What is code compliance and why do we need it?
The Code of Ordinances of the City of North Liberty, Iowa (referred to here as the City Code) has been adopted by the City Council and is designed to preserve and improve the peace, safety, health, welfare, comfort, and convenience of its residents. Code compliance is the process of ensuring the City Code is enforced as intended: effectively, efficiently, and fairly. Compliance with the City Code helps ensure a positive effect on property value and community appearance. While the City is tasked with ensuring code compliance, it is ultimately the North Liberty property owners, tenants, and businesses who are responsible for the maintenance of property and the overall aesthetic appearance of the city.
What is the point of these procedures?
The City of North Liberty Code Compliance Procedures were developed to ensure an equitable and transparent code compliance process. These Procedures will act as a guide for code compliance staff and inform North Liberty property owners, tenants, and businesses about the code compliance process.
What is the vision of the Code Compliance Procedures?
The City’s mission is to provide North Liberty residents, tenants and business owners with high quality service and ensure compliance with the City Code, which is designed to preserve and improve the peace, safety, health, welfare, comfort, and convenience of its residents.
The primary goals of the code compliance process are education and voluntary compliance. The role of code compliance staff is to educate the community about the City Code and work collaboratively to come into compliance. In rare circumstances, City staff must use other measures to ensure compliance. The code compliance process is outlined in these Procedures.
The primary objectives of the code compliance process include the following:
- Educate North Liberty residents, business owners, and stakeholders about the City Code and work collaboratively to obtain voluntary compliance.
- Perform code compliance duties in a fair, professional, and courteous manner.
- Periodically review and amend the City Code to ensure rules and regulations achieve consistency with community standards.
What types of complaints do code compliance staff investigate?
- Life, health, and safety violations such as substandard or unsafe buildings.
- Public nuisances such as trash, debris, inoperable, and unlicensed vehicles on private property.
- Tall grass/weeds.
- Failing to remove snow/ice from sidewalks.
- Failing to obtain proper permits.
- Zoning and land use violations.
- Unauthorized signs in the city right-of-way.
What types of complaints does code compliance staff not regulate?
- Civil issues not directly involving the City (i.e., landlord-tenant disputes, fence or boundary lines between properties, trees encroaching onto neighboring properties, etc.).
- Homeowner’s Association (HOA) or restrictive covenant issues.
What is the code compliance process?
Code compliance initiation
The initiation of the code compliance process may be reactive or proactive. In many circumstances, code compliance staff is contacted and is notified of a violation. Complaints may remain anonymous or a name and number may be provided so there can be subsequent contact. Code compliance staff will not identify the person who initiated the compliant unless required to do so by law.
Complaints are prioritized by severity of the potential code violation, and then investigated by code compliance staff. In certain circumstances code compliance staff will initiate the code compliance process if a violation is observed. For example, a similar code violation on an adjacent property may be observed by code compliance staff during an investigation.
If no code violation is observed, the case is closed.
If a code violation is observed, then the process proceeds to step 2.
Courtesy notification of code violation
If code compliance staff observes a code violation, a courtesy letter is sent to the responsible party indicating the violation(s). The letter explains the code violation(s) and requests corrective action within a certain amount of time, depending on severity of the violation. The letter also provides the contact information of the investigating code compliance staff is there are questions or additional time is necessary. Code compliance staff may make contact in person or by telephone or email if that information is readily available.
Code compliance staff will perform a re-inspection after the specified time period for corrective action. If corrective action has been taken, the case is closed. Code compliance staff will notify the property owner, tenant or business owner that the case is closed.
If corrective action is not taken within the specified time period, then the process proceeds to step 3.
Notice of code violation
If the violation(s) are not corrected within the amount of time specified in the courtesy notification, code compliance staff will send a formal notice to the responsible party, via certified mail, indicating the violation(s). The letter explains the code violation(s), requires corrective action within a certain amount of time, depending on severity of the violation, and specifies the penalty (i.e., issuance of a citation and payment of a fine or abatement by the City with costs assessed to the responsible party). The letter also provides the contact information of the investigating code compliance staff if there are questions or additional time is necessary and if there is a right to appeal.
Certain code violations require timely corrective action. For example, it is the responsibility of the abutting property owners to clear snow and ice accumulations from public sidewalks within forty-eight (48) hours after cessation of such accumulation. Code compliance staff will attempt to notify the responsible party with a door hanger notice. The City may remove or cause removal of accumulated snow and ice and assess the costs to the property owner.
In rare circumstances, code violations constitute an imminent public safety and health hazard (i.e., unpermitted and active construction), which may require immediate action by the City without prior written notice. This is normally in the form of a posted “Stop Work Order”.
Code compliance staff will perform a re-inspection after the specified time period for corrective action. If corrective action has been taken, the case is closed. Code compliance staff will notify the property owner, business owner or tenant that the case is closed.
Please note that a notification letter might not be written when code compliance is readily apparent, such as clearing of snow and ice accumulation and tall grass/weeds.
If corrective action is not taken within the specified time period, then the process proceeds to step 4.
Issuance of a municipal infraction or abatement by the City
If the violation(s) are not corrected within the specified time frame, code compliance staff will issue a citation to the responsible party, via certified mail or through personal service, indicating the violation(s) and providing a time in which to admit or deny the violation has taken place. If the violation is denied, then the matter will be set for trial at the District Court for Johnson County in Iowa City.
For certain violations, in lieu of the municipal infraction, the City may simply perform the required action and assess the costs against the property owner for collection in the same manner as a property tax. There are no fines or penalties associated with this process.
The City has limited resources in both staffing and funding to manage all complaints and violations. The City has the right to choose how best to use its resources and depending upon the nature of the violation and impact on the peace, safety, health, welfare, comfort, and convenience of its residents.