[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Committee of the Township of Morris 12-27-1978 by Ord. No. 46-78 (Ch. 33 of the 1969 Code). Amendments noted where applicable.]
It is hereby found and declared that the existence or occupation of any building or buildings or parts thereof within the Township of Morris which are so old, dilapidated or have become so out of repair as to be dangerous, unsafe, unsanitary or otherwise unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use is inimical to the welfare and dangerous and injurious to the health and safety of the residents of the Township of Morris and that a public necessity exists for the repair, closing or demolition of such building or buildings or part or parts thereof.
The following terms, whenever used or referred to in this chapter, shall have the following respective meanings, for the purpose of this chapter, unless a different meaning clearly appears from the context:
- Any building or structure or part thereof, whether used for human habitation or otherwise, including any outhouses and appurtenances belonging thereto or usually enjoyed therewith.
- The holder or holders of the title in fee simple.
- PARTIES IN INTEREST
- All individuals, associations and corporations who have an interest in a building or who are in possession thereof.
- PUBLIC AUTHORITY
- Any housing authority or any officer who is in charge of any department or branch of the government of the Township relating to health, fire, building regulations or to other activities concerning buildings in the Township of Morris.
- PUBLIC OFFICER
- The Construction Official and/or the Building Subcode Official of the Township of Morris, or such other officials or persons who may be delegated or designated from time to time by the Township Committee of the Township of Morris.
Whenever a petition is filed with the public officer by a public authority or by at least five residents of the Township of Morris charging that any building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use, or if it shall appear to said public officer, on his own motion, that any building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use, the public officer 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 will be held before the public officer at a place therein fixed, not less than seven days nor more than 30 days after the serving of said complaint, that the owner and parties in interest shall have the right to file an answer to the complaint and to appear in person or otherwise and give testimony at the place and time fixed in the complaint and that the rules of evidence prevailing in the courts of this state shall not be controlling.
If the public officer shall determine after such notice and hearing that the building under consideration is unfit for human habitation or use or occupancy, 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 the parties in interest an order as follows:
The order shall require the repair, alteration or improvement of 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 times 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 and close the building, then 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 occupancy 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.
The amount of 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 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 Collector 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; provided, however, that 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. Any owner or party in interest may, within 30 days from the date of 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 cost set forth in the municipal lien certificate.
The public officer may determine that a building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use if he 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 or to the Township of Morris. 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.
Without in any way limiting any of the foregoing, any of the following constitute additional standards for the guidance of the public officer in determining the fitness of a building for human habitation or occupancy or use:
Those whose interior walls or other vertical structural members list, lean or buckle to such an extent that a plumb line passing through the center of gravity falls outside of the middle third of its base.
Those which, exclusive of the foundation, show 33% or more of damage, disrepair or deterioration of the supporting member or members, or 50% of damage, disrepair or deterioration of the nonsupporting, enclosing or outside walls or covering.
Those which have improperly distributed loads upon the floors or roofs or in which the same are overloaded or which have insufficient strength to be reasonably safe for the purposes used.
Those which have been damaged by fire, wind or other causes so as to have become dangerous to life, safety or the general health and welfare of the occupants or the people of the Township of Morris.
Where public water facilities are available, the following shall also apply:
Those which have improper connections between plumbing fixtures and the sanitary sewage disposal system.
Those which, if wired for electricity, contain an inadequate, unsafe or hazardous electrical system.
Those which contain unsafe or hazardous heating or cooking facilities.
Those having a living room, bedroom or kitchen without windows, or with a window opening on an air shaft, or a toilet or bathroom without adequate ventilation.
Those having inadequate facilities for egress in case of fire or panic, or those having insufficient stairways, fire escapes or other means of communication.
Those which have parts thereof which are so attached that they may fall and injure members of the public or property.
Those which have become so dilapidated, decayed, unsafe or unsanitary that they are unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use or, by reason of structural deficiencies or of continuous dampness or exposure brought about by neglect or dilapidation, are likely to cause sickness or disease or may reasonably be presumed to result in injury to the health, safety or general welfare of those living therein.
Those buildings in violation of any provision of ordinances of the Township of Morris or of the Board of Health of the Township of Morris relating to buildings or health.
Any building or buildings, or parts thereof, which have been damaged to such an extent that nothing remains but the walls, or parts of the walls and other supports, shall, regardless of the safety and sturdiness of those remaining walls or parts thereof, be deemed inimical to the welfare of the residents of the Township, and the Township may exercise its police powers to repair, demolish, or cause the repairing or demolishing of the building or buildings, or parts thereof, pursuant to the procedures set forth in this chapter.
Complaints or orders issued by the public 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 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 Township of Morris. A copy of such complaint and/or order shall be posted in a conspicuous place on premises affected by the complaint or order. A copy of such complaint or order shall be duly recorded or lodged to record with the county recording officer of the County of Morris.
Any person aggrieved by an order issued by the public officer shall be entitled to the remedies and relief prescribed by N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.8.
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 following powers in addition to all others herein granted:
To investigate the building conditions in the Township of Morris, in the County of Morris, 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 delegate any of his functions and powers under this chapter to such other officers and agents as may be designated by the Township Committee of the Township of Morris, from time to time.
This chapter is adopted in accordance with P.L. 1942, c. 112 (N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.3 et seq.), and the method of enforcement, definitions, procedure and remedies shall be governed and controlled thereby and as herein set forth, or any amendments or supplements thereto.
Any person or persons who violate any of the provisions of this chapter or who shall violate an order of the public officer or who shall use or occupy any building for human habitation or occupancy or use after a placard has been posted thereon declaring the building unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use, as provided in § 202-5, or any person who removes said placard from said building, or any person who shall interfere with the public officer or any other person authorized to exercise the powers of the public officer shall, upon conviction in the Municipal Court, be punishable as provided in § 1-3, General penalty, of this Code, in the discretion of the Municipal Judge, and such action in and penalties imposed by the Municipal Court may be in addition to any other action or proceedings provided in this chapter. Each day that a violation is permitted to exist shall constitute a separate offense.