Code enforcement, from condemning buildings to investigating poor plumbing, is adopted by communities to preserve the safety, cleanliness and property values of a municipality or other community. But when notices concerning your grass height become more of a nuisance than the grass itself, code enforcement becomes a pain for homeowners. Fighting code enforcement can be difficult and costly. Remember that once fees and expenses are added up, fighting a code enforcement violation can often be more expensive than simply acting in compliance.
Pick your Battles
Remember that some codes, such as building codes and grass height ordinances, are in place for a reason, and that reason is safety. Fighting a code violation can often be more costly and take more time than cutting the lawn. Look at the law. This means finding out which agency, usually your city or your homeowners' association, is citing you as well as reviewing the law to determine if you are actually in violation. If you feel you're being harassed for minor aesthetic violations, it's time to take a stand.
You can usually fight code enforcement by requesting a hearing with your city or homeowners' association. Strict time limits apply, so act quickly.
Contact the Code Enforcement Office
If you are not in violation of a law, contact your city or homeowners' association code enforcement office. Often homeowners' associations contract with a property management company for this purpose. Contact them multiple ways, first by phone as the problem may be cleared up easily with a conversation, and once by mail or email, so you have proof in writing. Request a second inspection of the violation and schedule it for a time you will be home so you can speak with the inspector.
Attend a Hearing
If a second inspection hasn't cleared the violation, request a hearing with your city or homeowners' association. There is often a time limit on hearing requests, usually between 10 and 60 days, so check local regulations and request a hearing as soon as possible. Bring evidence of compliance with local codes, including photos and any inspector's notes, to the hearing. The code enforcement board will make a decision; if they find you still in violation, you will have to comply with the code to their satisfaction and/or pay the associated fine. Your next option will be to sue the homeowners' association or city. Consult a lawyer who specializes in code violations about your case.
- If code enforcement authorities are becoming a nuisance, one way to fight the system is to become a part of it. Talk with neighbors and consider running for public office on a platform of relaxing codes or join the homeowners' association's board of directors.
Jenette Sturges has been a writer and editor since 2006. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in liberal arts from the University of Illinois. As a Fulbright Scholar, she taught English at Hanoi Pedagogical University No. 2 in Vietnam. Her writing and editing have appeared in "The Daily Illini," "The (Anderson, Ind.) Herald-Bulletin," and she has ghostwriten for numerous companies and organizations worldwide.