Council for the Township of Toms River introduced an order late Tuesday that would require code inspections prior to deed transfers, including the sale of a residential home.
The township currently requires inspections when a landlord applies for a rental occupancy certificate, but no municipal inspection is required when selling a property. Such orders have proliferated in North Jersey, officials said, leading Toms River residents to expect them locally.
Ultimately, officials said, inspections would focus on two areas of concern: if there are code violations (such as construction completed without a permit) on the property, and if there are code that could threaten the safety of a person when purchasing the home. As an example of the latter, Township Engineer Robert Chankalian referred to the death of an 11-year-old girl who was killed two summers ago after hitting a boat lift with which produced a severe electric shock.
“Maybe we could have spotted the ground fault and it wouldn’t have happened,” he said.
The ordinance will likely spark heated debate in Toms River. No fee schedule was announced at Tuesday’s board meeting, but rental inspections — essentially, the same inspection that will be done during a sale — are $150 per unit. Ultimately, officials said the order was intended to save the new owners financial and legal problems down the road.
“These are not new permits or new violations,” Councilwoman Laurie Huryk said. “It’s so buyers aren’t penalized for things they’re not aware of. There have been so many buyers complaining to us over the years that they bought a house, there was a shed on the property for ten years, and it happens to be on land wet and now they risk a fine. We have hundreds of penalized buyers all the time.
The issue was raised recently in an even more serious circumstance when new homeowners began receiving notices that their homes had been extensively damaged during Super Hurricane Sandy and would violate flood codes if not not raised at substantial cost.
“They would have gotten a list of all the permits in circulation, and that would have been on the list,” Chankalian said. “The most important part of this is educating buyers.”
The inspection was defined as a “limited” inspection to security items and code issues. The tenancy inspection, for example, requires officers to ensure that there are smoke and carbon monoxide detectors present in the home, as well as a fire extinguisher, and that appliances and utilities are in good condition.
As for the code issues: “Over the years we have seen a lot of things – illegal sheds, illegal fences, etc. said Chankalian. “All sorts of things the buyer doesn’t know about, and they get penalized later.”
The ordinance requires a public hearing and a second vote before final adoption. Normally, this takes place at the next meeting of the city council, which is scheduled for December 28 at 5 p.m. at the township’s municipal complex.