Owners of dilapidated properties in Middletown could face penalties after the town passed an ordinance Monday night that would put restrictions on properties that become dangerous or run-down.
The law allows the town to fine owners whose property deteriorates to the point where it could pose a threat to town residents or others. Violations are punishable by fines of $100 per day.
It defines an unsafe building as one that:
- Poses an unreasonable risk to the health, safety and welfare of the owner, occupant, or anyone in the vicinity.
- Can no longer be inhabited because of fire, flood, wind, or natural causes, or neglect, vandalism, or deterioration.
- Is partially finished but not still actively under construction.
- Is not structurally sound, weather-tight, or resistant to water or vermin.
- Is not covered by waterproof paint or some other covering to protect it from the elements.
- Has at least one exterior opening for more than 60 days not covered by a door or unbroken glazed window, or neatly boarded up to protect against the elements, rodents, etc.
- Has parking lots or driveways with numerous potholes, cracks, or other deterioration that could affect other properties.
The measure is mostly preventive rather than meant to address any particular situation, Burgess John Miller said. The town has had properties in the past that have brought the issue to their attention, and they thought they should have a process in place to address it, if they need to, he said.
Once a building is determined to be unsafe, the town will give owners notice of the violation, and give them up to 30 days to make repairs.
Owners may request a hearing to contest the violation in front of the town’s burgess and commissioners.
If an owner doesn’t request a hearing in a timely manner and doesn’t repair the unsafe condition, the town will be able to make the repairs and bill the owner for the cost of the repairs. The bill for the repairs will be placed as a lien on the property if it’s not paid.
Anyone who purchases a property that has been considered unsafe can ask the town for a waiver of the requirements or a waiver of fines or liens that have been imposed. They would then sign an agreement with the town to make necessary repairs within six months from either the date of settlement on the property or on the date of agreement, whichever is earlier.
A waiver can also be given if good cause can be shown to prove a disability, medical condition, or financial hardship that prevents them from addressing the violation.