What are Municipal Code Violations?
According to the Municipal Code, a code violation is anything that threatens public safety and/or the living and working environment. In the case of construction, anything related to the remodeling or improving of a building without acquiring construction permits through the City or County Building Departments constitutes a code violation, even if it does not threaten the public in any way. Any construction related changes made in any dwelling no matter what size need to be submitted at the City or County of jurisdiction for review and approval, no matter who is making the changes or how small the changes are.
The Code Enforcement Departments in any City and County are the ones in charge of making sure the public follows the municipal code regulations. In the case of construction, they are in charge of investigating code violations with regards to habitability conditions. For a list of issues enforced by the Code Enforcement Department, visit the Neighborhood Code Compliance website of your city or county.
Sometimes, homes with non-permitted room additions have code violation cases filed against them which remain open until plans for the non-permitted improvement are submitted and approved by the City or County Code Enforcement and Building Departments. These non-permitted improvements vary and they can be as minimal as the addition of an electric outlet, the removal of a sink or the installation of a new window or door. Anything and everything you want to do in your home related to construction, even if it is not a full blown home remodel or addition, needs to be reviewed and approved by the City and/or County Building Departments, whichever has jurisdiction. If the owner does not acquire a permit from the City or County Building Departments and the Code Enforcement Officials file a case against the property, it can take a long time and a lot of work and money to close that case. Very often when a client hires me to prepare home design projects for him/her, I find out through my research that there is an open case on his/her property of which nobody was aware.
There are situations in which those Code Violation Cases are very old because the homeowner chose to ignore the letters and notices from the Code Enforcement Officials and there are also cases where the homeowner buys the property and finds out later and by accident that there is a Code Violation Case open on his/her property which should have been disclosed before he/she purchased the property. I have had clients who have purchased houses with very old pending cases, some of them already on the desk of the City Attorney and the new owner was never informed before purchasing the property. This is just another reason why everybody should do research on the properties they are interested in buying.
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