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Bulletin 2000-2
Issue Date: February 2000


SUBJECT: Non-Life Hazard Use Multiple Dwellings/Cyclical Inspections REFERENCE: N.J.A.C. 5:71-3.6(f); formerly 5:18A-3.6(f)

The Division of Fire Safety has received several pieces of correspondence recently indicating some confusion about the registry of Local Enforcing Agencies (LEAs) that have decided to perform the cyclical inspections required in non-life hazard use multiple dwellings by the Regulations for Maintenance of Hotels and Multiple Dwellings. The Division would encourage all LEAs to perform these cyclical inspections, and will provide clarification here concerning what is involved.

The Regulations for the Maintenance of Hotels and Multiple Dwellings (N.J.A.C. 5:10-1.3(d) provide the Bureau of Housing Inspection (BHI) with the option of designating one of our LEAs as their agent for enforcing those regulations, which include Uniform Fire Code provisions. By accepting that designation, an LEA agrees to perform the cyclical inspections required by BHI Regulations at least as frequently as those Regulations require; that is, once every five (5) years. Agencies that accept the responsibility for BHI's cyclical inspections do not get to pick and choose those multiple dwellings that will be inspected. If they don't inspect all of them, then BHI will retain responsibility for those cyclical inspections.

The subject matter of our Regulations, at N.J.A.C. 5:71-3.6, is the necessary coordination required of LEAs when they deal with State-licensed facilities. N.J.A.C. 5:70-3.6(f) gives an LEA the option of performing BHI's cyclical inspections. Our Regulations do not give an LEA the option of choosing never to inspect multiple dwellings within their jurisdiction. LEAs are required by N.J.S.A. 52:27D-203.(a) and by N.J.A.C. 5:70-2.1(b) to enforce the Act in all buildings other than owner-occupied buildings used exclusively for dwelling purposes and containing fewer than three dwelling units.

The inspection of hotels and multiple dwellings by BHI or other, local agencies acting on their behalf, cannot relieve the LEA of its responsibility to inspect non-life hazard use hotels and multiple dwellings. Our regulations, however, do not establish the frequency of non-life hazard use inspection. Whether a multiple dwelling consists of condominium units, owner-occupied or not, does not alter the fact that it is subject to the Uniform Fire Safety Act and must be inspected by our Local Enforcing Agencies.

Inspections of multiple dwellings performed to satisfy the requirement of the cyclical inspection program provisions of BHI's regulations must include occupied dwelling units. (N.J.A.C. 5:70-2.1(b). While it is not necessary to inspect every unit, inspectors must ascertain that dwelling unit smoke detectors are in place and operating.

BHI regulations have recently been revised to read: A building section containing not more than four (4) dwelling units shall not be considered a multiple dwelling if it:

1. Is held under a condominium or cooperative form of ownership or by a mutual housing corporation;

2. Is in a building that has no occupied dwelling units not occupied by unit owners, if a condominium, or by shareholders, if a cooperative or mutual housing corporation;

3. Has at least two exterior walls unattached to any adjoining building section; and

4. Is attached to any adjoining building sections exclusively by fire separation walls having a 1 hour minimum fire resistance rating, in the case of buildings constructed prior to January 1, 1977, or as required by the State Uniform Construction Code at the time of construction. (N.J.A.C. 5:10-1.4(b).

The second of these exceptions is to be interpreted to mean that the presence of a vacant dwelling unit within a building invalidates the exception. It also means that if any unit within the building is not occupied by an owner or shareholder, the building and every building section is to be considered a multiple dwelling. If a dwelling owner or shareholder, or their representative, claims exemption pursuant to the provision, verification of owner occupancy for each dwelling unit in the building must be provided to BHI to avoid registration as a multiple dwelling.




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