|Legal Opinion: |
Text of Document: April 12, 1996
This letter is in response to your request for a summary of your city's slum clearance ordinance. Your city has adopted the sample ordinance referencing and implementing T.C.A. § 13-21-101 et seq. The ordinance (and statute) is fairly straightforward and should always be consulted before taking action, however, I will hit the highlights below.
1. The town should designate a public officer to exercise the powers of the statute if it has not done so already. This position should probably be filled by the town's code enforcement officer.
2. Slum clearance proceedings may be initiated by either a petition being filed with the public officer by a public authority or by at least five (5) residents or by the public officers own initiative that any structure is unfit for human occupation or use.
3. The public officer should conduct a preliminary investigation. If such investigation reveals a basis for the charges, then a complaint shall be served upon the owners of the structure stating the charges.
4. The complaint should also give notice that a hearing will be held before the public officer at a time and place fixed in the complaint, not less than ten (10), nor more than thirty (30) days after the complaint is served.
5. After the notice and the hearing, if the public officer determines that the structure is unfit for human occupation he shall issue a written finding of fact to the owners. The basis for a finding of unfitness shall be if conditions exist in such structure which are dangerous or injurious to the health and safety of the occupants or neighbors. These conditions may include fire hazards, lack of adequate ventilation, lack of sanitary facilities, dilapidation, disrepair, structural defects, and uncleanliness.
6. The public officer shall then serve upon the owners an order: (1) to repair the structure within a specified time period; or (2) if the repair, alteration, or improvement of said structure cannot be made at a reasonable cost in relation to the value of the structure (exceeds fifty percent (50%) (exceeds a certain percentage set by ordinance of such cost as being reasonable for such purpose), to remove or demolish the structure.
7. If the officer owner fails to comply with the order of the public officer, the public officer may cause such to be repaired or demolished depending upon the original order.
8. The city may then file a notice with the office of registers of deeds, which shall constitute a lien on the property in favor of the municipality. The costs are then added to the tax rolls of the town and may be collected in the same manner as delinquent property taxes.
There is also one provision of your ordinance that may need amending. Under Section 202 Definitions, the definition of "structure" should read as follows: "means any dwelling or place of accommodation or vacant building or structure suitable as a dwelling or place of public accommodation." An amendment to the statute was passed last year that added "or vacant building." This amendment should be made to the ordinance before attempting to clean up any structure that is not a place of public accommodation or that is non-residential.
I will be happy to answer any questions you have regarding the enforcement of this ordinance or any matter. Thanks for asking MTAS to help.
MTAS Legal Consultant