‘Code Is The Code’

Standard For Inspecting Single, Multiple-Dwelling Homes Same

A multiple dwelling apartment building next to a single-family house is a common occurrence along Jamestown streets. City code enforcement officers use the same state and city zoning codes when inspecting an apartment building and a single-family home. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

It doesn’t matter if a house is a single-family or a multiple dwelling apartment building, city housing code enforcement officers inspect both in a similar fashion for housing violations.

Vince DeJoy, city development director, said there is no discrepancy between the two different types of housing, with the state and city zoning codes applying equally to both.

“There is not a different set of standards between owner-occupied and a rental or multiple dwelling. The code is the code and that is what we basically follow,” he said. “We are looking for the same health and safety issues at a single-family, owner-occupied property or a multiple dwelling.”

There are three occurrences that allows for a city code enforcement officer to inspect a property, whether it is a single-family or an apartment building. DeJoy said the most common time a property is inspected is when a complaint is filed. He said if it is an exterior issue like high grass, peeling paint or a structure issue, the code enforcement officer will inspect the outside of the property.

“We do a walk around. We don’t go inside. The only way we are allowed inside is if the homeowner invites us in,” he said. “If we feel there is an eminent safety issue and the owner will not allow us access, we have to go the extreme route to get a search warrant to go inside. That is more of a legal process we have to follow. Without being invited in, we don’t do a complete inspection of the property.”

DeJoy said another avenue allowed to inspect a property is if the homeowner invites the code enforcement officer to look at their house. He said that usually happens when a homeowner is asking the city for a Community Development Block Grant fund to improve their house.

“We do a complete interior and exterior testing, generally for lead,” he said. “The primary purpose with the grant funding is to eliminate code issues and health and safety issues. If there is bad electrical, no smoke detectors or needs a new roof, we address the code issues. It is not a fixer-up type situation (like on a TV show).”

The third way a code enforcement officer can inspect a house is during a targeted street sweep of an entire street or neighborhood. During a street sweep, code officers look at the exterior of each parcel on both sides of the street. Prior to the street sweep, city officials send notices to homeowners along the street that they will be performing exterior inspections of each parcel.

In the past, gateways into the city are areas of focus for parcel-to-parcel investigations.

DeJoy said the Jamestown City Council looks at options when it comes to improving rental properties, where the most of housing code violations occur, like with registration forms or inspection process. He said if the council passed any type of new policy dealing with the inspection of multiple dwellings, they would also need to provide the city’s Development Department with additional funding.

“If a new policy was put into our code, we would need additional funding because we would need additional human resources. It takes people and we don’t have the capacity in our department presently,” he said. “Any new type of program, we would need funding to pay for it.”