[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Committee of the Township of Blairstown as Sec. 8-2 (Ord. No. 83-2) of the 1977 Revised General Ordinances. Amendments noted where applicable.]
This chapter shall be known as "An Ordinance to Regulate Unfit Buildings to Provide for the Repair, Closing and Demolition of Buildings or Parts Thereof."
It is hereby found and declared that there exists in the Township of Blairstown structures used for residential and nonresidential use, including commercial and industrial structures, which are, or may become in the future, substandard with respect to structure, equipment and maintenance or, further, that such conditions, including but not limited to structural deterioration, lack of maintenance and appearance of the exterior of the premises, infestation, and existence of fire hazards constitute a menace to the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the Township. In addition, there exists in the Township numerous vacant lots which impair the health, safety and welfare of the residents of the Township due to the fact that situated thereon are garbage, refuse, trash, glass and other harmful substances, and that said vacant parcels often serve as dumping grounds for such matter. It is further found that, by reason of this lack of maintenance and progressive deterioration, the condition of certain properties has a deleterious impact on the neighborhood wherein said properties are situated, and if the aforementioned conditions are not curtailed and removed, they will grow and spread and will necessitate, in time, the expenditure of large amounts of public funds to correct and eliminate same. The establishment of timely restrictions and regulations as herein contained will prevent the creation and existence of such conditions and will maintain and enhance neighborhoods and property values, as well as protect the public health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the Township.
The purpose of this chapter is to protect the public health, safety and welfare by establishing minimum standards governing the maintenance, appearance, condition and occupancy of residential and nonresidential structures and premises and vacant lands; to fix certain responsibilities and duties upon the owners thereof; to authorize and establish procedures for the inspection of such premises; to fix penalties for the violation of this chapter; and to provide for the repair, demolition or vacation of premises unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use, as well as the abatement of conditions existing on such land found inimical to the public health, safety and welfare.
The words, terms or phrases listed below, for the purposes of this chapter, are hereby defined and shall be interpreted as follows:
- Any building, structure or part thereof, whether used for human habitation or otherwise, including any outbuildings and appurtenances belonging thereto or usually enjoyed therewith, except actively used farm structures.
- The condition of a building, or part thereof, characterized by holes, breaks, rot, crumbling, cracking, peeling, rusting or other evidence of physical decay or neglect, lack of maintenance or excessive use.
- The presence, on or within the premises, of any rodents, vermin or other pests.
- MIXED OCCUPANCY
- Any building or structure, such as an apartment or multifamily dwelling, containing one or more dwelling units, rooming units or hotel or motel accommodations and also for a portion thereof devoted to nonresidential uses.
- The holder or holders of the title to the premises in fee simple, or having charge, care or control of any dwelling unit, as owner or agent of the owner, or as executor, executrix, administrator, administratrix, trustee, receiver or guardian of the estate or as a mortgagee in possession, regardless of how such possession was obtained. Any person who is a lessee subletting or reassigning any part or all of any building or building unit shall be deemed to be a co-owner with the lessor and shall have joint responsibility over the portion of the premises sublet or assigned by said lessee.
- A lot, plot or parcel of land, including the buildings or structures thereon.
- PUBLIC OFFICER
- The Code Enforcement Officer of the Township who is hereby designated as the "public officer" to exercise the powers prescribed by this chapter. He/she may appoint or designate such other public officials or employees of the Township to perform such duties as may be necessary for the enforcement of this chapter, including the making of inspections and the holding of hearings, upon the approval of the Township Committee.
- All putrescible and nonputrescible solid wastes (except body wastes), including but not limited to garbage, rubbish, ashes, street cleanings, dead animals, abandoned automobiles and solid market and industrial waste, broken glass, trash, and debris of any description.
- Nonputrescible solid wastes consisting of both combustible and noncombustible wastes, such as paper, wrappings, cigarettes, cardboard, tin cans, glass, bedding or similar materials.
- An assembly of materials forming a construction, including but not limited to buildings, platforms, shelters, fences and display racks and signs. See also "building."
- VACANT LAND
- Any plot, lot, parcel or premises without buildings thereon, or any parcel partially occupied by a building or buildings or structure or structures, and the remainder being open land.
Whenever, in describing or referring to any person, party, matter or thing, any word importing the singular number or masculine gender is used, the same shall be understood to include and to apply to several persons or parties as well as to one person, and to females as well as males, and to bodies corporate as well as individuals, and to several matters and things as well as one matter or thing. The word "shall" shall be applied retroactively as well as prospectively.
Every residential, nonresidential or mixed occupancy building and the premises whereon it is situated, used or intended to be used for dwelling, commercial, business or industrial occupancy, shall comply with the provisions of this chapter, regardless of whether or not such dwelling or other structure shall have been constructed, altered or repaired before or after the enactment of this chapter and irrespective of any permits or licenses which shall have been issued for the use of occupancy thereof, or for the construction or repair of same, or for the installation or repair of equipment or facilities prior to the effective date of this chapter. Furthermore, this chapter shall similarly apply to vacant parcels of land, irrespective of any condition existing thereon prior to the date of enactment of this chapter, or any permit or license issued for same.
Whenever the provisions of this chapter impose a higher standard than set forth in any other local ordinance or under the laws of the State of New Jersey, then the standards as set forth herein shall prevail, but if the provisions of this chapter shall impose a lower standard than any other local ordinance or than the laws of the State of New Jersey, then the higher standards contained in any such other ordinance or laws of the State of New Jersey shall prevail.
No license or permit or other certification of compliance with this chapter shall constitute a defense against any violation of any other local ordinance applicable to any structure or premises, nor shall any provisions herein relieve any owner from complying with any such other provision or any official of the Township from enforcing any such other provision.
Every foundation, floor, wall, building, door, window, roof or other part of a building intended for human habitation shall be kept in good repair and capable of the use intended by its design, and any exterior part or parts thereof subject to corrosion or deterioration shall be kept well painted or otherwise provided with a protective treatment sufficient to prevent deterioration. All such structures shall be maintained free of broken glass, loose shingles, crumbling stone or brick, excessive peeling paint or other conditions indicative of deterioration or inadequate maintenance. The outside building walls shall not have any holes, loose boards or broken, cracked or damaged finish which admits rain, rodents or vermin. All parts of the premises shall be kept in a clean and sanitary condition and shall be maintained so as to prevent infestation.
The Code Enforcement Officer of the Township is hereby designated as the public officer charged with exercising the powers and performing the duties as set forth in this chapter. He/she may, subject to the approvals of the Township Committee, appoint or designate such other public officials or employees of the Township to perform such duties as may be necessary for the enforcement of this chapter, including and making of inspections and the holding of hearings. The public officer is authorized and directed to make or cause to be made inspections in order to determine compliance with § 73-6 hereof in order that he/she may perform his duty of safeguarding the public health, safety and welfare.
For the purpose of this section, the public officer may determine that a building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use if he/she finds that conditions exist in such building and/or about its premises 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 the Township. Such conditions may 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 or uncleanliness.
A petition is filed with the public officer by a public authority or by at least five unrelated residents of the Township charging that any building and/or its premises is unfit for human habitation as hereby defined, or whenever it appears to the public officer (on his own motion) that any building and/or its premises is unfit for human habitation, as herein defined, he/she 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 dwelling 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 such 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 complaint; and that the rules of evidence prevailing in courts of law or equity 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/she 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 said 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 said 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 said building within the time specified in the order, then the owner shall be required to remove or demolish the said building within a reasonable time as specified in the said order of removal.
That, 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, 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."
That, 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.
The costs to constitute a lien shall be as follows:
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/she shall sell the materials of such building. There shall be credited against the cost of 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.
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.
Nothing in this section 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 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-l19 et seq.) or any rules or regulations adopted thereunder.
Complaints or orders issued by the Code Enforcement Officer pursuant to this chapter shall be served upon persons either personally or by registered mail, but if the whereabouts of such persons is unknown and the same cannot be ascertained by the Code Enforcement Officer in the exercise of reasonable diligence, and the Code Enforcement 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 each week for two successive weeks in a newspaper printed and published or circulated in the Township of Blairstown. A copy of such complaint or order shall be posted in a conspicuous place on the premises affected by the complaint order, and a copy of such complaint or order shall be duly recorded with the county recording officer of the county in which the building is located.
The public officer is hereby authorized and empowered to exercise such powers as may be necessary or convenient to carry out and effectuate the purposes and provisions of this chapter, including the following in addition to others herein granted:
To investigate the building conditions in the municipality 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/she 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/she may designate.
Any person, firm or corporation aggrieved by any act of the public officer may appeal in writing such act of said public officer to the governing body within 30 days of such act of said public officer and request a hearing thereon by said governing body. The governing body shall hold a hearing on said appeal within 31 days after the filing of the notice of appeal. At said hearing the appellant may be represented by counsel. The governing body is empowered to vacate any finding in whole or in part of said public officer.
Any person, firm or corporation who shall violate any of the provisions of this chapter shall, upon conviction, be punished by a fine not to exceed $500 or by imprisonment in the county jail for a period not to exceed 90 days, or both such fine and imprisonment, in the discretion of the Judge of the Municipal Court, and each violation of any of the provisions of this chapter and each day the same is violated shall be deemed and taken to be a separate and distinct offense.
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to abrogate or impair the power of the Township or any officer or department to enforce any provisions of its charter, or its ordinances or regulations not to prevent or punish violations thereof, and the powers conferred by this chapter shall be in addition and supplemental to the powers conferred upon the Township by any other law or ordinance.