Due to staff reductions in 2011, we will respond to selected lower priority issues and violations by mailing information to a property occupant or taxpayer of record for issues with a lower impact. Examples include vegetation overgrowth which does not present a danger for pedestrians or vehicle drivers, and minor junk storage.
DPD's staff investigate reports of potential violations to determine if code or permit violations exist. The department's first priorities for investigation and resolution of reported violations are health and safety. They respond to over 5,000 complaints each year, and compliance is reached with well over 95 percent of these cases.
Emergency vs. Non-Emergency Complaints
The department's first priorities for investigation and resolution of reported violations are health and safety. Potential emergency complaints will be investigated within 24 hours of filing a report unless the report is made after 2:00 p.m. on a Friday. Life-threatening emergencies and/or after-hours noise complaints should be reported to the City's 911 emergency number.
When a hazardous situation exists, DPD can order that a building be vacated. In cases of work without a permit, DPD can issue a "Stop Work Order" which prohibits further construction until a permit is obtained. "Stop Work" orders can also be issued when work does not conform to approved plans.
If an emergency exists in Housing and Land Use Code or vegetation overgrowth cases, an "Emergency Order" will be issued which typically requires compliance or progress toward compliance within a short time-frame, often as short as one or two days.
Housing Code complaints, other than emergencies, are typically inspected within 10 days. Land Use Code violations are usually inspected within 15 days. Inspection follow up for vegetation overgrowth complaints is limited due to staff reductions. Our usual response will be to send information on the reported problem and city requirements to the property occupant and request prompt correction.
Vegetation Overgrowth Complaints: Beginning in 2011, as a result of staff reductions due to budget cuts, DPD will inspect only those complaints of vegetation overgrowth that indicate a hazardous situation such as blocked traffic visibility or overgrowth that forces pedestrians off the sidewalk into the street. Other violations of the Weeds and Vegetation Code will be recorded and information about code requirements sent to the property owner or occupant responsible for the site. More information on regulation of vegetation overgrowth is available in Client Assistance Memo 611, Weeds and Vegetation Enforcement. You can also download the Weeds & Vegetation Safety Bulletin that contains information about these regulations, in a form that may be posted in community centers or given to a neighbor whose property does not meet code standards.
Enforcement: "Citation" vs. "Notice of Violation"
As a general rule, if an inspection confirms a code violation, the department will inform the property owner and request voluntary action to correct the violation. When the owner does not comply, a legal process will be started by issuance of either a citation or a notice of violation (NOV).
A citation carries an immediate fine for having committed certain types of common violations, namely those that cause certain hazardous conditions in housing or unsightly conditions on neighboring properties:
- Outdoor junk storage in residential zones
- Structures in required yards in residential zones
- Parking of vehicles in required yards in single family zones
- Violation of standards for keeping animals in single family zones
- Violation of standards for home occupations
A person who has not had previous violations of these types is usually given an opportunity to correct the violation and thus avoid the issuance of a citation. For those who receive a citation, preset penalties may be imposed immediately which increase with repeat offenses. The citation process provides the violator with an opportunity for a hearing to contest the violation or request mitigation of the penalty.
An NOV, on the other hand, provides a specified amount of time to correct a code violation without a penalty being automatically assessed. The amount of time allowed for compliance in an NOV varies based upon the nature and severity of the violation. Owners have the right to request an administrative Director's Review of an NOV.
Charges for Multiple Inspections in Code Enforcement Actions:
For cases involving the Housing Code or the Land Use Code, when multiple inspections must be conducted before a property is in compliance, a violation compliance inspection charge is imposed for the third inspection and for all subsequent inspections in a given case, until compliance is achieved.
There is no charge for the first two inspections in a case:
- Generally, the first inspection in the case will identify a violation.
- The inspector will then issue a warning, notice of violation, or other applicable enforcement document.
- A second inspection will occur on or after the date given in the warning or notice.
- If the property is in compliance at that time, no inspection charge will be imposed.
The inspection charge accrues if at the time of the second inspection, the property is not in compliance and additional inspections are needed to verify compliance.
This inspection charge is in addition to any per-day or other penalty imposed by the enforcement sections of the Housing and Land Use Codes, and is charged for each inspection beyond the first two inspections in the case.
Referral to the City Law Department
If the owner does not comply by the date indicated in an NOV, the department refers the case to the City's Law Department for filing of court action, which can lead to substantial fines for the violator. The City does not have the authority to correct code violations, other than those which present a hazard to life or property.
Permits May be Required in Some Instances
When the activity taking place in a building or part of a building does not conform to the issued certificate of occupancy for the building or area, the department can require that permits be obtained. The department can take action on construction which has already begun or has been completed without a permit.
Enforcement options include requiring the demolition of structures built without a permit and imposition of extra permit fees. Violation of an order such as a "Stop Work" or "Emergency Order" may lead to criminal prosecution.
If property owners respond to notification from DPD that a code violation exists by obtaining the necessary permits and getting required permit inspecter approvals, the department will not normally pursue legal action.