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Archive for April, 2009

Using Operational Permits for Fire Prevention

April 21st, 2009 No comments

I am always surprised to discover that many fire departments and districts don’t make use of the operational permit provisions in the International Fire Code in Section 105.1.1 and 105.1.2(1). Jurisdictions adopting that code can require persons and entities to obtain a permit to engage in certain activities and processes. It’s a useful way to monitor different kind of activities in an organized fashion and to generate revenue through permit fees. This issue came to my attention recently because of a situation I was reviewing involving the improper storage of hazardous materials. The company ignored the notices until ticketed. If it has been warned of the possible revocation of its operational permit to conduct the activity, it would have given the jurisdiction added leverage. Since most departments and districts conduct yearly inspections of commercial structures anyway, additional inspections probably wouldn’t be required. If the company didn’t pass its inspection, it could be subject to a revocation of the permit. Faced with the possibility of losing its ability to conduct business, the business might be more likely to comply quickly. I created forms for operational permit applications and operational permits in my book, “The Fire Inspector’s Guide to Codes, Forms and Complaints”. The CD-Rom that comes with the book contains the forms in Word and PDF formats so the inspector can easily create forms for his or her local jurisdiction. You can access the link to the book by clicking on the “Linda’s Publications” tab at the top of this page.

Categories: Code Enforcement, Fire Prevention Tags:

Vacant v. Abandoned Buildings

April 18th, 2009 1 comment

What kind of a vacant building can an inspector enter without an administrative search warrant?  It really depends on the facts of each case.  Just because a building is vacant doesn’t mean that it is abandoned.  A vacant building that is secure demonstrates the owner’s reasonable expectation of privacy.  If a building is open to the elements where critters and neighborhood children enter at will, the owner may have no reasonable expectation of privacy, especially if he or she has left for parts unknown.  Each case has to be evaluated on its own merits. If you’re having trouble deciding whether the owner still has a reasonable expectation of privacy inside the structure, it probably indicates you should get an administrative search warrant for an inspection.  At the very least, an inspector should check with local counsel.

Categories: property maintenance Tags:

Webinar on Managing Distressed Properties for Code Officials

April 17th, 2009 No comments

I spent the morning at the ICC offices in Country Club Hills filming a webinar on foreclosure issues for code officials called “Managing Distressed Properties for Code Officials”.  So far, it looks like it will be broadcast May 12, August 7, September 28, October 14, December 8.  This webinar will be one of the trainings offered to Chapters as a benefit. I was pretty happy that I came within about 2 minutes of the time given to me for the content since I’d never taught this class before.   I’m covering foreclosure procedure, how to search property records for ownership, using the I-Codes for enforcement, condemnation, administrative search warrants, dealing with servicing companies and identifying responsible parties.  I’ll be available to answer questions on the days of the broadcasts in the middle and at the end. I discuss special problems in different regions like burst pipes in cold temperatures that lead to mold and swimming pools in warmer climates that become West Nile breeding grounds. I hope you get a chance to see it on the web.  Here’s the link for more information: http://www.iccsafe.org/government/chapters/eTrainingWebinars.html

Mold after pipes burst in vacant house

Mold after pipes burst in vacant house

Categories: training Tags:

Code Enforcement is Law Enforcement Part 3

April 17th, 2009 6 comments

Jake Slater, Director of the Department of Code Enforcement and Business Tax in Tampa, FL contacted me to comment on my most recent post about how code enforcement enhances law enforcement.  He told me that Tampa’s crime rate dropped -46% since 2003, an astonishing result.  He also asked me to survey my readers about studies conducted on the relationship between crime prevention and code enforcement.

I am looking at ways to more effectively track the performance measures for Code
Enforcement and would like to show the relationships between our systematic and
pro active code enforcement and the recently reported reduction of crime in the
City of Tampa.

In your travels and networking, please feel free to share my contact information with other local government officials

You can reach Jake at Jake.Slater@ci.tampa.fl.us   Also, please let me know about any studies that have been conducted in your jurisdictions on this topic.

Categories: Law Enforcement and Codes Tags:

Denying Permit for Good Intentions

April 13th, 2009 No comments

Sometimes a local jurisdiction ends up getting in trouble for denying a permit though it had honorable intentions.  In Vineyard Investments LLC v. City of Madison, 999 So.2d 438(2009), the city denied an application for a building permit because there was concern that the premises would be used for an unlawful use.  The plaintiff did not have a license for its intended use, a package retail wine and spirits store though it eventually received one. The application complied with all building and zoning requirements.  However, as is often the case, the concern about a future unlawful use was based on speculation, not facts.  The court ruled that the permit should have been issued. The lesson to be learned from this is that you can’t deny a permit because you are afraid there might be a violation of the code in the future.  If the application meets the code, the permit should be issued.  The city can then monitor the use to make sure it remains lawful.

Categories: Building Codes Tags:

Homes by Fannie Mae

April 7th, 2009 No comments

If you want to find out what houses are owned by Fannie Mae in your jurisdiction, go to http://reosearch.fanniemae.com/reosearch/

Once again credit goes to Kelly Anbach, code enforcement officer extraordinaire, from Hinsdale, IL who discovered this website and passed the information on to me.

Categories: Code Enforcement, Foreclosure Tags:

Code Enforcement is Law Enforcement Part 2

April 7th, 2009 No comments

I had the privilege of doing a seminar for MACE, the Missouri group for code inspectors, last month in Springfield, Missouri.  The members were energetic and a joy to instruct.  I especially enjoyed speaking with Gary Schlottach, a police officer/code enforcement officer with the Florissant Police Department.  He truly understands that strict code enforcement is law enforcement’s best friend.  He gave example after example of how the code department and police department successfully can work together to improve the quality of life in a community.  One of his ideas was checking with the local recorder of deeds to find out many other properties in other jurisdictions a troublesome landowner has and then contacting the authorities in those jurisdictions to find out if they’re experiencing problems too.  Sometimes it results in getting more up to date contact information or a joint effort to pressure the lawbreaker to become compliant.  Code enforcement inspectors with police training are very good at obtaining information from a variety of sources and are comfortable with obtaining administrative search warrants.  They also understand right of entry restrictions.  Gary knew all of the tricks. He was very generous with his time and advice and expressed an interest in sharing his knowledge with other departments.

Categories: Code Enforcement Tags:
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