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Enforcing Compliance with Posted Street Numbering

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Reviewed Date: February 08, 2017

Original Author: 
Hemsley, Sid
Date of Material: 
Oct 18, 1991

Emergency communications
Streets--Naming and numbering

Enforcing Compliance with Posted Street Numbering

MTAS was asked whether other cities have ordinances that guarantee posting of street numbers.

Knowledgebase-Enforcing Compliance with Posted Street Numbering October 18, 1991

Your letter of October 4 indicates that the city has achieved voluntary compliance of around ninety percent in the posting of street numbers for E911 purposes, but asks whether other cities have "workable/enforceable" ordinances that "guarantee posting" [presumably on part of the remaining ten percent].

Your problem is not unique; nearly every city that has a street numbering system ordinance has difficulty in obtaining complete voluntary compliance. In fact, that you have achieved ninety percent voluntary compliance is an outstanding accomplishment. Our research showed that virtually all Tennessee cities fall down in the area of street numbering enforcement, including those with E911 systems. Public education is the most used tool to encourage compliance, even among those cities that have adopted street numbering ordinances. Unfortunately, a street numbering system is workable only to the extent that it is enforced.

I checked your code for a street numbering ordinance and did not find one. There is no doubt that it is within the power of a city to pass such an ordinance, in this case, because house and business numbering is essential to an effective E911 system. I am enclosing samples of street numbering ordinances from several cities; Maryville's is probably the one that deserves the most attention. But all of them are workable and enforceable only to the extent that the city makes them so. The same is true with respect to a guarantee of number posting. It sounds to me like the carrot has been very successful on the part of ninety percent of the residents and businesses in the city but that perhaps at least a portion of the remaining ten percent need the stick.

The city could widely publicize the passage of such an ordinance, accompanied by a warning that it will be strictly enforced. The ordinance could include a provision that the owners of houses and businesses not properly numbered have a fixed deadline to become properly numbered. That will probably take care of a part of the ten percent. The remainder will be encouraged by citing violators of the ordinance into city court.

If I can help you further in this or any other matter, please let me know.


Sidney D. Hemsley
Senior Law Consultant

Reference Document(s): 

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