City of Springfield, MA
Hampden County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the City Council of the City of Springfield as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Building construction — See Ch. 140.
Fire prevention — See Ch. 178.
Graffiti — See Ch. 201.
Lodging and rooming houses — See Ch. 235.
[Adopted 9-25-1995 (Title 7, Ch. 7.36, of the 1986 Code)]
It is hereby found and declared that there exist within the City of Springfield a large number of real properties which are vacant and in a blighted condition and that the existence of such vacant and blighted properties contributes to the decline of neighborhoods. It is further found that the existence of vacant and blighted properties adversely affects the economic well being of the City of Springfield and is adverse to the health, safety and welfare of the residents of the City of Springfield. It is further found that many of the vacant and blighted properties can be rehabilitated, reconstructed, demolished and/or reused so as to provide decent, safe and sanitary housing and ancillary commercial facilities and that such rehabilitation, reconstruction, demolition, and/or reuse would eliminate, remedy and prevent the adverse conditions described above.
No owner of real property located in the City of Springfield shall allow, create, maintain or cause to be created or maintained any blighted premises.
For the purpose of this article, the following words, terms, and phrases shall have the following ascribed meanings, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:
BLIGHTED PREMISES
Any vacant building, structure or parcel of land in which at least one of the following conditions exist:
A. 
It is becoming dilapidated as documented by the Code Enforcement Department;
B. 
It is attracting illegal activity as documented by the Police Department;
C. 
It is a fire hazard as determined by the Fire Marshal or as documented by the Fire Department; and
D. 
It is determined by the Code Enforcement Department that the building, structure or parcel of land is in a condition which poses a serious threat to the safety, health, morals and general welfare of the City.
BUILDING
A fixed construction with walls foundation and roof, such as a house, factory, or garage, which is either vacant or used for any type of occupancy or use.
CODE ENFORCEMENT DEPARTMENT
Has the meaning set forth in Massachusetts General Laws or in Chapter 27, Article V, of the City of Springfield Code.
LEGAL OCCUPANCY
Human habitation that is legal by virtue of compliance with state building, state fire safety, local zoning, local housing and all other pertinent codes and shall further be demonstrated by proof of occupancy evidenced through a bona fide lease agreement, rent receipt or utility statement.
NEIGHBORHOOD
An area of the City comprising premises or parcels of land, any part of which is within a radius of 800 feet of any part of another parcel or lot within the City.
STRUCTURE
That which has been or is built or constructed and which is or should be fastened, anchored, attached or rests on a building, foundation or on the ground, including any buildings, fences, fire escapes, railings, towers, sidewalk or stairways.
VACANT
A period of 60 days or longer during which space subject to this article is not legally occupied.
A. 
Complaints. Any individual affected by the action or inaction of an owner of a dwelling unit or other space subject to the provisions of the article, any civic organization, neighborhood council, and any appropriate agency may file, in writing, a complaint of violation of any of these sections with the Code Enforcement Department.
B. 
Investigation. The Code Enforcement Department shall undertake an investigation of the complaint by conducting an inspection forthwith of the property. If, in the course of such inspection, the Code Enforcement Inspector observes a condition which he/she believes may constitute a violation of a code which falls under the jurisdiction of another City agency or department, he/she shall notify the appropriate agency or department and that agency or department shall conduct an inspection forthwith and provide the Code Enforcement Department with a copy of said reports together with any actions which are necessary to abate conditions which constitute a violation(s) of the provisions of this article.
C. 
Orders to take corrective action. The Code Enforcement Department shall serve notice of violation and an order to correct such violation on the owner of record of the property by certified mail. The order shall require the owner of record to bring the property into compliance with the requirements of the article in a manner specified in said order within 30 days of receipt of such order. A copy of the order shall be placed on the land records, and any subsequent purchaser of the property shall be subject to such order.
A. 
Whenever a property owner fails, neglects or refuses to make repairs or take other corrective action specified in the order, or modified order, the City may undertake such repairs or actions, when in its judgment a failure to make them will endanger the public health, safety and welfare; and the cost of such repairs as determined by the Code Enforcement Department will not exceed 50% of the fair market value of the structure to be repaired, as determined by the City Assessor.
B. 
Notice of the intention to make such repairs or other corrective action shall be served on the owner by certified mail.
C. 
When repairs are made or other corrective action is taken by the City, the cost of such repairs shall constitute a debt in favor of the City of Springfield against the owner of the repaired structure. In the event the owner fails, neglects or refuses to pay the City of Springfield the amount of the debt within 30 days of the receipt of the notice of the debt, the City may place a lien on the property for such debt and/or may initiate a civil action against the owner in a court of competent jurisdiction to recover the debt.
A. 
Determination of need to demolish; order; appeal. When the Code Enforcement Commissioner, or an official vested with the jurisdiction to enforce any health or safety code determines, based upon the condition of the building or structure, that the building or structure is beyond repair, that conditions exist which constitute a violation of this article, and that efforts to secure the building or structure so as abate any condition constituting a violation have failed to abate the violation, such official may issue an order that the building or structure be demolished. The order shall be issued in accordance with the procedure set forth in § 285-4 of this article.
B. 
Failure to comply with order to demolish. Whenever the property owner fails, neglects or refuses to comply with an order to demolish the property, the City may take any or all of the following actions to enforce the order:
(1) 
Institute an action in a court of competent jurisdiction for criminal prosecution of the owner for violation of this article and seeking an order from the court for the demolition of the building or structure and/or for payment of fines for violation of the provisions of this article.
(2) 
Institute a civil action in a court of competent jurisdiction seeking an injunction for abatement of the violation and an order from the court for demolition of the building or structure and/or for payment of fines for violation of the provisions of this article.
(3) 
When, in the judgment of the Code Enforcement Commissioner, the Fire Marshal, or Chief of Police, the condition of the structure constitutes an imminent danger to the public health, safety or welfare of the neighborhood or general public so as to present an emergency situation, the City may undertake the demolition of the building or structure after giving notice to the owner of the property and shall recover the costs incurred in accordance with the provisions for recovery of costs set forth in § 285-5 of this article. The City shall make every best effort to mitigate expenses by using its own employees and equipment to fulfill the demolition order.
[Added 10-18-1995]
A. 
Each violation of any provision of this article shall be considered a separate offense hereunder.
B. 
Each day any violation of any provision of this article shall continue shall constitute a separate offense hereunder.
C. 
Each separate offense of this article shall be punishable by a fine of not less than $50 nor more than $300. The Code Enforcement Commissioner shall establish by regulation a fine schedule for each standard described in this article.
D. 
The total cumulative fine in any case shall not exceed $300 per day.
E. 
The owner of any premises which has received proper notice of a violation of this article and who has failed to correct such violation by the date specified in such notice shall be punishable by a cumulative fine for each separate offense and shall be liable for payment to the City within 30 calendar days of receipt of the request for payment thereof sent by certified mail.
F. 
The imposition of any fine shall not be construed to prevent the enforcement of other laws upon the premises nor prevent the initiation of other enforcement measures or penalties.
G. 
Failure to pay any fine arising from the enforcement of this article shall constitute a debt in favor of the City of Springfield. The City may bring a civil or criminal action against the debtor in court for payment of such fine.
H. 
Upon failure to correct any violation of this article by the specified date, the Code Enforcement Commissioner may, in addition to other penalties and actions, bring civil or legal action against the violation, may institute a civil action for injunctive relief to require abatement, or may initiate enforced abatement or demolition procedures.
[Adopted FCB 4-9-2009 (Title 7, Ch. 7.50, of the 1986 Code); amended in its entirety 11-22-2011]
Unsecured and unmaintained vacant properties and foreclosing properties present a danger to the safety and welfare of public safety officers, the public, occupants, abutters and neighborhoods and, as such, constitute a public nuisance. This article is enacted to promote the health, safety and welfare of the public, to protect and preserve the quiet enjoyment of occupants, abutters and neighborhoods, and to minimize hazards to public safety personnel inspecting or entering such properties.
The following words and phrases, when used in this article, shall have the following meanings:
BUILDING
Any combination of materials having a roof and enclosed within exterior walls or firewalls, built to form a structure for the shelter of persons.
CERTIFICATE OF COMPLIANCE WITH CHAPTER 285, ARTICLE II
A certificate issued by the Commissioner to the owner of a vacant and/or foreclosing property upon compliance with the provisions of this article.
COMMISSIONER
The Building Commissioner for the City of Springfield.
DAYS
Consecutive calendar days.
FIRE COMMISSIONER
The Commissioner of the Springfield Fire Department or his or her designee.
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:
A. 
Taking possession of a residential property pursuant to MGL c. 244, § 1.
B. 
Commencing a foreclosure action on a property in any court of competent jurisdiction, including without limitation filing a complaint in Land Court under the Service Members Civil Relief Act, Public Law 108-189 (50 U.S.C.S. App. § 501-536).
C. 
In any instance, where the mortgage authorizes mortgagee entry to make repairs upon mortgagor's failure to do so.
LOCAL
Within 20 miles of the property in question.
MORTGAGEE
The creditor, including, but not limited to, service companies, agents, lenders in a mortgage agreement, and any successor in interest and/or assignee of the mortgagee's rights, interests or obligations under the mortgage agreement.
OWNER
Every person, entity, service company, property manager or real estate broker, who or which, alone or severally with others:
A. 
Has legal title to any real property, including but not limited to a dwelling, dwelling unit, mobile dwelling unit, or parcel of land, vacant or otherwise, including a mobile home park; or
B. 
Has care, charge or control of real property, including but not limited to any dwelling, dwelling unit, mobile dwelling unit, or parcel of land, vacant or otherwise, including a mobile home park, or any administrator, administratrix, executor, trustee or guardian of the estate of the holder of legal title; or
C. 
Is a mortgagee of any such property who has initiated the foreclosure process as defined in this article; or
D. 
Is an agent, trustee or other person appointed by the courts and vested with possession or control of any such property; or
E. 
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 were the owner. However, "owner" shall not mean 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; or
F. 
Every person who operates a rooming house; or
G. 
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 property, or portion thereof, located in the City, including buildings or structures situated on the property; provided, however, that "property" shall not include property owned or under the control of the City, the commonwealth or the United States of America.
SECURED; SECURING
Making the property inaccessible to unauthorized persons.
VACANT
Any property not currently legally occupied and not properly maintained or secured. This definition shall not include properties that have been placed in receivership pursuant to MGL c. 111, § 127I or properties with valid building or other repair permits pursuant to the Massachusetts Building Code, or other like codes.
[Amended 1-13-2014]
A. 
Any owner of a vacant and/or foreclosing property shall, unless exempt from such actions by Massachusetts General Laws, within 30 days of the property becoming vacant or within 15 days of the initiation of the foreclosure process:
(1) 
Provide written notification to the Commissioner and the Fire Commissioner of the status of such property, including in such notice the name, address and telephone number of the owner or person in control of the property; the location of the property; the length of time the building has been vacant (where applicable); the estimated time the building will remain vacant (where applicable); and the nature of the contents of the building; and
(2) 
As may be required by the Fire Commissioner, file one set of space utilization floor plans for any buildings on said property with the Fire Chief and one set of said plans with the Commissioner. The owner shall certify space utilization plans as accurate twice annually, in January and July; and
(3) 
Remove from the property, to the satisfaction of the Fire Commissioner, hazardous material as that term is defined in MGL c. 21K, as that statute may be amended from time to time; and
(4) 
At the discretion of the Commissioner, secure all windows and door openings and ensure that the building is secured from all unauthorized entry continuously in accordance with the United States Fire Administration, National Arson Initiative Board-up Procedures or provide twenty-four-hour on-site security personnel on the property. When a vacant or foreclosing property is located within a complex of buildings owned by a single owner, twenty-four-hour on-site security shall be provided within the building or within the complex wherein the building is located; and
(5) 
Where a property is vacant, post "No Trespassing" signs on the property; and
(6) 
Maintain the property in accordance with this article, free of overgrowth, trash and debris, and pools of stagnant water, and ensure that structures are maintained in a structurally sound condition; and
(7) 
If the property is vacant, drain all water from the plumbing and turn off all electricity between September 15 and June 15 of each calendar year to guard against burst pipes and fires; and
(8) 
Maintain the property in accordance with the Massachusetts State Sanitary Code, the Massachusetts State Building Code and all specialized codes incorporated therein, and any Springfield ordinances concerning the maintenance of property and the Springfield Zoning Ordinances; and
(9) 
Provide the Fire Commissioner and Commissioner with the name, local address, and telephone number of a responsible person who can be contacted in case of emergency. The owner shall cause the name and contact number to be marked on the front of the property as may be required by the Fire Commissioner or Commissioner; and
(10) 
Maintain liability insurance on the property and furnish the Director with a copy of said certificate of insurance; and
(11) 
Provide a cash bond acceptable to the Commissioner, in the sum of not less than $10,000, to secure the continued maintenance of the property throughout its vacancy and remunerate the City for any expenses incurred in inspecting, securing, marking or making such building safe. One thousand dollars of said bond shall be retained by the City as an administrative fee to fund an account for expenses incurred in inspecting, securing, and marking said building and other such buildings that are not in compliance with this article. Any owner of a vacant or foreclosing property providing a bond pursuant to this section must also provide bonds for all other vacant or foreclosing properties it owns in the City; and
[Amended 1-13-2014]
(12) 
Notify the Commissioner in writing when the property is sold or transferred.
B. 
Upon satisfactory compliance with the above provisions, the Commissioner shall issue a certificate of compliance with Chapter 285, Article II. Said certificate shall be valid for the length of time prescribed by the Director and noted thereon; provided, however, the certificate shall be subject to continued compliance with the provisions of this article.
When required pursuant to this article, signs or markings shall be applied on the front of the property, and elsewhere as the Fire Commissioner or Commissioner may require, at or above the second floor level, and shall not be placed over doors, windows or other openings. All signs/markings shall be visible from the street and, when requested by the Fire Commissioner or Commissioner, shall be placed on the sides and rear of the property. Signs/Markings shall be a minimum of 24 inches by 24 inches, with lines of two-inch width, and shall have a reflective background, or be painted with reflective paint in contrasting colors. Signs/Markings shall be applied directly on the surface of the property and shall state the date of posting and the most recent date of inspection by the Fire Chief and Commissioner.
The Commissioner, upon being informed of the existence of a vacant or foreclosing property without a certificate of compliance with Chapter 285, Article II, shall cause notice to issue to the owner of the status of said property and shall order said person to immediately obtain a certificate of compliance with Chapter 285, Article II. If any person fails to comply with said order, the Commissioner and agents thereof may enter the premises to inspect, and further may seek court orders to enter upon the premises to secure, clean, and remove any pools of stagnant water.
The owner of a vacant or foreclosing property who fails to obtain a certificate of compliance with Chapter 285, Article II, as required herein, shall be liable to the City for expenses incurred by the City in securing such property, for removing rubbish and overgrowth and/or for abating stagnant pools of water. The Commissioner shall provide the owner with a written statement of all costs associated with inspecting, securing, and marking the property, and removing rubbish or overgrowth, or abating stagnant pools of water. If the owner fails to pay or reimburse the City within seven days of notice of expenses, the City shall draw down upon the bond paid by the owner as required in § 285-10A(11). If there is no bond available, the Commissioner shall record the notice of claim in the Hampden County Registry of Deeds (or the Land Court Department) forthwith, and shall have the right to file a civil action in the Western Division Housing Court to establish a lien on the property for the balance due.
A. 
No owner of a vacant or foreclosing property shall allow said property to become or remain unsecured, or to contain an accumulation of rubbish, or to contain overgrowth, or to have a stagnant pool of water. If it appears that any vacant or foreclosing property is unsecured, contains rubbish, overgrowth, or a stagnant pool of water, the Commissioner shall send written notification to the owner, requiring that the owner promptly secure the property, remove the rubbish or overgrowth, or abate the stagnant pool of water.
B. 
If the owner fails to comply with any notice issued pursuant to this provision, the Commissioner may immediately seek to obtain the proceeds secured by the bond filed pursuant to § 285-10A(11) herein and shall enter upon the premises and cause the property to be inspected, and further may seek court orders to enter upon the premises to secure, clean, and remove any pools of stagnant water.
All unsecured vacant or foreclosing properties shall be immediately referred to the Commissioner for a determination relative to whether the property is a nuisance or dangerous pursuant to MGL c. 139 and procedures promulgated thereunder.
Notices required pursuant to this article shall be served in the following manner:
A. 
Personally on any owner as defined in this article or on the contact person specified pursuant to § 285-10A(9); or
B. 
Left at the last and usual place of abode of any owner, or contact person as specified pursuant to § 285-10A(9), if such place of abode is known and is within or without the commonwealth; or
C. 
By certified or registered mail, return receipt requested, to any owner, or the contact person specified pursuant to § 285-10A(9).
A. 
Failure to comply with any provision of this article shall be punished by a fine of $300 pursuant to MGL c. 40, § 21D, with each day of violation constituting a separate offense.
B. 
This article may also be enforced by civil, criminal process or noncriminal process, including injunctive relief. The Commissioner and/or the Fire Commissioner shall be enforcing persons for purposes of this section.