Be on the Lookout if Your Property is Vacant!
Several municipalities have recently passed ordinances requiring that property owners register vacant commercial property, and pay a registration fee. These ordinances have surprised many of our clients who often purchase property with an intention to hold it vacant for future development. These ordinances are commonly known as Vacant Property Registration Ordinances (“VPRO’s”).
In New Jersey, the power to institute VPRO’s are expressly granted to municipalities under N.J. Stat. § 40:48-2.12s. While N.J. Stat. § 40:48-2.12s(a) gives municipalities the power to adopt ordinances to regulate the care, maintenance, security, and upkeep of the exterior of vacant and abandoned residential properties, many municipalities, as in Rahway, are utilizing this power to regulate the care of vacant commercial properties as well.
Generally, such ordinances are treated under the municipality’s zoning power, and are afforded a presumption of validity. These ordinances require property owners to register vacant and foreclosed properties with the local government, and typically require property owners to pay a periodic, graduated registration fee and maintain the secured properties. In some instances, they may oblige property owners to carry a minimum amount of insurance or to provide a minimum bond or deposit.
Pursuant to Rahway Ordinance O-22-15, a property is “vacant” where no portion of the property is legally occupied. A property shall not be deemed to be “vacant” (a) where there is a building on the property containing multiple residential units, if any of the residential units are legally occupied; (b) where the legal occupant has temporarily left the property for vacation or other purposes for a period not exceeding 180 days, possessing both the intent to return and the legal right to return, such as a residential property owner or tenant who resides in another municipality or state for a portion of the year; or (c) where the building is under construction with current valid construction permits, and work is being performed on the property on a regular basis. A mixed-use property is considered “vacant” if the commercial use is not legally occupied even though one or more residential units may be legally occupied. Failure to comply with the ordinance is punishable by fine of not less than $100 nor greater than $2,000. Municipalities are permitted pursuant to the enabling statute to take action to abate a nuisance or correct a violation, or impose a lien against the property for costs to correct any violation.
 Vacant property does not include unimproved land.
 Commercial property includes multi-tenanted apartment buildings.
 $500 initial registration followed by $1,000, $3,000 and $5,000 increases as the property remains vacant
 The property must be free of snow and ice, weeds, trash, debris, unregistered vehicles, any accumulation of newspapers, graffiti, etc.
Robert J. Guanci, Esq. (201) 330-7463 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert S. Lipschitz, Esq. (201) 330-7455 - email@example.com
Joseph G. Ragno, Esq. (201) 330-7465 - firstname.lastname@example.org
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