We try to resolve problems with the least intrusive method possible. Many violations are resolved without fines or a court appearance. Land Use Enforcement has several options for dealing with code violations. Our officers may:
Violations discovered through an application for a permit or other entitlement are generally resolved as part of the permit or entitlement process.
The Notice of Complaint letter advises a property owner that a complaint has been filed with Land Use Enforcement. It gives the property owner a 10 day "grace period" to correct any violations that may exist. After 10 days, an officer will inspect the property. If the property is in compliance, the case will be closed automatically. If the officer observes a code violation, he or she will issue either a Notice of Violation or a Charging Document.
The code does not require Land Use Enforcement to issue a Notice of Complaint letter. This is simply an attempt to resolve problems with the least trouble and public expense possible.
If you have received a Notice of Complaint and are not clear on what needs to be corrected, or believe that your property is in compliance with the code, please contact the issuing officer for a complete explanation. If the officer is in the field, leave your name and phone number on his or her voice mail. If a violation does exist, the officer will negotiate a reasonable time for you to correct the violation, and may also be able to suggest other administrative relief, such as establishing nonconforming (grandfather) rights or seeking a variance.
The Notice of Violation is a formal warning that an officer has observed a violation of the municipal code. The NOV gives Land Use Enforcement standing before the Administrative Hearings Officer, and is the beginning of the legal process.
If you have received an NOV, please contact the officer who issued it. If the officer is in the field, leave your phone number and the NOV number (printed in red at the top of the form, or at the top of a letter format NOV) on his or her voice mail. You may also speak with someone at 343-4141 during normal business hours. You may also respond in person at our office. Be sure to request the case tracking number for future reference.
We really prefer to resolve code violations in a friendly manner, and will give you a reasonable time to bring your property into compliance. But if you don't contact us, we assume that you don't care about the violation and don't intend to correct it. Then we have to take further enforcement actions to abate the violation.
Again, the first step in resolving the problem is to contact the officer. He or she will not only negotiate a reasonable time for you to correct the violation, but may also be able to suggest other administrative relief, such as establishing nonconforming (grandfather) rights or seeking a variance.
Administrative Hearings OfficeThe Administrative Hearings Office handles a variety of cases involving violations of civil and administrative codes. The Administrative Hearings Officer is appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Assembly.
The authority of the Administrative Hearings Officer derives from Title 14 of the municipal code. He or she acts much as a judge does in criminal proceedings. The Hearings Officer may impose fines and penalties set by the Assembly in AMC 14.60.030.
The Administrative Hearings Office is located in Suite 740 of City Hall. The phone number is 343-4535, and the fax number is 343-4541.
If a Notice of Violation is ignored or the violation is not corrected as promised, the officer will then file a Complaint of Municipal Code Violation (also known as a Charging Document or CD) with the defendant and the Administrative Hearings Office. The Charging Document will state the violation in detail and will also state the fines and penalties to be imposed. The Charging Document will list all violators as defendants (the definition of "violator" in AMC 21.25.010.C includes tenants as well as land owners.) If a defendant does not respond to the Charging Document, Land Use Enforcement will obtain a judgment by default. A defendant wishing to contest the charges must request a hearing before the Administrative Hearings Officer. At hearing, the Land Use Enforcement Officer presents evidence that a violation did occur. The defendant may challenge the evidence, introduce his own evidence and witnesses, or present other defenses. The Hearings Officer will then issue a ruling which may assess fines and penalties, prohibit similar violations for a period of three years and retain jurisdiction of the property during that time, and impose a fine of $250 per day for violation of the ruling.
Land Use Enforcement typically offers defendants the option of a Stipulated Order to avoid the time and expense of a hearing.
If you have received a Charging Document, you should contact the Administrative Hearings Office and request a hearing. Even if you intend to enter into a Stipulated Order you should request a hearing to prevent a default judgment and preserve your rights to a hearing.
A Stipulated Order is similar to a plea bargain in a criminal case. In a Stipulated Order, the defendant agrees that he violated the municipal code, that he will correct the violation by a date specified in the Order, and that he will not commit any similar violations for a period of three years. Land Use Enforcement then agrees to suspend part or all of the fines requested and to not pursue further legal action if the violation is corrected by the date specified. The Stipulated Order is legally an order from the Administrative Hearings Officer.
Enforcement Orders are authorized by AMC 21.25.030. They are automatically final unless appealed to the Zoning Board of Examiners and Appeals within 30 days. After the appeal period, violations of the enforcement order are assessed a fine of up to $250 per day under AMC 21.25.050.C.
If you have received an Enforcement Order and wish to appeal it, you must file your appeal with the Municipal Clerk within 30 days after notification of the decision being appealed, pursuant to AMC 21.30.110-160. The Clerk's office is located on the second floor of City Hall (632 W. 6th Avenue.)
Land Use Enforcement really prefers to resolve municipal problems through municipal processes. On rare occasions, an officer may issue a civil citation to bring the matter before the state District Court.