Sussex County, DE
 
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The provisions of this Article shall govern the administration and enforcement procedures of the Sussex County Housing Code. Any municipality that adopts the code as its own may use these administrative and enforcement procedures as its own or may develop procedures which are similar in nature.
A. 
Except as may otherwise be provided by state or County statute, no officer, agent or employee of the County of Sussex or any Sussex County community, charged with the enforcement of this chapter, shall be rendered personally liable for any damage that may accrue to persons or property as a result of any act required or permitted in the discharge of duties under this chapter.
B. 
No person who institutes or assists in the prosecution of a criminal proceeding under this chapter shall be liable for damage therefor, unless such person acted with actual malice and without reasonable grounds for believing that the person accused or prosecuted was guilty of an unlawful act or omission.
C. 
Any civil suit brought against any officer, agent or employee of the County of Sussex or of any Sussex County community as a result of any act required or permitted in the discharge of duties under this chapter shall be defended by the County Attorney of Sussex County until the final determination of the proceedings therein.
No officer or employee who has an official duty in connection with the administration and enforcement of this chapter shall be financially interested in the furnishing of labor, materials or appliances for the construction, alteration or maintenance of a building or in making the plans or specifications therefor, unless that person is the owner of such building. No such officer or employee shall engage in any activity which is inconsistent with the public interest and the officer's official duties. Any member of a Board of Appeals, as established under § 71-31 of this article, who has a similar conflicting interest in the subject matter on appeal shall not participate in the voting; however, solely because that members vote is counted will not make the decision void or voidable if the Board of Appeals, with or without knowledge of the material facts as to that members interest, decided in good faith by a sufficient vote not counting the vote of the interested Board of Appeals member.
The Code Official shall keep or cause to be kept records concerning the enforcement of this chapter, provisions, which records shall be open to public inspection.
A. 
General. The Code Official shall enforce all the provisions of this chapter relative to the maintenance of structures and premises, except as may otherwise be specifically provided by other regulations.
B. 
Notices and orders. The Code Official shall issue all necessary notices and orders to abate illegal or unsafe conditions to ensure compliance with the chapter requirements for the safety, health and general welfare of the public.
C. 
Inspections.
(1) 
In order to safeguard the safety, health and welfare of the public, the Code Official is authorized to enter any structure or premises at any reasonable time for the purpose of making inspections and performing duties under this chapter.
(2) 
If any owner, occupant or other person in charge of a structure subject to the provisions of this chapter refuses, impedes, inhibits, interferes with, restricts or obstructs entry and free access to any part of the structure or premises where inspection authorized by this chapter is sought, the Code Official may seek, in a court of competent jurisdiction, an order that such owner, occupant or other person in charge cease and desist with such interference.
(3) 
Every occupant of a structure or premises shall give the owner or operator thereof, or agent or employee, access to any part of such structure or its premises at reasonable times for the purpose of making such inspection, maintenance, repairs or alterations as are necessary to comply with the provisions of this chapter.
D. 
Credentials. The Code Official or the Code Official's authorized representative shall disclose proper evidence of his respective office for the purpose of demonstrating authority to inspect any and all buildings and premises in the performance of duties under this chapter.
E. 
Rulemaking authority. The Code Official shall have power, as may be necessary in the interest of public safety, health and general welfare, to adopt and promulgate rules and regulations, to interpret and implement the provisions of this chapter, to secure the intent thereof and to designate requirements applicable because of local climatic or other conditions.
F. 
Annual report. At least annually, the Code Official shall submit to the chief executive of the community or Sussex County a written statement of activities in a form and content as shall be prescribed by the chief executive of that jurisdiction.
A. 
General. When a structure is found by the Code Official to be unsafe or when a structure or part thereof is found unfit for human occupancy or use, it may be condemned pursuant to the provisions of this chapter and may be placarded and vacated. Such condemned structure shall not be reoccupied without approval of the Code Official, but such approval may not be withheld upon completion of specified corrections of violations.
B. 
Definitions. As used in this Section, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
STRUCTURE UNFIT FOR HUMAN OCCUPANCY OR USE
Whenever the Code Official finds that a structure is unsafe or because it lacks maintenance and is in extreme disrepair, is unsanitary, vermin or rat infested, contains filth and contamination or lacks ventilation, illumination, sanitary or heating facilities or other essential equipment required by this chapter.
UNSAFE EQUIPMENT
Includes any boiler, heating equipment, elevator, moving stairway, electrical wiring or device, flammable liquid container or other equipment on the premises or within the structure which is in such disrepair or condition that it is found to be a hazard to life, health, property or safety of the public or occupants of premises or structure. "Unsafe equipment" may contribute to the finding that the structure is unsafe or unfit for human occupancy or use.
UNSAFE STRUCTURE
One in which all or part thereof is found to be dangerous to life, health, property or the safety of the public or the structure's occupants because it is so damaged, decayed, dilapidated, structurally unsafe or of such faulty construction or unstable foundation that it is likely to partially or completely collapse.
C. 
Closing of vacant structures. If the structure or part thereof is vacant and unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use and is not in danger of structural collapse, the Code Official may post a placard of condemnation on the premises and may order the structure closed up so it will not be an attractive nuisance to youngsters. Upon failure of the owner to close up the premises within the time specified in the order, the Code Official shall cause it to be closed through any available public agency or by contract or arrangement by private persons, and the cost thereof shall be charged against the real estate upon which the structure is located and shall be a lien upon such real estate in accordance with § 71-33 of this Article.
A. 
Notice to owner or to person or persons responsible. Whenever the Code Official determines that there has been a violation of this chapter or has reasonable grounds to believe that a violation has occurred or whenever the Code Official has condemned any structure or equipment under the provisions of § 71-26 of this Article, notice shall be given to the owner or the person or persons responsible therefor in the manner prescribed below. If the Code Official has condemned the property or part thereof, the Code Official shall give notice to the owner and to the occupants of the intent to placard and to order vacation of the premises or to order equipment out of service.
B. 
Form. Such notice shall:
(1) 
Be in writing.
(2) 
Include a description of the real estate sufficient for identification.
(3) 
Include a statement of the reason or reasons why it is being issued.
(4) 
Include a correction order allowing a reasonable time for the repairs and improvements required to bring the dwelling unit or structure into compliance with the provisions of this chapter.
(5) 
Include an explanation of the owner's and/or occupant's right to seek modification or withdrawal of the notice by petition to a Board of Appeals having jurisdiction.
(6) 
State penalties for noncompliance.
C. 
Service. Such service shall be deemed to be properly served upon such owner and/or occupant if a copy thereof is delivered to the owner and/or occupant personally or by leaving the notice at the usual place of abode, in the presence of someone in the family of suitable age and discretion, who shall be informed of the contents thereof, or by certified or registered mail addressed to the owner at the last known address with return receipt requested or, if the certified or registered letter is returned with receipt showing that it has not been delivered, by posting a copy thereof in a conspicuous place on or about the structure affected by such notice, and at least one publication of such notice in a local newspaper of general circulation.
D. 
Service on occupant. When a condemnation order is served on an occupant other than the owner or person responsible for such compliance, a reasonable time to vacate the property after noncompliance shall be stated. Owners or persons responsible for compliance must vacate at the time set for correction of defects if there is failure of compliance.
E. 
Penalties. Failure to comply with orders and notices shall be subject to the penalties set forth in § 71-30B of this Article.
F. 
Transfer of ownership. It shall be unlawful for the owner of any dwelling unit or structure who has received a compliance order or upon whom a notice of violation has been served to sell, transfer, mortgage, lease or otherwise dispose of such property to another until the provisions of the compliance order or notice of violation has been complied with or until such owner shall first furnish the grantee, transferee, mortgagee or lessee a true copy of any compliance order or notice of violation issued by the Code Official and shall furnish to the Code Official a signed and notarized statement from the grantee, transferee, mortgagee or lessee acknowledging the receipt of such compliance order or notice of violation and fully accepting the responsibility, without condition, for making the corrections or repairs required by such compliance order or notice of violation.
A. 
Placarding of structure. After the condemnation notice required under the provisions of this chapter has resulted in an order by virtue of failure to comply within the time given, the Code Official may post on the premises or structure or parts thereof or on defective equipment a placard bearing the words "Condemned as Unfit for Human Occupancy or Use" and a statement of the penalties provided for any occupancy or use or for removing the placard. The owner or the person or persons responsible for the correction of violations and all other occupants shall remove themselves from the property on failure to comply with the correction order in the time specified.
B. 
Prohibited use. Any person who shall occupy a placarded premises or structure or part thereof or shall use placarded equipment and any owner or any person responsible for the premises who shall let anyone occupy a placarded premises shall be subject to the penalties set forth in § 71-30B of this Article.
C. 
Removal of placard. The Code Official shall remove the condemnation placard whenever the defect or defects upon which the condemnation and placarding action were based have been eliminated. Any person who defaces or removes a condemnation placard without the approval of the Code Official shall be subject to the penalties provided by this chapter.
A. 
General. Whenever the Code Official finds that an emergency exists on any premises or in any structure or part thereof or on any defective equipment which requires immediate action to protect the public's health and safety or that of the occupants thereof, the Code Official may, with proper notice and service in accordance with the provisions of § 71-27 of this Article, issue an order reciting the existence of such an emergency and requiring the vacating of the premises or such action taken as the Code Official deems necessary to meet such emergency. Notwithstanding other provisions of this chapter, such order shall be effective immediately, and the premises or equipment involved shall be placarded immediately upon service of the order.
B. 
Hearing. Any person to whom such order is directed shall comply therewith. He may thereafter, upon petition directed to a Board of Appeals having jurisdiction, be afforded a hearing as prescribed in this chapter. Depending upon the findings of the Board of Appeals at such hearing as to whether the provisions of this chapter and the rules and regulations adopted pursuant thereto have been complied with, the Board of Appeals shall continue such order or modify or revoke it.
A. 
Unlawful acts. It shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to erect, construct, alter, extend, repair, remove, demolish, use or occupy any structure or equipment regulated by this chapter or cause the same to be done, contrary to or in conflict with or in violation of any of the provisions of this chapter.
B. 
Penalty for violation. Any person who shall violate any provision of this chapter or who fails to comply with any notice or order issued by the Code Official pursuant to the provisions of this chapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not less than $25 nor more than $500 or be imprisoned for a term not exceeding 30 days, or both. Except where an appeal is taken, each day of a separate and continuing violation shall be deemed a separate offense. The nearest Justice of the Peace Court shall have exclusive and original jurisdiction over offenses prosecuted under this chapter.
C. 
Prosecution. In case any violation order is not promptly complied with, the Code Official may direct the County Attorney or the community attorney at law to institute an appropriate action or proceeding at law to seek the penalty provided in Subsection B of this section. Also, the Code Official may ask such legal representative to proceed at law or in equity against the person responsible for the violation for the purpose of ordering that person:
(1) 
To restrain, correct or remove the violation or refrain from any further execution of work;
(2) 
To restrain or correct the erection, installation or alteration of such structure;
(3) 
To require the removal of work in violation; or
(4) 
To prevent the occupancy or use of the structure or part thereof erected, constructed, installed or altered in violation of or not in compliance with the provisions of this chapter or in violation of a plan or specification under which an approval, permit or certification was issued.
A. 
County Board of Appeals; composition. There shall be created a County Board of Appeals for the County of Sussex. The County Board of Appeals shall consist of five members appointed by the County Council. The terms of the members shall be staggered. The first and second appointees shall serve for terms of two years; the third and fourth appointees shall serve for terms of three years; and the fifth appointee, who shall serve as Chairperson, shall serve for a term of four years. Any appointment, pursuant to the provisions hereof, to replace a member whose position becomes vacant prior to the expiration of that person's term shall be filled only for the remainder of that term. At least two but no more than three members of the County Board shall be affiliated with one of the major political parties, and at least one but no more than two members shall be affiliated with the other major political party, provided, however, that there shall be no more than a bare majority representation of one major political party over the other major political party. Any person who declines to announce his political affiliation shall be eligible for appointment as a member of the County Board.
B. 
Community Board of Appeals; composition. A Community Board of Appeals may be created in each community of the County. A Community Board of Appeals shall consist of five members, who shall be residents of that community and who shall be appointed by the chief executive of the community for staggered terms as outlined for the County Board of Appeals in Subsection A of this section. Until a community appoints a Board of Appeals, appeals from actions taken by the Code Official shall be to the County Board of Appeals.
C. 
Board of Appeals; rules and regulations. Each Board of Appeals shall adopt and publish rules and regulations as may be necessary to govern its administrative procedures and proceedings.
D. 
Procedure for appeals. Any person aggrieved by an action taken by the Code Official may appeal from such action by filing written notice of appeal with the appointed County Board of Appeals or any Community Board of Appeals having jurisdiction within 10 days after the giving or posting of notice of such action. An appeal under this subsection shall stay the effect of the notice of violation or condemnation and shall prevent the Code Official from proceeding with the remedies provided under this chapter pending decision by a Board of Appeals. An appeal to the Superior Court by an aggrieved person from a decision of such Board of Appeals shall be made in the manner provided for appeals from administrative decisions.
E. 
Vote. A Board of Appeals shall hear all appeals relative to the enforcement of this chapter within its jurisdiction within a reasonable period of time after the filing of an appeal and, by a concurring vote of the majority of its members, may reverse or affirm wholly or partly or may modify the action appealed from and shall make such other order or determination as it deems just. Failure to secure such concurring votes shall be deemed a confirmation of the decision of the Code Official.
F. 
Financial interest. A member of a Board of Appeals shall not participate in any hearings or vote on any appeal in which that member has a direct or indirect financial interest.
G. 
Records. Each Board of Appeals shall keep a written or recorded record of each meeting showing clearly the basis for each decision made by the Board.
A. 
General. The Code Official may order the owner of premises upon which is located any structure or part thereof which, in the Code Official's judgment, is so old, dilapidated or has become so out of repair as to be dangerous, unsafe, unsanitary or otherwise unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use so that it would be unreasonable to repair the same, to raze and remove such structure or part thereof or, if it can be made safe by repair, to repair and make safe and sanitary or to raze and remove at the owner's option or, where there has been a cessation of normal construction of any structure for a period of more than two years, to raze and remove such structure or part thereof.
B. 
Order. The order shall specify a time in which the owner shall comply therewith and specify repairs, if any. It shall be served on the owner of record or an agent where an agent is in charge of the building and upon the holder of any lien in the manner provided for service of a summons by a court of record. If the owner or a holder of a lien of record cannot be found, the order may be served by posting it on the main entrance of the building and by publishing it once each week, for three successive weeks, in a newspaper of general circulation in accordance with the rules of the Superior Court.
C. 
Restraining actions. Anyone affected by any such order may, within 30 days after service of such order, apply to a court of record for an order restraining the Code Official from razing and removing such structure or parts thereof. The court shall determine whether the order of the Code Official is reasonable, and, if found unreasonable, the court may issue a restraining order.
D. 
Failure to comply. Whenever the owner of a property fails to comply with a demolition order within the time prescribed, the Code Official shall cause the structure or part thereof to be razed and removed, either through an available public agency or by contract or arrangement with private persons, and the cost of such razing and removal shall be charged against the real estate upon which the structure is located and shall be a lien upon such real estate as provided in § 71-33 of this Article.
E. 
Salvage materials. When any structure has been ordered razed and removed, the Code Official or other designated officer may sell the salvage and valuable materials resulting from such razing or removal, such materials to be sold at the highest price obtainable. The net proceeds of such sale, after deducting the expenses of such razing and removal, shall be promptly remitted with a report of such sale or transaction, including the items of expense and the amounts deducted, for the use of the person who may be entitled thereto, subject to any order of a court. If such a surplus does not remain to be turned over, the report shall so state.
There is hereby created a tax lien on real property for moneys expended by the County or a community for razing, demolition, removal or repairs of buildings or abatement of other unsafe conditions constituting a threat to the public health and safety where the responsible party refuses or fails to comply with the lawful order of the Code Official after due notice thereof, either actual or constructive. Upon certification of a tax lien to the appropriate County or community official by the Code Official, the amount of such lien shall be recorded and collected in the same manner as other County real estate taxes and paid to the County or community, when collected, by the appropriate County government.
This chapter shall not affect violations of any other ordinance, code or regulation of the County of Sussex or a municipality existing prior to the effective date hereof, and any such violation shall be governed and shall continue to be enforced to the full extent of the law under the provisions of such ordinances, codes or regulations in effect at the time the violation was committed.