MULTIPLE DWELLINGS, EXEMPTIONS, AND HOUSING INSPECTION OBLIGATIONS
The Bureau of Housing Inspection is a division of the Department of Community Affairs (“DCA”). Under New Jersey’s Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Law (N.J.S.A. § 55:13A-1, et seq.), the Bureau of Housing Inspections is required to conduct periodic inspections of multiple dwellings and hotels. The definition of “multiple dwelling” under the Law includes any building or group of buildings, with three (3) or more units of dwelling space intended to be occupied independently. This definition includes most apartments, condominiums, cooperatives, and other, similar locations.
The Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Law is intended to primarily protect renters within hotels and multiple dwellings. So, units in condominiums and cooperatives are exempt from inspection, under many circumstances. In order to be exempt from the law, a building: cannot have more than four (4) dwelling units; must have at least two (2) exterior walls unattached to adjoining buildings except by fire-resistant walls; and must contain dwelling units that are owner-occupied. If a building has both owner-occupied units and units not occupied by the owner, the owner-occupied units are exempt.
Because of these exemptions, most condominiums and cooperatives do not need to be inspected under the Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Law, as they are owner-occupied. However, taking advantage of these exemptions is not automatic: Condominium associations, cooperative corporations, and mutual housing corporations must provide the Bureau of Housing Inspection with the information necessary to justify an exemption. N.J.S.A. § 55:13A-3(k)(2). Instructions for applying for these exemptions can be found on the Bureau’s website.
In order to apply for these exceptions, units within a condominium, cooperative, or mutual housing corporation, the association must submit a detailed written and graphic report indicating that the unit’s required fire separation walls fully comply with N.J.A.C. § 5:10-1.4(b)4. The association must also provide a certified list identifying all owner-occupied units. The report must be prepared, signed, dated, and sealed by either a New Jersey registered architect or a New Jersey licensed professional engineer.
On August 5, 2019, the Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Law was updated via S-1150 / A-5041. This act drastically changed some of the details regarding how the law is applied.
Some of these changes are minor: for example, the procedures surrounding filing a certification of registration were updated. Previously, hotel and multiple dwelling owners were required to file a certificate of registration and pay a $10.00 fee. Now, filing a certificate requires paying a “reasonable” fee to be determined by the Commissioner of Community Affairs. Owners are required to refile and pay this fee annually (on or before July 1st of each year). And, if there is any change to the information required on the certificate, the owner must file an amended certificate of registration within twenty (20) days of the change and pay the reasonable fee again.
The more substantive changes surrounded the inspection of multiple dwellings. The Bureau of Housing Inspection is still required to inspect hotels once every five (5) years. However, multiple dwellings are now split into three (3) “tiers” to determine how often they must be inspected.
Multiple dwellings in which no violations are found, or where all violations are cured by the first reinspection, are placed in the “highest tier.” Highest tier multiple dwellings are inspected every seven (7) years. Multiple dwellings in which all violations are cured by the second or third reinspection are placed in the “middle tier.” Like hotels, middle tier multiple dwellings are inspected every five (5) years. And Multiple dwellings in which all violations are note abated by the third reinspection are placed in the “lowest tier.” Lowest tier multiple dwellings must be inspected every two (2) years.
Multiple dwelling owners are required to pay an inspection fee, which is due at the time of the inspection. Further, they must file an application for a certificate of inspection within thirty (30) days of the most recent inspection, along with additional fees.
Because of the time-consuming nature of inspections, as well as the necessity to pay multiple fees, it is important for condominium associations, cooperative corporations, and mutual housing corporations to obtain exemptions when they apply. If there is no exemption available for a specific multiple dwelling, it is important to timely cure violations. The expertise and assistance of legal counsel is invaluable in this regard.
The information in this Client Alert is provided solely for information purposes. It should not be construed as legal advice on any specific matter and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based upon particular circumstances. Each legal matter is unique, and prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.
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