Borough of Hopatcong, NJ
Sussex County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Mayor and Council of the Borough of Hopatcong as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Uniform construction codes — See Ch. 93.
Fire prevention — See Ch. 120.
Property maintenance — See Ch. 179.
Plumbing standards — See Ch. 266.
Sanitary Code — See Ch. 274.
Sewage disposal systems — See Ch. 278.
[Adopted 1-2-1954 as Ch. 72 of the 1967 Code]
No building, wall, structure or mechanical device or any part thereof is or may become dangerous to life or health or which creates a fire hazard shall be permitted to remain in such condition in the Borough of Hopatcong.[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: See also Ch. 17, Fire Department, Article IV, dealing with fire hazards.
Upon ascertainment, after due inspection, if in the judgment of the Building Inspector a building, wall, structure or mechanical device is or may become dangerous to life or health or might tend to extend a conflagration and should be repaired, removed or destroyed, the Building Inspector shall give notice to the owner of any land affected thereby of the contemplated repair, removal or destruction of such building, wall, structure or mechanical device.
The notice required by the preceding section shall contain a description of the property affected, sufficiently definite in terms to identify same, as well as the manner in which such repair, removal or destruction is to be carried out, and a notice that unless such building, wall, structure or mechanical device is repaired, removed or destroyed within 30 days after service of such notice, the Borough will proceed with such repair, removal or destruction or cause the same to be repaired, removed or destroyed under the provisions of this article and the statutes made and provided, and the cost of such repair, removal or destruction shall be charged against the property affected as a municipal lien.
The notice required in § 78-2 of this article may be served upon the owner resident in the Borough, in person or by leaving the same at his usual place of residence with a member of the family above the age of 14 years; in case any such owner shall not reside in the Borough, notice may be served upon the owner personally or mailed to his last known post-office address or may be served upon the occupant of the property or upon the agent of the owner in charge thereof; in case the owner of any property shall be unknown or service cannot for any reason be made as above directed, notice thereof shall be published once each week for two successive weeks, not less than 30 days before the proposed repair, removal or destruction, in a newspaper printed in the county and circulated in the Borough of Hopatcong; there may be inserted in such advertisement notice to the owner of several different parcels of land; notice to infant owners or owners of unsound mind shall be served upon their guardians; where lands are held in trust, service shall be made upon the trustee; where lands are held by two or more joint tenants , tenants in common or tenants by entirety, service upon one of such owners shall be sufficient and shall be deemed and taken as notice to all.
The Building Inspector shall file, within 10 days thereafter, proof of service of such notices as required by § 78-2 of this article, or proof of publication, if advertised, with the Collector of Taxes. The failure to file the same shall not invalidate the proceedings if service has actually been made as herein provided.
Upon the failure of the owner of such property to comply with the terms of such notice required to be given under this article, the Building Inspector shall notify the Mayor and Council, and at the request of the said Mayor and Council, the said Building Inspector shall be authorized to repair, remove or destroy, or cause to be repaired, removed or destroyed, the buildings, walls, structures or mechanical devices described in such notice. He shall keep an accurate account of the costs and expenses thereof, together with the cost and expense in removing the debris from the premises, and shall file a true statement, under oath, with the Borough Clerk, and upon the examination by the governing body of the statement and the ascertainment that the same is properly made and correct, and confirmation by the governing body, the same shall be filed in the office of the Borough Clerk, who shall record the same in a book to be kept for that purpose and who shall certify the amount to the Collector of Taxes, to be charged upon the books of the Borough against the lands from which the buildings, walls, structures or mechanical devices were repaired or removed, which charge, with interest thereon, shall forthwith become a lien on the premises and shall be added to and form a part of the taxes next to be assessed and levied upon such lands and be collected in the same manner as other taxes.
In addition to the provisions of §§ 78-1 to 78-6 of this article, buildings or other structures such as mechanical devices, merry-go-rounds, etc., which shall be unsafe so as to endanger life and limb, shall immediately, upon notice from the Mayor and Council, be made safe and secure, or taken down, and when the public safety requires immediate action, the Building Inspector, upon direction by the said Mayor and Council, may forthwith enter upon the premises with such assistants as may be necessary and cause such structure to be made secure, or taken down, at the expense of the owner or party interested.
Every building which shall have been damaged by fire or other cause so as to be dangerous by reason of bad conditions of walls, floors, construction or otherwise shall be held to be unsafe, and the Building Inspector, besides proceeding as provided in the preceding section, shall also affix a notice of the dangerous character of the structure to a conspicuous place on the exterior of such building and any person removing such notice so affixed shall be liable to punishment as provided in § 78-9 of this article.
In case any order or notice issued by the Building Inspector to remedy a condition perilous to life and property is not complied with immediately, the Building Inspector, upon the consent of the Mayor and Council, may order any building, structure, premises, mechanical device or part thereof to be vacated, and in case any person neglects or refuses to vacate such unsafe structures or premises in question, he shall, upon conviction thereof, be punished by a fine not exceeding $200 or by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding 90 days, or be punished by both such fine and imprisonment. Each day any violation of this article shall continue shall constitute a separate offense.
[Adopted 12-6-1973; amended in its entirety 4-5-2000 by Ord. No. 7-2000]
The following terms, whenever used or referred to in this article, shall have the following respective meanings for the purposes hereof, unless a different meaning clearly appears from the context:
BUILDING
Any building or structure, or part thereof, whether used for human habitation or otherwise, including any outhouses and appurtenances belonging thereto or usually enjoyed therewith.
GOVERNING BODY
The Mayor and Council of the Borough of Hopatcong.
OFFICIAL
The Construction Code Official of the Borough of Hopatcong shall be charged with enforcement of this article.
OWNER
The holder or holders of the title in fee simple.
PARTIES IN INTEREST
All individuals, associations and corporations who have interests of record in a building and any who are in actual possession thereof.
PUBLIC AUTHORITY
Any housing authority or any official who is in charge of any department or branch of the government of the Borough of Hopatcong, relating to health, fire, building regulations or to other activities concerning buildings in the Borough of Hopatcong.
Whenever it shall be found that there exists in the Borough of Hopatcong buildings which are unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use due to dilapidation, disrepair, structural defects increasing the hazards of fire, accidents or other calamities, lack of adequate ventilation, light or sanitary facilities, or due to other conditions rendering such buildings unsafe or unsanitary and dangerous or detrimental to the health or safety or otherwise inimical to the welfare of the residents, the Official shall, upon the filing of a petition by a public authority, or by at least five residents of the Borough of Hopatcong, charging that any building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use, or if it shall appear to such Official, on his own motion, that any building is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use, make a preliminary investigation or cause such preliminary investigation to be made concerning the basis for such charges.
A. 
Buildings shall be considered unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use, within the meaning of § 78-11 hereof, when one or more of the following conditions are found to exist:
(1) 
Condition of structure. The condition of the structure is such as to make it unsafe or unsanitary through the presence of serious safety hazards resulting from the need for major repairs to roof, walls, ceiling, floors or stairs, or through the presence of serious health hazards resulting from continuous dampness or exposure brought about by neglect or dilapidation.
(2) 
Water supply. Lack of potable running water within each dwelling or lack of hot water facilities available to each dwelling.
(3) 
Sewerage system. No connection between plumbing fixtures and adequate sewage disposal system.
(4) 
Toilet facilities. No flush toilet, fit for use, in each building.
(5) 
Bath facilities. No bathtub or shower, fit for use, in each dwelling.
(6) 
Kitchen facilities. Lack of permanent, safe and reasonably efficient kitchen facilities within each dwelling unit, including sink with running water and provisions for a cooking stove.
(7) 
Lighting facilities. Building inadequately wired for electricity.
(8) 
Heating facilities. Heating facilities inadequate or unsafe.
(9) 
Light and ventilation. Living room, bedroom or kitchen with no windows or with windows opening on an airshaft, or toilet or bathroom without adequate ventilation.
(10) 
Failure of the building to comply with the requirements of the building code or the requirements of the certificate of occupancy for said building.
B. 
The generality of the condition rendering a building unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use, specified in  § 78-12 hereof, shall not be deemed in anywise limited by the foregoing specifications of conditions.
If a preliminary investigation shall disclose to said Director a basis for the charges filed , he shall 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. Said complaint shall also contain a notice that a hearing will be held before him at a place therein fixed not less than seven days nor more than 30 days after the serving of said complaint.
Complaints issued by the Official shall be served upon the owner and parties in interest as follows:
A. 
Personally or by registered mail.
B. 
If the whereabouts of such person(s) is unknown, and cannot be ascertained by the Official in the exercise of reasonable diligence, and the Official shall make an affidavit to that effect, then by publishing the same once in a newspaper printed and published in the Borough of Hopatcong or, if there is none, in a newspaper printed and published in Sussex County and circulated in the Borough.
C. 
A copy shall be posted in a conspicuous place on the premises effected by the complaint.
D. 
A copy shall be recorded in the office of the Sussex County Clerk.
The owner and parties in interest shall have the right to file an answer to the complaint and to appear in person, by counsel, or otherwise, and give testimony at the time and place fixed in the complaint.
The rules of evidence prevailing in courts of law or equity shall not be controlling in a hearing before the Director.
The Official 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 Borough of Hopatcong. Such conditions may include, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, defects increasing the hazards of fire, accidents or other calamities; lack of adequate ventilation, light or sanitary facilities; dilapidation; disrepair; structural defects; uncleanliness; and the conditions set forth in §§ 78-12 and 78-13 of this article.
When, after such notice and hearing, the Official determines that the building(s) under consideration is unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use, he shall state his findings of fact in support of such determination in writing and shall issue an order, as follows:
A. 
Requiring the owner to repair, alter or improve the building or, at the owner's option, vacate or cause the building to be vacated or closed, within a reasonable time, which shall not exceed 90 days.
B. 
If the building is in such a condition as to make it dangerous to the health and safety of the 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 the building within a reasonable time to be specified in the order.
Orders issued by the Official shall be served upon the owner and parties in interest in the same manner as complaints per § 78-14 of this article.
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 Official may cause such building to be repaired, altered or improved, or to be vacated and closed. The Official shall 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 occupancy of this building is prohibited and unlawful."
If the owner fails to comply with an order to remove or demolish the building, the Official may cause such building to be removed or demolished or may contract for the removal or demolition thereof after advertisement and after receipt of bids therefor.
If an actual and immediate danger is posed by the threatened collapse of any fire-damaged or other structurally unsafe building, the Borough may, after taking such measures as may be necessary to make the building temporarily safe, seek a judgment in summary proceedings for its demolition.
A. 
There shall be a municipal lien against the real property upon which the costs were incurred in the amount of:
(1) 
The cost of the filing of legal papers, expert witnesses' fees, search fees and advertisement charges incurred in the course of any proceeding under this article that is determined in favor of the Borough; and
(2) 
The cost of such repairs, alterations or improvements, or vacating and closing the building, or the removal or demolition thereof, if any; or
(3) 
The balance of the charges set forth above after deduction of the sum, if any, realized from the sale of the materials derived from such building or from any contract for removal or demolition thereof.
B. 
If the building is removed or demolished by the Official, he shall sell the materials of said building. The proceeds, if any, shall be credited against the removal or demolition of the building, including the clearance and leveling of the site, if necessary.
C. 
If there are no such credits, or if the sum total of the costs exceeds the total of the credits, then a detailed statement of the costs and the amount due shall be filed with the custodian of Borough tax liens and a copy forwarded to the owner by registered mail.
D. 
If the total of the credits exceeds the costs, then the Officer shall deposit the remaining balance with the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, to be secured in such manner as may be directed by the Court and shall be disbursed to the persons found to be entitled thereto in accordance with a final order or judgment.
E. 
Any owner or party in interest may, within 30 days from the date of filing the lien certificate, proceed in a summary manner in the Superior Court, Chancery Division, to contest the reasonableness of the amount or the accuracy of the costs set forth in the Borough's lien certificate.
Any person affected by an order issued by the Official may petition the Chancery Division, Superior Court, for relief in accordance with Chapter 112, P.L. 1942, N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.3 et seq.
The remedies herein provided shall be exclusive remedies, and no person affected by an order of the Official shall be entitled to recover any damage for action taken pursuant to any order of the Official or because of noncompliance by such person with any order of the Official.
In addition to the powers herein granted to the Official, he shall also have the following powers:
A. 
To investigate the building conditions in the Borough of Hopatcong in order to determine which buildings therein are unfit for human habitation or occupancy or use.
B. 
To administer oaths, affirmations, examine witnesses and receive evidence.
C. 
To enter upon premises for the purpose of making examinations, provided that such entries shall be made in such manner as to cause the least possible inconvenience to the persons in possession.
Nothing in this article shall be construed to abrogate or impair the powers of the court, or of any department to enforce any provisions of its charter or its ordinances or regulations, nor to prevent or punish violations thereof; and the powers conferred by this article shall be in addition and supplemental to the powers conferred by any other law or ordinance.
Every building which shall have been damaged by fire or other cause so as to be dangerous by reason of the bad condition of walls, floors, construction or otherwise shall be held to be unsafe, and the Official, besides proceeding as hereinabove provided, shall also fix a notice of the dangerous character of the structure to a conspicuous place on the exterior of the building.
Any person convicted of a violation of any of the provisions hereof or who unlawfully removes any notice affixed to any building or refuses to vacate any building, structure or premises or part thereof when lawfully ordered to vacate the same shall, upon conviction, be subject to a fine of not more than $1,000 or imprisonment for not more than 90 days or a period of community service not to exceed 90 days, or any combination thereof.
The imposition of the fine or imprisonment for a violation of this article shall not be construed as in any manner affecting the enforcement of the other provisions hereof.