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Proposed ordinance defines unsafe homes, clarifies process

A new ordinance being considered by the Troy City Council would define what an “unsafe home” is, replacing current phrasing that leaves that determination up to the judgment of the building official.

Troy Building Official Chuck Ingram said clarifying the reasons a home would be deemed unsafe in black and white would strengthen the enforcement of repairs or demolition.

The existing ordinance reads: “Whenever the appropriate city official finds that any building, structure, part of building or structure, party wall or foundation situated in the city is unsafe for an cause to the extent that it is a public nuisance …” the building official would notify them that the home must be repaired or demolished.

“That just isn’t a definition,” Ingram said. “It shouldn’t be put on the building official, it needs to be defined as what would be deemed unsafe.”

Ingram said enforcing the ordinance is important as it is a matter of “public safety and welfare.”

“One of the reasons a home could be deemed unsafe under this ordinance is lack of ingress or egress,” Ingram said. “Obviously, if you can’t get out of the house, that’s become an unsafe building.”

There are plenty of other ways in which a building could become unsafe too, Ingram said, from a hole in the wall that could let in people and animals to a lack of proper utilities.

There are nine total categories that a home can be deemed unsafe under. They include failure to meet code at the time it was built, ingress or egress issues from the building, any deficiency in what the building is being used for, a structural deficiency that would allow people or animals to enter the residence, 25 percent of a non-supporting exterior having a structural deficiency, inadequate utilities, inability to be serviced by fire or police personnel, and remaining structure on a property following demolition or removal of a building.

“It’s important for people that own homes and own property, that either rent that property or live on that property, people expect their neighbors to keep things in a safe condition,” said Mayor Jason Reeves. “This is to make sure that that happens. We end up a lot of times with absentee landlords or property owners and we get dilapidated situations. This would tighten that up.”

Ingram said unsafe buildings can impact neighbors in a variety of ways from bad smells and health issues to a drop in home values.

In addition to protecting other residents near unsafe buildings, Reeves said the additional language also protects property owners.

“We wanted to be as specific as possible with not having things left so much to interpretation, Reeves said “This allows the building official to point to something very specific in the ordinance that causes the building to be unsafe; people will have an opportunity to remedy this and be given very specific reasons why it has been deemed unsafe.”

Any property owner with a building deemed to be unsafe would still have at least 30 days to contact the building official or remedy the problem to discuss moving forward with either a remedy or demolition of the building.

The  Troy City Council is considering the ordinance and can vote on it at their next meeting on Tuesday, July 9.