Ordinance No. 15-07

Introduced: March 23, 2015
Public Hearing: April 27, 2015
Status: Failed

An ordinance replacing Chapter 447 of the code of the Township of Vernon entitled "Property Maintenance"

BE IT ORDAINED by the Township Council of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex and State of New Jersey that Chapter 447 of the Code of the Township of Vernon entitled “Property Maintenance” is hereby amended as follows:

SECTION I. Chapter 447 entitled “Property Maintenance,” is hereby replaced in its entirety as follows:

§447-1 Purpose.

The purpose of this chapter is to protect the public health, safety and welfare by establishing minimum standards governing the maintenance, appearance and condition of residential and nonresidential premises. It fixes certain responsibilities upon owners, operators, occupants and other persons. It authorizes and establishes procedures for the inspection of residential and nonresidential premises. It fixes penalties for the violation of this code and provides procedures for correcting violations in those cases requiring Township action. This chapter is hereby declared to be protective, preventive and essential for the public interest.

§447-2 Definitions.

The following words and terms, whenever used in this chapter, shall have the respective meanings herein assigned to them and shall be construed to include the plurals of these words:

BUILDING CODE. The Building Code of the Township of Vernon.

DETERIORATION. A condition characterized by holes, rot, crumbling, cracking, peeling, rusting or other evidence of physical decay or neglect, vandalism, lack of maintenance, excessive use and/or the uncorrected consequences of natural catastrophe.

ENFORCEMENT OFFICER. See §447-14.

EXPOSED TO PUBLIC VIEW. Any premises, or any part thereof, which may be viewed lawfully by the public or any member thereof.

EXTERIOR PROPERTY. The open space on the premises and on adjoining property under the control of owners or operators of such premises.

INFESTATION. The presence of vermin on the premises which constitute a nuisance or a health hazard.

LET FOR OCCUPANCY OR LET. To permit, provide or offer possession or occupancy of a dwelling, dwelling unit, rooming unit, building, premises or structure by a person who is or is not the legal owner of record thereof, pursuant to a written or unwritten lease, agreement or license, or pursuant to a recorded or unrecorded agreement of contract for the sale of land.

MAINTENANCE. To keep in good repair and preserve the premises.

OCCUPANT. Any person living or sleeping in a building; or having possession of a space within a building.

OPERATOR. Any person who has chore, charge or control of a structure or premises which is let or offered for occupancy.

OWNER. Any person, agent, operator, firm or corporation having a legal or equitable interest in the property; or recorded in the official records of the state, county or municipality as holding title to the property; or otherwise having control of the property, including the guardian of the estate of any such person, and the executor or administrator of the estate of such person if ordered to take possession of real property by a court.

PERSON. An individual, corporation, partnership or any other group acting as a unit.

PREMISES. A lot, plot or parcel of land including any structures thereon.

PUBLIC NUISANCE. Includes any of the following:

  1. The physical condition or occupancy of any premises recorded as a public nuisance at common law;
  2. Any physical condition or occupancy of any premises or its appurtenances considered an attractive nuisance to children, including but not limited to abandoned wells, shafts, basements, excavations and unsafe fences or structures;
  3. Any premises that has unsanitary sewerage or plumbing facilities;
  4. Any premises designated as unsafe for human habitation;
  5. Any premises that is manifestly capable of being a fire hazard or is manifestly unsafe or unsecure so as to endanger life, limb or property;
  6. Any premises from which the plumbing, heating or facilities required by this code have been removed, or from which utilities have been disconnected, destroyed, removed or rendered ineffective, or the required precautions against trespassers have not been provided;
  7. Any premises that is unsanitary, or that is littered with rubbish or garbage, or that has an uncontrolled growth of weeds; or
  8. Any structure that is in a state of dilapidation, deterioration or decay; faulty construction; overcrowded; open, vacant or abandoned; damaged by fire to the extent so as not to provide shelter; in danger of collapse or failure; and dangerous to anyone on or near the premises.

STRUCTURE. Anything constructed, assembled or erected, the use of which requires location on or in the ground or attachment to something having its location on or in the ground, and includes fences, tanks, swimming pools, shelters, towers, advertising devices, bins, tents, lunch wagons and trailer, dining cars or similar structures on wheels or other supports used for commercial or residential purposes; wires and their supporting poles, towers and frames of electrical or telephone utilities or service utilities entirely below the ground are also deemed to be structures.

TENANT. A person, corporation, partnership or group, whether or not the legal owner of record, occupying a building or portion thereof as a unit.

YARD. An open space on the same lot with a structure.

VERMIN. Any of various insects or undomesticated animals which are potentially destructive, annoying or injurious to health.

§447-3 Applicability.

Every residential and nonresidential building and structure and the premises on which it is situated in the Township of Vernon used or intended to be used for residential, commercial, business or industrial occupancy shall comply with the provision of this code, whether or not the buildings shall have been constructed, altered or repaired before or after the enactment of this code and irrespective of any permits or licenses which shall have been issued for the use or occupancy or repair of equipment or facilities prior to the enactment of this code. This code establishes minimum standards for the initial and continued occupancy and use of all buildings and does not replace or modify standards otherwise established for the construction, repair, alteration or use of the building, equipment or facilities contained therein, except as provided in §447-4.

§447-4 Prevalence of higher standards.

In any case where the provisions of this code impose a higher standard than set forth in any other ordinance of the Township or under the laws of the State of New Jersey, then the standards as set forth herein shall prevail, but if the provisions of this code impose a lower standard than any other ordinance of the Township or of the laws of the State of New Jersey, then the higher standard contained in any other ordinance or law shall prevail.

§447-5 Compliance with additional standards required.

Compliance with this code shall not constitute a defense against any violation of any other ordinance of the Township applicable to any owner, operator or occupant from complying with any other provision nor any official of the Township from enforcing any other provision.

ARTICLE II. Responsibilities of Owners, Operators, Occupants, and Creditor

§447-6 Responsibilities of owner and operator.

Owners and operators shall have all the duties and responsibilities described in Article III of this chapter and the regulations promulgated pursuant thereto, and no owner or operator shall be relieved from any such duty and responsibility nor be entitled to defend against any charge or violation thereof by reason of the fact that the occupant is also responsible therefor and in violation thereof.

§447-7 Responsibilities of occupants.

Occupants shall have all the duties and responsibilities as prescribed in Article III of this chapter and all the regulations promulgated thereto, and the occupant shall not be relieved from any such duty and responsibility and be entitled to defend against any charge of violation thereof by reason of the fact that the owner is also responsible therefor and in violation thereof.

§447-8 Contract not to alter responsibilities.

Unless expressly provided to the contrary in this chapter, the respective obligations and responsibilities of the owner and operator on one hand and the occupant on the other shall not be altered or affected by any agreement or contract by and between any of the aforesaid or between them and other parties.

§447-9 Creditors.

  1. Pursuant to the provisions of N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.12s, the creditor filing the summons and complaint in an action to foreclose shall be responsible for the care, maintenance, security, and upkeep of the exterior of the vacant and abandoned residential property. This obligation applies whether the determination that the property is vacant and abandoned is made pursuant to this Code, N.J.S.A. 2A:50-73, or as otherwise provided by law.
  2. If the creditor is located out-of-State, the creditor shall be responsible for appointing an in-State representative or agent to act for the foreclosing creditor.
  3. An out-of-State creditor shall include the full name and contact information of the in-State representative or agent in the notice required to be provided to the municipal clerk pursuant to N.J.S.A. 46:10B-51(a)(1).
  4. An out-of-State creditor found by the municipal court, or by any other court of competent jurisdiction, to be in violation of §447-9C shall be subject to a fine of $2,500.00 for each day of the violation, commencing on the day after the ten (10) day period set forth in N.J.S.A. 46:10B-51(a)(1) for providing notice to the municipal clerk that a summons and complaint in an action to foreclose has been served.
  5. The Construction Official, Zoning Official, public officer appointed pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.3 et seq., or any other designated enforcement official of the Township shall be authorized to issue a notice to the creditor filing the summons and complaint in an action to foreclose, if the public officer or enforcement official determines that the creditor has violated this chapter by failing to provide for the care, maintenance, security, and upkeep of the exterior of the property. The notice shall require the person or entity to correct the violation within thirty (30) days of receipt of the notice, or within ten (10) days of receipt of the notice if the violation presents an imminent threat to public health and safety. The issuance of this notice shall constitute proof that a property is “vacant and abandoned” for purposes of N.J.S.A. 2A:50-73.
  6. A creditor found by the municipal court, or by any other court of competent jurisdiction, to be in violation of the requirement to correct a care, maintenance, security, or upkeep violation cited in a notice issued pursuant to §447-9(E) shall be subject to a fine of $1,500 for each day of the violation, commencing thirty one (31) days following receipt of the notice, except if the violation presents an imminent risk to public health and safety, in which case any fines shall commence eleven (11) days following receipt of the notice.

Article III. Structural Soundness and General Maintenance

§447-10 Exterior of buildings and premises.

The following provisions from the BOCA National Property Maintenance Code, 1996, are hereby adopted and made a part hereof:

  1. Section PM-303.1, Sanitation. All exterior property and premises shall be maintained in a clean, safe and sanitary condition. The occupant shall keep that part of the exterior property which such occupant occupies or controls in a clean and sanitary condition.
  2. Section PM-303.3, Sidewalks and driveways. All sidewalks, walkways, stairs, driveways, parking spaces and similar areas shall be kept in a proper state of repair and maintained free from hazardous conditions.
  3. Section PM-303.4, Weeds. All premises and exterior property shall be maintained free from weeds or plant growth in excess of 10 inches (254 millimeters). All noxious weeds shall be prohibited. “Weeds” shall be defined as all grasses, annual plants and vegetation, other than trees or shrubs; provided, however, that this term shall not include cultivated flowers and gardens.
  4. Section PM-303.7, Accessory structures. All accessory structures, including detached garages, fences and walls, shall be maintained structurally sound and in good repair.
  5. Section PM-304.1, General exterior structure. The exterior of a structure shall be maintained in good repair, structurally sound and sanitary so as not to pose a threat to the public health, safety or welfare.
  6. Section PM-304.2, Exterior painting. All wood and metal surfaces, including but not limited to, window frames, doors, door frames, cornices, porches and trim shall be maintained in good condition. Peeling, flaking and chipped paint shall be eliminated and surfaces repainted.
  7. Section PM-304.4, Structural members. All structural members shall be maintained free from deterioration, and shall be capable of safely supporting the imposed dead and live loads.
  8. Section PM-304.5, Foundation walls. All foundation walls shall be maintained plumb and free from open cracks and breaks and shall be kept in such condition so as to prevent the entry of rats.
  9. Section PM-304.6, Exterior walls. All exterior walls shall be free from holes, breaks, loose or rotting materials; and maintained weatherproof and properly surface coated where required to prevent deterioration.
  10. Section PM-304.7, Roofs and drainage. The roof and flashing shall be sound, tight and not have defects that admit rain. Roof drainage shall be adequate to prevent dampness or deterioration in the walls or interior portion of the structure. Roof drains, gutters and downspouts shall be maintained in good repair and free from obstructions. Roof water shall not be discharged in a manner that creates a public nuisance.
  11. Section PM-304.8, Decorative features. All cornices, belt courses, corbels, terra cotta trim, wall facings and similar decorative features shall be maintained in good repair with proper anchorage and in a safe condition.
  12. Section PM-304.9, Overhang extensions. All canopies, marquees, signs, metal awnings, fire escapes, standpipes, exhaust ducts and similar overhang extensions shall be maintained in good repair and be properly anchored so as to be kept in a sound condition. When required, all exposed surfaces of metal or wood shall be protected from the elements and against decay or rust by periodic application of weather-coating materials, such as paint or similar surface treatment.
  13. Section PM-304.11, Stairways, decks, porches and balconies. Every exterior stairway, deck, porch and balcony, and all appurtenances attached thereto, shall be maintained structurally sound, in good repair, with proper anchorage and capable of supporting the imposed loads.
  14. Section PM-304.12, Chimneys and towers. All chimneys, cooling towers, smoke stacks and similar appurtenances shall be maintained structurally safe and sound and in good repair. All exposed surfaces of metal or wood shall be protected from the elements and against decay or rust by periodic application of weather-coating materials, such as paint or similar surface treatment.
  15. Section PM-304.13, Handrails and guards. Every handrail and guard shall be firmly fastened and capable of supporting normally imposed loads and shall be maintained in good condition.
  16. Section PM-304.14, Window and door frames. Every window, door and frame shall be kept in sound condition, good repair and weather tight.

§447-11 Signs.

All signs permitted by reason of other regulations or as a lawful nonconforming use shall be maintained in good repair, and printed matter, pictures or illustrations contained thereon shall be completely maintained or, when no longer in use, completely removed. All non-operative or broken electrical signs shall be repaired or shall, with their supporting members, be removed forthwith.

§447-12 Reconstruction of walls and sidings.

All reconstruction of walls and sidings shall be of standard quality and appearance commensurate with the character of the properties in the same block and on both sides of the street on which the premises front, such that the materials used are not of a kind that, by their appearance under prevailing appraisal practices and standards, will depreciate the value of neighboring and adjoining premises.

§447-13. Storage of commercial and industrial material.

There shall not be stored or used, at a location visible from the sidewalks, streets, other public areas or adjoining properties, equipment and materials relating to commercial or industrial uses unless permitted under the Zoning Ordinance for the premises.

ARTICLE IV. Administration and Enforcement

§447-14 Enforcement officer.

The provisions of this chapter shall be enforced by any officer or employee whose regular duties include enforcement of building, plumbing, electrical, zoning, health, housing, safety or fire code regulations or statutes, and reference hereinafter to the enforcement officer shall be deemed to mean any such officer or employee who is acting in such capacity with respect to enforcement of this chapter.

§447-15 Enforcement procedure.

  1. Whenever the code enforcement officer determines that there is or has been a violation of any provision of this chapter, then notice of the violation shall be given. Said notice shall be in writing and include a concise statement of the alleged violation.
  2. Notice of violation shall be served either by hand delivery to the property owner or operator, or by leaving a copy at his/her usual place of abode with a person not less than sixteen years of age, or by certified or registered mail, return receipt requested, to the owner at the last known address as shown on the most recent tax duplicate of the Township, or upon the operator at the property address. Should service by hand delivery or post be unsuccessful, then service shall be made by posting a copy of the notice of violation at a conspicuous place on the subject premises and by sending a copy by regular mail to the owner at the last known address as shown on the most recent tax duplicate of the Township.
  3. Notice of violation shall state that unless the alleged violation is abated, removed or cured within 10 days of the date of service (exclusive of the date of service), then a summons shall be issued. The code enforcement officer may, in his/her discretion, extend the time period for compliance if, in his/her judgment, it is believed that the alleged violation cannot reasonably be completely corrected within 10 days. In such case the notice of violation shall set forth the length of the time period to cure.
  4. Any person who objects to a notice of violation may make written request for a hearing to the Mayor within three business days of receipt of the notice. The Mayor shall hear the matter within five business days. Following a hearing the Mayor may continue the notice of violation in effect, modify or withdraw it.
  5. In the event that the alleged violation is not fully remedied within the time period stated in the notice of violation, or such additional time as the Mayor or code enforcement officer may afford, then a summons shall be issued against the person, persons or entities so notified. Should the same alleged violation continue unabated, the code enforcement officer may issue additional summons or summonses without the need to serve a notice of violation anew.

§447-16 Emergency conditions.

Whenever the enforcement officer finds that an emergency condition in violation of this chapter exists, which condition requires immediate attention in order to protect the public health or safety, he may issue an order by service of notice as set forth in §447-15, reciting the existence of such an emergency condition and requiring that such action be taken by the violator as soon as reasonably necessary to meet the emergency. Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, such order shall be effective immediately. Any person to whom such an order is directed shall comply therewith immediately, but upon objection in writing to the Township Administrator, any such person shall be afforded a hearing before the Township Administrator as soon as is reasonably possible. After such a hearing and decision by the Township Administrator to the existence or nonexistence of the emergency condition, the Township Administrator may continue such order in effect, or modify or withdraw it; subject to issuance of a summons for violation hereof, such order is continued.

§447-17 Further action.

Nothing contained herein shall limit the power of the enforcement officer to take such further action under the criminal and civil laws of this state through any court of competent jurisdiction as may be necessary to remove or abate any nuisance.

§447-18 Compliance inspections.

Upon issuance of notice required by §447-15 and §447-16, property owners shall correct the condition and notify the enforcement officer that said condition has been corrected. An inspection shall then be made for which no fee shall be charged. Should full compliance not be achieved at the time of the inspection, the Township shall be reimbursed for cost of all reinspections by the property owner. Failure to reimburse the Township shall result in a lien for said cost being placed against the property.

§447-19 Violations and penalties.

Any person or entity who shall violate any of the provisions of this chapter or any order promulgated hereunder shall, after summons is issued under the terms hereof, upon conviction, be punished by a fine not to exceed $500. Each violation of any of the provisions of this chapter and each day that each such violation shall continue may be deemed to be a separate and distinct offense.

§447-20 Assessment of Township costs to premises.

Where abatement of any nuisance as defined herein was accomplished and premises brought into compliance with this chapter through the expenditures of Township funds, such costs shall be assessed against the premises cited as a lien in the same manner as real estate taxes if ordered by the court.

SECTION II. If any article, section, subsection, sentence, clause or phrase of this Ordinance is, for any reason, held to be unconstitutional or invalid, such decision shall not affect the remaining portions of this Ordinance and they shall remain in full force and effect.

SECTION III. In the event of any inconsistencies between the provisions of this Ordinance and any prior ordinance of the Township, the provisions hereof shall be determined to govern. All other ordinances of the Township are hereby ratified and confirmed, except where inconsistent with the terms hereof.

SECTION IV. This Ordinance shall take effect immediately upon final passage and publication according to law.