Township of Hamilton, NJ
Atlantic County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Committee of the Township of Hamilton as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Alarm systems — See Ch. 99.
Unfit buildings — See Ch. 130.
Unsafe buildings — See Ch. 133.
Construction codes — See Ch. 144.
Fire prevention — See Ch. 170.
Junkyards — See Ch. 199.
Littering — See Ch. 210.
Occupancy permits and residential rental units — See Ch. 222.
Solid waste — See Ch. 258.
Abandoned vehicles — See Ch. 288.
[Adopted 12-5-2011 by Ord. No. 1709-2011[1]]
[1]
Editor's Note: This ordinance repealed former Ch. 238, Property Maintenance, adopted 2-6-2006 by Ord. No. 1554-2006.

§ 238-1 Adoption of code by reference.

A certain document, three copies of which are on file in the office of the Township Clerk of the Township of Hamilton, being marked and designated as the "International Property Maintenance Code, 2009 edition," as published by the International Code Council, be and is hereby adopted as the Property Maintenance Code of the Township of Hamilton, in the State of New Jersey, for regulating and governing the conditions and maintenance of all property, buildings and structures; by providing the standards for supplied utilities and facilities and other physical things and conditions essential to ensure that structures are safe, sanitary and fit for occupation and use; and the condemnation of buildings and structures unfit for human occupancy and use, and the demolition of such existing structures as herein provided; providing for the issuance of permits and collection of fees therefor; and each and all of the regulations, provisions, penalties, conditions and terms of said Property Maintenance Code on file in the office of the Township Clerk are hereby referred to, adopted, and made a part hereof as if fully set out in this article, with the additions, insertions, deletions and changes, if any, prescribed in § 238-2 of this article.

§ 238-2 Changes to published text; code revisions specific to Township.

The following sections are hereby revised:
A. 
Section 101.1. Insert: "Township of Hamilton."
B. 
Section 102.3. Amend to read: "Repairs, additions or alterations to a structure or change in occupancy shall be done in accordance with the current codes adopted by the Township of Hamilton and the State of New Jersey."
C. 
Section 103.1. Amend the title and all references in this section from "Department of Property Maintenance Inspection" to "Division of Code Enforcement," and amend the title and all references to "code official" to "Code Enforcement Officer."
D. 
Section 103.5. Insert: "The fee schedule adopted, and periodically amended, by the Township Committee, which is available in the Division of Code Enforcement Office."
E. 
Section 106.4. Add the following at the end of the section: "In addition, any person who shall violate any provision of this code shall, upon conviction thereof, be subject to a fine of not less than $100 nor more than $1,000, at the discretion of the court."
F. 
Section 108.2. Add to section: "The closing of any vacant structure shall not occur until a complete premises search has been conducted by the Township of Hamilton Police Department, to confirm vacancy, and so that all public life, health, and safety concerns can be addressed as appropriate."
G. 
Section 111.1. Add to section: "The nonrefundable fee for filing an appeal shall be $100 per violation appealed."
H. 
Section 111.2.5. Amend to read: "Members shall serve without compensation."
I. 
Section 112.4. Insert: "...not less than $200 nor more than $1,000 per day for each day that work continues after being served with a stop-work order."
J. 
Section 202. Add to the definition of "person": "Person shall also include a creditor filing the summons and complaint in an action to foreclose."
[Added 12-15-2014 by Ord. No. 1779-2014]
K. 
Section 302. Add to section: "Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.12s, a creditor filing the summons and complaint in an action to foreclose shall be responsible for the care, maintenance, security and upkeep of the exterior of a vacant and abandoned property and, if located out-of-state, shall be responsible for appointing an in-state representative or agent to act for the foreclosing creditor."
[Added 12-15-2014 by Ord. No. 1779-2014[1]]
[1]
Editor's Note: This ordinance also redesignated former Subsections J through M as Subsections L through O, respectively.
L. 
Section 302.4. Insert: "10 inches."
M. 
Section 304.14. Insert: "April 1 to November 1."
N. 
Section 602.3. Insert: "October 1 to May 1."
O. 
Section 602.4. Insert: "October 1 to May 1."

§ 238-3 Notice of failure to comply.

[Amended 12-15-2014 by Ord. No. 1779-2014]
The Director of Community Development, Zoning Officer, Code Enforcement Officer, Construction Code Official, or other designated officer is authorized to notify, in writing, by mailing by certified mail, return receipt requested, and regular mail or hand delivering to the owner, or person or entity in control of the subject premises, or the agent of the owner, person in control or entity, advising him or the entity of the particular violation. In the event that the property is in foreclosure, notice may also be sent to the mortgagee in the manner set forth herein. If the notice is returned showing the letter was not delivered, a copy thereof shall be posted in a conspicuous place in or about the structure affected by such notice. The person or entity shall correct the violation within 30 days from the date of receipt of the notice, or within 10 days if the violation presents an imminent threat to public health and safety. Said notice shall be deemed to serve as a continuing notice for the remainder of the violation on the subject property in accordance with the provisions of this article.

§ 238-4 Failure or refusal to comply.

In the event that the person or entity owning said land shall refuse or neglect to abate or remedy the condition complained of, and which constituted a violation of this article, after said 20 days' notice, the Code Enforcement Officer or his designee shall cause the condition complained of to be abated and remedied.

§ 238-4.1 Violations: failure of out-of-state creditor to appoint in-state representative; failure of creditor to abate property maintenance violations.

[Added 12-15-2014 by Ord. No. 1779-2014]
A. 
An out-of-state creditor filing the summons and complaint of foreclosure that is found by the Municipal Court or by any other court of competent jurisdiction to be in violation of the requirement to appoint an in-state representative or agent as required by the provisions of N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.12s and this article shall be subject to a fine of $2,500 for each day of the violation. Any fines imposed shall commence on the day after the ten-day period set forth in N.J.S.A. 46:10B-51 for providing notice to the Municipal Clerk that a summons and complaint in an action to foreclose has been served.
B. 
A creditor subject to the provisions of this article that is found by the Municipal Court, 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 receipt of the notice, except if the violation presents an imminent risk to the public health and safety, in which case any fines shall commence 11 days following receipt of the notice.

§ 238-5 Unpaid charges to constitute lien on property.

If the owner, entity or person in possession of the dwelling or lands in question shall fail to abate the condition complained of within the time period specified after receipt of notice, the Code Enforcement Officer or his designee shall cause the condition complained of to be abated, either by action of the Department of Public Works or by engagement of an outside contractor, and shall present a report of the work accomplished to the Township Committee, along with a summary of the abatement undertaken to secure compliance. He or she shall certify the actual labor costs of same plus 25%, but not less than administrative fee of $100, to the Township Committee, which shall examine the report and certificate and, if it is correct, cause the cost as shown thereon to be charged against the dwelling or lands. A copy of the resolution approving the expenses shall be certified by the Township Clerk and filed with the Tax Collector, who shall be responsible for the collection thereof. The amount so charged shall forthwith become a lien upon the dwelling or lands and shall be added to and become and form part of the taxes next assessed and levied upon such dwelling and lands, shall bear interest at the same rate as the taxes, and shall be collected and enforced by the same officer and in the same manner as taxes. Costs shall be in addition to any penalties imposed for any violation of this article.

§ 238-6 Repealer.

Ordinance No. 1554-2006 of the Township of Hamilton, entitled "Property Maintenance," and all other ordinances or parts of ordinances in conflict herewith are hereby repealed.

§ 238-7 Severability.

If any section, subsection, sentence, clause or phrase of this article is, for any reason, held to be unconstitutional, such decision shall not affect the validity of the remaining portions of this article. The Township Committee hereby declares that it would have passed this article, and each section, subsection, clause or phrase thereof, irrespective of the fact that any one or more sections, subsections, sentences, clauses and phrases be declared unconstitutional.

§ 238-8 When effective.

This article and the rules, regulations, provisions, requirements, orders and matters established and adopted hereby shall take effect and be in full force and effect upon final passage, adoption and publication in the manner prescribed by law.

§ 238-9 Retroactive application.

Nothing in this article or in the Property Maintenance Code hereby adopted shall be construed to affect any suit or proceeding pending in any court or other tribunal, or any rights acquired, or liability incurred, or any cause or causes of action acquired or existing, under any act or ordinance hereby repealed as cited in § 238-6 of this article; nor shall any just or legal right or remedy of any character be lost, impaired or affected by this article. Any pending suit or matter shall be controlled by the ordinances in effect at the time of the alleged violation, which shall not be affected by the adoption of this article.
[Adopted 9-5-2017 by Ord. No. 1853-2017[1]]
[1]
Editor’s Note: This ordinance also superseded former Art. II, Abandoned Real Property, adopted 2-16-2016 by Ord. No. 1812-2016.

§ 238-10 Purpose and intent.

A. 
It is the purpose and intent of the Township to remedy the deterioration, crime, and decline in value of Hamilton Township's neighborhoods by identifying, regulating, and reducing the number of vacant or abandoned properties in the Township undergoing foreclosure. It is the Township's further intent to protect neighborhoods from the negative impact of abandonment, vacancy, and lack of adequate maintenance and security by establishing a registration requirement, which will provide an efficient method to contact the member of a foreclosing entity who is authorized to implement the protection this article contemplates.
B. 
It is not the intent of this article to determine the rights and liabilities of persons under agreements to which the Township is not a party. This article shall not be construed to alter the terms of any lease or other agreement between the owner of property subject to this article and any other party, except that it shall be unlawful for a lease or other such agreement to excuse compliance with this article. Additionally, a violation of this article shall not be considered negligence per se and shall not expand existing liability in tort for landlords or tenants.

§ 238-11 Definitions.

The following words, terms, and phrases, when used in this chapter, shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this section, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning. This section, to the extent applicable, is an operational section of this article.
ACCESSIBLE PROPERTY/STRUCTURE
A property that is accessible through a compromised or breached gate, fence, wall, window, or other opening, or a structure that is incomplete, unsecure, or breached in such a way as to allow access to the interior space by unauthorized persons. Interior space shall include the interior of a dwelling, garage, barn, shed, or other structure typically constructed with three or four walls.
APPLICABLE CODES
Include, but not are not limited to, the following portions of the Township Code and all standards and other codes referenced in such portions: Chapter 130, Buildings, Unfit; Chapter 133, Buildings, Unsafe; Chapter 144, Construction Codes, Uniform; Chapter 170, Fire Prevention; Chapter 203, Land Use and Development; and Chapter 217, Nuisances; and Article I of Chapter 238, Property Maintenance.
A. 
Properties with broken or severely damaged windows, doors, walls, or roofs which create hazardous conditions or facilitate trespassing;
B. 
Properties cited for a public nuisance relating to their appearance or lack of safety pursuant to the Township Code; or
C. 
Properties that endanger the public's health, safety, or welfare because they, or improvements thereon, are dilapidated, deteriorated, violate minimum health and safety standards, or lack maintenance as required by the applicable codes.
ENFORCEMENT OFFICER
Any law enforcement officer, Building Official, Zoning Inspector, Code Enforcement Officer, Fire Inspector, Building Inspector, or other person authorized by the Township to enforce any applicable codes.
EVIDENCE OF VACANCY OR ABANDONMENT
Any condition that, on its own or combined with other conditions present, would lead a reasonable person to believe that a property is vacant. Such conditions include:
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 of any adjoining or adjacent property owner, that exists due to 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.
FORECLOSURE
The legal process by which a mortgagee terminates a mortgagor's interest in real property either to obtain legal and equitable title to the real property pledged as security for a debt or to force a sale of said property to satisfy a debt. For purposes of this article, this process begins upon the service of a summons and complaint on the mortgagor or any interested party. For purposes of this article, the process is not concluded until the property is sold to a bona fide purchaser not related to the mortgagee in an arm's-length transaction whether by Sheriff's sale, private sale following a Sheriff's sale, or private sale following the vesting of title in the mortgagee pursuant to a judgment.
MORTGAGEE
The creditor, including but not limited to: lenders in a mortgage agreement; any agent, servant, or employee of the creditor; any successor in interest; or any assignee of the creditor's rights, interests, or obligations under the mortgage agreement.
MORTGAGE SERVICER
An entity authorized by a mortgagee to receive payments on a mortgage, whether said entity has legal or equitable rights in the mortgaged property.
OWNER
Any person, firm, corporation, or other entity who, individually or jointly or severally with others, holds the legal or beneficial title, or part thereof, to any Real Property subject to the provisions of this chapter.
REAL PROPERTY
For purposes of this article, any land, or part thereof, located in the Township limits that is improved for a residential purpose and the buildings, structures, leasehold improvements, and anything else affixed to such land.
REGISTRABLE PROPERTY
Any real property located in the Township, whether vacant or abandoned or occupied, that is subject to a foreclosure as defined in this article.
A. 
Property shall remain registrable property so long as it is in foreclosure, as defined by this article.
B. 
Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 46:10B-51.1, property shall also remain registrable property if, upon the completion of the foreclosure, it is owned, by way of Sheriff's sale or deed in lieu of foreclosure, by an individual or entity that does not occupy the property
SEMIANNUAL REGISTRATION
The registration of a registrable property six months from the date of the first action that requires registration by the terms of this article and every subsequent six months. The date of the initial registration may be different than the date of the first action that required registration.
VACANT or ABANDONED
Uninhabited by human beings or unlawfully inhabited.
A. 
Vacant property does not mean property that is temporarily unoccupied:
(1) 
If it is not intended by the owner to be left vacant and the vacancy does not exceed (30) days;
(2) 
While under repair or renovation so long as such repairs and renovations are moving forward towards completion in the normal course; or
(3) 
While the residents are away on vacation, personal matters, or business.
B. 
Whether a property is vacant or abandoned shall be determined in consideration of evidence of vacancy as defined in this section and any factors determinant of the lawfulness of occupancy.

§ 238-12 Applicability.

These sections shall be considered cumulative and not superseding or subject to any other law or provision for remedy, but rather shall be an additional remedy available to the Township above and beyond any other state, county, or local provision for remedy.

§ 238-13 Establishment of a registry.

Pursuant to the provisions of § 238-10, the Township or its authorized designee shall establish a registry cataloging each registrable property within the Township, containing the information required by this article.

§ 238-14 Registration of registrable property.

A. 
The mortgagee of registrable property shall, within 10 days from the commencement of foreclosure, register the property with the Division of Code Enforcement, or other Township designee, on paper forms or by electronic means provided by the Township. The mortgagee shall indicate whether the property is vacant or abandoned or occupied. A separate registration is required for each registrable property within the Township.
B. 
Registration pursuant to this section shall contain the name and direct mailing address of the mortgagee and mortgage servicer; a direct contact name, telephone number, and e-mail address for the mortgagee and mortgage servicer; and the name and twenty-four-hour contact telephone number of the mortgagee's in-state representative that is responsible for the security and maintenance of the property and is authorized to make decisions concerning the abatement of nuisance conditions at the property, as well as any expenditures in connection therewith.
C. 
Mortgagees of property that is registrable property on the effective date of this article shall, within 30 days from the effective date, register the property with the Division of Code Enforcement, or other Township designee, on paper forms or by electronic means provided by the Township. The mortgagee shall indicate whether the property is vacant or abandoned or occupied. A separate registration is required for each registrable property within the Township.
D. 
The mortgagee of registrable property shall reregister registrable property no later than 10 days after the end of the preceding six month interval and shall do so until the property is no longer registrable property.
E. 
A nonrefundable semiannual registration fee of $500 shall accompany each registration pursuant to this section. All registration fees must be paid directly by the mortgagee or owner. Third-party registration fees are not allowed without the consent of the Township and/or its authorized designee.
F. 
Properties subject to this section shall remain under the semiannual registration and fee requirements and the security and maintenance standards of this article so long as they are registrable property.
G. 
Any person or legal entity that has registered a property under this section must report any change of information contained in the registration within 10 days of the change. Such changes including, but are not limited to: a change in the identity or contact information of the mortgage servicer; a change in the identity or contact information of the mortgagee's in-state representative responsible for maintenance of the property; or a change in the mortgagee, mortgage servicer, or mortgagee's in-state representative's belief as to the occupied, vacant, or abandoned status of the registrable property.
H. 
If the mortgagee of a registrable property sells or transfers the mortgage or sells or transfers the property in a non-arm's-length transaction, the new mortgagee or the new owner of the registrable property is subject to all the terms of this article, and within 10 days of the sale or transfer of the mortgage or of the property must register the property if it is unregistered or update the existing registration. The new mortgagee or new owner, and any previous mortgagee or owner subject to the registration requirements of this section, are each individually liable for any previous unpaid registration fees or fines owed under this article. Payment of any such previous fees or fines may be demanded of the new mortgagee or new owner upon that party's initial registration under this subsection. The provisions of this section are cumulative with and in addition to other available remedies. Moreover, the Division of Code Enforcement is authorized and empowered to refer the previous mortgagee's or previous owner's nonpayment of fees and fines owed under this article to a court of competent jurisdiction for disposition.
I. 
Failure to properly register or to modify a registration from time to as required by this section is a violation of this article and shall be subject to enforcement and any resulting monetary penalties and/or property liens.
J. 
An owner who is a bona-fide purchaser, not related to the mortgagee, of any nonowner-occupied real property who takes title as a result of a Sheriff's sale or deed in lieu of foreclosure, shall register, and maintain the registration of, the real property in the manner provided by this article. Said registration shall include the name and address of the owner, and if the owner is not located within this state, the name and address of an in-state designated agent authorized to accept service of process on behalf of the owner.
K. 
Pursuant to an administrative or judicial determination that a property is in violation of the applicable codes, the Township may take all necessary actions to cure such a violation and may place a lien on the property for any costs thereof to the extent, and in the manner, permitted by law.

§ 238-15 Maintenance requirements.

All registrable property is subject to the applicable codes. To the extent that registrable property becomes vacant or abandoned, the mortgagee shall be responsible, to the same extent as the owner, for complying with the applicable codes as they relate to the exterior of the property. This obligation shall include, but not be limited to, the following specific requirements:
A. 
Registrable property shall be kept free of weeds, overgrown brush, and dead vegetation; trash, junk, debris, and building materials; any accumulation of newspapers, circulars, flyers, or notices, except those required by federal, state, or local law; discarded personal items, including, but not limited to, furniture, clothing, large and small appliances, or printed material; and any other item that gives the appearance that the property is abandoned.
B. 
Registrable property shall be maintained free of graffiti and similar markings through removal or by painting over with an exterior grade paint that matches the color of the exterior structure.
C. 
Front, side, and rear yards, including landscaping, of registrable property shall be maintained in a manner including, but not limited to, watering, irrigation, cutting and mowing of required ground cover or landscape, and removal of all trimmings.
D. 
Pools and spas on registrable property shall be maintained so the water remains free and clear of pollutants and debris and the water is inaccessible to trespassers and animals.
E. 
Failure of the mortgagee of abandoned or vacant registrable property to maintain the exterior of the registrable property in accordance with the applicable codes shall subject the mortgagee to the issuance of a citation or notice of violation thereunder and the pursuit by the Township of all remedies available to it under the law.

§ 238-16 Security requirements.

All registrable property is subject to the applicable codes. To the extent that registrable property becomes vacant or abandoned, the mortgagee shall be responsible, to the same extent as the owner, for complying with the applicable codes as they relate to the security of the property. This obligation shall include, but not be limited to, the following specific requirements:
A. 
Registrable properties shall be maintained in a secure manner so as not to be accessible to unauthorized persons.
B. 
A "secure manner" shall include, but not be limited to, the closure and locking of windows, doors, gates, and other openings of such size that may allow a child to access the interior of the property or structure. Broken windows, doors, gates and other openings of such size that may allow a child to access the interior of the property or structure must be repaired. Broken windows shall be secured by reglazing the window.
C. 
Failure of the mortgagee of abandoned or vacant registrable property to keep the registrable property secured in accordance with the applicable codes shall subject mortgagee to the issuance of a citation or notice of violation thereunder and the pursuit by the Township of all remedies available to it under the law.

§ 238-17 Penalties for failure to register; schedule of civil penalties.

Any mortgagee or owner who fails to register a registrable property or violates any provision of this article may be cited and fined up to $1,000 at the discretion of the court.