MONROE – The township council approved new laws regulating how it will deal with abandoned properties, also referred to as zombies.
The adopted ordinance creates new requirements for creditors who are typically the owners of the zombie properties that in most cases are in the foreclosure process.
Zombie properties have been known to kill surrounding residential property values when left unchecked. The numbers increased in most areas as a result of the Great Recession.
According to the real estate data website RealtyTrac one in 1,721 properties are in a foreclosure filing.
“Now with this ordinance, we know who the lien holder is and any expense that we incur in getting proper maintenance on the building is borne by the lien holder,” said Mayor Gerald Tamburro at the Dec. 3 council meeting when the new law was approved.
In-state and out-of-state creditors are now required to pay a $500 registration fee to the township clerk for each property in their possession. The township will use the fee to pay for any upkeep it must do on the abandoned properties.
However, despite the registration fees creditors are still required to make all necessary repairs to a property that is classified as abandoned. Failure to do so could result in daily fines of $1,500 or $2,500 depending on the circumstances. If the township makes repairs to a zombie property, it has the authority to collect the associated cost from the creditor.
A property is considered abandoned if it meets two of the township’s 15 criteria. Some of the criteria listed include overgrown or neglected vegetation; accumulation of junk, litter, trash or debris; windows or property entrances that are boarded up or closed off or multiple window panes that are damaged, broken or unrepaired; and a risk to the health, safety or welfare of the public, or any adjoining or adjacent property owners, exists due to the acts of vandalism, loitering, criminal conduct, or the physical destruction or deterioration of the property.
“This is important for the quality of life of all residents,” said Township Administrator Alan Weinberg in November when the ordinance was proposed. “That mayor and council wanted to incorporate these new enforcement regulations into our municipal code.”