[HISTORY: Adopted by the City Council of the City of East Orange 3-25-1968 by Ord. No. 20-1968 as Ch. 9, Art. VII, of the 1968 Code. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Whenever a petition is filed with the Public Officer by a public authority or by at least five residents of the City, charging that any building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use, or whenever it appears to the Public Officer on his own motion 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 a hearing will be held before the Public Officer at his office in the City Hall on a date therein fixed, which shall be not less than seven nor more than 30 days after service of the complaint and notice.
In making a determination of whether a building is unfit for human habitation or use, the Public Officer shall determine whether, by reason of violations of this chapter existing in the building or on the premises, the continued occupancy of the building will endanger and jeopardize the health and safety of the occupants or persons in the vicinity of the premises, and to that end he may consider, among other factors:
Whether the premises are so structurally defective that there is a risk of collapse or of loose materials falling and injuring persons in and around the building.
Whether, by reason of inadequate ventilation, there is a danger of communicable diseases being contracted and spread in and among the occupants or persons in the vicinity of the premises.
Whether, by reason of infestation or defective condition of plumbing or the lack of maintenance of halls, floors, walls or other parts of the premises, conditions exist which are conducive to the contracting and spreading of diseases.
Whether, by reason of electrical wiring, conduits or equipment, heating or cooking facilities or lack of proper means of egress, there is a danger of fire or, in the case of fire, inadequate means of egress.
Whether the premises are deficient in one or more essential utilities, including public sewer, water supply or electricity.
Where the premises were not designed or constructed for human habitation, whether, by reason of the same, occupancy constitutes an unnecessary hazard to safety or health.
The owner and parties in interest may file with the Public Officer a written answer to the complaint prior to the date of the hearing or may appear in person or otherwise and give testimony at the hearing, or both. The rules of evidence prevailing in the courts shall not be controlling in hearings before the Public Officer.
If, after such notice and hearing, the 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 such building to be made by the owner within a reasonable time as specified in the order, or, at the option of the owner, to vacate or have such building vacated and closed within the time set forth in the order, and all doors to the exterior shall be locked and the first story or basement and cellar windows barred or boarded to prevent entry. The order may also prohibit occupants from paying, and the owner and operator from receiving, rent or other compensation for use and occupancy from and after the date on which such building or premises is ordered vacated or demolished. 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 such building within the time specified in the order, then the owner shall be required to remove or demolish such building within a reasonable time as specified in such order.
If the owner fails to comply with an 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. 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 repair, alter or improve, or, at the option of the owner, 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. Where the owner, operator, occupant or any party in interest fails to comply with any order hereunder or removes any notice posted pursuant hereto or any lock or bar without the permission of the Public Officer, he shall be deemed in violation of this chapter and subject to the penalties provided in § 113-10. Upon failure to comply with any such order, the premises shall constitute a public nuisance, and the Public Officer may take such further action under the criminal or civil laws of this state through any court of competent jurisdiction as may be necessary to remove or abate the nuisance.
The amount of 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, 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 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 Director of Property Taxation, and a copy thereof shall be forthwith forwarded to the owner by registered mail. If the total of the credits exceeds 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 person found to be entitled thereto by final order or judgment of such Court.
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 such lien certificate.
Where the Public Officer makes a preliminary finding that conditions on the premises constitute an immediate and substantial threat to the safety or health of occupants or persons in proximity to the premises, he may order and direct that the premises be vacated immediately and that signs or notice be posted prohibiting occupancy thereof and that the premises be locked and boarded up as provided in § 113-5 pending the institution of proceedings under this chapter.
Complaints or orders 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 the same 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 may be made by publishing the same once in one of the officially designated newspapers. In addition, a copy of such complaint or order shall be posted in a conspicuous place on premises affected by the complaint or order and shall be duly recorded or lodged for record with the Essex County Register, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.7.
Any person aggrieved by an order issued by the Public Officer under this chapter may, within 30 days after the posting and service of such order, bring an action for injunctive relief to restrain the Public Officer from carrying out the provisions of the order and for any other appropriate relief. The Court may proceed in the action in a summary manner or otherwise. The remedy herein provided shall be exclusive, and no person affected by an order of the Public Officer shall be entitled to recover any damages for action taken pursuant thereto or because of noncompliance by any person with any order of the Public Officer.
[Added 11-10-1980 by Ord. No. 15-1980]
Any person or persons violating the provisions of this chapter, shall, upon conviction thereof, be subject to a fine not to exceed $2,000, imprisonment for a term not to exceed 90 days, and/or 90 days of community service.
If an actual and immediate danger to life is posed by the threat of collapse of any fire-damaged or other structurally unsafe building, the Public Officer may, after taking such measures as may be necessary to make such building temporarily safe, seek a judgment in summary proceedings for the demolition thereof.
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to impair or limit in any way the power of the municipality to define and declare nuisances and to cause their removal and abatement by summary proceedings or otherwise, nor is anything in this chapter intended to limit the authority of the enforcing agency or the Construction Official under the State Uniform Construction Code, N.J.S.A. 52:27D-119 et seq., or any rules or regulations adopted thereunder.