Code Enforcement Laws Have Changed: Hallandale Beach Has Been Reestablishing and Expanding Their Code Division
March 16, 2023
Last week I began a summary of about two complex processes within our City. One is permitting and the other is Code Enforcement. Once a Code Violation has been issued, property owners need to address the code deficiency right away. In the past, we had issued warnings. This resulted in a patchwork of different scenarios without much results in making sure properties were maintained. Last year the Commission went to a policy of no warnings for certain violations.
Code Enforcement Officers are assigned to different quadrants of the City. They can receive Code complaints in a few different ways. One is by direct complaints filed by residents via phone call or email. The other is through our myHBApp. Residents and tenants for years could file complaints anonymously. Two years ago the State changed this policy.
State legislators made it illegal to file complaints anonymously. This means Code Officers cannot act on these complaints. On one hand this policy is very chilling. Residents and tenants who want to report violations no longer have their privacy shielded. This means either they do not complain, or they do so at the chance of being retaliated against. On the other hand, residents cannot weaponize our Code Enforcement Team to retaliate against board members, owners or other businesses. This means our code officers need to work even harder to ensure that all properties are safe and maintained.
Officers do this by inspecting their respective quadrants. Over the past few years, we have been reestablishing and expanding our Code Division. In addition to no more anonymous complaints, we have keenly focused on illegal dumping and trash issues. We have actually hired two officers to specifically monitor dumping and trash in our right of ways.
Notice of Violations (NOV) are issued to the property owner in the form of a Civil Citation. It will reference the Code Violation/s and time frame of which it needs to be corrected. One of the newest enforcement changes is the placement of trash and bulk at the curb. There has always been a rule that nothing can be put at the curb until the night before pickup. The difference now is that we are fully enforcing this provision. Some individuals have been caught off guard with this change. While it has created some issues, the main goal is to keep our right of ways clean and to discourage illegal dumping.
NOVs depending on what they entail may be given one day or more to correct the issues. The best example is work without a Permit. The property-owner is issued the ticket, but they still must file for a permit. Depending on the work being done will depend on the length of time it will take to get a Permit. In this case so long as the owner is moving forward an extension may be granted.
So, what happens if you do not correct the violation? If the Code official goes out to the property and sees it is not corrected. You then are issued a notice to appear. The Special Magistrate will rule on the case and may provide an extension or rule that a Fine will be applied to the property. Fines that accrue will become a Lien against the property. In some cases the Lien can become a Tax Lien.
This is where many neighboring residents become frustrated. As a City there are Code Violations that we can fix. The super majority cannot. Grass cutting, clearing and pool cleaning are NOVs where we as the City can go onto the property and fix. The cost of these violations go onto the property owner's Tax Bill. All others just continue to accumulate.
The ultimate goal of Code Enforcement is to bring properties into compliance. In the best scenario, the property violations are corrected and Code Enforcement closes the case. While we use Fines towards this goal there are some cases that just end up accumulating large amounts. So what happened with all those fines?
Cities have the ability to mitigate Fines. Recently we adopted changes to our procedures. These streamlined and clarified our process. The state also changed how cities can handle Code Mitigation. This change was due to a lawsuit in which the Appellate Court ruled that Special Magistrates can no longer be used to appeal mitigations. The process now requires that staff can mitigate and if property owners want to appeal they must do so through the City Manager.
Property owners must file a formal application to Mitigate Fine/s. The forms are all online and submitted to the Code Official with a Petition Fee of $150.00. Each violation needs to be requested individually. They will evaluate various mitigating factors, the first being that the property is up to code. If an owner has many properties all must be up to code before proceeding. They will look at Homestead Status, basis for the request, if there is a unique hardship, rental status, other Code Violations and if there are other court proceedings. After the evaluation the Director of Sustainable Development can rule.
Mitigation will begin at 5% for Homesteaded properties. Non-Homestead excluding rental property at 15% and rental properties at 20%. Other factors will include whether the property is part of a Neighbor Improvement Program in which fines can be reduced to $1,000.00. Due to COVID-19, accrual of Fines between 11/10/2019 and 6/16/2021 will also be a mitigating factor. In the event of a hardship for example a family death, Fines can be reduced 100%.
After this process is exhausted the property owner may appeal to the City Manager by filing an appeal with all information and a Filing Fee of $250.00.
Code Enforcement is complex but necessary. Cities are bound by State Laws when it comes to Property Code Enforcement. The balance is protecting Public Health and safety versus private property rights. We have continued to fine tune the processes to make sure that property owners that do maintain their homes and businesses are not burdened with the costs of those that don’t. We should all do our part in maintaining our properties since poor conditions impact everyone’s property values and quality of life.
As always, I am available for your questions, concerns and ideas to help make our City a better place. Please feel free to reach out at my Office: (954) 457-1318. On my Cell/Text at: (954) 632-5700. Or email me at: email@example.com.