SPARTA, NJ – Foreclosed, vacant or abandoned properties now have to be registered according to a new ordinance passed by Sparta Township council at their last meeting.  The unanimously approved ordinance on so called zombie properties, requires creditors to register the house with the township.

“Essentially we want to make sure vacant or abandoned properties are kept up so they do not negatively impact their neighbors,” Mayor Molly Whilesmith said. 

Creditors must register homes that are in the process of foreclosure or have become bank owned.  They must pay $500 for the initial registration, $1500 for the first annual renewal, $3000 for the second renewal and $5000 for any subsequent renewal.

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According to Ordinance 19-15 the fees must be paid when a creditor files a summons and complaint when moving to foreclose on a residential property or when the property becomes vacant or abandoned.  The creditor is responsible for keeping the property maintained.   

Property owners or creditor must register the property or face a fine of $2000. If the property is not maintained the creditor can be fined $1500 a day until it is corrected.  An out-of-state creditor can be fined $2500 for each day of the violation. 

The property must be maintained or money collected by the registration will be used by the township to do the cleanup.  The ordinance includes a list of conditions that, should two be evident for at least three months would lead people to believe the property to be abandoned.

The list includes:

  • Overgrown or neglected vegetation,
  • Accumulation of newspaper, circulars, flyers or mail on the property
  • Disconnected gas, electric or water utility services,
  • Accumulation of hazardous, noxious or unhealthy substances or materials on the property,
  • Accumulation of junk, litter, trash or debris on the property,
  • Absence of window treatments such as blinds, curtains or shutters,
  • Absence of furnishings and personal items,
  • Statements of neighbors, association management, delivery persons or government employees indicating that the property is vacant and abandoned,
  • Windows or entrances to the property that are boarded up or closed off or multiple window panes are damages, broken and unrepaired,
  • Doors to the property that are smashed through, broken off, unhinged ore continuously unlocked,
  • A risk to the health, safety or welfare of the public or any adjoining or adjacent property owners, exists due to acts of vandalism, loitering, criminal conduct or the physical destruction or deterioration of the property,
  • An uncorrected violation of a municipal building, housing or similar code or during the preceding year or an order by municipal authorities declaring the property to be unfit for occupancy and to remain vacant and unoccupied,
  • The mortgagee or other authorized party has secured or winterized the property due to the property being deemed vacant and unprotected or in danger of freezing,
  • A written statement issued by any mortgagor expressing the clear intent of all mortgagors to abandon the property
  • Other reasonable indicia of abandonment.

This ordinance in not intended to impact properties that are not vacant or abandoned, Whilesmith said.  Currently there is no code that addresses a standard of maintenance, if the homeowner still lives in the home.