In an effort to promote property maintenance, Lavallette officials are considering taking a step the same step as many local communities and adopting an ordinance to create an official vacant properties list.
Neighboring Brick Township was among the first in New Jersey to develop an official abandoned properties list several years ago after the state passed legislation enabling municipalities to do so. The aim of creating a list is to crack down on both bank-owned properties and unoccupied homes that are in poor condition.
“We do not have a registration on all these properties identifying who to contact, who the owner is, what’s the phone number, etcetera,” said Councilwoman Joanne Filippone, who chairs the council’s ordinance committee.
In most towns, the abandoned properties list mainly consists of bank-owned properties. Occasionally, parcels that are in the foreclosure process, tied up in litigation over inheritance issues or other circumstances also make the list if they meet strict criteria. That criteria can include a lack of property maintenance, safety issues, infrastructure issues such as collapsing bulkheads and other similar problems. Code enforcement personnel determine which properties meet the criteria, then staff at town hall (or, alternatively, a firm specializing in property maintenance) conduct research to determine a property’s owner. If the defects are not corrected in a timely manner set by the ordinance, fines can be levied against the property owner, including banks.
Filippone said a prospective ordinance would set formal timetables for registration, especially once a property becomes bank-owned. At present, about 30 properties town-wide would be affected in Lavallette.
“There are several communities in the county that have a vacant property fee,” said Mayor Walter LaCicero.
Generally, LaCicero said, fines start at $1,000 and go up from there as long as the property is left abandoned or unmaintained.
“It is aimed at encouraging people who just let these properties sit to do something with them,” LaCicero said.