On appeal from a Final Agency Decision of the Department of Community Affairs, Bureau of Housing Inspection, Docket No. BHI-117-071424-00444-C.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 23, 2009
Before Judges Sabatino and Simonelli.
Timothy and Mary Dougherty ("the Doughertys") appeal a final agency decision of the Department of Community Affairs ("the DCA") finding the Doughertys' three-family residence in violation of N.J.A.C. 5:10-19.2(a)(5), a regulation of the Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Law, N.J.S.A. 55:13A-1 to -28 ("HMDL"). The dispute concerns whether the Doughertys are required by that regulation to install viewers (or "peepholes") on the individual entry doors of the apartment units within their building. We sustain the DCA's reasonable interpretation and enforcement of the regulation, and affirm its final decision.
In 1999, the Doughertys purchased a house at 10 Westmore Avenue in Morristown, where Ms. Dougherty had been living since 1989. Built shortly after the Civil War, the house is listed as what correspondence in the record describes as a "contributing building" in the Morristown Extended Historic District, an area which is included in the State and National Registers of Historic Places.
Sometime in the 1970s, a previous owner converted the house into a three-family dwelling. The Doughertys continue to maintain it as such. Consequently, the residence falls under the HMDL and is subject to the regulations as codified at N.J.A.C. 5:19.2. The DCA's Bureau of Housing Inspection ("the Bureau") has statutory responsibility for the enforcement of the HMDL. N.J.S.A. 55:13A-4.
To enter the residence, one must pass through a set of unlocked double doors (the "First Entry Doors") that lead into the vestibule of the home. Once inside the vestibule, entrants encounter a locked door (the "Second Entry Door"). Residents have keyed-entry through the Second Entry Doors, while those without a key must be let in by someone else.*fn1 The vestibule contains a set of three doorbells, one for each of the three dwelling units.
About two-thirds of the vestibule doors are composed of glass windows, allowing persons inside the building to view the vestibule prior to opening the Second Entry Door. The vestibule is also viewable from a second-floor window. The window is inside the common hallway, but the exact location of the window is not specified.
The record and accompanying photographs reflect that after coming into the residence's common hallway, an entrant will encounter a main entrance door to the first floor apartment and a set of stairs leading to the two other apartments on the second floor. The second-floor window appears to be in the second floor hallway, overlooking the stairs and the common hallway, thereby allowing second-floor residents to see through glass windows of the Second Entry Door into the vestibule.
After passing through the Second Entry Doors, entrants step into a common hallway. Each apartment has its own entry door, which is equipped with a security lock and chain door guard.
According to the Doughertys, the DCA had been inspecting the house since it was converted into a multi-family dwelling in the 1970s but had never before issued a violation for the viewers. Prior to the 2005 inspection at issue in this appeal, the Bureau most recently conducted an inspection of the Doughertys' residence on March 5, 2003, finding no violations at that time.
On March 31, 2005, Inspector Marlo M. Carroll from the Bureau conducted an inspection of the Doughertys' home. She cited the Doughertys for several violations, including several that were characterized as "life safety" violations*fn2 involving the front entrance doors to the individual units. Carroll also conducted a first re-inspection on October 19, 2005; a second re-inspection on December 5, 2006; and a third and final re-inspection on April 10, 2007. The Doughertys did not challenge the other violations. As this appeal ...