[HISTORY: Adopted by the Common Council of the City of Oswego 9-22-2014 by Res. No. 411. Amendments noted where applicable.]
It is the finding of the Common Council that buildings which remain vacant, with access points boarded over, are unsightly and unsafe and have a negative effect on their surroundings. This is particularly troublesome in residential and neighborhood-commercial neighborhoods. Unfortunately, many buildings, once boarded, remain that way for many years. The purpose of this chapter is to establish a program for identifying and registering vacant buildings; to determine the responsibilities of owners of vacant buildings and structures; and to facilitate the rehabilitation of the vacant properties.
Unless otherwise expressly stated, the following terms shall, for the purpose of this chapter, have the meanings indicated in this section:
- CODE ENFORCEMENT DIVISION
- All Code Enforcement Officers employed by the City of Oswego from all City Departments.
- CODE ENFORCEMENT OFFICER
- A person certified by the State of New York as a Code Enforcement Officer, and a duly authorized representative of the City of Oswego.
- All persons or entities listed below shall be deemed "owners" and have a joint and several obligation for compliance with provisions of this chapter.
- A. Those shown to be the owner or owners on the records at the City of Oswego Assessor's Office.
- B. Those identified as the owner or owners on a vacant building registration form.
- C. A mortgagee in possession.
- D. A mortgagor in possession.
- E. An assignee of rents, receiver, executor, trustee, lessee, other person, firm or corporation in control of the premises.
- SECURED BY OTHER THAN NORMAL MEANS
- A building secured by means other than those used in the design of the building.
- A building which is not being used for any occupancy authorized by the owner.
- A building or portion of a building which is open to entry by unauthorized persons without the use of tools or ladders.
- VACANT BUILDING
- A building or portion of a building which is:
- A. Unoccupied and unsecured;
- B. Unoccupied and secured by other than normal means;
- C. Unoccupied and an unsafe building as determined by a Code Enforcement Officer;
- D. Unoccupied and has multiple housing or building code violations;
- E. Illegally occupied;
- F. Unoccupied for a period of time over 180 days, and during which time the Code Enforcement Officer has issued an order to correct code violations.
The owner shall register with the Code Enforcement Division no later than 30 days after any building in the City becomes a vacant building or no later than 30 days after being notified by a Code Enforcement Officer of the requirement to register. Code Enforcement Officers may identify vacant buildings through their routine inspection process as well as through notification by residents, neighborhood associations and other community groups that a building may be eligible for inclusion on the registry.
The registration shall be submitted on forms provided by the Code Enforcement Division and shall include the following information supplied by the owner:
A description of the premises.
The names, mailing address, e-mail address and telephone numbers of the owner or owners.
If the owner does not reside within a twenty-five-mile radius of the City of Oswego, the name, mailing address, e-mail address and telephone numbers of any third party with whom the owner has entered into a contract or agreement for property management within a twenty-five-mile radius of the City of Oswego.
The name, address, and telephone number of all known lien-holders and all other parties with an ownership interest in the building.
A telephone number where a responsible party can be reached at all times during business and nonbusiness hours.
A statement whether the building is currently insured by a policy of fire insurance and, if so, the name, address and telephone number of the insurance company and the insurance agent and the amount of coverage. If the building is not currently covered by fire insurance, the owner shall set forth the reason(s) why it is not so covered.
The owner shall submit a vacant building plan which must meet the approval of a Code Enforcement Officer. The plan, at a minimum, must contain information from one of the following three choices for the property:
If the building is to be demolished, a demolition plan indicating the proposed time frame for demolition
If the building is to remain vacant, a plan for the securing of the building, along with the procedure that will be used to maintain the property and a statement of the reasons why the building will be left vacant.
If the building is to be returned to appropriate occupancy or use, a rehabilitation plan for the property. The rehabilitation plan shall not exceed 365 days, unless a Code Enforcement Officer grants an extension upon receipt of a written statement from the owner detailing the reasons for the extension. Any repairs, improvements, alterations to or demolition of the property must comply with any applicable zoning, housing, historic preservation, or building laws and codes and must be secured as per local code, if applicable, during the rehabilitation.
In the event that the owner submits a vacant building plan for demolition or rehabilitation of the vacant building, the owner shall obtain the required permits prior to commencement of demolition or rehabilitation.
A Code Enforcement Officer shall provide the owner with a written referral to the Office of Community Development for information outlining programs available which may be useful in developing the owner's rehabilitation plan.
All applicable laws and codes shall be complied with by the owner. The owner shall notify a Code Enforcement Officer of any changes in information supplied as part of the vacant building registration within 30 days of the change. If the plan or timetable for the vacant building is revised in any way, the revisions must be in writing and must be approved by a Code Enforcement Officer.
New owners shall register or re-register the vacant building with Code Enforcement Division within 30 days of any transfer of an ownership interest in a vacant building.
A building which has suffered fire damage or damage caused by extreme weather events shall be exempt from the registration requirement for a period of 180 days (or that time required to settle an active insurance claim) after the date of the fire or extreme weather event, if the property owner submits a request for exemption, in writing, to the Code Enforcement Division. This request shall include the following information supplied by the owner:
All vacant buildings shall be kept secured or shall be boarded up, both as defined in Subsection A(1) and A(2) herein, and shall be maintained in accordance with the requirements herein. Any building that is not secured shall be promptly boarded up.
The term "secured," for the purposes of this section, shall mean that all means of ingress and egress, including but not limited to all doorways and windows, shall be in a good state of repair, without any broken glass or other damage that might allow entry or create an eyesore, and shall be securely locked.
The term "boarded up" shall mean that all means of ingress and egress at all floor levels shall be covered over, as specified hereinafter, so as to ensure the continued security of the building and to reduce the negative impact on the neighborhood.
Boarding up shall be done by utilizing the following minimum materials and methods unless another equivalent system is proposed in writing and approved by a Code Enforcement Officer:
Exterior-grade plywood or sheathing-grade board, at least 1/2 inch thick, shall be used for boarding material to cover window and door frames without overlapping the adjacent wall surfaces.
The boarding material shall be secured to the building by screws, with the exception of one doorway which shall be secured in such a manner that it can provide access to the building by authorized persons.
All boarding material shall be finished on exterior with one coat of primer and exterior grade paint to match that of the adjacent walls.
The secured building shall be provided with adequate ventilation to prevent the accumulation of moisture.
In addition to securing or boarding up the building, the following minimum requirements shall be met for all vacant buildings:
The roof shall be structurally sound and weathertight.
All combustible trash and debris shall be removed from the building.
The grounds surrounding the building shall be cleared and kept cleared of all litter, rubble, debris, trash and junk and of all grass or weeds in excess of 10 inches in height.
When it is required by this chapter that a building be boarded up, it shall be the responsibility of the owner to have the electric and gas service, if any, temporarily shut off from the building by contacting the power provider. Service may not be reconnected until repair and rehabilitation work or occupancy actually commences.
All plumbing and heating systems that contain water shall be completely drained and kept empty between October 15 and April 15, and an antifreeze solution shall be added to all plumbing traps in the building. This shall not apply if the building is adequately heated during this time period.
The owner shall arrange to provide access to the interior of the building by a Code Enforcement Officer to inspect for compliance with the requirements herein that pertain to the interior. No Code Enforcement Officer shall conduct an interior inspection without the consent of the building owner, unless the Code Enforcement Officer has first obtained a warrant from a court of competent jurisdiction.
The owner of a building which remains vacant for a period of 365 days or more shall be subject to the requirements of this section. By the end of such time period, the owner of the vacant building shall demonstrate to the Code Enforcement Division that said owner has taken all positive action to abate the vacancy of the building in an expeditious manner. This action may include but is not limited to:
Applying for and obtaining a permit to repair and rehabilitate the building, or to demolish it, and proceeding with the work in a timely fashion;
Providing competent evidence that the building is listed for sale at fair market value by the owner or a licensed realtor and is being periodically advertised for sale in a local newspaper, through the multiple listing service, or otherwise marketed by the owner; or
Providing a proposed schedule of action to undertake repair and rehabilitation of the building, including a detailed financial plan for its accomplishment.
The Code Enforcement Division shall examine or cause to be examined every building reported as unsafe, damaged or vacant and shall make a written record of each examination.
Whenever a Code Enforcement Officer shall find a building or structure or a portion thereof to be damaged, unsafe or dangerous, he/she shall give the owner, agent or person in control of such building or structure written notice pursuant to § 83-4D of this Code, stating the defects thereof. This notice shall require the owner within a stated time either to complete specified repairs or improvements or to demolish and remove the building or structure or portion thereof.
If a Code Enforcement Officer finds that the building or structure is a dangerous building as defined in Chapter 83 of the Code of the City of Oswego, such notice shall require the building, structure or portion thereof to be vacated forthwith and not reoccupied until the specified repairs and improvements are completed, inspected and approved by a Code Enforcement Officer. The Code Enforcement Officer shall cause to be posted at each entrance of such building a notice which includes the statement: "This building has been found to be a dangerous building and its use or occupancy has been prohibited by the Code Enforcement Division of the City of Oswego." Such notice shall remain posted until the required repairs or demolition is completed. It shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation, or their agents or other servants, to remove such notice without written permission of the Code Enforcement Officer, or for any person to enter the building except for the purpose of making the required repairs or of demolishing the same.
In the event that an owner fails, neglects or refuses to comply with a notice to repair or remove a dangerous building or structure within the time limits specified in the notice provided herein, the Code Enforcement Officer shall cause the affected building or structure to be repaired or removed pursuant to the provisions of §§ 83-4 and 83-5 in Chapter 83 of the Code of the City of Oswego. For this purpose he may at once enter such building or structure and with such assistance and at such cost as may be necessary.
The Code Enforcement Officer may vacate adjacent structures and protect the public by appropriate barricades or such other means as may be necessary and for this purpose may close a public or private way.
The Code Enforcement Division shall cause all such vacant buildings to be inspected on a quarterly basis and notify the owner or agent of any accumulation of trash, debris, rodent infestation, the failure to keep said building secured or other violation of law, ordinance, City or State code or regulation at the premises.
The owner shall have seven days from receipt of said notice to correct such conditions, unless the Code Enforcement Officer is of the opinion that a vacant building or any structure is, for any cause, dangerous to the health, safety and welfare of the public or is unfit for occupancy, in which case the provisions of Chapter 83 shall apply.
If the Code Enforcement Officer finds that a vacant building or structure is damaged or so poorly maintained that it is in violation of any applicable state or local property maintenance laws or regulations, and the owner fails, neglects or refuses, after having been given proper notice, to correct such violation or to properly secure or board up the building as required herein, the Code Enforcement Division shall report such fact to the Common Council in writing.
The Common Council by resolution may authorize the Code Enforcement Division to cause such building or structure to be repaired, secured, or boarded up, and the cost of the same shall be charged against the land upon which such building exists in the same manner as local assessments provided for in the Charter of the City of Oswego.
For this purpose, a Code Enforcement Officer may enter upon such building or structure with such assistance as may be necessary.
The owner of a vacant building shall pay an annual fee as set forth in Subsection A, as amended from time by resolution of the Common Council, for the time that the building remains a vacant building.
The first-year annual fee shall be $250 and shall be paid no later than 30 days after building becomes vacant. If the fee is not paid with 30 days of becoming due, the owner shall be subject to a fine as prescribed in Chapter 249 of the Code of the City of Oswego. If a plan is extended beyond 365 days, subsequent annual fees shall be paid as follows:
The fee shall be paid in full prior to the issuance of any building permits, with the exception of a demolition permit. The fee shall be prorated, and a refund may be issued if the building is no longer deemed vacant under the provisions of this chapter within 180 days of its registry.
All delinquent fees shall be paid by the owner prior to any transfer of an ownership interest in any vacant building. If the fees are not paid prior to any transfer, the new owner shall pay the annual fee no later than 30 days after the transfer of ownership, and subsequent annual fees shall be due on the new anniversary date.
The Enforcement Officer shall include in the file any property-specific written statements from community organizations, other interested parties or citizens regarding the history, problems, status or blighting influence of a vacant building.
The Code Enforcement Division shall inspect any premises in the City for the purpose of enforcing and assuring compliance with the provisions of this chapter. Upon the request of a Code Enforcement Officer, an owner may provide access to all interior portions of an unoccupied building in order to permit a complete inspection. Nothing contained herein, however, shall diminish the owner's right to insist upon the procurement of a search warrant from a court of competent jurisdiction by a Code Enforcement Officer or his or her designee in order to enable such inspection, and a Code Enforcement Officer shall be required to obtain a search warrant whenever an owner refuses to permit a warrantless inspection of the premises.
The Code Enforcement Division shall submit an annual report to the Mayor and Common Council, listing all buildings in the City declared vacant under the provisions of the chapter, the date upon which they were declared vacant and whether a vacant building registration and vacant building plan has been filed for the building.
Any person violating any provision of the vacant building registry or providing false information to a Code Enforcement Officer shall be punished as provided by Chapter 249 of the Code of the City of Oswego.