Before you sell your home in Mount Laurel in the future, a township inspector would have to visit your property and issue a certificate of continuing occupancy, according to a proposed ordinance.
Mount Laurel wants "to make sure houses are up to code," Meredith Tomczyk, township manager/clerk, told 70and73.com in an interview. Tomczyk and Bryant Curry, township construction official, said many communities in the area already have the inspection requirement, which would also apply to commercial properties.
A prospective buyer typically has a private inspector evaluate a home, looking for potential repair problems or other issues. In addition, the township inspector in the future would look for safety hazards and any open, or uncompleted, building permits, including construction that may have been done without a permit, which is a state violation.
A public hearing on the proposed ordinance (see a copy below) will be held at the regular Township Council meeting on August 17 at 7 p.m. Tomczyk expects it to go into effect in September.
Theresa P. "Terri" Cucinotta, who has been a Realtor in Mount Laurel for 37 years, told 70and73.com she's familiar with the requirement in other towns. The inspection ordinance protects the buyer, but it also can make a property more difficult to sell and can open a "Pandora's box" for sellers, said Cucinotta, who is the broker of record for Mount Laurel RE/MAX ONE Realty on Route 73.
Cucinotta recalled sellers in Willingboro who for 30 years owned a home that at one time had a sunroom added without construction permits. The seller was required by Willingboro to get all necessary permits for the room and pay for any violations before the sale of the property.
Tomczyk from the township said another example would be a homeowner who had electrical work done on the home but not by a certified electrician or with the necessary permits. Before selling, the homeowner would need to hire an electrician and have all the necessary permits.
She said safety issues also will be addressed by the inspector, such as a staircase that requires a railing that is missing.
The township manager said she first presented the inspection idea to the council after she first started working for Mount Laurel in 2011. There was no interest then, she said, adding it was proposed again to the current council.
Besides requiring the inspection, the township would begin observing the 2018 International Property Maintenance Code rather than the state code, which is outdated, Curry said. He said most new homes today are constructed under the international code.
The township's fee schedule for an inspection is based on how quickly it needs to be done. It's $225 if requested three days or less before closing or $150 if requested 11 days or more before closing. The re-inspection fee is $75.
A property owner who doesn't secure a certificate of continuing occupancy could be fined up to $2,000, sent to county jail for up to 90 days or have to serve a period of community service for up to 90 days, according to the proposed ordinance.