Sussex County, DE
 
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This chapter shall be known as the "Sussex County Housing Code," which establishes minimum property maintenance standards for structures covered by this chapter and is herein sometimes referred to as the "County Housing Code" or "code" and shall apply to and include the entire County of Sussex, except as may be exempted by this chapter.
This chapter is intended to protect the public safety, health and welfare in existing residential structures and on existing residential premises, as hereinafter provided, by:
A. 
Establishing minimum maintenance standards for existing residential structures and premises for basic equipment and facilities for light, ventilation, heat and sanitation; for safety from fire; for space; and for safe and sanitary maintenance of existing structures and premises.
B. 
Fixing the responsibilities of owners, operators and occupants of all structures.
C. 
Providing for administration, enforcement and penalties.
The provisions of the County Housing Code shall apply to existing residential structures used for human habitation. The provisions are designed to eliminate or prevent substandard conditions with respect to structures, protect against fire hazards, provide for adequate space for light and air, provide for proper heating and ventilating and eliminate unsanitary conditions and overcrowding. Every portion of a building or premises used or intended to be used for residential purposes shall comply with the provisions of this chapter, except hotels and motels serving transient guests only, migratory labor housing, rest homes, convalescent homes, nursing homes, recreational campers and civil defense shelters. For the purpose of this chapter, regulations by the State Department of Health and Social Services for migratory labor camps will apply to migrant housing.
The provisions of this entire chapter shall be liberally interpreted so as to minimize displacement of persons whose dwelling units may deviate from this chapter specifications but do not pose an imminent threat to the health, safety and general welfare of the occupants and other persons. Additionally, this chapter is to be liberally interpreted so as to minimize hardships to persons that inhabit or own dwelling units which deviate from this chapters specifications but do not pose an imminent threat to the health, safety and general welfare of the occupants and other persons. Additionally, this chapter is to be liberally interpreted so as to minimize hardships to persons that inhabit or own dwelling units which deviate from this chapter's specifications but do not pose an imminent threat to the health, safety and general welfare of the occupants and other persons.
A. 
This chapter does not replace or modify requirements otherwise established for the construction, repair, alteration or use of buildings and facilities related thereto.
B. 
Nothing in this chapter shall be deemed to abolish or impair existing rights or remedies of a municipality or its officers or agencies relating to the removal or demolition of any buildings which are deemed to be unsafe or unsanitary.
C. 
As determined by the Code Official, in any case where a provision of any other ordinance, regulation or statute of the state, County or municipality existing on the effective date of this chapter or hereafter enacted establishes a lower standard for the promotion and protection of the safety and health of the public, the provisions of this chapter shall govern. This County Housing Code shall not be administered in any community that has adopted a Housing Code containing provisions that contain standards that are equal to or exceed the provisions of this chapter.
D. 
The provisions of the County Housing Code shall not apply to any existing single-family owner-occupied residential structure. The provisions shall become applicable upon the rental or sale of such residential structure. The provisions of the County Housing Code shall not apply to any existing resort residential structure held primarily for the production of income and which is offered for seasonal rental for the months of May through September, inclusive.
E. 
When the literal application of the requirements of this chapter would cause undue hardships or the displacement of low-income occupants with no affordable housing alternatives, an exception may be granted by the appropriate Appeals Board upon written petition under Article III, § 71-31D. Such petition shall state the reason therefor. Such exceptions shall be made in writing. In such cases where it is necessary to make safe an unsafe structure or correct an unhealthy condition, every effort shall be made to make the necessary corrections without causing undue hardship to the occupant or owner and without causing the displacement of said persons.
F. 
When unusual building conditions or building sites exist, an exception may be granted by the Code Official upon written petition. Such petition shall state what these special conditions are, and such exceptions shall be made in writing and only when it is clearly evident that reasonable safe and sanitary conditions are assured, and such exceptions shall be conditioned in such a manner to achieve those ends.
A. 
Words used in the present tense include the future; the singular includes the plural; and the plural includes the singular. Unless otherwise expressly stated, where terms are not defined under the provisions of this chapter, they shall have ascribed to them their ordinarily accepted meanings or such as the context herein may imply. Whenever the words "multifamily dwelling," "residence building," "dwelling unit," "manufactured home" or "premises" are used in this chapter, they shall be construed as though they were followed by the words "or any part thereof."
[Amended 10-12-2010 by Ord. No. 2152]
B. 
The following terms are defined as listed below:
APPROVED
As applied to a material, device or method of construction, approved by the Code Official under the provisions of this chapter or approved by other authority designated by law to give approval in the matter in question.
BASEMENT
That portion of a building which is partly below and partly above grade and has at least 1/2 its height above grade. (See "cellar.")
CELLAR
That portion of a building which is partly or completely below grade and has at least 1/2 its height below grade. (See "basement.")
CENTRAL HEATING
The heating system permanently installed and adjusted so as to provide the distribution of heat to all habitable rooms, bathrooms and water-closet compartments from a source outside of these rooms.
CODE OFFICIAL
The official who is charged with the administration and enforcement of this chapter, or any duly authorized representative.
COMMUNITY
Any municipality in the County of Sussex.
CONDEMN
To adjudge unfit for residential use or human occupancy.
CONDEMNATION
The act of judicially condemning.
(1) 
A building containing one dwelling unit with not more than five lodgers or boarders.
(2) 
A building containing two dwelling units with not more than five lodgers or boarders per family.
(3) 
A building or portion thereof containing more than two dwelling units and not classified as a one- or two-family dwelling.
(4) 
A building arranged or used for lodging, with or without meals, for compensation, by more than five and not more than 20 individuals.
(5) 
A space in a building where group sleeping accommodations are provided in one room or in a series of closely associated rooms for persons not members of the same family group.
(6) 
Any building containing six or more guest rooms intended or designed to be used or which are used, rented or hired out to be occupied or which are occupied for sleeping purposes by guests.
(7) 
A one-family dwelling designed for transportation, after fabrication, on streets and highways on its own wheels or supported by other vehicles or trailers, but which is not self-propelled, and arriving at the site where it is to be occupied complete and ready for occupancy, except for minor and incidental unpacking and assembly operations, supported on jacks or other foundations and connected to utilities and the like.
[Amended 10-12-2010 by Ord. No. 2152]
DWELLING UNIT
A single unit providing complete, independent living facilities for one or more persons, including a manufactured home, including permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation.
[Amended 10-12-2010 by Ord. No. 2152]
ENFORCEMENT OFFICER
The official designated herein or otherwise charged with the responsibilities of administering this chapter or the official's authorized representative.
EXTERIOR PROPERTY AREAS
The open space on the premises and on adjoining property under the control of owners or operators of such premises.
EXTERMINATION
The control and elimination of insects, rats or other pests by eliminating their harborage places; by removing or making inaccessible materials that may serve as their food; by poison spraying, fumigating or trapping; or by any other approved pest-elimination methods.
FAMILY
An individual or married couple and the children thereof, with not more than two other persons, living together as a single housekeeping unit in a dwelling unit.
GARBAGE
The animal and vegetable waste resulting from the handling, preparation, cooking and consumption of food.
HABITABLE SPACE
Space in a structure for living, sleeping, eating or cooking. Bathrooms, toilet compartments, closets, halls, storage or utility space and similar areas are not considered "habitable space."
HOTEL
See "dwellings."
INFESTATION
The presence, within or contiguous to a structure or premises, of insects, rats, vermin or other pests.
JUNK VEHICLE
Any vehicle which is without a currently valid license plate or plates and is in either a rusted, wrecked, discharged, dismantled, partly dismantled, inoperative or abandoned condition. A "junk vehicle" shall be classified as to its condition in one of the two following categories:
(1) 
A junk vehicle that is in a condition whereby repairs to the same could be made to place it in operating condition without exceeding the estimated value when repaired.
(2) 
A junk vehicle in such condition that it is economically unsound to restore the same to operating condition, considering the repairs to be made, the age of the vehicle and the market value of the vehicle if it were restored, or in such condition that it warrants such classification.
LET FOR OCCUPANCY or LET
To permit possession or occupancy of a dwelling, dwelling unit, rooming unit, building or structure by a person who shall be the legal owner or not be the legal owner of record thereof, pursuant to a written or unwritten lease, agreement or license or pursuant to a recorded or unrecorded agreement of contract for the sale of land.
MAINTENANCE
Conformance of a building and its facilities to the code under which the building was constructed.
MOTEL
A "hotel," as defined in this chapter.
MULTIFAMILY (MULTIPLE) DWELLINGS
See "dwellings."
OCCUPANT
Any person over one year of age, including the owner or operator, living and sleeping in a dwelling unit or having actual possession of said dwelling or rooming unit.
OPENABLE AREA
That part of a window or door which is available for unobstructed ventilation and which opens directly to the outdoors.
OPERATOR
Any person who has charge, care or control of a structure or premises which is let or offered for occupancy.
OVERCROWDED
A dwelling shall be "overcrowded" when its occupancy exceeds the maximum number of persons permitted in Article II, § 71-14K, L and P.
OWNER
Any person, firm or corporation having a legal or equitable interest in the premises, or any agent thereof.
PERSON
Any individual, corporation or partnership.
PLUMBING
The labor, materials and fixtures used in the installation, maintenance, extension and alteration of all piping, fixtures, appliances and appurtenances.
PLUMBING FIXTURE
A receptacle or device which is either permanently or temporarily connected to the water-distribution system of the premises and demands a supply of water therefrom or discharges used water, liquid-borne waste materials or sewage either directly or indirectly to the drainage system of the premises or which requires both a water supply connection and a discharge to the drainage system of the premises.
PREMISES
A lot, plot or parcel of land, including the buildings or structures thereon.
PUBLIC NUISANCE
Includes the following:
(1) 
The physical condition or use of any premises regarded as a public nuisance at common law,
(2) 
Any physical condition, use or occupancy of any premises or its appurtenances considered an attractive nuisance to children, including but not limited to abandoned wells, shafts, basements, excavations and unsafe fences or structures;
(3) 
Any premises designated as having unsanitary sewerage or plumbing facilities;
(4) 
Any premises designated as unsafe for human habitation or use;
(5) 
Any premises which is manifestly capable of being a fire hazard or is manifestly unsafe or unsecure so as to endanger life, limb or property.
(6) 
Any premises from which the plumbing, heating or other facilities required by this chapter have been removed or from which utilities such as water, sewer, gas and electricity have been disconnected, destroyed, removed or rendered ineffective or the required precautions against trespassers have not been provided;
(7) 
Any premises which is unsanitary or which is littered with rubbish or garbage or which has an uncontrolled growth of weeds; or
(8) 
Any structure or building that is in an advanced state of dilapidation, deterioration or decay; has faulty construction; is overcrowded; is open, vacant or abandoned; is damaged by fire to the extent as not to provide adequate shelter; is in danger of collapse or structural failure; and is dangerous to anyone on or near the premises.
RENOVATION
Work on a building and its facilities to make it conform to present-day minimum standards of sanitation, fire- and life safety.
RESIDENCE BUILDING
A building in which sleeping accommodations and toilet, bathing and cooking facilities as a unit are provided.
ROOMING HOUSE
Any residence building or any part thereof, containing one or more rooming units, in which space is let by the owner or operator to more than five persons who are not members of the family. (See "dwellings, boardinghouse.")
ROOMING UNIT
Any room or group of rooms forming a single habitable unit used or intended to be used for living and sleeping but not for cooking or eating purposes.
RUBBISH
Combustible and noncombustible waste materials, except garbage, and the term shall include the residue from the burning of wood, coal, coke and other combustible materials, paper, rags, cartons, boxes, wood, excelsior, rubber, leather, tree branches, yard trimmings, tin cans, metals, mineral matter, glass, crockery and dust and other similar materials.
STRUCTURE
That which is built or constructed, including, without limitation because of enumeration, buildings for any occupancy or use whatsoever, fences, signs, billboards, fire escapes, chute escapes, railings, water tanks, towers, open-grade steps, sidewalks or stairways, tents or anything erected and framed to component parts which is fastened, anchored or rests on a permanent foundation or on the ground.
SUPPLIED
Installed, furnished or provided by the owner or operator.
VENTILATION
The process of supplying and removing air by natural or mechanical means to or from any space.
(1) 
Ventilation by power-driven devices.
(2) 
Ventilation by opening to outer air through windows, skylights, doors, louvers or stacks without wind-driven devices.
WORKMANLIKE STATE OF MAINTENANCE AND REPAIR
That such maintenance and repair shall be made in a reasonably skillful manner.
YARD
An open, unoccupied space on the same lot with a building, extending along the entire length of a street or rear or interior lot line.
Any community in Sussex may adopt the County Housing Code as its own Municipal Housing Code by reference to this chapter of the Sussex County Code.
A. 
It shall be the duty and responsibility of each community to enforce the provisions of the County Housing Code throughout the confines of that municipality.
B. 
In the event that communities have not adopted the County Housing Code or one that contains standards that are equal to or exceed the provisions of this chapter by July 12, 1988, the Code Official may begin enforcement within that community, subject to the provisions of this chapter. Any community may contract with another community or Sussex County on its behalf in the enforcement of this chapter.
A. 
Inspection of premises and the issuing of orders in connection therewith under the provisions of this chapter shall be the exclusive responsibility of the Code Official.
B. 
When, in the opinion of the Code Official, it is necessary or desirable to have inspections of any conditions by any other community, the Code Official shall arrange for this to be done in such a manner that the owners or occupants of the dwelling shall not be subjected to visits by numerous inspectors nor to multiple or conflicting orders. No order for correction of any violation under this section, when coordination of enforcement is required, shall be issued without the approval of the Code Official, and, before issuing any such order, the Code Official shall obtain the concurrence of any other department or agency having jurisdiction thereover.