The job of Code Enforcement Officers inspects businesses and residences within the city to ensure a clean, sanitary city and is authorized to enforce the city’s ordinances and to abate nuisances within the city.
Code Enforcement officers go through a certification program, often run by a Code Enforcement Association. Each officer performs inspections daily in response to complaints concerning violations of housing, zoning, front yard parking, and nuisance codes.
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Housing complaints are generally about substandard houses and buildings. City housing laws provide methods to repair, vacate or demolish structures, which may endanger life, health, safety or the general welfare of the occupants or the public. Owners are required by law not only to maintain their buildings but also to dispose of all waste and garbage properly to prevent infestation of insects and rodents.
Zoning complaints are received when a structure or land is used for other than its zoned purpose. After a certificate of occupancy is issued by the city, the Code Enforcement officer checks complaints of illegal use of zoned property.
Complaints on illegal front yard parking generally are a result of citizens who park motor vehicles, trailers, or boats on unpaved areas of front lawns or visible areas of side yards.
The division receives many nuisance complaints. A nuisance is defined by city law as whatever is dangerous to human life and health or causes the ground, water, air or food to be hazardous to life or health. Also, whatever is offensive to the senses or is detrimental to public health is a nuisance. Areas covered in the nuisance ordinance include weed and grass control, proper methods of keeping animals in the city, trash and rubbish accumulation and disposal methods, junked vehicles, and abandoned refrigerators.
Code Enforcement Officer Duties:
When a citizen telephones a complaint to the Code Enforcement Division, a Code Enforcement officer takes the location and nature of the violation. The caller is asked for his/her name, address and telephone number but these are strictly confidential. The officer assigned to that area of the city would conduct an inspection of the property. If a violation of city law is found, the officer issues the violator a notice of violation.
The notice gives the individual a specified number of days to correct the problem. Depending on the situation, as few as three days may be given for a minor violation to as many as 60 for a substandard house. When that time has passed, the Code Enforcement officer returns for a re-inspection. If the nuisance has not been corrected, a citation is issued. The city then has the authority to arrange to have the violation corrected, whether it is removal of debris or processing for the demolition of a substandard house.
In some cases, the City Council holds a public hearing to determine if the nuisance should be removed or corrected by the city. The violator is sent written notice of the hearing before it is held. A legal notice is often printed in the local newspaper also. The council considers all evidence presented at the hearing and determines if a public nuisance exists. If it determines there is a nuisance, the violator may be given another opportunity to correct the problem. If the violator again fails to correct the violation, the city makes arrangements to correct the problem.
If a nuisance exists within the city that is found to be dangerous to human health and the owner fails to correct the situation in the allotted time, the city will do so without holding a public hearing.
A statement of all costs to the city to accomplish the work will be sent to the violator or the owner of the property as well as to City Council. If this remains unpaid at the specified time on the statement and council deems the cost to be just, the city will file a statement of expenses with the county clerk and will place a lien on the property. The only exception to this procedure is the cutting of high grass and weeds which requires no public hearing before work is done.
Because the city makes every effort to work with citizens to correct code violations, abatement of nuisances may take weeks or even months. Also, the city must ensure that all procedures to correct problems are legal and that the owner of the property has been served with due process, this also requires time. The process requires that notices be filed, specifications for work be written, often contracts must be let, work must be inspected, notices printed, mailed and published.