I’ve Gotten a Citation, Now What?
Understand Your Violation
It’s happened….it’s finally happened! You’ve gotten a note from the code enforcement saying your property is violating code. Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world, at least not yet! First off, take the time to fully read and understand your violation notice or order to correct. As we all know, mistakes happen, so make sure everything on your notice looks correct. Do these things:
- Verify the address (Yes, even something as silly as this might save you a headache)
- Look for a compliance deadline
- Are you going to need additional time? If so, it may be prudent to contact the code enforcement officer.
- Who is your inspector?
- Is there a right to appeal or to request a review of the alleged violation?
- How much are the fines and penalties?
As the saying going, the devil is in the details. Make sure you understand the details of your code violation and what the municipality is asking in order for the property to be in compliance.
What Happens if I Don’t Comply
If paying taxes wasn’t enough, now your municipality wants another “donation” because your property violated code. It might feel good to “stick it to the man” and ignore the citation. For as much as you’d like to do this, we’d recommend that you skip this solution altogether.
Doing Something > Doing Nothing
We’d advise you do something, not nothing! (See the following page for all of your solutions) However, it’s good to know the consequences of not following your code enforcement violations. Your municipality has the final say in the outcome, but some common steps they may take could include placing a lien on your property, civil citations, criminal prosecutions, and having the city abate (correct) the problem for you [and then charge you to do so].
A civil citation is a court or municipality’s way of notifying you that you’ve violated or infringed a particular statute, contract or obligation. It’s traditionally used for minor offenses, such as a speeding ticket or parking infraction.
Now this is where things start to get really dicey. A criminal prosecution involves being accused of a crime, and having a legal case in front of the court system to determine guilt in a crime. This can be incredibly expensive, because lawyers often get involved. Not to mention, there are serious legal outcomes that come from a potential criminal prosecution.
Abatement is outcome where you’ve been requested you comply with a violation, but the work is still not completed, so your municipality does some or all of the work for you. This may mean cleaning out trash, mowing your lawn, or fixing the problematic area of the house. That sounds great, right? That is until you get a bill in the mail for all the work that was done.
And just so you know, having the municipality mow your lawn might be one of the most expensive cuts you’ve ever had done! (With how expensive it’ll be, you may even be asking yourself if they went ahead and sprayed for weeds and fertilized when they came out!)
A lien is the governments or a person’s claim that they ought to be paid, and can be “attached” to a property until the debt is paid. In other words, if your municipality puts a lien on your property, they are asking to be paid XXX amount of dollars, and you will not be able to complete a traditional sale of the house until they have been paid. One way or another, they’ll get their money!
At the end of the day, remember: