Continuing to crack down on a rash of bank-owned properties in town that have fallen into disrepair, the township council last week passed an ordinance that places a set of new requirements on properties in foreclosure.
The ordinance, approved unanimously by the governing body, requires all properties in foreclosure to have an in-state property manager registered with the township and responsible for maintaining the property in question. Banks will have to register foreclosed properties with the township and pay a $500 non-refundable fee that will be placed into a special fund for enforcement of the township’s property maintenance code.
New Jersey’s process to complete foreclosures is widely regarded as one of the longest in the nation. Banks, township officials said, often let the properties fall into disrepair while they remain in legal limbo. In many cases, Mayor John Ducey said, properties are often sold from shell company to shell company owned by a bank in order to complicate the process of identifying its owner.
“The main goal is to ensure compliance with the township’s property maintenance code,” said Council President Heather deJong. “It puts the burden on the banks to properly notify the township of ownership information.”
The ordinance calls for the creation of a web-based database where properties can be registered and ownership information updated. The registration document must be updated every six months until the property is sold to a private homeowner. Each property must be inspected once every 30 days by an in-state property manager. A property must be kept free of weeds, overgrown brush, debris and other unsightly items. It also must be kept structurally sound, free of graffiti and its paint or siding must be maintained. Pools must also be maintained.
The ordinance does not call for a specific penalty for failure to follow its terms, however it grants the township power to fine the owner and have the property declared a public nuisance.