DNS Enforcement Section
With over 42,000 orders per year issued, someone is not going to meet with compliance. The enforcement section, better known as the court section, is charged with taking unresolved orders and citations to correct violations to court. Typically this group is responsible for serving summons, verifying property conditions prior to court and reviewing the paper work required by the court.
Since most of the violations are well documented, the department wins most of the cases with an average forfeiture of $820. Once the fine is assessed, the owner can pay the fine or appeal the case. If the fine is unpaid past the deadline, an arrest warrant is issued.
Paying the fine in lieu of doing the repair is not an alternative. After a fine is imposed or a warrant is issued in municipal court, the process begins anew and orders are reissued with new deadlines for compliance. The department at this point will probably use the reinspection fee code in lieu of prosecution at this point. Repeated violations can also result in a nuisance condition. In extreme cases the City has taken complete control of the property. This can result in the eviction of all tenants, the completion of all repairs, the operation of a business with all the costs incurred by the City deducted from the profits BEFORE control of the property is returned to the owner. If the building is in severe disrepair, the City could demolish the structure and sue the owner for the costs.
The best way to avoid a court proceeding is to work with the inspector. Establish good communication! By following the orders and deadlines attached to it, reasonable people will do the right thing. If you feel that the inspector is being unreasonable, ask to talk to the supervisor. If both the supervisor and the inspector agree on the course of action, it is best to act or you will be explaining your case to a judge in court.
What Can I Do Now?
DNS has issued orders, the landlord is going to court, the property still looks terrible...what more can I do? Neighbors can still help their cause by taking the time to fill out a DNS Neighborhood Impact Statement. This statement is presented to the judge at sentencing. It helps to determine the amount of the forfeiture the judge will set. The more people that voice their concerns, the greater the possible fine, and less chance the landlord will attempt to conduct "business as usual". With the added information, neighbors can have a direct involvement in determining the outcome of the case after the City has presented its case to the court. The statement needs to be focused, direct, and to the point. Here is a sample and where to send your comments to: NEIGHBORHOOD IMPACT STATEMENT
Often landlords can avoid complaints by keeping illegal activity out of their property. The department offers FREE training on a regular basis to those owning or managing property. See the Landlord Training Program for more information.