Facing significant public outcry over an ordinance that would have required inspectors to access homes before they could be sold to a new owner, the Toms River Township council on Tuesday set aside the plan, which called for what is known as a “continuing certificate of occupancy” to be obtained for a fee prior to any sale.
Detractors of the ordinance – versions of which are on the books in some towns, but not others – said the ordinance would place financial hardships on home sellers, and could even lead to any object, such as a shed or outdoor shower, to have to be professionally removed if the object did not appear on the home’s original site plan.
“Closing a transaction is going to be a disaster, a big problem,” said George Kasimos, a realtor and broker in town. “Deals are going to fall through because they’re going to fail, get reinspected, and everything else. I deal with these things in other towns and they’re a disaster. Every house will have some issue if you dig deep enough.”
Kasimos said hundreds, if not thousands, of homes in waterfront and beach neighborhoods have outdoor showers or other features that may not have appeared on site plans that could have been filed more than 50 years earlier.
Councilman George Wittmann said most pre-existing parts of a property would be grandfathered into the ordinance, even if it does comply with current codes. But at some point, the object in question would have to had been legal.
“If it was added after you moved in, or was illegal from the day you received approval, you’re not going to be able to keep it on the property,” Wittmann said.
“I have two outdoor showers on my property – I don’t know if they were allowed on the original plan 50 or 75 years ago,” said Martha Boden, another resident who spoke out against the ordinance.
Boden also decried the fact that three new inspectors would have to be hired, forcing the township to take on the cost of additional salaries and benefits.
The council developed the ordinance, officials have said, to protect new homeowners from inheriting issues with their purchase. In some cases, people purchased single-family homes that they thought were duplexes, only to find that their new investment was in violation of the law.
Paul Jeffrey, an Ortley Beach resident, said his neighborhood could benefit from that portion of the ordinance, but inspections would be a problem.
“In general I think it’s a good idea – but the idea of whether something is pre-existing or not is especially difficult, especially when it comes to Ortley Beach,” he said, relaying a story of how he had to rely on 1950s microfiche documents to determine the site plan of his own home when he was making improvements.
Jeffrey said the ordinance could amount to a financial hardship for some sellers.
“There are some sellers who are in the situation where they need to sell,” said Jeffrey, adding that such a seller would be unable to move or demolish sheds or other features on their properties. “They will never be able to fix them – they’re selling the property because they have no choice but to sell the property.”
There was also a tinge of politics in the matter.
“I think as a Republican [council] in a Republican town, we need less regulation, not more,” Kasimos said.
Wittmann ultimate motioned to table to ordinance to a date uncertain, effectively killing it. Officials will most likely go back to the drawing board and discuss whether to restore the ordinance in a different form, or scrap the idea altogether.