[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Committee of the Township of Middle 12-17-1970 as Ord. No. 248-70. Sections 100-2, 100-4A, 100-8B and C and 100-10 amended at time of adoption of Code; see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art I. Other amendments noted where applicable.]
It is hereby found and determined that there exists in the Township of Middle a building or buildings which are unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use due to dilapidation; defects increasing the hazards of fire, accidents or other calamities; lack of ventilation, light or sanitary facilities; or due to other conditions rendering such building or buildings or part thereof unsafe or insanitary or dangerous or detrimental to the health or safety or otherwise inimical to the welfare of the residents of the Township of Middle and that a public necessity exists for the repair, closing or demolition of such building or buildings or part thereof.
Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.3 et seq., as the same may presently exist or be hereafter amended, the Construction Official of the Township of Middle is hereby designated and appointed as the public officer to exercise the powers prescribed by this chapter; provided, however, that the Township Committee may, by resolution, designate or appoint additional persons, boards or bodies as the public officer to exercise the powers prescribed by this chapter, as provided by said statute.
Whenever the public officer of the Township of Middle, designated herein, finds that there exists in the Township of Middle any building or buildings which are unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use due to dilapidation; defects increasing the hazards of fire, accidents or other calamities; lack of ventilation, light or sanitation facilities; or due to other conditions rendering such building or buildings or part thereof unsafe or insanitary or dangerous or detrimental to the health or safety or otherwise inimical to the welfare of the residents of the Township of Middle, then said public officer shall exercise the power vested under this chapter and under its police powers to repair, close or demolish or cause the repairing, closing or demolition of such building or buildings or part thereof in the manner provided.
Whenever a petition is filed with said public officer by the Health Officer, Police Chief, Fire Chief or any other officer in charge of any department of the Township of Middle relating to health, fire, building regulations or activities concerning buildings in the Township of Middle or by at least five residents of the Township of Middle, charging that any building within the Township of Middle is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use, or whenever it appears to the public officer that any building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use, the public officer shall, if his preliminary investigation discloses a basis for such charges, issue and cause to be served upon the owner of and parties in interest in such building a complaint stating the charges in that respect and containing a notice that:
The owner and parties in interest shall be given the right to file an answer to the complaint and to appear in person or otherwise and give testimony at the place and time fixed in the complaint.
The rules of evidence prevailing in the courts shall not be controlling in hearings before the public officer.
If, after notice and hearing, said public officer determines that the building under consideration is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use, he shall state, in writing, his findings of fact in support of such determination and shall issue and cause to be served upon the owner thereof and parties in interest an order requiring the repair, alteration or improvement of said building to be made by the owner within a reasonable time, which time shall be set forth in the order, or, at the option of the owner, to vacate or have said building vacated and closed with the time set forth in the order.
If the building is in such a condition as to make it dangerous to the health and safety of persons on or near the premises and the owner fails to repair, alter or improve said building within the time specified in the order, then the owner shall be required to remove or demolish said building within the reasonable time specified in the order of removal.
If the owner shall fail to comply with the order to repair, alter or improve or, at the option of the owner, to vacate and close the building, the public officer may cause such building to be repaired, altered or improved or to be vacated and closed, and the public officer may cause to be posted on the main entrance of any building so closed a placard with the following words: "This building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use; the use or occupation of this building is prohibited and unlawful."
If the owner fails to comply with an order to remove or demolish the building, the public officer may cause such building to be removed or demolished or may contract for the removal or demolition thereof after advertisement for and receipt of bids therefor.
The cost of the filing of legal papers, expert witnesses' fees, search fees and advertising charges incurred in the course of any proceeding taken under this chapter determined in favor of the municipality and such cost of such repairs, alterations or improvements or vacating and closing or removal or demolition, if any, or the amount of the balance thereof remaining after deduction of the sum, if any, realized from the sale of materials derived from such building or from any contract for removal or demolition thereof shall be a municipal lien against the real property upon which such cost was incurred. If the building is removed or demolished by the public officer, he shall sell the materials of such building.
There shall be credited against the cost of the removal or demolition thereof, including the clearance and, if necessary, the leveling of the site, the proceeds of any sale of such materials or any sum derived from any contract for the removal or demolition of the building. If there are no such credits or if the sum total of such costs exceeds the total of such credits, a detailed statement of the aforesaid costs and the amount so due shall be filed with the Municipal Tax Assessor or other custodian of the records of tax liens, and a copy thereof shall be forthwith forwarded to the owner by registered mail. If the total of the credits exceed such costs, the balance remaining shall be deposited in the Superior Court by the public officer, shall be secured in such manner as may be directed by such Court and shall be disbursed according to the order or judgment of the Court to the persons found to be entitled thereto by final order or judgment of such Court; provided, however, that nothing in this section shall be construed to impair or limit in any way the power of the Township of Middle to define and declare nuisances and to cause their removal or abatement by summary proceedings or otherwise.
Any owner or party in interest may, within 30 days from the date of the filing of the lien certificate, proceed in a summary manner in the Superior Court to contest the reasonableness of the amount or the accuracy of the costs set forth in the municipal lien certificate.
The public officer may determine that a building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use if he finds that conditions exist in such building which are dangerous or injurious to the health or safety of the occupants of such building, the occupants of neighboring buildings or other residents of the Township of Middle. Such conditions may include the following:
Defects therein increasing the hazards of fire, accident or other calamities.
Lack of adequate ventilation, light or sanitary facilities.
Failure to have included in said building running water or inside toilet facilities.
Failure to have serving said building a sewage disposal system which meets the minimum standards of any applicable ordinance or statute.
A complaint or order issued by the public officer pursuant to this chapter shall be served upon persons either personally or by registered mail, but if the whereabouts of such persons is unknown and cannot be ascertained by the public officer in the exercise of reasonable diligence and the public officer shall make an affidavit to that effect, then the serving of such complaint or order upon such persons shall be made by publishing the same once in the official newspaper of the Township of Middle. A copy of such complaint or order shall be posted in a conspicuous place on the premises affected by the complaint or order. A copy of such complaint or order shall be duly recorded or lodged for record in the office of the Cape May County Clerk.
The public officer or other official designated under this chapter may exercise such powers as may be necessary or convenient to carry out and effectuate the purposes and provisions of this chapter, including but not limited to the following powers, in addition to the others herein granted:
To investigate the building conditions in the Township of Middle in order to determine which buildings therein are unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use.
To administer oaths and affirmations, examine witnesses and receive evidence.
To enter upon premises for the purpose of making examinations, in accordance with applicable ordinances and statutes; provided, however, that entries shall be made in such manner as to cause the least possible inconvenience to the persons in possession.
To appoint and fix the duties of such officers, agents and employees as he deems necessary to carry out the purposes of this chapter.
The public officer shall not contract for nor proceed with the repair, alteration, improvement, removal or demolition of any building or buildings unless and until the Township Committee, by appropriate resolution, directs that such action be taken.