Fix that house, or pay up! Toms River approves new rule
TOMS RIVER — There are new rules in town that penalize any property owner who's abandoned their home or building and let it develop into an unsafe eyesore.
At the latest Township Council meeting, officials adopted an ordinance that requires property owners register their vacant or abandoned property with the township — at a fee that becomes costlier as time goes on.
Modeled after ordinances in other New Jersey municipalities, the registration requirement gives the township a point of contact for sending notices of code violations and any information regarding court proceedings or administrative enforcement action.
Initial registration costs $750. If the same home or commercial facility needs to be registered as vacant/abandoned a year later, renewal costs $2,000. A second renewal is $3,000, and third and subsequent renewals cost $5,000.
"There's an incentive to get the property reoccupied," Assistant Township Attorney Anthony Merlino told New Jersey 101.5.
Councilman-at-large Maurice Hill said the ordinance came about at the request of code enforcement officials.
"There are abandoned properties and there are properties in foreclosure, and we were having issues with maintenance of these properties," Hill said.
The ordinance states neglected properties and structures "have a negative effect on quality of life, property values and aesthetics," and "are magnets for illegal and nefarious activity." The ordinance sets forth the same registration rules for vacant and abandoned foreclosures — it's up to the creditor to register the property at the same fee schedule.
Some vacant properties would be exempt from this rule, the ordinance notes. If a building is empty but in good shape, and is being actively marketed for sale or rental, it would not be considered abandoned.
Merlino said the township is in the process of identifying abandoned properties. The ordinance is expected to take effect in early May.
"This ordinance is just part of a larger strategy to make sure that properties are properly maintained, to preserve the township from blight and to keep it an attractive place to live," Merlino said.