[HISTORY: Adopted by the Common Council of the City of Rensselaer 2-20-1991 by L.L. No. 3-1991. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Editor's Note: This local law was originally adopted as Ch. 246 but was renumbered to maintain the alphabetical organization of the Code.
This chapter shall be called the "Unsafe Buildings Law."
The purpose of this chapter is to promote and preserve the health, safety and welfare of the public and residents and/or owners of property located within this City by providing a method for the removal or repair of buildings and structures within the limits of this City that, from any cause, may now be or shall hereafter become dangerous or unsafe to the public and residents and/or owners of property within the City.
No person, firm, corporation or association owning, possessing or controlling a building or structure in this City shall permit, suffer or allow said building now or hereafter to be or become dangerous or unsafe to the public and/or residents from any cause whatsoever.
All buildings and structures which have any or all of the following defects shall be deemed unsafe or dangerous within the meaning of this chapter:
Those whose interior walls or other vertical structural members list, lean or buckle to such an extent that a plumb line passing through the center of gravity falls outside the middle third of its base.
Those which, exclusive of the foundation, show 33% or more of damage to or deterioration of the supporting member or members or 50% of damage to or deterioration of the nonsupporting, enclosing or outside walls or covering.
Those which have improperly distributed loads upon the floors or roofs or in which the same are overloaded or which have insufficient strength to be reasonably safe for the purpose used.
Those which have been damaged by fire, wind or other causes so as to have become dangerous to life, safety or the general health and welfare of the occupants or the people of this City.
Those which have become or are so dilapidated decayed, unsafe or unsanitary or which so utterly fail to provide the amenities essential to decent living that they are unfit for human habitation or are likely to cause sickness or disease so as to work injury to the health, safety or general welfare of those living therein or adjacent thereto.
Those having light, air and sanitation facilities which are inadequate to protect the health, safety or general welfare of human beings who live or may live therein, with particular reference to the requirements of the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code as a determinant.
Those having inadequate facilities for egress in case of fire or panic or those having insufficient stairways, elevators, fire escapes or other means of communication, again referencing the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code as a determinant.
Those which have parts thereof which are so attached that they may fall and injure members of the public or property.
Those which, because of their condition, are unsafe, unsanitary or dangerous to the health, safety or general welfare of the people of this City.
The City Engineer shall be the enforcement officer of this chapter and shall direct the Building and Zoning Administrator to make inspections of all unsafe buildings and structures within the City. The Building and Zoning Administrator shall report to the City Engineer all unsafe buildings and structures which from time to time may be found within the limits of the City. When it is reported to the City Engineer that a building or structure is believed to be in an unsafe or dangerous condition, the City Engineer shall direct the Building and Zoning Administrator to inspect the same and to report the condition of the same and his finding to the City Engineer with all convenient speed, and further, said inspection shall be conducted only after proper notice has been made to the owner of the building or structure, with the subsequently scheduled inspection to be conducted in the presence of the owner or owner's agent.
The City Engineer shall thereafter consider the report of the Building and Zoning Administrator and, if in his opinion the report so warrants, shall determine that the building or structure is unsafe and dangerous and order its removal or repair, if the same can be safely repaired, and further order that a notice shall be given to interested persons or corporations in the manner as hereinafter provided.
The notice shall contain the following:
A description of the premises.
A statement of the particulars in which the building or structure is unsafe or dangerous.
An order requiring the same to be made safe and secure or removed.
That the securing or removal of the buildings or structures shall commence within 30 days of the serving of the notice, as hereinafter provided, and shall be completed within 60 days thereafter.
That, in the event of neglect or refusal of the persons and/or corporations served with the notice to comply with the same, an inspection of the premises will be made by the Building and Zoning Administrator and an inspector, architect or engineer to be named by the City Engineer and a practical builder, engineer or architect appointed by said persons or corporations so notified.
That, in the event of the refusal or neglect of the persons or corporations so notified to appoint an inspector, the two inspectors named by the City Engineer shall make the inspection and report.
Said notice shall be served in the following manner:
By personal service of a copy thereof upon the owner or some one of the owners, executors, legal representatives, agents, lessees or any other person having a vested or contingent interest in the premises as shown by the last preceding completed assessment roll of the City, such service to be complete and the thirty-day time period recited in said notice to commence upon filing of an affidavit of personal service upon the owner with the City Clerk and County Clerk; or
By mailing a copy of said notice to such owner as aforesaid, by registered mail, return receipt requested, addressed to the last known address of the owner and by affixing a copy of said notice to the premises, such service to be complete and the thirty-day time period recited in said notice to commence 10 days after the filing of the return receipt and the affidavit of posting with the City Clerk and County Clerk; and
By personal service of a copy of said notice upon any adult residing in or occupying said premises or, if no such person can be reasonably found, by posting a copy of said notice upon the premises.
In the event of neglect or refusal of the persons so notified to comply with said order of the City Engineer, a survey of said premises shall be made in the following manner:
The City Engineer shall appoint the Building and Zoning Administrator, architect or engineer, and the persons so notified shall appoint a practical builder, engineer or architect who shall make said report and submit a written report thereon in regard to the unsafe or dangerous condition of said building or structure. If the persons so notified shall refuse or neglect to appoint an inspector within 40 days after service of the notice, the two inspectors appointed by the City Engineer shall proceed and report.
A signed copy of such report shall be posted on the structure.
In the event that the building or other structure shall be reported unsafe or dangerous under such report, the City Engineer may request the Corporation Counsel to make an application to the Supreme Court for an order determining the building or other structure to be a public nuisance and directing that it shall be repaired and secured or taken down and removed.
The inspectors shall be paid reasonable compensation for the service performed by them in making their report and in preparing the report thereof.
All costs and expenses incurred by the City in connection with the administratively and/or judicially substantiated proceedings to remove or secure, including the cost of actually removing said building or structure, shall be assessed against the land on which said building or structure is located.
In case there shall be, in the opinion of the Building and Zoning Administrator, actual and immediate danger of the falling of a building or structure so as to endanger public safety, life or property or actual or immediate menace to health or public welfare as a result of the conditions present in or about a building or structure, he shall cause the necessary work to be done to render such building or structure temporarily safe, whether the procedure prescribed in this chapter for unsafe or dangerous buildings or structures has been instituted or not.
When emergency work is to be performed under this section, the Building and Zoning Administrator shall cause the owner thereof to be served personally or by registered mail, return receipt requested, and, if served by registered mail, shall post on the premises a notice to comply containing a description of the premises, a statement of the facts in which the structure is unsafe or dangerous and orders and directions to correct the conditions which constitute an emergency within a specified period not to exceed three days from actual or constructive receipt of the notice.
In the event that the emergency does not permit any delay in correction, the notice shall state that the City has corrected the emergency condition.
In both cases, the notice shall state that the corrective costs of the emergency will be assessed against the owner pursuant to the provisions of this chapter.
Pursuant to the authority and powers granted in the Municipal Home Rule Law, particularly § 10 thereof, the following alternate or additional procedures may be followed:
Upon the making of a report by the Building and Zoning Administrator that the building or structure is reported unsafe or dangerous to the public, the City Engineer may direct the Building and Zoning Administrator to serve a notice upon the owner and all other persons having an interest in such property or structure, either personally or by registered mail, addressed to their last known addresses as shown by the records of the City Assessor and/or in the office of the County Clerk, containing a description of the premises, a statement of the particulars in which the building or structure is unsafe or dangerous and an order of the Building and Zoning Administrator requiring the same to be repaired or removed and, if such service is made by registered mail, the posting of such notice on the premises.
Such owner so served shall commence the repair or removal of such building or structure within 30 days after service of such notice.
A hearing shall be held before the City Engineer at a time and place specified in the notice to repair or demolish, not sooner than two weeks nor later than the date given to commence repair or removal, if the owner requests the same. If no hearing is requested, the order so served shall take effect as provided in the notice.
At the hearing, the owner, the City and any other interested parties may present witnesses and any other proof relating to the matters, and all parties may appear in person or with their attorneys.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the City Engineer shall make a determination, in writing, and a copy of the same shall be served either personally or by registered mail on all parties who appeared therein.
The determination shall state whether the original report is sustained, modified or reversed. If reversed, no further proceeding shall be had.
If the original report is sustained, in whole or in part, the City Engineer shall also include an order directing the owner to proceed in accordance therewith and shall further specify that unless the work is commenced within 10 days after service and completed within a reasonable time thereafter, which the City Engineer shall designate, the penalties hereinafter provided shall be invoked.
Upon notification that the owner of the unsafe building or structure has failed or refused to repair the unsafe building or structure within the time specified in the final order, the City Engineer shall report the same to the Common Council. The Common Council may direct that the City shall cause the repair or removal of the unsafe building. After the work has been completed, the City Engineer shall file with the Common Council a verified statement of all of the direct costs of the same, together with a charge of 50%, in addition thereto, as compensation to the City for administering, supervising and handling said work.
Upon receipt of the verified statement, the Common Council shall direct that the amount thereof, including the charges added thereto, shall constitute a lien against the premises and direct that the same shall be added to the next assessment roll of general City taxes and shall be collected and enforced in the same manner, by the same proceedings, at the same time and under the same penalties as the general City tax and as a part thereof. In addition thereto, interest shall run thereon from the date of filing the verified statement to the date of actual payment at 7 1/2% per annum.
Notwithstanding any provision herein to the contrary, the City may, at its election, institute suit against the owner of the premises for the direct costs, together with a charge of 50% in addition thereto as compensation to the City for administering, supervising and handling said work, and enter judgment thereon against the owner personally for the aforesaid amount. The imposition and collection of any fine or penalty hereinafter prescribed shall not bar the right of the City to collect the costs of the removal or repair of any unsafe building or structure as herein prescribed.
The failure of the owner to complete the repairs or to remove the unsafe building or structure as specified in the final notice of the City Engineer shall subject the owner to the same procedure and penalties as herein set forth.
The transfer of title by the owner of premises upon which an unsafe building or structure is located shall be no defense to any proceedings under this chapter.
Any person upon whom a notice as provided in this chapter has been served who fails, neglects or refuses to place such unsafe building or structure in a safe condition as designated in such notice or who shall commit an offense against any of the provisions of this chapter or orders given pursuant thereto or who shall resist or obstruct the City Engineer in carrying out the provisions of this chapter shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a violation pursuant to the Penal Law of the State of New York, punishable by a fine of not more than $250 or by imprisonment for not more than 15 days, or by both such fine and imprisonment. Each day in which such offense continues shall constitute a separate violation.