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What to do if a certificate of occupancy has been incorrectly issued?

Town rescinds certificate of occupancy for former motel

On January 5, 2023, the Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division decided the case Department of Community Affairs, etc v. Kenneth D. Roberts, etc. In this case, Defendant Kenneth D. Roberts appeals from the final decision of the Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs to suspend his license under the Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Law (“HMDL”).

​Mr. Roberts was a code enforcement and zoning office for the Borough of Seaside Heights. Mr. Roberts held a license under the HMDL from the Department’s Bureau of Housing Inspection. He issued a Certificate of Occupancy (“CO”)to a three-story fifty-unit motel located in Seaside Heights that was previously a Travel Inn. Seaside Heights exercised its eminent domain powers to take the hotel and used the hotel to house its seasonal summer employees.

Prior to issuing the CO, Mr. Roberts testified at a Planning Board meeting that the third floor of the Travel Inn suffered from water infiltration and mold issues and it was “unsanitary, unsightly, and unsafe.” He further testified that the safety of the building was questionable. In February 2016, the motel was inspected by the Division of Fire Safety, where it was issued multiple violations of the Uniform Fire Code (“UFC”) due to its deficiencies and “life safety issues”. Despite the foregoing, Mr. Roberts issued a CO in 2016 for Seaside Heights to house summer employees. Mr. Robert’s license was revoked from the Bureau for issuing a CO when the building violated the UFC and knowing the building was not safe. Mr. Robert’s argued that this decision was arbitrary and capricious because he did not violate any of the ten circumstances authorizing the Department’s suspension or revocation of a license under the HMDL regulations.

​The Appellate Division upheld the Commissioner’s decision to suspend Mr. Robert’s HMDL license. The Appellate Division found that Roberts issued the CO for the Travel Inn without inquiring whether the structure complied with the UFC or other applicable laws, therefore Mr. Robert’s license was suspended for jeopardizing the health and safety of the hotel’s occupants. Although Mr. Robert’s did not specifically violate one of the ten enumerated violations under the HDML, in issuing the CO, he needed to ascertain whether the motel complied with all laws, which he failed to do.

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