By Terry Rogers
On Monday, March 27, City Planner, Rob Pierce, presented information to Milford City Council on the process for code enforcement when violations are discovered in the city. Mr. Pierce explained that most code enforcement is done pursuant to Chapter 174 in the Property Maintenance section of the City Code. The has adopted the International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC), with local amendments. The IPMC standards have been developed through a consensus process and have been adopted by many municipalities across the country.
Based on the charter, code enforcement officials with the town are authorized to address both exterior and interior violations. Exterior violations are managed through a proactive enforcement process that is complaint driven for the most part, although building inspectors are authorized to address problems they see when traveling around the City. Interior violations are only addressed during rental inspections and corrections ordered based on unsafe conditions for residents.
Exterior violations are managed through an enforcement process that is complaint driven for the most part. However, the City’s inspectors are authorized and expected to address problems they see when traveling around the City. Interior violations are only addressed during rental inspections and corrections ordered based on unsafe conditions for residents.
Councilman Archie Campbell asked whether Homeowner Association (HOA) requirements, which may be stricter than City code, are addressed by the building inspectors. Eric Norenberg, City Manager, said that the City does occasionally get a report of an issue that is not a violation of City code, but may be a violation of the HOA. Since the City does not maintain records of the restrictions in a development and the City cannot enforce problems that are related to HOA restrictions, City staff refer residents to contact their HOA for assistance.
“What we do when this type of situation occurs is refer the person to the HOA itself to address,” Mr. Norenberg said. “This has happened a few times and the HOA usually addresses it.”
Mr. Norenberg explained that there is an online form on the City website that allows anyone to report a violation. Individuals can visit www.cityofmilford.com, click on “How Do I…” dropdown menu and select “Report A Code Enforcement Violation”. The online form is fill in the blank and allows residents to upload a photo of the violation as well. The report can be anonymous or the person reporting can enter their personal information if they choose.
Lendon Dennis, one of the code enforcement officials at the City, explained that when a complaint comes in either by phone or through the online system, someone is dispatched to the location to verify the violation. If one is found, the code enforcer takes a photo and writes a report which generates a notice to the homeowner which is then sent certified mail.
“Too often, the letters come back unsigned,” Mr. Dennis said. “When this happens, we have to post on the property for five days. If the violation is not corrected after that time, we can take further action. We also contact homeowners by phone when we can, and we have found this sometimes works faster.” Mr. Dennis said that the department is trying to be more proactive with code violations in the City.
Councilman Owen Brooks asked if the City had more problems with code violations in rental properties than with owner-occupied buildings. Mr. Dennis said that there are more violations with rental properties, but that there were also a significant number of homeowner violations. Mr. Dennis explained that he has been walking around the City more in recent months as he has discovered it was easier to miss some violations while driving than when walking past.
“The process is too long,” Councilman Chris Mergner said. “We really need to find a way to get some of these issues addressed more quickly.” Mr. Norenberg said that he often hears from frustrated citizens who have reported violations and feel corrections were not made in a timely manner. He explained that there have been times when someone has reported an issue on Monday and called again on Friday asking why nothing has been done. He explained that the City must follow due process under state law and that meant enforcement could take time. Mr. Pierce stated that fines had to be issued through the court process with a judge determining any fines issued. He said that the City often focuses on nuisance properties with multiple violations since the process takes a considerable amount of time.
Mr. Norenberg explained that the City also tries to take a humanistic approach to any code violations. They attempt to work with homeowners who may be unable to perform needed repairs to bring their building into compliance. He said that when it is identified that the property owner may be unable to perform the necessary repairs, the City provides them with information on grants, non-profit agencies and other options that may be able to assist.
The online reporting form can be found on the City website under the “How Do I….” tab. Citizens should choose the “Report a Code Enforcement Violation” option which will take them to the form.
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