Toms River NJ home sellers soon to pay $300 for township inspection


TOMS RIVER – Buyer beware.

This is the rule for residential home sales in Toms River. But a new law requiring a continuing certificate of occupancy for home sales will provide more protection for buyers, township officials said.

“We don’t want to stop sales. We don’t want to hurt anyone. We want to protect people,” Township Engineer Robert J. Chankalian said at a recent Toms River council meeting. Since July 1, sellers must pay a $300 fee to Toms River, which covers the cost of a township inspector’s visit to the home, he said.

The inspector will carry out a physical inspection of the property; a search of township records will also be conducted, to ensure that there are “no building, zoning, housing, code enforcement or technical conditions, violations or open permits or unresolved”.

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A copy of the inspector’s conclusions will be given to the owner of the house as well as to the prospective buyer; if the property fails on inspection, the owner will have a time limit to make the repairs and will have to pay an additional $150 fee to have the property re-inspected. An Affidavit of Transfer of Ownership costs $175.

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The inspections are similar to those that already take place before a rental occupancy certificate is issued.

Toms River has seen a steady stream of people buying properties that turned out to have serious issues they were unaware of, Chankalian said. Among the issues: Homeowners who unknowingly purchased properties labeled as ‘substantially damaged’ by Super Storm Sandy in 2012 and are having to raise their new homes or carry out other costly work to bring homes into compliance with mandates federal flood insurance.

Buyers have also purchased homes that include illegal basement apartments, or boat lifts and swimming pools where electrical service is not properly grounded, leading to potentially dangerous conditions. Unauthorized work is often not revealed until there is a reappraisal, a property is sold or there is a tragedy, such as a fire or serious accident, officials said.

Two residents use a boat to return to their home in Toms River after Super Hurricane Sandy.  Sandy-related flood damage claims exceeded the cap of a common insurance fund shared by 385 New Jersey towns.

Trying to prevent a tragedy

Chankalian said vigorous inspection could prevent tragedies like the fatal electrocution in 2017 of an 11-year-old Newark girl who was swimming in a lagoon in the Toms River.

Police said at the time that the girl and a friend were on a raft when they touched a metal boat lift, and “an electrical current appears to have powered the equipment”, causing the electrocution.

Then-Mayor Thomas F. Kelaher said the boat lift was installed in 2001, but the property then changed hands and was purchased by owners who did not have a boat and didn’t check the elevator frequently. Over the years, an electrical junction box under the dock has corroded, Kelaher said.

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This isn’t the first time Toms River has considered a Continuing Occupancy Order Certificate; in June 2017, council tabled a similar measure following objections from real estate brokers and several residents.

And there are also objectors this time around. When the ordinance came to a final vote on December 28, 2021, Councilman Daniel Rodrick voted against it after questioning the inspection fee. The new law was passed by a 5-1 vote, with former city councilor Terrance Turnbach abstaining.

Township engineer Robert Chankalian reports a clogged drain.  Beavers are wreaking havoc on residents along Lake Placid Drive and Oak Glen Road by clogging drainage systems along the lake between the two roads.  Toms River, NJ Wednesday, November 18, 2015 @dhoodhood

Councilman Justin Lamb, who was sworn in for his first term on council on Jan. 3, recently called the measure an “excessive government push” and “onerous”.

Real estate broker Michael Silkowitz, who lives in Toms River, rejected the requirement for a continuing certificate of occupancy, saying paying inspection fees as well as the cost of repairs could make it difficult to sell a home for those who don’t have the money.

He derided many of the things the inspector will check in a home, including a requirement for “interior push-button door locking mechanisms for primary means of egress” and “aisles, including sidewalks and aisle aprons, without tripping hazard”.

He said it was up to buyers to “do their due diligence” before buying a property, hiring their own inspector. Silkowitz, owner of the Academy for Real Estate Careers, a school for would-be brokers, called the new order “inconvenient.”

Chankalian said he would always encourage homebuyers to hire their own inspector, but said the township’s own experience with issues that arise after a sale shows serious issues often go undiscovered.

“We want the buyer to know everything,” he said. “Not all inspectors take advantage of permit records.”

The story continues under the gallery.

Many cities in the area have already passed ordinances requiring home inspections before a home is sold. Jackson, Manchester, Neptune and Middletown are among cities with similar orders, though their fees range from $100 to $150, lower than the $300 Toms River will charge.

Toms River chose the $300 inspection fee, Chankalian said, so all ratepayers in the township won’t foot the bill for new inspectors the code enforcement department will have to hire.

Instead, the cost is a “user fee” borne by those selling a home.

“The value you get for $300 is pretty good,” Chankalian said. “We want it to be a user fee, we don’t want taxpayers to subsidize it.”

So far, Code Enforcement Officer Craig Ambrosio has held two seminars for real estate organizations to explain the new ordinance.

The new continuing CO law allows an exception, for properties where a buyer takes full responsibility for obtaining permits and repairs to a home, and agrees not to live in the home until the canton issues a CO.

Those who violate the CO law could face fines of up to $2,000 and up to 90 days in jail, or be required to perform up to 90 days of community service.

Jean Mikle has covered Toms River and several other towns in Ocean County, and has been writing about local government and politics on the Jersey Shore for nearly 37 years. She is also passionate about the Shore’s historic music scene. Contact her: @jeanmikle, [email protected]


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