Ask the County Law Librarian – Neglected Homes
Q: My neighbors moved out a couple of months ago because they were facing foreclosure. They left the house a mess! The yard is totally overgrown, there’s a pile of junk in the driveway, and I’m afraid the pool is going to start growing mosquitoes now that the weather is warming up. Is there anything I can do?
A: Unfortunately, you are not alone in this situation. The Sacramento Bee reports that there are thousands of vacant homes in Sacramento, many of which are severely neglected by their owners. According to City estimates, approximately 60 percent of these abandoned properties are bank-owned.
To help combat this growing problem, Sacramento enacted its Vacant Building Ordinance in 2007. Under this law, property owners are required to actively maintain and monitor their property. This maintenance requirement applies equally to individuals, banks, or corporate owners. The Ordinance defines “maintenance and monitoring” as maintaining the exterior of the building, including keeping paint and other finishes in good condition; maintaining landscaping and plants; regularly removing trash and graffiti; keeping the building in compliance with all codes and regulations; and preventing crime and gang activity on the premises. The law also requires posting of the owner’s name and contact information on the front of the building. Vacant buildings not meeting these standards may be considered a public nuisance.
Under Sacramento’s Vacant Building Ordinance, a property owner may be cited with administrative penalties if their property is vacant and not well-maintained for 30 days. The owner can be cited every 30 days until the property is brought into compliance. The initial penalty can be as much as $1000, and up to $5000 for each subsequent penalty. Additionally, the property owner will be charged a $150 monthly monitoring fee, as well as $150 each time a building inspector is called to the property.
If you believe your neighbor’s house does not meet the standards described in the Vacant Building Ordinance, you can file a Code Violation Complaint online or by calling 311. Your complaint will prompt a City inspector to visit the property, and begin the enforcement process. Hopefully this will encourage the owner to clean up the property.
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