Monday, November 24, 2014

Virginia Maintencance Code Education

1.) A Little Education on Virginia Maintenance Code - What Code Enforcers Can And Can’t Do. Direct Quotes From Their Bible

Some of this may be boring to you because it cites specific parts of code but much of it is important  as it outlines your freedom parameters as a landlord.

The Virginia Maintenance Code Dictates The Way Code Officials Operate. Take This Paragraph.

G. G. Exemptions from rental inspection ordinance. Upon the initial or periodic inspection of a residential rental dwelling unit subject to a rental inspection ordinance for compliance with the Building Code, provided that there are no violations of the Building Code that affect the safe, decent and sanitary living conditions for the tenants of such residential rental dwelling unit, the building department shall provide, to the owner of such residential rental dwelling unit, an exemption from the rental inspection ordinance for a minimum of four years.

There is a problem with enforcers searching properties over and over several times a year: If you have a property that has a valid rental exemption certificate it can’t be checked for any reason other than getting a call from someone that there is a problem there. It is exempt from a rental inspection for 4 years minimum.

F2. Periodic inspections. Except as provided in subdivision F 1, following the initial inspection of a residential rental dwelling unit subject to a rental inspection ordinance, the building department may inspect any residential rental dwelling unit in a rental inspection district, that is not otherwise exempted in accordance with this section, no more than once each calendar year.

The building department has the right to inspect any property in a rental inspection district at most once a year as long as it is not otherwise exempt (by rental exemption certificate). This law was put in place to prevent code enforcement from picking out people and harassing them. This was designed for protection of the people from rouge enforcers.

E. Provisions for initial and periodic inspections of multifamily dwelling units. If a multifamily development has more than 10 dwelling units, in the initial and periodic inspections, the building department shall inspect only a sampling of dwelling units, of not less than two and not more than 10 percent of the dwelling units, of a multifamily development, which includes all of the multifamily buildings which are part of that multifamily development. In no event, however, shall the building department charge a fee authorized by this section for inspection of more than 10 dwelling units. If the building department determines upon inspection of the sampling of dwelling units that there are violations of the Building Code that affect the safe, decent and sanitary living conditions for the tenants of such multifamily development, the building department may inspect as many dwelling units as necessary to enforce the Building Code…

There is a problem with enforcers knocking on all the doors of a multifamily house and trying to get in all of them when only one evictee called. They then give them legal advice and arm them for a court case against you: If your property has more than 10 units, enforcers can inspect a sampling of the units and if they determine that there are safety or sanitary related Building Code issues they can search as many units as they want. Code doesn’t reference anything under 10 units so they have NO right to search anything other than the unit that was called about.

36-105 - Relevant issues pertaining to enforcement of code, tenant complaints, the issuance of inspection warrants.

C. 2. Complaints by tenants. However, upon a finding by the local building department, following a complaint by a tenant of a residential dwelling unit that is the subject of such complaint, that there may be a violation of the unsafe structures provisions of the Building Code, the local building department shall enforce such provisions.

There is a problem with code enforcers continually citing properties that have a valid rental certificate with items that are not immediate and imminent hazards. This essentially says that if a tenant complains the building department needs to enforce code if there is a “building code” violation. Not "property maintenance" code violation. These are issues that are “immediate and imminent hazards". Not mold in the bathroom caulk that the tenant hasn’t been cleaning. Or a kick hole in the wall that the tenant made. The person IS going to die right away if something isn’t done is an immediate and imminent hazard. The Immediate or imminent hazard terminology is all over Virginia Code regarding this matter. And our politicians put it there to again, protect people from Rogue Enforcers. The definition of these words is crystal clear and there is no room for ambiguity.

36-105 C3 -  Virginia Maintenance Code
3. Inspection warrants. If the local building department receives a complaint that a violation of the Building Code exists that is an immediate and imminent threat to the health or safety of the owner, tenant, or occupants of any building or structure, or the owner, occupant, or tenant of any nearby building or structure, and the owner, occupant, or tenant of the building or structure that is the subject of the complaint has refused to allow the local building official or his agent to have access to the subject building or structure, the local building official or his agent may make an affidavit under oath before a magistrate or a court of competent jurisdiction and request that the magistrate or court grant the local building official or his agent an inspection warrant to enable the building official or his agent to enter the subject building or structure for the purpose of determining whether violations of the Building Code exist. After issuing a warrant under this section, the magistrate or judge shall file the affidavit in the manner prescribed by § 19.2-54. After executing the warrant, the local building official or his agents shall return the warrant to the clerk of the circuit court of the city or county wherein the inspection was made. The local building official or his agent shall make a reasonable effort to obtain consent from the owner, occupant, or tenant of the subject building or structure prior to seeking the issuance of an inspection warrant under this section.

So in the case of an enforcer going rogue and paying special attention to you, if you give them a trespassing notice you are essentially barring them from the property and not allowing access. In the bar notices that I have given it allows the enforcer to contact me or my contractor to set up an appointment to meet at the unit but not to step foot on it otherwise.

As you see in the code, if the owner OR tenant of the building refuse to allow the official access they can get a warrant. A legal process that our founding fathers put in place which still allows the government access to a property for pretty much any reason as long as the magistrate or a court has decided that they see it fit to do so. These are the same protections that people have from police entering their property. It prevents the bad ones from going rogue and is necessary in our society. Roanoke City Code Enforcers do not have powers greater than police officers as they think.

An enforcer has the right to inspect your property when a tenant being evicted calls and if you refuse by being forced to let them know that they are trespassing due to feeling that the enforcer is working against you than they have every right to follow the law and get an inspection warrant. The law clearly says the owner, occupant OR tenant. Any of the 3 not allowing access requires an inspection warrant. It does not say owner, occupant and/or tenant.
Legal disclaimer time: I’m not a lawyer.
2nd legal disclaimer: But I can read.

The code enforcement department seems to think that they have the right to enter your property even if you sent a trespassing notice to the enforcer as long as the tenant says OK. NOPE. The law is clear that any of the above says no and they can take their next step in the process which would be to get an inspection warrant which will require an immediate and imminent hazard to get.

The objective here is to always provide safe, clean and habitable housing for your customers. And in the same time prevent rogue enforcers from overstepping their scope of duty.

The Contentions Are:
1. That enforcers have no right allowed by law to inspect any property with a valid rental certificate without a complaint by someone. We were protected by these laws from rogue inspectors.

2. Another thing being that code enforcers have no right outlined by law to search any other apartment in a place that is 10 units or less if it has a valid rental exemption certificate in the case that a tenant being evicted called on a particular unit to get revenge. That unit ONLY can be inspected, unless there are further complaints by other tenants. They can’t approach the other tenants, that have no problems, demanding to enter their unit.

3. Another being that if the owner has notified them that they will be trespassing if they enter the property in an attempt to protect him or herself from the rogue enforcer, than the enforcer has the remaining option of an inspection warrant. And they have no option of breaking the law by entering the property regardless of the trespassing notification.

4. And that an inspection warrant is only justified if there is reason to believe that there are "immediate and imminent threats" to the health or safety of the occupants. Immediate and imminent threats do not include a tenant punch hole in the wall, a rip in the vinyl floor from them moving stuff around, etc.

Facts, Facts, Facts that  are denied by Roanoke City code enforcement. Sorry code that it doesn’t say what you want it to say.


Post a Comment


Real Estate Investors of Virginia. Copyright 2009 All Rights Reserved