[Adopted 3-19-2018 by Ord. No. 1560-18]
As used in this article, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- ABANDONED PROPERTY
- Any property, except as provided in N.J.S.A. 55:19-83, that has not been legally occupied for a period of six months and which meets any one of the following additional criteria, as determined by the public officer:
- A. The property is in need of rehabilitation in the reasonable judgment of the public officer, and no rehabilitation has taken place during that six-month period;
- B. Construction was initiated on the property 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 public officer pursuant to this section; and
- D. The property has been determined to be a nuisance by the public officer in accordance with N.J.S.A. 55:19-82.
- ABATEMENT OF NUISANCE PROPERTY
- The repair or elimination of the conditions on a property that create the nuisance, including the demolition of any or all structures thereon.
- Any building, structure or part thereof, whether used for human habitation or otherwise.
- Consecutive calendar days.
- The process by which property, placed as security for real estate or other loans, is prepared for sale to satisfy the debt if the borrower is in default under the terms of the loan.
- INITIATION OF THE FORECLOSURE PROCESS
- Any of the following actions taken by a lienholder or mortgage holder or mortgagee.
- LIENHOLDER or MORTGAGE HOLDER or MORTGAGEE
- The creditor, including, but not limited to, service companies, lenders in a mortgage agreement and any agent, servant or employee of the mortgagee, or any successor in interest and/or assignee of the mortgagee's rights, interests or obligations under a mortgage agreement, collectively herein referred to as "creditor."
- The Township of Middle, and shall include a qualified rehabilitation entity that may be designated by the Township pursuant to N.J.S.A. 55:19-90 to act as its agent to exercise any of the Township's rights pursuant thereto.
- NUISANCE PROPERTY
- Any property, except as provided in N.J.S.A. 55:19-83, which meets any one of the following criteria:
- A. The property has been found to be unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.3.
- B. The condition and vacancy of the property materially increases the risk of fire to the property and/or adjacent properties.
- C. The property is subject to unauthorized entry, leading to potential health and safety hazards; the owner has failed to take reasonable and necessary measures to secure the property; or the Township of Middle had secured the property to prevent such hazards after the owner has failed to do so.
- D. The presence of vermin or the accumulation of debris, uncut vegetation or physical deterioration of the structure or grounds have created potential health and safety hazards, and the owner has failed to take reasonable and necessary measures to remove the hazards.
- E. The dilapidated appearance or other condition of the property materially affects the welfare, including the economic welfare, of the residents of the area in close proximity to the property, and the owners have failed to take reasonable and necessary measures to remedy the conditions.
- Every person, entity, service company, property manager or real estate agency, who, alone or severally with others:
- A. Has legal or equitable title to any dwelling, dwelling unit, mobile dwelling unit or parcel of land, vacant or otherwise; or
- B. Has care, charge or control of any dwelling, dwelling unit or parcel of land, vacant or otherwise, in any capacity, including but not limited to agency, executor, executrix, administrator, administratrix, trustee or guardian of the estate of the holder of legal title; or
- C. Is a mortgagee in possession of any such property; or
- D. Is an agent, trustee or other person appointed by the courts and vested with possession or control of any such property; or
- E. Is an officer or trustee of the association of unit owners of the condominium. Each such person is bound to comply as if he were the owner; or
- F. Is every person who operates a rooming house; or
- G. Is a trustee who holds, owns or controls mortgage loans for mortgage-backed securities transactions and has initiated the foreclosure process.
- PARTIES IN INTEREST
- All individuals, associations and corporations who have interests of record in a property and any who are in actual possession thereof.
- Any real estate, residential property, or portion thereof, located in the Township of Middle, including buildings or structures situated on the property. For the purpose of this section only, "property" does not include property owned or subject to the control of the Township or any of its governmental bodies or agencies.
- PUBLIC OFFICER
- The person designated by the Township of Middle pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.5.
- QUALIFIED REHABILITATION ENTITY
- An entity organized or authorized to do business under the New Jersey Statutes, which shall have as one of its purposes the construction or rehabilitation of residential or nonresidential buildings; the provision of affordable housing; the restoration of abandoned property; the revitalization and improvement of urban neighborhoods, or similar purpose, and which shall be well qualified by virtue of its staff, professional consultants, financial resources, and prior activities set forth in N.J.S.A. 55:19-78 to carry out the rehabilitation of vacant buildings in urban areas.
- RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY
- Any property that contains one or more dwelling units used, intended or designed to be occupied for living purposes.
- Taking measures that assist in making the property inaccessible to unauthorized persons.
- VACANT PROPERTY
- Any building used or to be used as a residence 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; provided, however, that any property that contains all building systems in working order and is being actively marketed by its owner for sale or rental should not be deemed vacant. Property determined to be "abandoned property" in accordance with the meaning of such term in the Abandoned Properties Rehabilitation Act, N.J.S.A. 55:19-78 et seq., shall also be deemed to be vacant property for the purpose of this article.
Editor's Note: See N.J.S.A. 54:4-1 et seq.
The public officer shall establish and maintain a list of abandoned properties to be known as the "abandoned properties list." The public officer may add properties to the list at any time when he finds that a property meets the definition of an abandoned property, and the public officer may delete properties from the list at any time when he finds that a property no longer meets the definition of an "abandoned property." The abandoned property list shall apply to the Township of Middle as a whole.
The published list of notices shall identify the abandoned property, setting forth the name of the owner or owners of record, if known, tax lot and block numbers and the street address for the lot.
An interested party may request that a property be included on the abandoned properties list, provided he follows procedures set forth in N.J.S.A. 55:19-105.
A property shall not be included on the abandoned properties list if rehabilitation is being performed in a timely manner, as evidenced by building permits issued and diligent pursuit of rehabilitation work authorized by those permits. A property on which an entity other than the Township of Middle has purchased or taken assignment from the Township of a tax sale certificate which has been placed on the abandoned properties list may be removed in accordance with the provisions of N.J.S.A. 55:19-103.
The public officer, within 10 days of the establishment of the abandoned properties list, or any additions thereto, shall send a notice, by certified mail, return receipt requested, and by regular mail, to the owner of record of every property included on the list and shall cause the list to be published in the official newspaper of the Township of Middle, which publication shall constitute public notice. The mailed notice shall indicate the factual basis for the public officer's finding that the property is abandoned property, as that term is defined herein, and the rules and regulations promulgated thereunder, specifying the information relied upon in making such finding.
The published and mailed notices shall identify the property determined to be abandoned by the public officer, setting forth the owner of record, if known, the tax lot and block number and street address.
When the owner of record is not known for a particular property and cannot be ascertained by the exercise of reasonable diligence by the Tax Collector, notice shall not be mailed but instead shall be made by posting a copy of the notice in a conspicuous place on the building affected by the notice pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.7.
The public officer, in consultation with the Tax Collector, shall also send out a notice by regular mail to any mortgagee, servicing organization or property tax processing organization that receives a duplicate copy of the tax bill pursuant to Subsection d of N.J.S.A. 54:4-64.
In all cases, a copy of the mailed or posted notice shall also be filed by the public officer in the office of the Cape May County Clerk. This filing shall have the same force and effect as a lis pendens under N.J.S.A. 2A:15-6. The notice shall be indexed by the name of the property owner as the defendant and the name of the Township of Middle as plaintiff as though an action had been commenced by the Township of Middle against the owner.
The abandoned property list shall become effective, and the Township of Middle shall have the right to pursue any legal remedy with respect to properties on the abandoned property list at such time as any one property has been placed on the list in accordance with the provisions herein, upon the expiration of the period for appeal with respect to the property or upon the denial of any appeal brought by the property owner.
An owner or lienholder may challenge the inclusion of the property on the abandoned properties list determined by the public officer, provided said appeal is received by the Township of Middle within 30 days of the owner's receipt of the certified notice or within 40 days from the date upon which the notice was sent. An owner whose identity was not known to the public officer shall have 40 days from the date upon which notice was published or posted, whichever is later, to challenge the inclusion of a property on the abandoned properties list. Upon good cause shown, the public officer shall accept a late filing of an appeal.
Within 30 days of the request for an appeal of the findings contained in the notice, the public officer shall schedule a hearing for redetermination of the matter.
Any property included on the list shall be presumed to be abandoned property unless the owner, through the submission of an affidavit or certification by the property owner indicating that the property is not abandoned and setting forth therein the reasons for such averment, can demonstrate that the property was erroneously included on the list. The affidavit or certification shall be accompanied by supporting documentation, such as but not limited to photographs, repair invoices, bills and construction contracts. The sole issue to be determined by the public officer is whether the property is deemed to be abandoned as that term is defined herein.
The public officer shall decide any timely filed appeal within 10 days of the hearing on the appeal and shall promptly, by certified mail, return receipt requested and regular mail, notify the property owner of the decision and the reasons therefor.
The property owner may challenge an adverse determination of an appeal with the public officer pursuant to Subsection D of this section by instituting, in accordance with the New Jersey Court Rules, a summary proceeding in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Cape May County. Such action shall be instituted within 20 days of the date the notice of decision was mailed by the public officer pursuant to Subsection D of this section. The sole issue to be presented to the Superior Court of New Jersey is whether the property in question is an abandoned property as that term is defined herein.
The Township of Middle may exercise its rights under the Abandoned Properties Rehabilitation Act directly or the Township of Middle may designate a qualified rehabilitation entity to act as its designee for the purpose of exercising its rights under state law where the designation will further the rehabilitation and reuse of the property consistent with municipal plans and objectives. This designation shall be made by resolution of the Township Committee of the Township of Middle.
The public officer shall provide a written report to the Township Committee of the Township of Middle every six months which outlines the status of abandoned properties within the Township of Middle; said report shall include but is not limited to the following information:
Copy of the current abandoned properties list;
Status report on the property removed from the list since the date of the last report and the reasons for the removal;
Status report on any legal proceedings pending in connection with any properties appearing on the abandoned properties list;
Status report of any actions taken by any designated qualified rehabilitation entity in connection with any properties appearing on the list; and
Status report of any tax sale certificates purchased by or assigned to any entity for vacant property.
The Township Committee may adopt an ordinance authorizing the transfer of possession and control of abandoned property in need of rehabilitation to the Township of Middle. Said action shall be in accordance with N.J.S.A. 55:19-78 et seq.
Should the owner of the property fail to successfully defend against a complaint filed pursuant to N.J.S.A. 55:19-84, any party in interest may seek to be designated in possession of the property pursuant to N.J.S.A. 55:19-98 and 55:19-99.
With regards to any lien placed against any real property pursuant to the provisions of N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.3 or 40:48-2.5, the Township of Middle shall have recourse with respect to the lien against any asset of the owner of the property, if an individual; against any asset of any partner, if a partnership; and against any asset of any owner of a ten-percent or greater interest, if a corporation.
The Township of Middle may hold a special tax sale with respect to those properties eligible for tax sale pursuant to N.J.S.A. 54:5-19 which are also on an abandoned properties list established by the Township of Middle pursuant to this article. Special tax sales shall be held in accordance with N.J.S.A. 55:19-101.
Any person holding a tax sale certificate on a property that meets the definition of "abandoned property" as set forth herein either at the time of the tax sale or thereafter may enter upon the property at any time after written notice to the owner by certified mail, return receipt requested, in order to make repairs or abate, remove or correct any condition which exists as the reason or reasons it is on the abandoned property list. Any sums incurred or advanced for such purpose may be added to the unpaid balance due the holder of the tax sale certificate at the statutory interest rate for subsequent liens.
When the Township of Middle is the purchaser of a tax sale certificate of any property on the abandoned properties list, it may foreclose the right of redemption in accordance with N.J.S.A. 54:5-86.
The public officer shall determine if a property is a nuisance property as defined herein. He shall further evaluate the input the nuisance property has on the welfare of the surrounding community, including economic welfare, the extent to which the condition of the property may increase crime, drug activity or the extent to which its condition may decrease property values. Should the Township of Middle abate the nuisance property, such action shall not be considered in determining whether the property is a nuisance property.
Complaint and notice of hearing.
Where the public officer or his designee determines that a property meets the criteria of a nuisance property as is herein defined, he shall file a report with the Solicitor of the Township of Middle which identifies the property, its condition and its impact on the neighboring community. Upon receipt of the report, the Township Solicitor shall prepare a complaint setting forth the location and condition of the property and the remedy sought. He shall also prepare a notice of hearing setting forth the date, time and place of the hearing.
The complaint and notice of hearing shall be served upon the property owner and all parties in interest in accordance with the notification procedures set forth in N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.3. Service shall be made personally or by regular and certified mail, return receipt requested, by mailing the complaint and notice of hearing to the last known address of such persons. When the owner of record or party in interest cannot be ascertained by the exercise of reasonable diligence, then service of the notice of complaint shall be made in the following manner:
By publishing the complaint and notice of hearing once in the official newspaper of the Township of Middle;
By posting the complaint and notice of hearing in a conspicuous place on the property which is the subject of the complaint; and
By recording the complaint and notice of hearing in the Clerk's Office of Cape May County.
The hearing shall be scheduled before the Township Committee of the Township of Middle at a place and time designated in the notice of hearing, which time shall be fixed not less than seven days or more than 30 days from the date of service of the notice of hearing and complaint.
Hearing and determination.
The public officer shall provide testimony and other evidence in connection with the complaint. The property owners and any party in interest shall have the right to appear and question any witness, testify on their own behalf and produce witnesses. Said parties may be represented by an attorney, at their discretion.
After the hearing, the Township Committee shall determine if the property is a nuisance property as defined herein and in so doing shall adopt a resolution stating its findings.
If the property is determined to be a nuisance property, the resolution shall state the remedy required, including:
The immediate abatement or removal of the condition causing the property to be a nuisance property.
The abatement or removal of the condition causing the property to be a nuisance property within a reasonable time, as set forth in the resolution, provided evidence has been presented that substantial work is required to abate or remove the condition and that reasonable steps have been taken towards this goal.
The demolition of any building or structure creating the condition causing the property to be a nuisance property, provided evidence has been presented that it is not economically feasible to abate or remove the condition.
A copy of the resolution shall be served upon the property owner and all parties in interest in a manner as is set forth for the service of the notice of hearing and complaint herein above.
Failure to comply with resolution. In the event that the property owner and/or all parties in interest fail to comply with the resolution of the Township Committee, the public officer may proceed without further notice to enforce the provisions of the resolution by such measures as are necessary to carry out the purpose and intent of the resolution, including but not limited to the abatement and removal of the condition which caused the property to be a nuisance property. The cost of abating or removing the condition shall constitute a municipal lien against the property.
Cost as municipal liens.
Any and all costs incurred by the Township in the course of any proceeding wherein it was determined that the property constitutes a nuisance property, as well as any costs associated with abating said condition, shall constitute a municipal lien against the property. Said costs shall include but not be limited to legal fees, expert witness fees, search fees and advertising expenses.
The public officer shall prepare a detailed statement of said costs and shall file it with the Township Clerk. Thereafter, the Township Committee of the Township of Middle shall consider a resolution certifying the amount due to be a municipal lien. The resolution shall be filed with the Tax Assessor and Collector, and a copy shall be forthwith mailed to the property owner by regular and certified mail, return receipt requested. The property owner or any party in interest may, within 30 days of the filing date of the municipal lien certificate, institute a summary proceeding in the Superior Court, Law Division, Cape May County, contesting the accuracy or reasonableness of the cost set forth in the municipal lien certificate.
Transfer of property prohibited. Except as provided herein, upon the service of a complaint and notice of hearing on the property owners in accordance herewith, the property owner shall be prohibited from transferring any interest in the property until the final disposition of the legal proceedings and compliance with any resolution issued by the Township Committee. The filing of a copy of the complaint and notice of hearing or resolution with the Cape May County Clerk shall have the same force and effect as a notice of lis pendens.
Other laws not affected. Nothing in this article shall be interpreted to impair or limit in any way the powers afforded the Township of Middle by the Abandoned Properties Rehabilitation Act nor is anything in this article intended to limit the authority of the enforcing agency or Construction Official under the State Uniform Construction Code Act or any rules or regulations adopted thereunder.