[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Board of the Town of Highlands 3-9-1966; amended in its entirety 7-23-2012 by L.L. No. 2-2012. Subsequent amendments noted where applicable.]
Unsafe buildings pose a threat to life and property in the Town of Highlands. Buildings and structures may become unsafe by reason of damage by fire, the elements, age, abandonment, lack of maintenance or repair or general deterioration. Vacant buildings not properly secured at doorways and windows also serve as an attractive nuisance for young children who may be injured therein, as well as a point of congregation by vagrants and transients. A dilapidated building may also serve as a place of rodent infestation, thereby creating a health menace to the community. Debris, rubble or parts of buildings left on the ground and not removed constitute a dangerous, unhealthy and unsightly condition. It is the purpose of this chapter to provide for the safety, health, protection and general welfare of persons and property in the Town of Highlands by requiring such unsafe buildings to be repaired and secured or demolished and removed.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- The failure to use or occupy a building for its principal intended purpose for a period of six or more months for any reason, regardless of intent.
- Any building, structure or premises or portion thereof used or designed for residential, business, industrial, recreational or other purpose.
- BUILDING INSPECTOR
- The Building Inspector or Code Enforcement Officer of the Town of Highlands and his duly appointed assistants or deputies or such other person appointed by the Town Board to enforce the provisions of this chapter.
- PORTION OF BUILDING OR STRUCTURE
- Any debris, rubble or parts of a building which remain on the ground or on the premises after abandonment or demolition, reconstruction, fire or other casualty.
- UNSAFE BUILDING OR STRUCTURE
- Any building, structure or premises or portion thereof which:
- A. Has interior walls or other vertical structural members which list, lean or buckle to such an extent that a plumb line passing through the center of gravity falls outside of the middle 1/3 of its base;
- B. Exclusive of the foundation, shows 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;
- C. Has improperly distributed loads upon the floors or roofs or in which the same are overloaded or have insufficient strength to be reasonably safe;
- D. Has been damaged by fire, wind, lack of maintenance or repair or other causes so as to have become dangerous to life, safety, morals or the general health and welfare of the occupants or the people of the Town of Highlands;
- E. Has become or is so dilapidated, decayed, unsafe or unsanitary or which fails to provide the amenities essential to decent or safe use or occupancy such that it is unfit for human use or occupancy or is likely to cause sickness or disease, so as to cause injury to the health, morals, safety or general welfare of those using or occupying the building;
- F. Has light, air, electrical or sanitation facilities which are inadequate to protect the health, morals, safety or general welfare of persons who live or may live therein;
- G. Has inadequate facilities for egress in case of fire or panic or insufficient stairways, elevators, fire escapes or other means of communication;
- H. Has parts thereof which are so attached that they may fall and injure members of the public or property;
- I. Because of its condition, is unsafe, unsanitary or dangerous to persons who live or may live therein or to the health, morals, safety or general welfare of the people of the Town of Highlands;
- J. Is open at the doorways or windows or walls, making it accessible to and an object of attraction to minors under 18 years of age, as well as to vagrants and other trespassers;
- K. Is or may become a place of rodent infestation;
- L. Consists of debris, rubble or parts of a building or structure left on the ground after abandonment or demolition, reconstruction, fire or other casualty; or
- M. Presents any other danger to the public health, safety or general welfare.
It shall be unlawful for any owner, tenant or occupant of any building or portion thereof in the Town of Highlands to maintain or allow such building or portion in any condition or manner which is unsafe as defined in § 88-2 of this chapter.
Any owner, occupant or person in custody of real property located within the Town of Highlands who allows or permits a building to continue as a dangerous building after due notice as provided in § 88-5 below shall be guilty of a violation of this chapter and shall, upon correction, be punished by a fine not to exceed $250 and/or imprisonment not to exceed 15 days. Each week the building continues as a dangerous building after due notice shall be deemed a separate and distinct violation.
When, in the opinion of the Building Inspector, any building located in the Town of Highlands shall be deemed to be dangerous or unsafe as to the public as defined in § 88-2, the Building Inspector shall make an inspection thereof and report, in writing, to the Town Board his finding and recommendations in regard to the building's removal or repair.
The Town Board shall thereupon consider said report, and, if it finds that such building is dangerous and unsafe to the public, it shall, by resolution, order its repair if the same can be safely repaired and secured and made to comply with Chapter 141, Property Maintenance, and, if not, order its demolition and removal, and shall further order that a hearing be held before the Town Board at a time and place therein specified and on at least five days' notice to the owner of the building and other persons having an interest therein to determine whether said order to repair or remove shall be affirmed or modified or vacated and, in the event of modification or affirmance, to assess all costs and expenses incurred by the Town in the repair or removal of such building against the land on which said building is located.
In addition to serving the notice as provided in § 88-5 above, the Town Board may, if it determines that the purposes of this chapter will be further effectuated, order that no person other than the owner or his agent shall enter upon the property and shall post on such property signs indicating "no trespassing." When such a determination is made, notice of such fact shall be included in the notice referred to in § 88-5 above. Anyone found trespassing in violation of this section shall be punished, upon conviction, by a fine not to exceed $250 and/or imprisonment not to exceed 15 days.
This notice shall contain the following statements:
The name of the owner or person in possession as appears from the tax and deed records.
A brief description of the premises and its location.
A description of the building which is unsafe or dangerous and a statement of the particulars in which it is unsafe or dangerous or a copy of the Building Inspector's report.
An order requiring the same to be made safe and secure or to be removed.
That the repair and securing or removal of said building shall commence within a specified number of days of the service of the notice, or on a specified date, and shall be completed within a specified number of days thereafter, or on a specified date.
The time and place of the hearing to be held before the Town Board, at which hearing the owner or occupant or others having an interest in the premises shall have the right to contest the order and findings of the Town Board.
That in the event that such owner, occupant or other person having an interest in said premises shall fail to contest such order or fail to comply with the same, the Town Board will order the repair or removal of such building by the Town, and the Town will assess all costs and expenses incurred in such repair or removal against the land on which such building is located.
That in any case where a building which is required to be made safe and secure under this chapter is made safe by the boarding up thereof, the material for such boarding shall be painted, as near as practicable, the same color as the building.
That failure to commence the necessary repairs, improvements or demolition within the time specified in the notice will constitute a violation of the law, punishable, upon conviction, by a fine not to exceed $250 and/or imprisonment not to exceed 15 days.
A copy of said notice shall be personally served upon the owner or upon one of the owners, executors, legal representatives, agents, lessees or other person having a vested interest in the premises as shown on the Town tax records or in the records in the Orange County Clerk's office.
If such person cannot be reasonably found for personal service, then a copy of said notice shall be mailed to such person by registered mail addressed to his last known address as shown on said records and by personally serving a copy of said notice upon any adult person residing in or occupying said premises or by securely affixing a copy of said notice upon said building.
A copy of said notice may be filed in the Orange County Clerk's office, which notice shall be filed in the same manner as a notice of pendency pursuant to Article 65 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules and shall have the same effect as a notice of pendency as therein provided. A notice so filed shall be effective for a period of one year from the date of filing. It may be vacated upon an order of a Judge or Justice of a court of record or upon the written consent of the Town Attorney or attorney for the Town. The Orange County Clerk shall mark such notice and any record or docket thereof as canceled upon the presentation and filing of such consent or of a certified copy of such order.
The Town Board shall conduct the public hearing at the time and place specified in the notice to repair or remove. It may adjourn the hearing from time to time until interested parties are heard and until the hearing is completed. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Town Board shall determine by resolution to revoke the order to repair or remove, modify said order or affirm said order to direct the owner or other persons to complete the work within the time specified in the order or such other time as shall be determined by the Town Board.
In the event of the refusal, failure or neglect of the owner or person so notified to comply with said order of the Town Board within the time specified in said order and after the public hearing, the Town Board shall provide that such building be made safe and secure or demolished and removed by Town employees or by independent contractors. Except in emergency cases as herein provided, any contract for repair or demolition and removal of a building or structure in excess of $35,000 shall be awarded through competitive bidding.
In the event of the refusal, failure or neglect of the owner or person so notified to comply with said order of the Town Board within the time specified in said order and after the public hearing, such owner or person shall be guilty of a violation of this chapter.
Each violation of any provision of this chapter or any lawful order hereunder shall be punishable, upon conviction, by a fine not to exceed $250 and/or imprisonment not to exceed 15 days. Each week the violation continues shall be deemed a separate and distinct violation.
All expenses incurred by the Town in connection with the proceedings to repair and secure or demolish and remove the unsafe building, including without limitation the cost of actually repairing and securing or demolishing and removing such building, title search expenses, engineering fees and attorney's fees, and a reasonable surcharge, not to exceed 10% of the direct costs as compensation to the Town for administering, supervising and handling said work, shall be assessed against the land on which such building is located and shall be levied and collected in the same manner as provided for the levy and collection of real property taxes.
Where the Building Inspector finds that the condition of a building presents a clear and imminent danger to the life, safety or health of any person, the Building Inspector shall order the building vacated immediately and not occupied until specified repairs and improvements are completed and then inspected and approved by the Building Inspector. A copy of said order shall be served on the owner or other person having a vested property interest in the same manner as provided in § 88-8. The Building Inspector shall post at each entrance to such building a notice stating that the building is unsafe and its use and occupancy is prohibited. Such notice shall remain posted until the required repairs are made or demolition is completed. It shall be unlawful for any person or his agent to remove such notice without written permission of the Building Inspector or for any person to enter the building except for the purpose of making the required repairs or of demolishing the building.
Where the Building Inspector finds that the condition of a building presents a clear and imminent danger to the life, safety or health of any person or to the value, condition or integrity of neighboring property, then the Town Board may, by resolution, authorize the Building Inspector to immediately cause the repair or demolition of such unsafe building. The expenses of such repair or demolition shall be charged against the land on which it is located and shall be assessed, levied and collected as provided herein. A copy of said resolution shall be served on the owner or other person having a vested property interest in the same manner as provided in § 88-8.
The Town Board, in its discretion, may elect to apply to the Supreme Court of the State of New York for an order directing that the building be repaired and secured or demolished and removed.
The Town Board may commence a special proceeding pursuant to § 78-b of the General Municipal Law to collect the cost of demolition, including reasonable and necessary legal expenses.