BELMAR, NJ — If you are a summer renter in Belmar and hear someone knocking at your front door early on any given weekend morning, chances are that person is Code Enforcement Inspector Frank Cinelli.
Beginning at 6:30 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday during the summer, Cinelli and Code Enforcement Director Robert Poff conduct rounds throughout the borough for property maintenance violations. Their main task is to identify summer rental properties that are littered with debris from the previous day, including bottles, cans, cups and other assorted trash.
“We ask them to pick everything up, and to get it right the next time because they don’t want us to come back,” Cinelli said, adding that after the first-time warning, there will be no free passes. Fines for property maintenance violations start at $150.
Most times, the warning is all it takes for summer renters to comply, according to Cinelli, who updated the borough council at its June 7 meeting on code enforcement activities as the summer kicks off. “They appreciate the warning, and it seems like they’re listening.”
It also appears that property owners of summer rentals are paying attention to Belmar’s code enforcement requirements for certificates of occupancy. Of the 300 summer rental properties in the borough, six failed their first inspection but passed the second — a success rate that borough officials attribute to a new code enforcement policy that took effect three years ago.
Property owners are now given a “Certificate of Occupancy Checklist” when they apply for the certificate and are asked to review it before the first inspection. That detailed document includes the requirements that must be met before a certificate of occupancy is issued, rather than having the landlord needing to wait to receive a list of violations after the first inspection.
A total of $315 in fees —for the first inspection, mercantile license and tourism levy — is required before the first inspection. If a second inspection is needed, there is an additional $250 and a third requires another $500.
In its crackdown on summer rental landlords whose properties have failed inspections, Cinelli said many are working with the borough to make necessary improvements. For example, he said more than $60,000 in work has been completed at 107 12th Avenue since last year, including new windows, siding and front deck, as well as new interior walls, he said. Other properties that required work before receiving certificates of occupancy were 217 14th Avenue, which needed fresh coats of exterior and interior paint, and 207 16th Avenue, which now has a new front porch.
There also are two properties that have been condemned since last year but have been sold, thereby remaining vacant for this summer — 215 14th Avenue and 100 18th Avenue.
Since the new code inspection policy took effect several years ago, Mayor Matthew Doherty said he has seen a significant improvement in the conditions of summer rental properties — both inside and out.
Cinelli added that there is also a better understanding of the regulations by landlords and rental agencies. “They know where we’re coming from,” he said.
Dealing with Noisy and Disorderly Summer Neighbors
While Belmar continues its efforts to improve the complexion of Belmar’s summer rental stock, officials and year-round residents alike also must contend with another chronic summer issue: the full array of noise, disorderly conduct and other nuisance problems that plague the busy beachfront community.
With just one weekend in the books for the 2017 season, several borough residents expressed to the borough council at its June 7 meeting their displeasure with the behavior of some summer neighbors.
Maria Florio of 12th Avenue acknowledged there are less summer rentals on her block, but there are more noise and related issues caused by the occupants of the remaining seasonal homes. “Memorial Day was horrendous, terrible,” she said. “What are we doing to better this?”
Her comments were echoed by a handful of other longtime residents, including Dave Schneck of C Street. “We don’t need 50,000 people in town on a Saturday. We don’t do anything for the people living here,” he said. "It’s a self-inflicted problem because we’re spending money to attract and bring in more people.”
In response, Mayor Doherty said that Belmar has concentrated its efforts to bring in more families to the town — not the rowdy bar-scene crowd. “Those people are coming here anyway. I’d rather have more families coming here than people causing trouble and winding up in our jail,” he said, citing a host of family-friendly beachfront amenities that include staffed restroom facilities, four free playgrounds and eight beach entrances equipped with Mobi-Mats for easier beach access.
In countering Schneck’s remarks that borough officials are not concerned about its year-round residents, Doherty said, “Putting tourists first makes no sense politically. Tourists don’t vote.”
However, tourism provides needed revenue for the borough’s small business community, “so they can survive throughout the winter. If (tourists) didn’t come, the town would die. To say anything else, flies in the face of logic,” Doherty said.
Nearly 80 Summer Rentals Slapped with 'Animal House' Designation
Borough officials urge residents to call the police with any noise or other issues arising from summer renters. In addition, Belmar has had in place since 1998 an “animal house” ordinance that holds the landlord responsible for the actions of summer renters. Under that law, the borough has the authority to require a landlord to post a bond of up to $5,000 and to revoke a landlord’s certificate of occupancy due to the conduct of summer tenants. It takes at least two proven quality-of-life violations to be placed on this list, and the designation holds for four years.
This year, animal house violations have cost three landlords their summer certificates of occupancy — 114 13th Avenue, 116 18th Avenue and 1905 Surf Avenue. While they are prohibited from renting those properties for the summer, they are permitted to enter into annual leases, under the law.
Currently, 79 of 300 summer rentals are designated “animal houses,” with the heaviest concentration being on the following streets: 20 in the 100-300 blocks of 16th Avenue; 13 in the area of the 100-200 blocks of 17th, 18th and 19th Avenue and Surf Avenue; 10 in the 100-200 blocks of 13th Avenue; 10 in the 100-200 blocks of 14th and 15th Avenues; and nine in the 100-200 blocks of 12th Avenue.
Five of those animal house properties already had one or two summonses issued during the busy Memorial Day weekend.
For more information on summer-related ordinances, here’s a link to a brief summary that Belmar has posted on its website for the borough's seasonal population.
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