Borough of Washington, NJ
Warren County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Mayor and Council of the Borough of Washington as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Unfit buildings — See Ch. 31.
Fire prevention — See Ch. 42.
Garbage, rubbish and refuse — See Ch. 47.
Littering — See Ch. 55.
Public health nuisances — See Ch. 59.
Rental property — See Ch. 66.
Streets and sidewalks — See Ch. 75.
Vandalism, graffiti and other property offenses — See Ch. 84.
Abandoned and inoperable vehicles — See Ch. 84A.
Weeds and obnoxious growths — See Ch. 91.
[Adopted 12-2-2014 by Ord. No. 3-2014]
In conformity with N.J.S.A. 46:10B-51, the intent of this article is to provide for the enforcement of Borough property maintenance standards and the State Housing Code against vacant properties pending foreclosure.
A. 
A creditor serving a summons and complaint in an action to foreclose on a mortgage on residential property located within the Borough of Washington shall serve the Municipal Clerk with a notice indicating that a summons and complaint in an action to foreclose on a mortgage has been filed against the subject property. The notice may contain information about more then one property and shall be provided by mail or electronic communication at the discretion of the Municipal Clerk.
B. 
The notice shall be served within 10 days of service of a summons and complaint in an action to foreclose on a mortgage against the subject property.
C. 
Within 60 days of the adoption of this article, any creditor that has initiated a foreclosure proceeding on any residential property which is pending in Superior Court shall provide to the Municipal Clerk a notice as described below for all residential properties in the Borough for which the creditor has pending foreclosure actions.
D. 
Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 46:10B-51a(1), the notice shall contain:
(1) 
The name and contact information for the representative of the creditor who is responsible for receiving complaints of property maintenance and code violations;
(2) 
Whether the property being foreclosed on is an affordable unit pursuant to the Fair Housing Act,[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: See N.J.S.A. 52:27D-301 et seq.
(3) 
The street address, lot and block number of the property; and
(4) 
The full name and contact information of an individual located within the state authorized to accept service on behalf of the creditor.
A. 
If the owner of a residential property vacates or abandons any property on which a foreclosure proceeding has been initiated or if a property is otherwise vacated subsequent to the filing of the summons and the complaint, but prior to the vesting of title in any third party; and if the property is found to be nuisance or in violation of any applicable state or local code, the local public officer shall notify the creditor.
B. 
The creditor 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.
In the event of a violation of a state or local ordinance, the municipality shall serve the creditor with a notice that shall include a description of the condition(s) that gave rise to the violation with the notice and shall provide a period of not less then 30 days from the creditor's receipt of the notice for the creditor to remedy the violation, or within 10 days of receipt of the notice if the violation presents an imminent threat to public health and safety.
If the Borough expends public funds in order to abate a nuisance or correct a violation on a residential property in which the creditor was given notice pursuant to the provisions of § 65-4 but failed to abate the nuisance or correct the violation as directed, the municipality shall have the same recourse against the creditor as it would have had against the title owner of the property, including, but not limited to, the recourse provided at N.J.S.A. 55:19-100.
A. 
Any person, firm or corporation who or which violates § 65-2 of this article shall be subject to a fine not to exceed $2,500.
B. 
Any person, firm or corporation who or which violates § 65-3 and fails to remedy said violation once notified by the Borough pursuant to § 65-4 of this article shall be subject to a fine not exceeding $1,500 per day per violation.
[Adopted 5-16-2017 by Ord. No. 2017-07]
As used in this article, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
ABANDONED PROPERTY
As defined in accordance with the Abandoned Properties Rehabilitation Act, N.J.S.A. 55:19-78 et seq., shall mean the following:
A. 
Except as provided in Section 6 of P.L. 2003, c. 210 (N.J.S.A. 55:19-83), any property that has not been legally occupied for a period of six months and which meets any one of the following additional criteria may be deemed to be abandoned property upon a determination by the public officer that:
(1) 
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;
(2) 
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 article;
(3) 
At least one installment of property tax remains unpaid and delinquent on that property in accordance with Subtitle 4 of Title 54 of the Revised Statutes as of the date of a determination by the public officer pursuant to this article; or
(4) 
The property has been determined to be a nuisance by the public officer in accordance with Section 5 of P.L. 2003, c. 210 (N.J.S.A. 55:19-82).
B. 
A property which contains both residential and nonresidential space may be considered abandoned pursuant to P.L. 2003, c. 210 (N.J.S.A. 55:19-78 et seq.) so long as 2/3 or more of the total net square footage of the building was previously legally occupied as residential space and none of the residential space has been legally occupied for at least six months at the time of the determination of abandonment by the public officer and the property meets the criteria of either Subsection A(1) or A(4) of this definition.
A. 
Any condition that, on its own or combined with other conditions present, would lead a reasonable person to believe that the property is or has been vacant for three or more months. Such evidence would include, but is not limited to, evidence of the existence of two or more of the following conditions at a property: overgrown or dead vegetation; accumulation of newspapers, circulars, flyers or mail; past-due utility notices or disconnected utilities; accumulation of trash, junk or debris; the absence of window coverings such as curtains, blinds or shutters; the absence of furnishings or personal items consistent with residential habitation; statements by neighbors, delivery agents, or government employees that the property is vacant or abandoned; infestation by insects, vermin, rats or other pests; windows or entrances that are boarded up or closed off; multiple window panes that are damaged, broken or unrepaired; doors that are smashed, broken, unhinged or continuously unlocked; or any uncorrected violation of a municipal building, housing or similar code during the preceding year.
B. 
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 purposes of this article.
OWNER
Shall include the title holder, any agent of the title holder having authority to act with respect to a vacant property, any foreclosing entity subject to the provisions of N.J.S.A. 46:10B-51 (P.L. 2008, c. 127, § 17), or any other entity determined by the Borough of Washington to have authority to act with respect to the property.
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 for a period of at least three months, and any commercial property that has not been legally occupied or at which substantially all lawful construction operations have ceased for a period of at least three months, and which exhibits evidence of vacancy such that a reasonable person would believe that the property is vacant. Any property that contains all building systems in working order, is being maintained on a regular basis, has not been cited by the Borough for any violation of municipal ordinance within such time and is being actively marketed by its owner for sale or rental shall not be deemed vacant.
A. 
The owner of any vacant or abandoned property, as defined herein, shall, within 30 days after the building becomes vacant property or within 30 days after assuming ownership of the vacant property, whichever is later, or within 10 calendar days of receipt of notice from the Borough, and annually thereafter, file a registration statement for each such vacant property with the Borough Clerk on forms provided by the office the Clerk for such purposes. The registration shall remain valid until the end of the calendar year. The owner shall be required to renew the registration annually, no later than January 31, as long as the building remains vacant property and shall pay a registration or renewal fee in the amount prescribed in § 65-10 of this article for each vacant property registered. Any failure to receive notice from the Borough shall not constitute grounds for failing to register the aforesaid properties.
B. 
Any owner of any building that meets the definition of "abandoned or vacant property" shall file a registration statement for that property on or before September 1, 2017. The registration statement shall include the information required under § 65-11 of this article as well as any additional information that the Clerk may reasonably require.
C. 
The owner shall notify the Clerk within 30 days of any change in the registration information by filing an amended registration statement on a form provided by the Clerk for such purpose.
D. 
The registration statement shall be deemed prima facie proof of the statement therein contained in any administrative enforcement proceeding or court proceeding instituted by the Borough of Washington against the owner or owners of the building.
A. 
After filing a registration statement or a renewal of a registration statement, the owner of any vacant or abandoned property shall provide access to the Borough of Washington Code Enforcement Official, if requested, following reasonable notice, during the period covered by the initial registration or any subsequent renewal. If an inspection is required of the interior of the property due to complaints or other cause, the fee for such inspection shall be the same as that for a certificate of occupancy inspection as provided in the applicable provisions of the Code of the Borough of Washington.
B. 
The registration statement shall include the name, street address, e-mail address and telephone number of a natural person, 21 years of age or older, designated by the owner or owners as the authorized agent for receiving notices of code violations 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 code. The designated agent must have a contact number that will be available 24 hours per day on an emergency basis. The statement shall also include the name of the person responsible for maintaining and securing the property, if different from the designated agent.
C. 
An owner who is a natural person and who meets the requirements of this section as to availability of a contact number on a twenty-four-hour emergency basis may designate himself or herself as agent.
D. 
By designating an authorized agent under the provisions of this section, the owner consents to receive any and all notices of code violations concerning the registered vacant property and all process in any court proceeding or administrative enforcement proceeding brought to enforce code provisions concerning the registered building by service of the notice or process on the authorized agent. Any owner who has designated an authorized agent under the provisions of this section shall be deemed to consent to the continuation of the agent's designation for the purpose of this article until the owner notifies the Borough of Washington of a change of the authorized agent or until the owner files a new annual registration statement. The designation of an authorized agent in no way releases the owner from any requirement of this article.
The initial registration fee for each building shall be $500. The fee for the first renewal is $1,500. The fee for any subsequent renewal is $3,000. After five years, the registration fee shall be $5,000.
Vacant and Abandoned Property
Registration
Registration Fee Schedule
Fee
Initial registration
$500
First renewal
$1,500
Any subsequent renewal up to 5 years
$3,000
After 5 years
$5,000
The owner of any building that has become vacant and abandoned property, and any person maintaining, operating or collecting rent for any such building that has become vacant, shall immediately:
A. 
Post a sign affixed to the inside of the building indicating the name, address and telephone number of the owner, the owner's authorized agent for the purpose of service of process (if designated pursuant to § 65-9 of this article), and the person responsible for the day-to-day supervision and management of the building, if such person is different from the owner holding title or authorized agent. The sign shall be of a size and placed in such a location so as to be legible from the nearest public street or sidewalk, whichever is nearer, but shall be no smaller than 15 x 17 inches; and
B. 
Enclose and secure the building against unauthorized entry as provided in the applicable provisions of the Code of the Borough of Washington and maintain the sign required in Subsection A above until the building is again legally occupied or demolished or until repair or rehabilitation of the building is complete; and
C. 
Make provision for the maintenance of the lawn and yard, including regular grass cutting as required by the applicable provisions of the Code of the Borough of Washington; and
D. 
Make provision for the cessation of the delivery of mail, newspapers and circulars to the property, including having the property listed on the exclusion list maintained by the Borough of Washington Clerk for the delivery of circulars and advertisements to the property; and
E. 
Make provision for the winterizing of the property by the cessation of water service to the property and the draining of water lines; and
F. 
Make provision for the cessation of electric or gas utility services to the property; and
G. 
Make provision for the regular maintenance of the exterior of the property.
The Borough of Washington Mayor and Council may issue rules and regulations for the administration of the provisions of this article.
A. 
Any owner who is not in full compliance with this article or who otherwise violates any provision of this article or of the rules and regulations issued hereunder shall be subject to a fine of $1,500 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 in time, failure to provide correct information on the registration statement, failure to comply with the provisions of § 65-11 of this article, or such other matters as may be established by the rules and regulations of the Council of the Borough of Washington shall be deemed to be violations of this article.
Nothing in this article is intended to nor shall be read to conflict or prevent the Borough of Washington from taking action against buildings found to be unfit for human habitation or unsafe structures as provided in applicable provisions of the Code of the Borough of Washington and/or the Uniform Construction Code. Further, any action taken under any such code provision other than the demolition of a structure shall not relieve an owner from its obligations under this article.