Trying to ignore code enforcement is like picking a fight with Muhammad Ali when you’re 5’3″ and 130 pounds… It’s just not a good idea – you won’t win. To learn the potential consequences of ignoring property violations, keep reading!
What is a code violation?
In short, a code violation (for the purpose of this article) is the result of neglecting to follow a real estate ordinance set forth by a governing body (such as a city). These violations may be for lack of property maintenance or for incorrectly building/improving a dwelling. For example, a crumbling home roof and incorrect wiring are both examples of code violations.
We wrote an entire article regarding what the top three most common code violations were and how to remedy them, so if you want more details on specific instances, check out Three Common Enforcement Violations.
Why can’t I ignore my violation notice?
You’d never ignore a speeding ticket to make it go away, right? Well, in the same way, disregarding code violations can lead to more serious financial – and even criminal – consequences. This article will walk through the different stages of penalties if someone neglects to follow regulations. Please remember these stages can vary based on location and we are merely providing an idea of what typically happens.
Complaint and Inspection
Normally, the first step involves someone in the community (or a public official) filing a complaint. When this happens, a local code enforcement officer will complete an inspection on the property. If they notice a code violation, they’ll give a notice to the property owner. This notice will give the property owner a certain timeline to correct the issue. If the owner makes no effort to fix the violation upon second inspection, consequences increase.
Fines and Criminal Charges
The next stage involves civil citations/penalties that can very quickly accrue hefty fine totals. Depending on the offense, fines can range from pennies to hundreds of dollars per day until the issue is resolved. The amount typically reflects the safety risks imposed by the violation, how long the violation has been ignored, and its severity.
Now, let’s say you still haven’t addressed the violation for whatever reason (inability, stubbornness, ignorance etc.)… The governing body won’t be sympathetic 99.9% of the time, so they could pursue some sort of criminal prosecution. By not taking action on the violation notice, you may be putting the neighborhood’s health and safety at risk. Depending on the violation severity, courts could impose greater fines or in some cases, order imprisonment for the neglectful owner.
City Abatement & Liens
The last step would be abatement of the code violation by a city contractor. In this scenario, the code enforcement department would have the violation resolved in a way they deemed appropriate. They obviously don’t do this for free, so they’d track expenses and charge you accordingly. If you don’t pay by the deadline, they may place a lien on your home until you repay all fines and fees. (A lien is a public record that shows you owe money. Until you are able to pay the sum in full, the lender can use your home as collateral. We go into depth on what liens are and how they affect you in a different article found here if you would like further explanation.) Long story short, having a lien on your home could prevent you from doing many things such as selling or refinancing it.
Fix, Fight, or Sell
As you can see, ignoring a violation will not make it disappear. The consequences will only get worse and the fines will continue to grow. So, what can you do? You have three options: fix the violation, fight it, or sell your home.
If you are clearly in the wrong and have violated a regulation set forth by your city, you will need to remedy the issue (or at the very least show intent to correct the problem as soon as possible) during the initial allotted time to prevent the consequences from getting worse.
In rare circumstances, property owners may feel that they are not violating any rules. In these cases, they can choose to go fight the violation with the city which may or may not prove to be effective.
The last option (which is most effective before the violation results in a lien) is to sell your home. Selling your home would allow someone else to bear the burden of the violation. Though most traditional buyers are turned off by having to fix issues right after buying the home, there are always people looking for properties despite their faults. If you are finding yourself overwhelmed by a situation like we’ve described today, enter your information into the sidebar and we can contact you this week to walk through how we can help!
As always, we hope this information was able to give you more insight on the topic of code violations. Please keep in mind the content of this website is simply informational. It’s not meant to provide legal advice in any particular circumstance or situation.