DESCRIPTION OF THE STRATEGY
Code enforcement activities that generate revenues sufficient to cover their costs can avoid the unpredictability of legislative appropriations and minimize the variability in staff or resources that impede enforcement efforts. Governments can adopt ordinances that impose either minimal annual fees or per-unit inspection fees on multi-unit dwellings. Such fees, along with revenues from code enforcement penalties that benefit the program (rather than revert to the jurisdiction’s general fund) can provide sufficient resources to expand code inspection programs and improve their effectiveness. States also can make matching grant programs available to local governments to support their building code enforcement efforts.
Reduction in lead hazards in housing resulting from deteriorated paint, and correction of underlying problems, such as roofing or plumbing leaks, that cause paint to flake and peel.
Reduction in the number of children exposed to lead hazards.
Improvement in the appearance of rental properties and the community in general.
Scope of Potential Impact
City - or - County - Wide
|Building or Code Inspection Agency||Health Department|
The funding mechanism would not have dedicated staff, but the size of the code enforcement staff will be affected by the amount of dedicated funds it yields.
Other resource requirements:
Databases for registering properties and tracking inspections, reinspections, compliance, and penalties.
This strategy requires appropriate legislative or regulatory authority for a code enforcement system and professional trained inspectors. In addition to fines and penalties for non-compliance, an effective code enforcement system should also have a property registration process, regular inspections (every 3-5 years), and re-inspections to ensure compliance.
If the dedicated funding resource is based on registrations, requirements must be reasonable to allow owners of rental properties to achieve compliance. In addition, the added costs to owners should not be a permissible burden on tenants: the amount that can be passed on to them should be capped.
There are no specific timing issues.
Moderate. Feasibility may depend on the willingness and ability of the governmental entity to establish and maintain dedicated funds. In some states and localities, special funds are the norm; in others they are the exception. If the dedicated fund is based on fees and fines, it can be promoted as a payment for services rendered. Some opponents will characterize it as a form of increased taxes on the owners of rental properties.
One potential obstacle is opposition to new fees if the dedicated fund is established based on fees and fines. Therefore, the fees must be kept to the minimum needed to establish and maintain the fund, and the basis and justification for the new fund must be clear and convincing, based on facts about housing and health conditions.
Second, property owners are likely to object to new or enhanced housing inspections. Public education and outreach must convince decision-makers that (1) inspections are crucial to relieving documented housing conditions that threaten the health and safety of the occupants; and (2) a more professional code enforcement program featuring registration of rental properties, scheduled inspections timed so that property owners can anticipate them, and consistent enforcement processes will provide greater predictability and objectivity as well as accountability for compliance.
Third, the goals of decent housing condition and lead safety must take precedence over zealousness to garner revenues from penalties (to hire more staff to collect more fines, etc.). Orders to comply without financial penalty should be vigorously pursued since in many cases the limited resources of the owner would be better spent on correcting violations rather than paying fines. Fines must be set high enough to motivate property owners to cooperate with enforcement staff as well as preemptively invest in their properties.