Nuisance & Property Maintenance
The City of West Plains has adopted ordinances regulating property maintenance in both residential and commercial areas. Code enforcement involves the proper application of regulations that benefit the public. The benefit of appropriate code enforcement actions outweighs any benefit that the individual code violator may receive from maintaining a public nuisance. The Code Enforcement Program is responsible for responding to complaints and regularly patrols the City to identify violations. To report a violation you can contact the Code Enforcement Officer, Tracy Morris, by calling (417)256-7176 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to: Tracy Morris, Code Enforcement Officer, 1910 Holiday Lane, West Plains MO 65775
The Code Enforcement Process
Whenever a violation is identified, the owner/resident/tenant will be notified of the violation and given an opportunity to correct it within a reasonable amount of time. This may be done by posting a notice on the property (usually on the front door) or by mailing a copy to the owner/resident/tenant or by presenting the owner/resident/tenant with a notice in person.
If the violations are not corrected within the timeframe given, the City may abate the violation and place a lien on the property. Common abatements are cutting of grass and weeds and removing trash and rubbish on the property. The total amount of the lien shall include the cost of the abatement, an administrative fee (generally $100) and all filing fees incurred; and or a citation/summons to appear in Municipal Court will be issued. Violators may be subjected to a fine of not more than $450.00 per offense, and or probation. Confinement may be sentenced for offenses which endanger the health and safety of the public. These offenses are a Misdemeanor and each day that a violation continues, after notification has been served, shall be deemed a separate offense.
A few tips to keep the Code Enforcement Officer away:
- Keep the grass and weeds cut no higher than seven (7) inches.
- Keep household trash stored in trash containers with lids to prevent animals from tearing into it, and or the wind blowing it about.
- Keep the exterior of the property free of visible debris, such as but not limited to, fallen trees and limbs, rubbish and trash, scrap lumber not stacked 12 inches off the ground, salvage building materials, junk, vehicle and equipment parts, tires, broken furniture, broken toys, non-functioning appliances, cardboard, inoperable lawn equipment and parts, clothing, and items manufactured for interior use.
- Keep the property free of inoperable and or unregistered vehicles.
- Keep vacant properties secured. All open and or broken windows and doors must be repaired. The longer a structure remains vacant and unmaintained may lead to eventual requirement of demolition.
- The Program prioritizes complaints reported, however, violations seen by the Code Enforcement Officer while on patrol will be addressed as well. Maintain your property to avoid a visit.
For all Nuisance and Property Maintenance regulations, refer to Chapter 27 of the West Plains City Code Book which may be accessed at City Hall on file or online at https://westplains.net/government/ under the Government tab and City Code Book tab.
Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Code Enforcement
What is a code violation?
In short, a code violation is the result of neglecting to follow a property maintenance ordinance set forth by a governing body such as the City of West Plains. A few examples of a code violation would be a collapsing home roof, tall grass and weeds, junk vehicles, an accumulation of debris, residing with no utility services used for sanitation, broken windows, etc.
Why can’t I ignore my violation notice?
You’d never ignore a speeding ticket to make it go away, right? Well, in the same way, disregarding code violations can lead to more serious financial – and even criminal – consequences.
Complaint and Inspection
Normally, the first step involves someone in the community filing a complaint with the Code Enforcement Department. When this happens, the Code Enforcement Officer will complete an inspection on the property. If a code violation or violations are seen, a notice to the property owner or occupant or property manager will be given. This notice will give a certain timeline to correct the issue. If no effort is made to fix the violation upon second inspection, consequences increase.
Fines and Criminal Charges
The next stage involves citations/penalties that can very quickly accrue hefty fine totals. Depending on the offense, fines can range from pennies to hundreds of dollars per day until the issue is resolved. The amount typically reflects the safety risks imposed by the violation, how long the violation has been ignored, and its severity. Now, let’s say you still haven’t addressed the violation. The City could pursue criminal prosecution. By not taking action on the violation notice, you may be putting the neighborhood’s health and safety at risk. Depending on the violation severity, the Court could impose greater fines or in some cases, order imprisonment for the neglectful owner.
City Abatement & Liens
The last step would be abatement of the code violation by the City. In this scenario, the Code Enforcement Department would have the violation resolved in a way they deemed appropriate. They obviously don’t do this for free, so they’d track expenses and charge you accordingly. If you don’t pay by the deadline, the City may place a lien on your home until you repay all fines and fees. A lien is a public record that shows you owe money. Until you are able to pay the sum in full, long story short, having a lien on your home could prevent you from doing many things such as selling or refinancing it.
Fix, Fight, or Sell
As you can see, ignoring a violation will not make it disappear. The consequences will only get worse and the fines will continue to grow. So, what can you do? You have three options: fix the violation, fight it, or sell your home. Selling your home will require the buyer to be notified of the violations and sign an agreement with the City to take on the burden of fixing such violations within the time period given. Though most traditional buyers are turned off by having to fix issues right after buying the home, there are always people looking for properties despite their faults.
If you are clearly in the wrong and have violated a regulation set forth by the City, you will need to remedy the issue (or at the very least show intent to correct the problem as soon as possible) during the initial allotted time to prevent the consequences from getting worse.