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Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS)

Slum Clearance

Reference Number: MTAS-91
Reviewed Date: 12/16/2022

The Slum Clearance and Redevelopment Act, T.C.A. §§ 13-21-101, et seq., provides authority for municipalities to adopt ordinances relating to structures within the city that are unfit for human occupation or use. The statute requires that the ordinance designate a public officer to exercise the ordinance’s prescribed powers. Upon his or her own motion, or a petition filed by five citizens, this officer may conduct an initial investigation of the condition of the property. If the preliminary investigation discloses a basis for charges, the officer shall serve the owner with a complaint stating the charges and containing a notice of a public hearing to be held not less than 10 days or more than 30 days from the date the complaint is served. Following the hearing, the officer may order the owner to either repair or demolish the structure, consistent with the provisions of the law located at T.C.A. § 13-21-103.

If the owner fails to comply with the order, and the condition of the structure warrants such action, the officer may post at the main entrance of the building a placard stating: "This building is unfit for human occupancy or use. The use or occupation of this building for human occupation or use is prohibited and unlawful." The officer may undertake the repair or demolition of the structure and assess those costs against the owner. The sum owed, upon being certified to the municipal tax collector, becomes a lien on the property. A notice of lien should also be filed with the register of deeds. The costs shall be collected by the municipal tax collector or county trustee at the same time and in the same manner as property taxes. These costs also may be collected in an action for debt filed in a court of competent jurisdiction.

Violation of an order to vacate a building that has been found unfit for human occupation or use is a Class B misdemeanor. Additionally, any owner, manager, or person responsible for a structure declared unfit for human occupation or use who authorizes or facilitates the occupancy of the structure commits a Class B misdemeanor.