Township of Washington, NJ
Burlington County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Committee of the Township of Washington as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
[Adopted 12-27-2018 by Ord. No. 2018-09]
There is hereby established in the Township a Property Maintenance Code to be known as the Washington Township Code Enforcement Agency, consisting of zoning and/or code enforcement. The Zoning and/or Code Enforcement Officer shall be the chief administrator of the enforcing agency. The Fire Protection Subcode Official shall be appointed by the Township Committee from those persons recommended by the Fire Chief(s), all other shall be appointed by the Township Committee.
Notwithstanding the requirements of §§ 145-1 through 145-17, all vacant or abandoned properties shall be required to register with the Township.
As used in this section, the following words shall have the following meanings:
OWNER
Includes 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 N.J.S.A. 46:10B-51 (P.L. 200205, c. 121, Sec. 11 as amended by P.L. 2009, c. 296), or any other entity determined by the Township 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, and which is in such condition that it cannot legally be reoccupied without repair or rehabilitation, including but not limited to any property meeting the definition of abandoned property in N.J.S.A. 55:19-2050; provided, however, that any property where all building systems are in working order, where the building and grounds are maintained in good order and where the building is in habitable condition and where the building is being actively marketed by its owner for sale or rental, shall not be deemed a vacant property for purposes of this article.
Effective October 1, 2014, the owner of any vacant property as defined herein shall, within 30 calendar days after the building becomes vacant property or within 30 calendar days after assuming ownership of the vacant property, whichever is later; or within 10 calendar days of receipt of notice from the municipality, file a registration statement for such vacant property with the Township Code Enforcement Officer on forms provided by the Township for such purposes. The owner of any property which meets the definition of vacant property at the time of the effectiveness of this article, shall have 30 days to register the property. Any failure to provide notice by the municipality shall not constitute grounds for failing to register the property.
A. 
Each property having a separate block and lot number as designated in official records of the municipality shall be registered separately.
B. 
The registration statement shall be promulgated by the Township Administrator and include such information for the Township to effectively contact an authorized representative of the property concerning maintenance and enforcement issues.
C. 
The registration statement shall include the name, street address, telephone number, and email address (if applicable) of the firm and the actual name(s) of the firm's individual principal(s) responsible for maintaining the property. The individual or representative of the firm responsible for maintaining the property shall be available by telephone or in person on a twenty-four-hour-per-day, seven-day-per-week basis. The two entities may be the same or different persons. Both entities shown on the statement must maintain offices in the State of New Jersey or reside within the State of New Jersey.
D. 
The registration shall remain valid for one year from the date of registration except for the initial registration which shall be valid through December 31 of the year in which it was filed, however, in the initial year of the ordinance, the registrations shall be valid through December 31, 2015. The owner shall be required to renew the registration annually as long as the building remains a vacant property and shall pay a registration or renewal fee in the amount prescribed in this ordinance for each vacant property registered.
E. 
The annual renewal shall be completed by January 1st each year. The initial registration fee shall be pro-rated for registration statements received less than 10 months prior to that date.
F. 
The owner shall notify the Clerk within 15 calendar days of any change in the registration information by filing an amended registration statement on a form provided by the Clerk for such purpose. The owner shall have a continuing obligation to maintain true and accurate registration information with the Township.
G. 
The registration statement shall be deemed prima facie proof of the statements therein contained in any administrative enforcement proceeding or court proceeding instituted by the Township against the owner of the building.
Upon reasonable notice, the owner of any vacant property registered under this article shall provide access to the Township on weekdays during the hours between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. to conduct exterior and interior inspections of the building to determine compliance with municipal codes.
A. 
An owner who meets the requirements of this article with respect to the location of his or her residence or workplace in the State of New Jersey may designate him or herself as agent or as the individual responsible for maintaining the property.
B. 
By designating an authorized agent under the provisions of this article, 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 article shall be deemed to consent to the continuation of the agent's designation for the purposes of this section until the owner notifies the Township in writing of a change of authorized agent or until the owner files a new annual registration statement.
C. 
Any owner who fails to register vacant property under the provisions of this article shall be deemed to consent to receive, by posting on the building in plain view, and by service of notice at the last known address of the owner of the property on record within the Township by regular and certified mail, any and all notices of code violations and all process in an administrative proceeding brought to enforce code provisions concerning the building, including, but not limited to, enforcement of this section.
The registration and each renewal fee for each building shall be $250. Said fee is intended to cover the municipality's inspection of the property and to cover the municipality's cost for notices under this article.
A. 
In addition to the registration of the property pursuant to this article, the owner of any building that has become vacant property and any person maintaining or operating or collecting rent for any such building that has become vacant shall within 30 days of the inception of any vacancy:
(1) 
Enclose and secure the building against unauthorized entry as provided in the applicable provisions of the Township Code, or as set forth in the rules and regulations supplementing those codes; and
(2) 
Post a sign affixed to the building indicating the name, address and telephone number of the owner, the owner's authorized agent 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 protected from the weather by plastic covering and be of a size and placed in such a location so as to be visible and legible to a person standing at the front door of the main building, but shall be no smaller than eight inches by 10 inches; and
(3) 
Secure the building from unauthorized entry and maintain the sign until the building is again legally occupied or demolished or until repair or rehabilitation of the building is complete; and
(4) 
Ensure that the exterior grounds of the structure, including yards, fences, sidewalks, walkways, right-of-ways, alleys, retaining walls, attached or unattached accessory structures and driveways, are well-maintained and free from trash, debris, loose litter, and grass and weed growth; and
(5) 
Continue to maintain the structure in a secure and closed condition, keep the grounds in a clean and well-maintained condition, and ensure that the sign is visible and intact until the building is again occupied, demolished, or until repair and/or rehabilitation of the building is complete.
A. 
This article may be enforced by the Zoning Officer, Code Enforcement Officer, and all sworn law enforcement officers.
B. 
Any person who violates any provision of this article or of the rules and regulations issued hereunder shall be fined not less than $100 and not more than $2,000 for each offense. Every day that a violation continues shall constitute a separate and distinct offense. Fines assessed under this chapter shall be recoverable from the owner and shall be constitute a lien on the property.
C. 
For purposes of this section, failure to file a registration statement within 30 calendar days after a building becomes vacant property or within 30 calendar days after assuming ownership of a vacant property, whichever is later, or within 10 calendar days of receipt of notice by the municipality, and failure to provide correct information on the registration statement, or failure to comply with the provisions of such provisions contained herein shall be deemed to be violations of this article.
[Adopted 12-27-2018 by Ord. No. 2018-08]
It is hereby found and declared that there exists in the Township structures which are, or may become in the future, substandard with respect to structure, equipment or maintenance, or further that such conditions, including but not limited to structural deterioration, lack of maintenance and appearance of exterior of premises, infestation, existence of fire hazards and insanitary conditions constitute a menace to the health, safety, morals, welfare and reasonable comfort of the citizens and inhabitants of the Township. It is further found and declared that by reason of lack of maintenance and progressive deterioration, certain properties have the further effect of creating blighting conditions and initiating slums, and that if the same are not curtailed and removed, the aforesaid conditions will grow and spread and will necessitate in time the expenditure of large amounts of public funds to correct and eliminate the same, and that by reason of timely regulations and restrictions as herein contained, the growth of slums and blight may be prevented and the neighborhood and property values thereby maintained, the desirability and amenities of residential and nonresidential uses and neighborhoods enhanced and the public health, safety and welfare protected and fostered.
The purpose of this article is to protect the public health, safety, morals and welfare by establishing minimum standards governing the maintenance, appearance, condition and occupancy of residential and nonresidential premises and vacant or abandoned buildings; to authorize and establish procedures for the abatement of violations and to fix penalties for the violations of this article. This article is hereby declared to be remedial and essential for the public interest and it is intended that this article be liberally construed to effectuate the purposes as stated.
The following terms, wherever used herein or referred to in this article, shall have the respective meanings assigned to them unless a different meaning clearly appears from the context.
DETERIORATION
Conditions or appearance 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.
EXPOSED TO PUBLIC VIEW
Any premises, or any part thereof, or any building or any member thereof, from a sidewalk, street, alleyway, parking lot or from any neighboring premises.
EXTERIOR OF THE PREMISES
Those portions of a building which are exposed to public view and the open space of any premises outside of any building erected thereon.
FIRE HAZARD
Any device or condition likely to cause fire and which is so situated as to endanger either persons or property, accumulation or storage of combustible or explosive material sufficient in amount or so located or in such a manner as to put in jeopardy, in event of ignition, either persons or property; the obstruction to or of all means of ingress and egress.
A. 
Any public nuisance known at public law or in equity jurisprudence, or as provided by the statutes of the State of New Jersey, or the ordinances of the Township.
B. 
Any attractive nuisance which may prove detrimental to the health or safety of children whether in a building, or upon an unoccupied lot. This includes but is not limited to abandoned wells, shafts, basements, excavations, abandoned iceboxes, refrigerators, any structurally unsound fences or structures, lumber, trash, fences, debris, or vegetation such as poison ivy, oak or sumac, which may prove a hazard for inquisitive minors, and any unregistered motor vehicles unfit for reconditioning, dismantled old motor vehicles or parts thereof, used motor vehicles or parts thereof, used motor vehicle parts and motor vehicle junk whether abandoned or on the property of the owner thereof.
C. 
Physical conditions dangerous to human life or detrimental to health of persons on or near the premises where the conditions exist.
D. 
Inadequate or insanitary sewerage or plumbing facilities in violation of Township ordinances.
E. 
Insanitary conditions or anything offensive to the senses or dangerous to health, in violation of this article.
F. 
Whatever renders air, food, or drink unwholesome or detrimental to the health of human beings.
G. 
Fire hazards.
OPERATOR
Any person who has charge, care or control of premises, or a part thereof, whether with or without the knowledge and consent of the owner.
OWNER
Any person who alone or jointly or severally with others, shall have legal or equitable title to any premises, with or without accompanying actual possession thereof; or shall have charge, care or control of any dwelling or 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.
Applicable to all residential and nonresidential buildings and to all abandoned or vacated buildings regardless of usage, and the premises on which all such buildings are situated, whether or not such buildings shall have been constructed, altered or repaired before or after the enactment of this section.
In any case where the provisions of this article impose a higher standard than set forth in any other ordinances of the Township, of any law of the State of New Jersey, or regulation of any public agency, board or commission, then the standards as set forth herein shall prevail, but if the provisions of this article impose a lower standard than any other ordinances of the Township or of the laws of the State of New Jersey, or any public agency, board or commission, then the higher standard contained in any such other ordinance or law shall prevail.
Maintenance of exterior of premises free of hazards and unsanitary conditions. The exterior of the premises and all structures thereon shall be kept free of all nuisances, and any hazards to the safety of occupants, pedestrians and other persons utilizing the premises, and free of unsanitary conditions, and any of the foregoing shall be promptly removed and abated by the owner or operator. It shall be the duty of the owner or operator to keep the premises free of the hazards which include but are not limited to the following:
A. 
Dead and dying trees and limbs or other natural growth which, by reason of rotting or deteriorating conditions or storm damage constitute a hazard to persons in the vicinity thereof.
B. 
Loose and overhanging objects and accumulations of ice and snow which by reason of location above ground level constitute a danger of falling on persons in the vicinity thereof.
C. 
Holes, excavations, breaks, projections, obstructions, icy conditions, uncleared snow, and excretion of pets and other animals on paths, walks, driveways, parking lots and parking areas, and other parts of the premises which are accessible to and used by persons on the premises.
D. 
Adequate run-off drains shall be provided and maintained to eliminate any recurrent or excessive accumulation of stormwater.
E. 
All infestation in and on the premises.
F. 
Exterior porches, landings, balconies, stairs and fire escapes which are not provided with banisters or railings properly designed and maintained to minimize the hazard of fallings, and which are not kept structurally sound, in good repair, and free from defects.
G. 
The exterior of the premises, the exterior of structures and the condition of accessory structures shall be maintained so that the appearance of the premises and structures shall not constitute a blighting factor for adjoining property owners.
H. 
Premises with landscaping and lawns, hedges and bushes shall be kept trimmed and from becoming overgrown and unsightly where exposed to public view and where the same constitute a blighting factor depreciating adjoining property.
I. 
The exterior of every structure or accessory structure (including fences) shall be maintained in good repair and all surfaces thereof shall be kept painted or whitewashed where necessary for the purposes of preservation and appearance and preventing deterioration. The same shall be maintained free of broken glass, loose shingles, crumbling stone, or brick, excessive peeling paint or other conditions reflective of deterioration or inadequate maintenance to the end that the property itself may be preserved, safety and fire hazards eliminated, and adjoining properties protected from blighting influences.
J. 
Every structure and accessory structure and every part thereof shall be kept structurally sound and in a state of good repair to avoid safety, health or fire hazards.
K. 
Exterior walls, sidings and roofs shall be kept structurally sound, in good repair and free from defects.
L. 
Every structure shall be so maintained as to be weather and watertight.
M. 
No accumulation or obstruction from garbage, refuse or rubbish shall be permitted on the premises or in stairways, areaways, balconies, porches, hallways, basements or cellars except that garbage stored in proper container may be set out for removal.
N. 
All windows of nonresidential structures exposed to public view shall be kept clean and free of marks or foreign substances except when necessary in the course of changing displays. No storage of materials, stock or inventory shall be permitted in window display areas ordinarily exposed to public view unless said areas are first screened from the public view by drapes, Venetian blinds or other permanent rendering of the windows opaque to the public view. All screening of interiors shall be maintained in clean and attractive manner and in good state of repair.
O. 
All store fronts shall be kept in good repair, painted where required, and shall not constitute a safety hazard or nuisance. In the event repairs to a storefront become necessary, such repairs shall be made with the same or similar materials used in the construction of the storefront in such a manner as to permanently repair the damaged area or areas. Any cornice visible above a storefront shall be kept painted where required and in good repair.
P. 
Any awning or marquee and its accompanying structural members which extend over any street, sidewalk or other portion of the premises shall be maintained in good repair and shall not constitute a safety hazard or nuisance. In the event the awnings or marquees are made of cloth, plastic, or of similar materials, the cloth or plastic where exposed to public view shall be maintained in good condition and shall not show evidence of excessive weathering, discoloration, ripping, tearing or other holes.
Q. 
All permanent signs and billboards exposed to public view permitted by reason of other regulations of the Township or as a legal nonconforming use shall be maintained in good order. Any signs which have excessively weathered or faded or those upon which the paint has excessively peeled or cracked shall with their supporting members, be removed forthwith or put into a good state of repair. All nonoperative or broken electrical signs shall be repaired or shall, with their supporting members, be removed forthwith.
R. 
All buildings that are no longer in active use shall be secured so as to prevent excessive weathering or entry to the interior by unauthorized persons. If open areas of the building are secured with composition boards or similar materials, then these materials are to be painted in a manner compatible with the remainder of the building.
S. 
Buildings that were under construction but the construction thereof has ceased for more than 90 days, shall be secured so as to prevent entry by unauthorized persons and construction materials shall be screened from public view. The partially completed structure shall be governed by the provisions of this article.
A. 
It shall be unlawful for any owner or owners, occupant or occupants, tenant or tenants of any lot or tract of land situated within the Township of Washington to permit or maintain on any such lot or tract of land any brush, weeds, dead or dying trees, stumps, roots, obnoxious growth, filth, garbage, trash and debris injurious to the public health, safety and general welfare or where the same shall tend to create a fire hazard. This provision is construed to allow the municipality to maintain abandoned or vacant properties which are not being cared for by their owners or the financial institution that claim ownership interest in the property. This section shall not be construed to apply to those lands under cultivation or otherwise being utilized for the production of crops or otherwise being utilized for agricultural purposes.
B. 
Violations and penalties. Any owner or owners, occupant or occupants, tenant or tenants who shall neglect to cut and remove or otherwise destroy such brush, weeds, dead or dying trees, stumps, roots, obnoxious growth, filth, garbage, trash and debris as directed by this code shall, upon conviction before the Judge of the Municipal Court of the Township of Washington, be subject, for each offense, to a fine not exceeding $2,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 90 days, or to both such fine and imprisonment.
C. 
Failure to remove; assessment of costs. For properties that have been deemed abandoned or vacant by the municipality, upon the failure of any owner or owners, occupant or occupants, tenant or tenants or the financial institutions that claim control of the property, to cut and remove or otherwise destroy such brush, weeds, dead or dying trees, stumps, roots, obnoxious growth, filth, garbage, trash and debris within 10 days after notice to remove the same has been received from said Township of Washington, which notice may be effected by personal service, by conspicuously posting the property or by mail, registered return receipt requested, the Township shall cause the same to be removed under the direction of the Superintendent of Public Works. For occupied properties the notice period shall be 30 days which may be further expanded if the property owner can demonstrate a hardship as long as the condition of the property is not creating a public health or safety issue. Regardless of whether the property is occupied or not, the notice shall be prepared and forwarded by the Township Clerk upon the direction of the Superintendent. Said Superintendent shall certify the cost thereof to the Township Committee which shall examine the certificate and, if found correct, shall cause the cost as shown thereon to be charged against said land and premises, and the cost shall be added to and become and form part of the taxes next to be assessed and levied upon the land, the same to bear interest at the same rate as taxes, and shall be collected and enforced by the same officers and in the same manner as taxes.
D. 
Nonrestriction of right to collect costs. The imposition and collection of the fine imposed by this code shall not constitute any bar to the Township's right to collect the cost, as certified, for the removal of such growths, in the manner herein authorized.
Unless otherwise identified herein, both the Zoning Code Enforcement Officer and the Building Inspector are hereby authorized to enforce the provisions of this section and abate violations. Violators will be subject to the jurisdiction of the municipal court of the Township of Washington. Upon conviction before the Judge of the Municipal Court of the Township of Washington, be subject, for each offense, to a fine not exceeding $2,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 90 days, or to both such fine and imprisonment.