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Understanding Local Code Enforcement

What is Local Code Enforcement?

State and local governments enact housing and building codes to require that residential and commercial properties meet minimum health and safety standards.  To ensure compliance with housing and building codes, cities, towns, and counties engage in local code enforcement activities.  Code enforcement areas of interest can include:

Accessibility Codes

Construction Codes

Electrical Codes

Energy Codes

Exit and Egress Codes

Fire and Safety Codes

Fuel, Gas & Ventilation Codes

Lighting Codes

Material Codes

Mechanical Codes

Occupancy Codes

Plumbing Codes

Sanitation Codes

Sewage Disposal Codes

Structural Codes

Weatherproofing  Codes

Who is in Charge of Local Code Enforcement?

Counties and/or cities employ code enforcement officers that specialize in the prevention, detection, and enforcement of violations of laws.  These officers are a necessity to every single city and county jurisdiction.  A local code enforcement officer’s main responsibility is evaluating, educating, and enforcing local codes.  They enforce their jurisdiction’s established code requirements, ordinances, and zoning laws, as well as adopted codes such as state codes or model codes.  Unfortunately, the responsibilities and duties of code enforcement officers vary dramatically by jurisdiction and municipality. 

How are Building or Location Violations Reported?

Code complaints can come from citizens, other city departments, and outside agencies.  A local code enforcement officer will investigate the complaint.  If they confirm a violation, they will work with property owners to ensure that they comply with local regulations.  Voluntary compliance is usually the main goal for a code enforcement officer.

If the violation is a health or safety concern, the local government may make all reasonable repairs, although most likely they will charge the violator with the reasonable cost of the repairs.  They may also impose a lien or fine if the violation is not corrected in a specific amount of time.  Under Florida law, such fines shall not exceed $1,000 per day per violation for a first violation, $5,000 per day per violation for a repeat violation, and up to $15,000 per violation if the code enforcement board or special magistrate finds the violation to be irreparable or irreversible in nature.  Bottom line; fees for code violations can add up to serious fines if they are not addressed quickly.

What is the Process of Fighting a Code Violation?

Codes are in place for safety reasons, however, some violations can be unreasonable and have grounds to be contested.  Time is the essence of code violations.  The first thing to do is contact your city or code enforcement agency.  Minor violations can possibly be cleared up with a phone call.  It is wise to follow up with an email or letter so that you have proof in writing.  If the matter still isn’t cleared up, request a second inspection of the violation.

If a second inspection does not clear up the violation, it is time to speak to an experienced lawyer.  They can set up a hearing with the appropriate authorities.  There is usually a time limit on hearing requests, so it is wise to act quickly.  During the hearing, evidence can be submitted on your behalf, including photos, and inspector’s notes.  If the authorities still find you in violation, you may comply with the code or sue the city/municipality.

Defending Your Rights

I’m Rob Robinson, and I founded my law firm after spending over 30 years in Sarasota’s oldest and most prestigious law firm.  I have extensive experience and knowledge in local government and local code enforcement.  The sooner you contact my office, the sooner I can help you fight your violation before the Special Magistrate or Code Enforcement Board.  It is important that you be responsive once you receive a violation notice and are aware of the deadlines set forth in the notice.

As a solo practitioner, I can ensure that your code violation will be handled with individualized care and attention.

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