[HISTORY: Adopted by the Board of Trustees of the Village of Old Field 12-10-1996 by L.L. No. 4-1996. Amendments noted where applicable.]
This chapter shall be known as the "Hazardous Unoccupied Property Law of the Incorporated Village of Old Field ("Village") of Suffolk County, New York."
The purpose of this law is to ensure that unoccupied property (as herein defined) does not present a threat to the health or safety of the village and is maintained free of debris and structures that adversely affect the health, safety, beauty or character of the village.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- The Board of Trustee of the village.
- A person residing on a property who is retained by an owner to maintain the residence and other structures thereon and to maintain the property free of debris, who is provided with sufficient funds to do so and who, in fact, does so maintain such residence, other structures and property.
- Rubble, waste or litter, exclusive of the products of nature, that have not been altered by humans; personal property abandoned or dumped on the property by the owner or other persons; all or a portion of a former structure remaining on a property after demolition, fire, storm, the passage of time or other cause, dirt, rock or other matter located or relocated on a property as a result of human activity resulting from the excavation or the recontouring of property or that has been deposited or dumped on the property; or construction materials. Construction materials, dirt and rock shall not be considered "debris" if on the site incident to work in progress pursuant to a valid unexpired permit issued by the village for such work.
- A structure or debris that is a danger to the health or safety of residents of the village or other persons; the use of property, casual or otherwise, by persons not authorized to do so by the owner; and debris of minimum or no value visible at any time of year from outside the property that causes a significant impairment of the view from adjacent properties or of the view of a passerby on an adjacent road.
- The registered owner or owners of the title to any property as shown on the most recent assessment roll of the village. An owner may, by appropriate instrument filed with the Village Clerk and accepted by the Clerk as unambiguous, appoint one or more persons to act an the owner's behalf hereunder. The person(s) so empowered shall be treated as the owner for all purposes except § 51-13. All notices provided for hereunder shall be sent to the titleholder as well as the person or persons so empowered.
- The principal structure suitable for human habitation on any property. A structure that formerly was suitable for human habitation, but no longer is so suitable, shall not be considered a residence.
- A house, basement, cellar, barn, garage, stable or any other construction, whether complete or incomplete, that is used, or formerly was used, or is or was intended to be used, for residential, recreational, agricultural or other purpose.
- UNOCCUPIED PROPERTY
- A property that has an unoccupied residence or that has no residence.
- UNOCCUPIED RESIDENCE
- A residence that is not physically occupied for at least 60 consecutive days in the three-hundred-sixty-five-day period as of which the determination is made by one, but not a combination, of the following persons: the owner; a lessee pursuant to a written lease; or any other person authorized by the owner to live in the residence. A residence shall not be considered to be an unoccupied residence if it is under the supervision of a caretaker. A residence once considered an unoccupied residence shall continue to be considered an unoccupied residence until it is, for a minimum period of at least six consecutive months, continuously occupied by one, but not a combination, of the following persons: the owner; a lessee pursuant to a written lease; or a person authorized by the owner to live in the residence, or is under the supervision of a caretaker. A property on which a residence is being constructed pursuant to a valid unexpired permit is not an unoccupied property.
An owner shall not cause or suffer any structure or debris on an unoccupied property to constitute a hazard.
If the Board believes that an owner may have failed to meet the requirements of § 51-4, but that an inspection of the property is necessary to make a final determination (as hereinafter defined) that such a failure has occurred, it may make a preliminary determination ("preliminary determination") that such property is an unoccupied property with a hazard. The preliminary determination shall be made at an open session of the Board of which the owner shall receive at least 15 days' written notice. The notice shall inform the owner that the Board will consider making a preliminary determination with respect to the owner's property at the meeting, that the owner has a right to attend and the date, together with a copy of this chapter, time and place of the meeting. In making the preliminary determination, the Board, insofar as the preliminary determination relates to the property as an unoccupied property, may rely on the observations or written or oral statements presented at the meeting of the Board from the Chief Constable, adjacent property-owners and other persons considered knowledgeable in the matter and, insofar as the preliminary determination relates to the existence of a hazard, may rely on written or oral statements describing the observations of any employee or elected official of the village, including a member of the Board, presented at the meeting.
The requirement that a preliminary notice be made at a meeting of the Board of which the owner has at least 15 days' written notice shall not preclude the Board from discussing at an earlier meeting of which the owner has no notice other than that provided the general public whether the matter merits further consideration and possible Board action at a subsequent meeting.
Following a preliminary determination with respect to a property, the Board shall send the owner by certified mail, return receipt requested, a preliminary hazard notice. The preliminary hazard notice shall state that the Board has made a preliminary determination that the property is an unoccupied property and that it may contain a hazard; shall specify the nature of the hazard; shall request permission of the owner to enter the property for purposes of making an inspection thereof in order to assist the Board in considering a final determination (as hereinbelow defined) of the existence of a hazard thereon, specifying the date and time of the proposed inspection; and shall state that in the event of the failure of the owner, within the time period provided below, to grant permission to enter the property for purposes of making the inspection, that the Board may seek the legal right to do so. If the owner fails, within 30 days, or such lesser period as may have been set pursuant to § 51-10 hereof, of the mailing of the preliminary hazard notice, to grant permission to the village to inspect the property, or affirmatively refuses to grant such permission, the Board shall take such further legal action that it deems appropriate to obtain the right to enter the property for purposes of inspection.
The final determination ("final determination") that a property is an unoccupied property and that it contains a hazard will be determined by the Board on the basis of one or more written statements, including written statements, if any, submitted to the Board prior to the preliminary determination. A written statement may be accompanied by photographs, maps, charts or other material. The written statements may be made by the Chief Constable, one or more of the other Constables, other employees or elected officials of the village or other persons familiar with the property or other relevant circumstances. If any person declines to provide a written statement, an employee or elected official of the village may talk to such person, and thereafter summarize the discussion in writing, and such writing will be considered a written statement. The oral statement of any person may be recorded electronically, transcribed into writing and such transcription will be considered a written statement. The Board shall require a written statement by the Building Inspector or other expert who may have inspected the property for purposes of determining whether a hazard exists thereon. The final determination shall be made at an open session of the Board, of which the owner shall receive not less than 15 days' written notice, together with a copy of this chapter. The notice shall inform the owner that the Board will consider making a final determination with respect to the property at the meeting, that the owner has a right to attend, and the date, time and place of the meeting. The final determination shall be in writing; shall set forth the written statements and copies of other materials, if any, relied on by the Board for determining that the property is an unoccupied property and that it contains a hazard; shall state the time and occupancy of the property, if any, relied on by the Board in determining that the property is an unoccupied property; shall include a description of the hazard; shall describe the threat to the health, safety, beauty or character of the village presented by the hazard; shall state the steps proposed to be taken by the village to cure the hazard if the owner fails to do so; and shall state the estimated cost thereof.
The owner of a property with respect to which the Board has made a final determination shall receive notice thereof. The notice, (the "hazard notice") shall be sent certified mail, return receipt requested, and shall state that the property has been the subject of a final determination by the Board. A copy of the final determination, the written statements and other materials forming the basis for such final determination, and a statement of the right of the owner to appeal the final determination, referring to § 51-11 hereof, shall accompany the hazard notice. If the hazard is considered to be an emergency as described in § 51-10 below, the hazard notice shall so state and shall specify the time periods applicable to the owner's property in lieu of those set forth in Subsections A through D of § 51-9 below.
An owner who receives a hazard notice shall take the actions specified below within the time periods set forth:
Within 30 days of the date of receipt of the hazard notice (the "notice date"), the owner shall state, in a writing addressed to the village, the owner's intention to take the steps within the time limits hereinbelow provided to cure the hazard. The writing may be formal or informal, so long as it states unambiguously the owner's intention to cure the hazard specified in the hazard notice within the time periods herein provided.
In lieu of a writing stating the owner's intention to cure the hazard as described in Subsection A(1) above, an owner may, within 30 days of the notice date, authorize the village to cure the hazard. The authorization shall be in writing, signed by the owner; shall acknowledge that the owner's property is an unoccupied property, as herein defined, and that it contains a hazard; shall authorize the village to enter the owner's property and to take all measures necessary, in the opinion of the village, to cure the hazard in the manner set forth in the final determination; and shall be accompanied by a remittance of 125% of the estimated cost thereof as set forth in the final determination. The remittance shall be used by the village to defray the costs of curing the hazard in the manner set forth in the final determination; to provide an administrative fee to the village equal to 15% of such estimated costs to reimburse it for the expense of administering the cure; and to defray the cost of any necessary permits. Any excess of the amount remitted over the actual cost of curing the hazard, the administrative fee and the costs of permits shall be returned to the owner. An owner who follows the procedure set forth in this Subsection A(2) shall not be liable for any further expense in connection with curing the hazard, or for penalties under § 51-13, and Subsections B, C and D below shall be inapplicable to the owner.
Within 90 days of the notice date, the owner shall file with the village a duly completed and executed application or applications for a building permit, demolition permit or other required permit or permits for work, the completion of which will, in the opinion of the Board, relying to the extent it deems appropriate on a report of the Building Inspector, cure the hazard. An application shall be considered to be duly completed only if it provides complete answers to all questions thereon and appends all documentation required by such application. If the Village Code does not require a permit for work necessary to cure the hazard, the owner shall, in lieu of the filing of an application for a permit and within the time limits herein specified in this Subsection B, file with the Village Clerk a copy of a legally binding contract or contracts duly executed by the owner and one or more contractors, completion of the work under which will, in the opinion of the Board, cure the hazard.
Within 30 days of the receipt of the permit(s) so applied for or the filing of the contracts described in Subsection B above (the "permit date"), as the case may be, work thereunder to cure the hazard shall commence.
Within 120 days of the permit date the work required to remove or otherwise cure the hazard as specified in the permit(s) or contract(s) shall be completed. The Board may extend the period for completion of the work required to cure the hazard on such terms and conditions as it deems appropriate, including the posting of bond or depositing of funds in an escrow account, the terms of which are satisfactory to the Board, in an amount necessary, in the opinion of the Board, to complete that work. If the owner fails to complete the work in the required time, the village shall cure the hazard itself using, if such funds exist, the bond or the escrowed amount to complete the work provided in such permits or contracts.
An owner who receives a hazard notice may appeal the final determination as provided in § 121-47 of this Code.
If an owner fails to take an action required under any of Subsections A through D of § 51-9 within any of the time periods provided in §§ 51-9 or 51-10, as the case may be, the village, without further notification to the owner, may take such action to cure the hazard as specified in the final determination. The cost of such curative action shall be for the account of the owner and shall be a debt owed by the owner to the village. The amount of such debt shall be paid by the owner within 10 days of a written demand by the village and, if not paid or otherwise collected by legal process deemed appropriate by the village, shall be a lien on the owner's property equivalent to a tax lien.
An owner who fails to take action required under § 51-9A through D with respect to a hazard specified in a hazard notice within the times therein specified, or specified pursuant to § 51-10, shall be liable for a fine of $250 per day beginning with the day following the last day provided in § 51-9 or pursuant to § 51-10 for taking an action specified in § 51-9A through D. The fine for each infraction shall be levied only with respect to the earliest subsection in § 51-9 that the owner has failed to timely comply with, but if the owner subsequently complies with that subsection, an additional fine may be levied with respect to a failure to comply with a subsequent subsection of § 51-9. Each day in which such failure occurs shall subject the owner to a separate fine, but the maximum fine with respect to any final determination shall be $5,000 or 10% of the amount required by the village to cure the hazard, whichever is greater. Such fine shall be in addition to the amount due the village, if any, provided in § 51-12 above.