris on the property;
F. 
The absence of window treatments such as blinds, curtains or shutters;
G. 
The absence of furnishings and personal items;
H. 
Statements of neighbors, delivery persons, or government employees indicating that the residence is vacant and abandoned;
I. 
Windows or entrances to the property that are boarded up or closed off or multiple window panes that are damaged, broken and unrepaired;
J. 
Doors to the property that are smashed through, broken off, unhinged, or continuously unlocked;
K. 
A risk to the health, safety or welfare of the public, or any adjoining or adjacent property owners, exists due to acts of vandalism, loitering, criminal conduct, or the physical destruction or deterioration of the property;
L. 
An uncorrected violation of a municipal building, housing, or similar code during the preceding year, or an order by municipal authorities declaring the property to be unfit for occupancy and to remain vacant and unoccupied;
M. 
The mortgagee or other authorized party has secured or winterized the property due to the property being deemed vacant and unprotected or in danger of freezing;
N. 
A written statement issued by any mortgagor expressing the clear intent of all mortgagors to abandon the property; and
O. 
Any other reasonable indicia of abandonment.

§ 148-15 Notice of intent to file foreclosure.

A. 
A creditor that serves a notice of intention to foreclose on a mortgage on residential property in the Borough pursuant to the Fair Foreclosure Act, P.L. 1995, c. 244 (N.J.S.A. 2A:50-53 et seq.), shall serve the Borough Clerk with a copy of the notice at the same time that the creditor serves the notice on the owner of the property. The creditor shall include the full name and contact information of a person located within the State of New Jersey who is authorized to accept service on behalf of the creditor with a copy of the notice served on the Borough Clerk.
B. 
If the residential property becomes vacant at any time after the creditor files the notice of intention to foreclose, but prior to vesting of title in any third party, and the Borough determines that the property is in violation of any applicable state or local housing code, the Borough shall notify the creditor of the violation by providing a copy of the notice to the person located within the state who is authorized to accept service on behalf of the creditor, and may require the creditor to correct the violation.
C. 
The notice to correct a violation pursuant to this article shall include a description of the conditions that gave rise to the violation with the notice of violation and shall provide a period of not less than 30 days from the creditor's receipt of the notice for the creditor to remedy the violation. If the creditor fails to remedy the violation within that time period, the Borough may impose penalties allowed for the violation of municipal ordinances pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:49-5.

§ 148-16 Notice of foreclosure.

A. 
A creditor serving a summons and complaint in an action to foreclose on a mortgage on residential property in the Borough shall, within 10 days of serving the summons and complaint, notify the Borough Clerk that a summons and complaint in an action to foreclose on a mortgage has been filed against the subject property. The notice shall contain the name and contact information for the representative of the creditor who is responsible for receiving complaints of property maintenance and code violations, may contain information about more than one property, and shall be provided by mail or electronic communication, at the discretion of the Borough Clerk. The Borough Clerk shall forward a copy of the notice to the public officer or shall otherwise provide it to any other local official responsible for the administration of any property maintenance or public nuisance code. In the event that the property being foreclosed on is an affordable unit pursuant to the Fair Housing Act, P.L. 1985, c. 222 (N.J.S.A. 52:27D-301 et seq.), then the creditor shall identify that the property is subject to the Fair Housing Act. The notice shall also include the street address, lot and block number of the property, and the full name and contact information of an individual located within the state who is authorized to accept service on behalf of the creditor. The notice shall be provided to the Borough Clerk within 10 days of service of a summons and complaint in an action to foreclose on a mortgage against the subject property.
B. 
Any creditor that has initiated a foreclosure proceeding on any residential property which is pending in Superior Court shall provide to the Borough Clerk a listing of all residential properties in the municipality for which the creditor has foreclosure actions pending by street address and lot and block number. The Borough Clerk shall forward a copy of the notice to the public official.
C. 
If the owner of a residential property vacates or abandons any property on which a foreclosure proceeding has been initiated or if a residential property becomes vacant at any point subsequent to the creditor's filing the summons and complaint in an action to foreclose on a mortgage against the subject property, but prior to vesting of title in the creditor or any other third party, and the property is found to be a nuisance or in violation of any applicable state or local code, the local public officer, Borough Clerk or other authorized municipal official shall notify the creditor, which shall have the responsibility to abate the nuisance or correct the violation in the same manner and to the same extent as the title owner of the property, to such standard or specification as may be required by State law or municipal ordinance. The Borough shall include a description of the conditions that gave rise to the violation with the notice of violation and shall provide a period of not less than 30 days from the creditor's receipt of the notice for the creditor to remedy the violation. If the creditor fails to remedy the violation within that time period, the Borough may impose penalties allowed for the violation of municipal ordinances pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:49-5.
D. 
If the Borough expends public funds in order to abate a nuisance or correct a violation on a residential property in situations in which the creditor was given notice pursuant to the provisions of Subsection C hereof, but failed to abate the nuisance or correct the violation as directed, the Borough shall have the same recourse against the creditor as it would have against the title owner of the property, including but not limited to the recourse provided under Section 23 of P.L. 2003, c. 210 (N.J.S.A. 55:19-100), which recourse includes placement of a lien against the property and against any asset of the creditor, against any asset of the partner of a creditor, if a partnership, and against any asset of any owner of a ten-percent interest or greater if the creditor is a corporation.

§ 148-17 Creditor responsibility.

Pursuant to the provisions of the Public Laws of 2014, Chapter 35, a creditor filing a summons and complaint to foreclose a lien or mortgage on a residential property in the Borough that is vacant and abandoned, whether the filing of the summons and complaint is made before or after the determination that the property is vacant and abandoned, shall be responsible for the care, maintenance, security and upkeep of the exterior of the residential property. This obligation applies whether the determination that the property is vacant and abandoned is made by the public officer pursuant to the provisions of this article, pursuant to the provisions of N.J.S.A. 2A:50-73, or otherwise.

§ 148-18 Notice to creditor; time to correct violations.

A. 
If the public officer, or other authorized municipal official, determines that a creditor obligated to care, maintain, secure and keep up a vacant and abandoned property has failed to do so in violation of the provisions of this article of this Code, the public officer or other authorized municipal official shall issue a notice of violation to the creditor that has filed a summons and complaint to foreclose on the property in question.
B. 
The notice shall require the person or entity to correct the violation within 30 days of receipt of the notice, or within 10 days of receipt of notice if the violation presents an imminent threat to public health and safety.
C. 
The issuance of this notice pursuant to Subsection A shall constitute evidence that the residential property is "vacant and abandoned" for purposes of N.J.S.A. 2A:50-73 and this article.

§ 148-19 Violations and penalties.

A. 
A creditor subject to this article that is found by the municipal court of the Borough, or by any other court of competent jurisdiction, to be in violation of the requirement to correct a care, maintenance, security, or upkeep violation cited in a notice issued pursuant to this article shall be subject to a fine of $1,500 for each day of the violation. Any fines imposed pursuant to this subsection shall commence 31 days following the creditor's receipt of the notice, except where the violation is deemed to present an imminent risk to the public health and safety, in which case any fines shall commence 11 days following receipt of the notice.
B. 
An out-of-state creditor shall include the full name and contact information of the State representative or agent in the notice required to be provided to the Municipal Clerk pursuant to Paragraph (1) of N.J.S.A. 46:10B-51. An out-of-state creditor subject to this article that is found by the municipal court of the Borough, or by any other court of competent jurisdiction, to be in violation of the requirement to appoint an in-state representative or agent shall be subject to a fine of $2,500 for each day of the violation. Any fines imposed on an out-of-state creditor for the failure to appoint an in-state representative or agent shall commence on the day after the ten-day period set forth in Paragraph (1) of Subsection a. of Section 17 of P.L. 2008 c. 127 (N.J.S.A. 46:10B-51) for providing notice to the Municipal Clerk that a summons and complaint in an action to foreclose on a mortgage has been served.
C. 
No less than 20% of any money collected by the Borough pursuant to this section shall be utilized by the Borough for municipal code enforcement purposes.

§ 148-20 Additional notice required.

Notice of violations of property maintenance, building or other property codes for any property declared vacant and abandoned pursuant to this article shall be given to a foreclosing creditor pursuant to the procedures of § 148-18 of this Code as required by P.L. 2014, c. 35.

§ 148-21 Severability.

Should any paragraph, section, part of any section, or any clause or phrase of this article for any reason be held to be invalid or unconstitutional, such decision shall not affect the remaining provisions of this article, and shall remain in full force and effect, and to that end the provisions of this article are hereby declared to be severable.

§ 148-22 Repealer.

All ordinances or parts of ordinances in conflict herewith are and the same are hereby repealed.

§ 148-23 When effective.

This article shall become effective upon passage and publication as required by law.