Home interiors could be subject to code enforcement


City officials are considering a policy to ensure property is maintained inside and out.

At this week’s council work session, Code Enforcement Officer Zach Andrews presented a proposed update to the Property Maintenance Code.

The code, which will apply, “to all existing residential and nonresidential structures and buildings,” will enable the city to address interior structure complaints, set minimum standards for maintenance and repairs, create a nuisance identification and abatement process and establish an appeals process.

Andrews said the code will “establish minimum standards.”

He said the current property maintenance code only allows enforcement of violations to the exterior of a building. Andrews said the update will “give us the ability to address property maintenance issues on the interior of the building.”

Andrews said examples would include leaking roof, mold, moisture or broken appliances, such as a water heater or furnace.

City Attorney Tim Aslaner said the change would be a protection for the public. He explained that in the past a renter would have no recourse if a property fell into disrepair.

“Now they have leverage to get a response,” said council member Alan Seymour.

Aslaner said that with the new code, a renter could contact the city and report a property or structure that had become a hazard.

He said the code enforcement officer cannot just go into a building to inspect a property.

“He does need consent or he does need to get a court order,” Aslaner said.

The attorney said the proposal would also create a process for abating a nuisance. Aslaner said the current nuisance code is “pretty small and vague.”

Council members said there are a variety of homes around the city where residents have dealt with difficult neighbors because the city did not have a good way to help.

The proposed nuisance abatement code would enable the city to more clearly identify and define public nuisances. The nuisance abatement code would establish administrative procedures to enable the city to abate public nuisances and assess the cost of abatement to the property without time consuming litigation.

Aslaner said it is important to draw a distinction between what people don’t like, verses what is an actual nuisance.

Andrews said enforcement officials do not specialize in health risks or interior maintenance. He said officials would utilize the Union County Health Department and other experts to help make judgements.

He said that as enforcement officials became more familiar with the issues, the process would become easier.

Andrews said code enforcement officials would extend similar patience to property owners. He said officials would likely cite only egregious violations initially, opting instead to educate property owners when possible.

Mayor J.R. Rausch said the intent is create a better community, not a hardship for property owners.

“As long as they are keeping their property up to a certain code, we don’t want to make it onerous,” Rausch said.

Council members said they want to hear a first reading of the proposed update for the June 24 council meeting.

Council member Nevin Taylor said he wants to get the legislation right, but added, the longer it goes without being addressed, “the worse off we are.”

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