Ordinance No. 18-20

Introduced: July 23, 2018
Public Hearing: August 27, 2018
Status: Adopted

An Ordinance Replacing Chapter 447 of the Code of the Township of Vernon Entitled "Property Maintenance"

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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 which is the Uniform Construction Code of New Jersey (UCC).

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 §447-12.

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.

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. This term shall not include licensed real estate agents.

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 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 that is unsanitary, or that is littered with rubbish or garbage, or that has an uncontrolled growth of weeds; or
  7. 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.

TOWN CENTER ZONE: Any property located in the Town Center (TC) Zone of the Township as delineated in the Vernon Township Zoning Map.

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

VACANT LOT: A premise that is designated by a single Block and Lot and does not contain any structure upon it. This would not include woodland lots. Woodland lots consist of several deciduous and coniferous trees of more than 10 feet in height that create closed canopies.

§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 chapter 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 chapter 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. Creditors responsible for the care, maintenance, security, and upkeep of the exterior of the vacant and abandoned residential property, pursuant to code § 130-2, shall be responsible for complying with this Chapter.

Article III. Structural Soundness and General Maintenance

§447-10 Exterior of buildings and premises.

  1. Sidewalks. No person shall sweep into or deposit in any gutter, street, catch basin or other public place any accumulation of litter or snow from any public or private sidewalk or driveway. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:65-12, the owner or owners, occupant or occupants, tenant or tenants of premises abutting or bordering any streets in the Town Center Zone shall remove all snow and ice from the abutting sidewalks of such streets or, in the case of ice, which may be so frozen as to make removal impracticable, shall cause the same to be thoroughly covered with sand, salt or cinders within twenty-four (24) hours after the same shall fall or be formed thereon.
  2. Weeds. All premises and exterior property shall be maintained free from weeds or plant growth in excess of 12 inches. 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. This section shall not apply to vacant lots except those located within the Town Center Zone.
  3. Accessory structures. All accessory structures, including detached garages, fences and walls, shall be structurally sound.
  4. General exterior structure. The exterior of a structure shall be, structurally sound and sanitary so as not to pose a threat to the public health, safety or welfare based upon applicable building codes.
  5. Structural members. All structural members shall be capable of safely supporting the imposed dead and live loads based on applicable building codes.
  6. Roofs and drainage.. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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 subject to applicable building codes.
  9. 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 as defined by applicable building codes.
  10. Window and door frames. Every window, door and frame shall be kept in sound condition and good repair as defined by applicable building codes.

§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.

ARTICLE IV. Administration and Enforcement

§447-12 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.

§447-13 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.
  2. Written 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. Written 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. 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 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.

§447-14 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 shall issue an order by service of notice as set forth in §447-13, 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. A decision by the Township Administrator may be appealed to the Sussex County Board of Appeals, if that body has jurisdiction.

§447-15 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.

§447-16 Compliance inspections.

Upon issuance of notice required by §447-13 and §447-14, 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.

§447-17 Violations and penalties.

Except as otherwise outlined in this chapter, 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 $2,000. 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.

§447-18 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.

§447-19 Exemption.

Any farm assessed property that is registered with the Township and the State of New Jersey Department of Agriculture shall be exempt from this Chapter.

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.