[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Board of the Town of Southold 9-9-1980 by L.L. No. 5-1980; amended in its entirety 3-13-2012 by L.L. No. 4-2012. Amendments noted where applicable.]
This chapter shall be known as the "Unsafe Buildings, Premises and Property Maintenance Law of the Town of Southold."
The purpose of this chapter is to promote the conservation of property and property values and character of the community by addressing the cumulative impacts of property neglect. Further, this law will eliminate safety and health hazards, unsightly conditions, environmental public nuisances, dangerous obstruction to emergency vehicle access, the erosions of property values and the erosion of the quality of life by all residents in broad proximity of the neglected property(s).
Unless otherwise expressly stated, the following terms shall, for the purpose of this chapter, have the meanings as herein defined. Any word or term not noted below shall be used with a meaning as defined in Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, unabridged (or latest edition).
- EXTERIOR PROPERTY
- The open space on the premises and on adjoining property under the control of owners or operators of such premises.
- Putrescible animal and vegetable wastes resulting from the handling, preparation, cooking and consumption of food.
- JUNKED VEHICLE
- Any vehicle, including a trailer, which is without a currently valid license plate or plates and is in such a rusted, wrecked, discarded, dismantled, partly dismantled, inoperative or abandoned condition as to be no longer intended or in condition for legal use on the public highways.
- The term "land" and "property" shall have the same meaning as "premises" as defined herein.
- Garbage, refuse and rubbish and all other waste material which, if thrown or deposited upon the ground, tends to create a danger to public health, safety and welfare or tends to create blight.
- Any individual or person occupying a premises or building or having possession of a premises or building.
- Any person, agent, operator, firm or corporation having a legal or equitable interest in the property; recorded in the official records of the state, county or municipality as holding title or deed to the property; or otherwise having control of the property, including the guardian of the estate of any such person, and the executor or administrator of the estate of such person if ordered to take possession of real property by a court.
- An individual, association, firm, syndicate, company, trust, corporation, department, bureau or agency or any other entity recognized by law as the subject of rights and duties.
- A lot, plot or parcel of land, easement or public way, including any structures thereon.
- Nonputrescible solid wastes consisting of both combustible and noncombustible wastes, such as, but not limited to, paper wrappings, cardboard, tin cans, wood, glass, bedding, and crockery.
Surface and subsurface water shall be adequately drained to protect buildings and structures, to prevent damage to adjacent property and to prevent the development of stagnant ponds. Swimming pools, spas, hot tubs and other similar structures erected for recreational use shall be maintained so as to avoid the stagnation of the water therein.
Landscaping shall be adequately maintained so that lawns, hedges, bushes, weeds and trees do not become overgrown and unsightly so as to constitute an unsafe condition or blight. At no time shall landscaping, hedges, bushes, weeds or trees create an impediment to emergency and/or fire rescue vehicle access.
Garbage, crates, rubbish, refuse or debris shall be kept inside a building or buildings on the premises, or in an acceptable enclosed container, and shall be regularly collected and removed from the premises.
Open wells, cesspools or cisterns shall be securely closed or barricaded to prevent access by the public.
Junked or unregistered vehicles may not be located or stored in open view but shall be stored in a suitable location inside a building or behind a fence outside of public view.
Exterior facades shall at all times be kept free of graffiti or other defacement.
Unsafe buildings. All buildings or structures which are structurally unsafe, dangerous, unsanitary or not provided with adequate egress or which in relation to existing use constitute a hazard to safety or health by reason of inadequate maintenance, dilapidation, obsolescence or abandonment are, severally, for the purpose of this chapter, unsafe buildings. All such buildings and structures are hereby declared to be illegal and are prohibited and shall be abated by repair and rehabilitation or by demolition and removal in accordance with the procedures of this chapter.
Unsafe premises. All premises which are unsafe or dangerous, which suffer from inadequate maintenance or neglect or which do not permit or provide for adequate access by emergency and/or fire rescue vehicles are, for the purpose of this chapter, unsafe premises. All such premises are hereby declared to be illegal, are prohibited and shall be abated by repair and rehabilitation in accordance with the procedures of this chapter.
Unsafe building. When, in the opinion of the Building Inspector, any structure located in the Town shall be deemed to be unsafe or dangerous to the public, he shall make a formal inspection thereof and thereafter prepare a written report thereof and file the same in his office.
Unsafe premises. When, either on the Building Inspector's own volition or after receiving a written recommendation from the Commissioners of any fire department or fire district or from the Village of Greenport Fire Wardens or Village Trustees located in the Town that any premises is unsafe in that it does not permit or provide for adequate access by emergency and/or fire rescue vehicles as required by § 280-109C, in which recommendation the Building Inspector concurs, the Building Inspector shall make a formal inspection thereof and thereafter prepare a written report thereof and file the same in his office.
When it shall be determined by the Building Inspector that a building, premises or structure is dangerous or unsafe to the public, or is in violation of any one or more of the provisions under § 100-4A, he shall promptly serve or cause to be served a notice on the owner or other persons having an interest in such premises, building or structure as hereinafter provided.
The aforementioned notice shall be served on the owner of the building, structure or premises or some one of the owner's executors, legal representatives, agents, lessees or other person having a vested or contingent interest in the same, as shown by the last completed assessment roll of the Town, either personally or by registered mail, addressed to the person intended to be served at the last known place of business. If the notice is served by registered mail, the Building Inspector shall cause a copy of such notice to be posted on the premises.
The notice referred to in § 100-6 hereof shall contain the following:
A description of the premises.
A statement of the particulars in which the premises, building or structure is unsafe or dangerous or is in violation of any one or more of the provisions under § 100-4A.
An order requiring the premises, building or structure to be made safe and secure or removed, or if there is a violation of § 100-4A, an order to remedy.
A statement that the securing or removal of the building or structure or the rehabilitation of the premises shall commence within 10 days from the date of the service of the notice and shall be completed within 30 days thereafter. If a violation of any one or more of the provisions under § 100-4A is cited, a statement that remediation of the violation must be completed within 10 days from the date of service of the notice. The Building Inspector may extend the time of compliance specified in the notice where there is evidence of intent to comply within the time specified and conditions exist which prevent immediate compliance. In granting any such extension of time, the Building Inspector may impose such conditions as he may deem appropriate.
A statement that, in the event of the neglect or refusal of the person served with notice to comply with the same, a hearing will be held before the Southold Town Board, notice of which and the time and place thereof to be specified in the notice to the owner referred to in § 100-6 hereof. No hearing is required if the only violation alleged is pursuant to § 100-4A.
A statement that, in the event that the Town Board, after the hearing specified in § 100-7E hereof, shall determine that the premises, building or structure is unsafe or dangerous to the public, the Town Board may order the building or structure to be repaired, made safe and/or secured or taken down and removed. In the case of an unsafe premises, the Town Board may order the premises rehabilitated and made safe.
A statement that, in the event that the premises, building or structure shall be determined by the Town to be unsafe or dangerous and in the event of the neglect or refusal of the owner to make safe, repair or remove the same within the time provided, the Town may remove such building or structure or make safe the premises by whatever means it deems appropriate and assess all costs and expenses incurred by the Town in connection with the proceedings to remove or secure, including the cost of actually removing said building or structure, against the land on which said buildings or structures are located.
A copy of the notice referred to in § 100-7 hereof may be filed with the County Clerk of the county within which such premises, building or structure is located, which notice shall be filed by such Clerk in the same manner as a notice of pendency pursuant to Article 65 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules and shall have the same effect as a notice of pendency as therein provided, except as otherwise hereinafter provided in this section. A notice so filed shall be effective for a period of one year from the date of filing; provided, however, that it may be vacated upon the order of a judge or justice of a court of record or upon the consent of the Town Attorney. The clerk of the county where such notice is filed shall mark such notice and any record or docket thereof as canceled of record, upon the presentation and filing of such consent or of a certified copy of such order.
If the Building Inspector determines in his inspection of any premises, building or structure that there is actual and immediate danger of failure or collapse so as to endanger life, he shall promptly require the premises, building, structure or portion thereof to be vacated forthwith and not to be reoccupied until the specified repairs are completed, inspected and approved by the Building Inspector. For this purpose, he may enter such premises, building or structure, or land on which it stands or adjoining land or structures with such assistance and at such cost as may be necessary. He may also order adjacent structures to be vacated and protect the public by appropriate barricades or such other means as may be necessary and for this purpose may close a private or public right-of-way. The Building Inspector shall cause to be posted at each entrance to such premises, building or structure a notice stating, "This building (or premises, if applicable) is unsafe and its use or occupancy has been prohibited by the Building Inspector." Such notice shall remain posted until the required rehabilitation, repairs are made or demolition is completed. It shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation or its agents or other persons to remove such notice without written permission of the Building Inspector or for any person to enter the building except for the purpose of making the required repairs or the demolition thereof.
All costs and expenses incurred by the Town of Southold in connection with any proceeding or any work done to remove the danger or in connection with the demolition and removal of any such building or structure, or any work done to abate any violation of provisions under § 100-4A of this chapter, shall be assessed against the land on which such building or structure is located, and a statement of such expenses shall be presented to the owner of the property, or if the owner cannot be ascertained or located, then such statement shall be posted in a conspicuous place on the premises. Such assessment shall be and constitute a lien upon such land. If the owner shall fail to pay such expenses within 10 days after the statement is presented or posted, a legal action may be brought to collect such assessment or to foreclose such lien. As an alternative to the maintenance of any such action, the Building Inspector may file a certificate of the actual expenses incurred as aforesaid, together with a statement identifying the property in connection with which the expenses were incurred and the owner thereof, with the assessors, who shall, in the preparation of the next assessment roll, assess such amount upon such property. Such amount shall be included in the levy against such property, shall constitute a lien and shall be collected and enforced in the same manner, by the same proceedings, at the same time and under the same penalties as is provided by law for the collection and enforcement of real property taxes in the Town of Southold.
Any person who violates a provision under § 100-4A of this chapter shall be guilty of a violation punishable by a fine not to exceed $2,500.
Any person who neglects, refuses or fails to comply with any order or notice issued hereunder shall be guilty of a violation punishable by a fine not to exceed $5,000 or by imprisonment for a term not to exceed 15 days, or both such fine and imprisonment. Each week's continued violation shall constitute a separate and additional offense.
In addition to the criminal violation, the Town Attorney is authorized to pursue any and all actions in law or equity, including but not limited to actions for compensatory damages, civil penalties, or injunctive relief.
Strict liability. Personal knowledge of the existence of a violation under this chapter is not required, no mens rea (intent) is required, and any violation charged herein shall be one of strict liability.
If any clause, sentence, paragraph, section, or part of this chapter shall be adjudged by any court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid, the judgment shall not affect the validity of this chapter as a whole or any part thereof other than the part so decided to be unconstitutional or invalid.
This chapter shall take effect immediately upon filing with the Secretary of State as provided by law.