City of Lowell, MA
Middlesex County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the City Council of the City of Lowell as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Building construction — See Ch. 115.
Dangerous buildings — See Ch. 119.
Fire prevention — See Ch. 155.
Graffiti — See Ch. 164.
Health and sanitation — See Ch. 171.
Housing standards — See Ch. 176.
Waste and recycling — See Ch. 227.
[Adopted 3-25-1997 (§§ 10-47 to 10-52 of the 1988 Code)]
A. 
Purpose. The purpose of this article is to promote the public health, safety, morals and welfare of the citizens of the City of Lowell by protecting and preserving the neighborhoods of the City against hazardous, blighting and deteriorating influences or other such substandard conditions by establishing standards of minimum maintenance for the exterior of all buildings and structures.
B. 
Scope. This article shall apply to the exterior maintenance of all buildings and structures within the City of Lowell, except where such buildings and structures are otherwise specifically provided for by other applicable City rules and regulations. The provisions of this article shall control all matter of exterior standards for buildings and structures, whether vacant or occupied, and all parts thereof.
As used in this article, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
BUILDING
A structure enclosed with exterior walls or fire walls, built, erected and framed of any materials or any combination thereof, whether portable or fixed, and having a roof, to form a structure for the shelter of persons, animals, or property. For the purpose of this definition, "roof" shall include an awning or similar covering, whether or not permanent in nature. The word "building" shall be construed where the context requires as though followed by the words "or part or parts thereof."
OWNER
Every person, alone or severally with others, who:
A. 
Has legal title to any building or parcel of land, vacant or otherwise;
B. 
Has care, charge or control of any building or parcel of land, vacant or otherwise, in any capacity, including but not limited to agent, executor, executrix, administrator, administratrix, trustee or guardian of the estate of the holder of legal title;
C. 
Is a mortgagee in possession of any such property; or
D. 
Is an agent, trustee or other person appointed by the courts and vested with possession or control of any such property.
WEEDS
Any plants, grass, weeds, brush or any other vegetation, herbaceous or woody, other than trees, ornamental shrubbery and vegetable and flower gardens purposefully planted and maintained free of weed hazard or nuisance; cultivated crops; public recreational areas or trails intended to be left in their natural state; and vegetation along natural streams or watercourses when necessary to deter erosion.
[Added 3-8-2016]
The exterior of all buildings and structures within the City of Lowell shall comply with the following standards of minimum maintenance:
A. 
Foundations. All foundations shall be free of holes and breaks and shall safely support the structure at all points. All foundation walls shall be kept in good, safe, sound condition and free of holes, cracks and breaks.
B. 
Exterior walls. All exterior walls and trim shall be free of holes, breaks, loose or rotting boards or timbers, or paint that is deteriorated, as indicated by peeling, flaking, cracking, blistering or mildew, resulting in exposed, bare, unprotected surfaces and other conditions which might admit rain or dampness to interior portions of the walls or to the occupied spaces of the building. The exterior surface siding shall be maintained weatherproof and shall be surface coated to prevent deterioration. All exterior walls and trim shall be kept painted, treated, sided or otherwise maintained as to be substantially weatherproof and neat in appearance.
C. 
Roofs. The roof shall be structurally sound, weathertight and have no defects which might admit rainwater. Water from roofs shall be conveyed so as to prevent wet floors, walls or ceilings or a nuisance to adjacent buildings or overflowing on abutting properties.
D. 
Chimneys, flues, cleanout and vents. All chimneys and similar appurtenances or attachments shall be maintained structurally sound, in good repair and safe to use.
E. 
Porches, stairs and handrails. Every exterior stair, porch, balcony and all appurtenances attached thereto shall be structurally sound and no part thereof shall show excessive wear or be broken, cracked, or loose. Carpeting or other covering on stairs and porches shall be maintained in a safe condition. Guardrails shall be firmly fastened and maintained in good condition, and new or replacement guardrails shall comply with the provisions of the Building Code.
F. 
Doors and doorways. Every exterior door frame shall have a door and this door shall be weathertight within its frame. Every exterior door, door hinge, doorknob and door latch shall be maintained in good usable condition. Door locks in dwelling units shall be in good repair and capable of tightly securing the door. All entrance doors of each dwelling unit shall be equipped with functioning locking devices.
G. 
Hatchways. Every hatchway, bulkhead and exitway shall be so constructed and maintained as to prevent the entrance of rodents, rain and surface drainage water into the structure.
H. 
Windows. Every window sash and skylight shall be structurally sound and fit within its frame and be weathertight, so as to prevent the passage through it of rain, snow, wind or other outside elements. Every window sash shall be fully fitted with glass, plexiglass or polycarbonate panes which are without cracks or holes. Every window other than a fixed window shall be capable of being held in the open position and locked in the closed position by window hardware. In business and mixed-use districts, all display windows and entrances exposed to public view shall be kept clean and maintained in good repair. No storage of materials, stock or inventory shall be permitted in window display areas or similar areas ordinarily exposed to public view unless screened by drapes, blinds or other permanent means, and such screening is kept clean and maintained in good repair.
[Amended 3-8-2016]
I. 
Screens and storm windows. Every window with openings to outdoor space required for ventilation in habitable rooms shall be supplied with insect screens and storm windows which shall be maintained in good repair. This subsection shall not apply to owner-occupied dwelling units.
J. 
Fences. All fences on the premises shall be safe, structurally sound and uniform or compatible in color and structure. Fences shall be maintained so that they do not constitute a hazard, blight or condition of disrepair. Examples of hazards, blight or conditions of disrepair are inclusive of, but not limited to, leaning fences, fences that are missing slats or blocks, graffiti, peeling paint, deterioration of paint or rotting or damaged materials.
[Amended 12-23-2008]
K. 
Backyards, areaways and alleys. Backyards, areaways, courts, alleys, passageways and air shafts must be kept clean. Adjacent properties are responsible for maintaining alleys and passageways to the center line of said alley or passageway.
[Added 3-8-2016]
L. 
Overgrowth. It shall be unlawful for the owner of any parcel of real estate to allow weeds to reach a height of 18 or more inches, where such weeds are located on any developed lot or parcel in the City, or on that portion of any undeveloped lot or parcel in the City which is within 150 feet of any building, street, sidewalk or public right-of-way. Additionally, it shall be unlawful for the owner of any parcel of real estate to allow thereon any hedge, shrub, tree or other vegetation the limbs, branches or other parts of which overhang, extend or protrude into any street, sidewalk or public alley in a manner which obstructs or impedes the safe and orderly movement of persons or vehicles thereon or, in the case of trees, when the dead limbs or branches thereof are likely to fall into or across such street or sidewalk thereby endangering such persons and vehicles. Any such weeds, hedge(s), shrub(s), tree(s) or other vegetation existing in violation of this subsection is hereby declared to constitute a public nuisance. Please note that nothing in this subsection relieves the property owner of the requirement to obtain, from the Conservation Commission or any other appropriate board/agency, any and all necessary permits/approvals for the removal of such vegetation.
[Added 3-8-2016]
M. 
Commercial/industrial property. Every owner or operator of commercial/industrial property shall improve and maintain all property under his or her control to comply with the following minimum requirements:
[Added 3-8-2016]
(1) 
All exterior property areas shall be kept free from weeds.
(2) 
All exterior property areas shall be properly maintained in a clean and sanitary condition, free from debris, rubbish or garbage, physical hazards, rodent harborage and infestation.
(3) 
The sidewalks (including areas like tree pits, grass strips, etc.) and gutter areas (18 inches from the curb into the street) along the building perimeter must be kept clean. Sweepings must be picked up and deposited in suitable containers for collection. City of Lowell trash receptacles may not be used for this purpose.
(4) 
Yard areas of real estate shall not be permitted to deteriorate or remain in a condition that is not in accord with the following:
(a) 
Yard areas shall be kept in a clean and sanitary condition, free from any accumulation of combustible or noncombustible materials (which are not used as an integral part of the authorized business carried out on the premises), debris, or refuse.
(b) 
Yards shall not be used to store appliances, furnaces, hot-water heaters, water softeners, or building materials not used within five days, or any unsightly bulk items, unless these items are raw materials used in the business carried out on the premises and in a properly zoned district.
N. 
Vacant lots. Every owner or operator of a vacant lot shall maintain said lot in accordance with the following: Vacant lots shall be kept in a clean and sanitary condition, free from any accumulation of noxious weeds, overgrowth, combustible or noncombustible materials, debris, refuse, rubbish or garbage, physical hazards, or rodent harborage and infestation.
[Added 3-8-2016]
Any person/owner who violates any provision of this article shall be subject to a fine of $100 for each offense and may be penalized by a noncriminal disposition as provided for under §§ 1-5 and 1-6 of the Code and MGL c. 40, § 21D. Each day's failure to comply with an order shall constitute a separate violation.
The provisions of this article shall not apply to properties located within the boundaries of the Downtown Lowell Historic District. Said properties are already subject to existing minimum maintenance standards as set forth in the review standards of the Lowell Historic Board pursuant to the Acts of 1983, Chapter 566.
Nothing herein shall prevent the City of Lowell from enforcing other applicable sections of the Code or other applicable sections of Massachusetts General Laws, including but not limited to MGL c. 111 (abatement of a nuisance by the City) and c. 139 (recovery of abatement costs).
[Adopted 7-8-2008 (§§ 5-121 to 5-131 of the 1988 Code)]
A. 
It is the intent of this article to protect and preserve public safety, security, and quiet enjoyment of occupants, abutters, and neighborhoods by:
(1) 
Requiring all residential, commercial, and industrial property owners, including lenders, trustees, and service companies, to properly maintain vacant and/or foreclosing properties; and
(2) 
Regulating the maintenance of vacant and/or foreclosing residential, commercial, and industrial properties to prevent blighted and unsecured properties.
B. 
The Building Commissioner, pursuant to MGL c. 143, § 3, the State Building Code, and the City of Lowell Zoning Ordinance, is hereby designated as the enforcement authority.
When used in this article, unless a contrary intention clearly appears, the following terms shall have the following meanings:
CITY
City of Lowell.
COMMISSIONER
Building Commissioner.
DAYS
Consecutive calendar days.
FORECLOSING
The process by which a property, placed as security for a real estate loan, is prepared for sale to satisfy the debt if the borrower defaults.
INITIATION OF THE FORECLOSURE PROCESS
Taking any of the following actions:
[Amended 10-9-2012]
A. 
Taking possession of a residential, commercial, or industrial property pursuant to MGL c. 244, § 1;
B. 
Commencing a foreclosure action on a property in either the Land Court or Middlesex Superior Court.
LENDER
Any lender, servicer, mortgagee, foreclosing entity, or creditor, including but not limited to service companies, lenders in a mortgage agreement and any agent, servant, or employee of the mortgagee, or any successor in interest and/or assignee of the mortgagee’s rights, interests, or obligations under the mortgage agreement.
[Amended 10-9-2012]
LOCAL
Within 20 driving miles of the property in question.
OWNER
Every person, entity, service company, property manager or real estate broker who alone or severally with others has legal or equitable title to any property or has care, charge or control of any property in any capacity, including but not limited to agent, executor, executrix, administrator, administratix, trustee or guardian of the estate of the holder of legal title; or is a mortgagee in possession of any such property; or is an agent, trustee or other person appointed by the courts and vested with possession or control of any such property; or is an officer or trustee of the association of unit owners of a condominium. Each such person is bound to comply with the provisions of these minimum standards as if he/she were the owner. However, this article shall not apply to a condominium association created pursuant to MGL c. 183A to the extent that such association forecloses on or initiates the foreclosure process for unpaid assessments due or owing to the association. "Owner" also means every person who operates a rooming house or is a trustee who holds, owns or controls mortgage loans for mortgage-backed securities transactions and has initiated the foreclosure process.
PROPERTY
Any real residential, commercial, or industrial property, or portion thereof, located in the City of Lowell, including buildings or structures situated on the property. For purposes of this article, "property" does not include property owned or subject to the control of the City or any of its governmental bodies.
SECURING
Measures that assist in making the property inaccessible to unauthorized persons.
VACANT
Any property not legally occupied in the preceding 90 days and not the subject of an active valid building permit.
[Amended 10-9-2012]
[Amended 12-23-2008; 10-9-2012]
A. 
In the case of foreclosing or vacancy resulting from foreclosure, the foreclosing lender shall register, and in the case of vacancy not resulting from foreclosure, the owner shall register, residential, commercial, or industrial properties with the Division of Development Services, on forms provided by the Division of Development Services. All registrations must state the owner's or foreclosing lender's phone number and mailing address. The mailing address may not be a post office box. This registration must also certify that the property was inspected by the owner or foreclosing lender or his/her agent and identify whether the property is vacant at the time of filing. If the property is vacant, the owner or foreclosing lender shall provide with the registration a property contact, being either a phone number, staffed 24 hours per day with persons authorized and capable of immediately dispatching local response to inspect, secure, maintain, and/or repair the property, or a phone number for a designated local individual or property management company responsible for securing and maintaining the property. If the property is in the process of foreclosure, then the registration shall be filed within 30 days following the initiation of the foreclosure process as defined in § 227-8 above; if the property is vacant not resulting from foreclosure, then registration shall be filed within 90 days of the last day of legal occupancy unless the property is the subject of an active and valid building permit.
B. 
All property registrations are valid for one calendar year starting the date the registration permit is issued. An annual registration fee as provided in Chapter 150, Fees, shall accompany the registration form. Subsequent annual registrations and fees are due at least 30 days prior to the expiration of the previous registration and must certify whether the property is or remains vacant.
C. 
Once the property is no longer vacant, sold to a new owner, or is no longer in foreclosure, the entity that registered the property must notify the Division of Development Services and provide proof that the property is no longer required to be registered.
[Amended 12-15-2009; 10-9-2012]
A. 
Properties subject to this article shall be maintained in accordance with all relevant sanitary codes, building codes, and local ordinances and regulations relative to minimum maintenance, snow removal, health nuisances, and securing properties. The entity that registered the property shall have the property inspected and maintained on a regular basis for the duration of the vacancy.
B. 
If the property is vacant, the registering entity shall affix to the building, in a location clearly visible from the public way, the name and twenty-four-hour contact phone number of the individual or property management company responsible for maintenance of the property. The property contact must respond to communications from the City within 24 hours if contacted by phone, or within seven days if contacted by writing, unless otherwise required by local or state laws, regulations or rules.
C. 
Adherence to this article does not relieve the owner or foreclosing lender of any applicable obligations set forth in City ordinances or regulations, covenant conditions and restrictions, and/or homeowners' association rules and regulations.
The Commissioner or designee shall have the authority and the duty to inspect properties subject to this article for compliance and to issue citations for any violations. The Commissioner or designee shall have the discretion to determine when and how such inspections are to be made, provided that such policies are reasonably calculated to ensure that this article is enforced.
A. 
Failure to register with the Commissioner shall be considered a violation of this article and is punishable by a fine of up to $300. Each week that such violation continues shall be considered a separate offense.
B. 
Failure of the identified property contact to respond to City communications within the required time frame shall be considered a violation of this article and is punishable by a fine of up to $300. Each such violation shall be considered a separate offense.
[Amended 10-9-2012]
C. 
Failure to maintain the property shall be considered a violation of this article and is punishable by a fine of up to $300. Each week that such violation continues shall be considered a separate offense. Any expenses incurred by the City of Lowell relative to securing or maintaining property shall be recoverable by placing a lien on the property.
Any person aggrieved by the requirements of this article may seek an administrative appeal by making written application to the City Manager. The City Manager may designate a hearing officer to hear appeals pursuant to this article. Any person aggrieved by a final decision issued under this article by the City Manager may seek relief in any court of competent jurisdiction as provided by the laws of the commonwealth.
If any provision of this article imposes greater restrictions or obligations than those imposed by any other general law, special law, regulation, rule, ordinance, bylaw, order, or policy then the provisions of this article control.
The Building Commissioner has the authority to promulgate rules and regulations necessary to implement and enforce this article.
The provisions of this article are effective immediately upon passage and all provisions shall be enforced immediately, but no monetary fine shall be imposed pursuant hereto until 90 days after passage.