Seaside Heights officials say they are doing all they can – including taking legal action – to allow them to either secure or demolish a large rental property that neighbors say is dangerous.
The property at 33 Sampson Avenue, called Melrose by the Sea, was a multi-unit rental property that offered one, two and three bedroom units to guests. Since Superstorm Sandy, it has been abandoned, neighbors say, leading to a rodent infestation and even squatters sometimes making their way into the structure.
Robert Iovino, the owner of the home next door, described a dangerous situation to Seaside Heights borough council members on Wednesday.
“There were some youngsters playing hide-and-seek, they went into the property and then got trapped in the property when the door slammed behind them,” Iovino said.
Fortunately, he said, a good Samaritan was able to break through the door with a cro-bar and free the children.
“I’m in a very difficult position,” said Iovino. “I’m having much difficulty renting my property because nobody wants to be next to that property.”
Borough Attorney Jean Cipriani said the town has filed motions in Ocean County Superior Court seeking a judge’s permission to demolish the building, but since it is now in foreclosure, the court has halted any action until after a sheriff’s sale is completed, potentially later this month.
“The court will not enter an order for us to be able to demolish the property until the sheriff’s sale takes place,” said Cipriani.
There are the potential for more delays after the sale, she said, explaining that a judge may give a bank or a new owner time to repair the property if it is sold. The good news, however, is that banks may take it upon themselves to either demolish or improve the safety of a property once they gain title to it.
“Often, they will take action, and we will have a clear person to take to court,” said Cipriani, adding that Iovino’s story of the trapped children may be enough to convince a judge to allow the borough to take emergent action to securely board up the building while proceedings continue.
Cipriani said the borough has been dealing with the matter in the court system for about six months.