New Law Stings Code Violators

Nancie Cloe

Photo by Jay Thompson

(posted Apr 2)

The January 1, 2007 Unsafe Building Law now gives the City of Indianapolis a tool to stop habitual violators of unsafe building practices. Nancie Cloe, unsafe building project manager for the Department of Metropolitan Development, said the new law "is huge" for assisting the city in curbing unsafe building practices.

Cloe spoke to residents at the April 2 IMPD Northwest District Task Force meeting about the law that many people are not aware of. "It gave the city a chance to charge a civil penalty. You can be charged $2,500 at each hearing, and after the third time, the unpaid civil penalty will take the property to tax sale." Cloe said.

The law also prevents a relative from buying the violator's property. The violator is prohibited from buying property as long as he has outstanding cases against him. The violator is not without his due process. He has one year to pay everything back with interest on the property once it is sold at a tax sale. The law use to give the violator a two year redemption time.

She said the DMD contracts with Marion County Health and Hospital for inspections dealing with issues such as abandoned, unsafe building, and tall grass.

Although people can submit photos of the code violations, the inspectors actually must see the violation in case they take a violator to court. "The inspector must be able to give testimony," she said. Normally it takes 20 to 25 days to board up a property after the owner is given notice to take action, but the boarding process can happen in 24 to 48 hours if the property is attracting criminal activity making it a public safety issue. She encouraged people to attend the Marion County Health and Hospital hearings on repair orders and demolitions. "We urge every citizen to go to hearings to say the property is not helping the neighborhood. Speak up to us, speak up to hearing officers." The hearings are the first Wednesday of the month at 9:30 am and 1 pm at 3838 N. Rural Street.

She explained that building demolition can be a slow process because it requires notifying all of the lien holders about the demolition hearing. She said any of the lien holders has the right to stop the process.

The city is not totally intolerable to code violators as long as some kind of effort to communicate is being made. Low income residents that are unable to maintain their property can call Cloe and she will try to steer them to the right agencies to assist them.

The audience was unaware that the unsafe building law does not have a time constraint for how long a building can remain abandoned. A building can remain vacant forever as long as the basement and ground floor follow code with windows unbroken, doors closed and grass mowed.

IMPD Northwest Neighborhood Resource Officer Matt Grimes said he has been working on homes that have been abandoned since 1999. Cloe said it would require state legislation to create a time limit on abandoned and vacant buildings.

For building violations, contact Cloe at 327-7607.