City of Schenectady, NY
Schenectady County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[Added 5-12-1975 by Ord. No. 16752]
The owner of a building or structure, or part thereof, shall, at all times, maintain and keep the same in good repair and in a healthy, safe, secure and usable condition. A building or structure, or a part thereof, that may be or shall, at any time, become in disrepair, unsafe, unhealthy, insecure or unusable is an unsafe or dangerous structure and a nuisance and shall, unless placed into good repair and made safe, healthy, secure and usable, be removed by the owner.
[Amended 8-20-1990 by Ord. No. 90-66]
A. 
The term "secured," for the purposes of this section, shall mean that all means of ingress and egress, including but not limited to all doorways and windows, shall be in a good state of repair, without any broken glass or other damage that may allow entry or create an eyesore, and shall be securely locked. Any building not so secured shall be promptly boarded up, such that all means of ingress and egress shall be covered as specified hereinafter, so as to ensure that continued security of the building and to reduce the negative impact on the neighborhood.
B. 
The following minimum standards shall be adhered to unless another equivalent system is proposed in writing and approved by the Building Inspector or his duly appointed representative:
(1) 
Exterior-grade plywood, 1/2 inch in thickness or greater, shall be used for boarding material. All boarding material shall be cut to fit neatly into each means of ingress and egress such that it covers each opening in its entirety but does not overlap onto the adjacent exterior wall surface. All boarding shall be secured from the interior by no less than two two-inch-by-four-inch, or greater, studs mounted horizontally 1/4 the distance from the top and bottom across the span of the opening and shall exceed the opening on either side by no less than four inches. Fasteners shall be three-eighths-inch, minimum, carriage bolts with appropriate nut washer, and lock washers shall be used and placed four inches from either inside opening and shall be tightened so as to ensure that the board cannot allow prying material to be effective. In the event that the door contains a glass or wood panel less than 1/2 inch thick, it shall be entirely covered with boarding material. The door shall be secured with at least two keyed locks, and all hinges shall have concealed fastenings. All boarding material shall be finished on the exterior with one coat of primer and two coats of exterior-grade paint. The color of the boarding material shall be consistent with all board-ups as charcoal grey.
[Amended 5-14-2012 by Ord. No. 2012-07]
(2) 
The building shall contain adequate ventilation to prevent the accumulation of moisture which may deteriorate the finishes and/or the structure. Adequate ventilation shall be deemed to be a minimum of two louvered and secured ventilation openings, each having an opening side of at least 144 square inches, and placed on opposite walls of the building at the uppermost floor level. All interior doors at all floor levels shall be left open in order to allow circulation of air. In the event that the circulation of air on all floor levels is not possible using two vents, additional vents shall be installed to achieve such circulation.
(3) 
All combustible trash and debris shall be removed from the building. Any portions of the exterior of the main building or accessory buildings, including but not limited to walls, porches, stairs, parapet walls and chimneys, that are deteriorated so as to be in danger of collapse or to otherwise constitute a hazard or allow penetration of water into the building shall be repaired or replaced or otherwise made safe and weathertight.
(4) 
The grounds surrounding the building shall be cleared and kept cleared of all litter, rubbish, debris, trash and junk and of all grass or weeds in excess of six inches in height.
(5) 
When it is required by this section that a building be boarded up, it shall be the responsibility of the owner to have the electric and gas service, if any, temporarily shut off from the building by contacting Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation, Customer Service. Service may not be reconnected until repair and rehabilitation work or occupancy actually commences.
(6) 
All plumbing and heating systems that contain water shall be completely drained and kept empty between October 15 and April 15, and an antifreeze solution shall be added to all plumbing traps in the building. This shall not apply if the building is adequately heated during that time period.
(7) 
The owner shall arrange to provide access to the interior of the building by representatives of the Bureau of Code Enforcement to inspect for compliance with the requirements above that pertain to the interior.
(8) 
When it is required by this section that a building be boarded up, it shall be the responsibility of the owner, agent or person in control, within five days after receipt of notice (served in the manner specified in § 138-23) from the Building Inspector, to place a sign, to be a minimum of two feet in height and three feet wide, conspicuously on the front of the building visible from the City right-of-way. Said sign shall contain the words "IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, CONTACT" followed by the names of all the owners, the addresses of all the owners and a full telephone number that can be used to contact the owners. Letters shall be all uppercase at least three inches in height. Such sign shall remain posted until the building is no longer vacant and boarded or is otherwise demolished. This section shall also apply to existing boarded up buildings on the date of the adoption of this chapter, and the Building Inspector may serve notice on the owner, agent or person in control of said building. If said owner, agent or person in control of said building fails, after due notice, to place said sign on the building, the Building Inspector may place the sign on the building and the City's cost shall be paid out of the municipal treasury on certificate of the Building Inspector. Such costs plus an administrative fee of $25 shall be charged against the land on which the building existed, as a municipal lien, or such costs and administrative fee shall be added to the tax roll as an assessment or shall be levied as a special tax against the land upon which the building stands or did stand or shall be recovered in a suit at law against the owner.
[Added 2-13-1995 by Ord. No. 95-05]
C. 
In addition to securing or boarding up the building in the aforementioned manner, the Building Inspector is authorized to promulgate additional rules and regulations pertaining to the minimum requirements of securing a building.
Notwithstanding the availability of other remedies for enforcement of the provisions contained in the Housing Code, Building Code, Plumbing Code, Fire Prevention Code and Zoning Ordinance of the City of Schenectady and in any other state or local law, ordinance or regulation, where applicable, the remedies and enforcement procedures as set forth in this article are made available to enforce the provisions of the aforesaid enumerated codes and laws and shall be deemed cumulative to other enforcement procedures and remedies.
A. 
Notwithstanding the powers of the Fire Chief and other officers to enforce the provisions of the Fire Prevention Code as set forth in that code and notwithstanding the powers of the Building Inspector to enforce the provisions of the Zoning Ordinance,[1] the Plumbing Code, the Building Code and the Housing Code, as set forth in those ordinances, the provisions of this article, for the enforcement of Housing Code, Building Code, Plumbing Code, Fire Prevention Code and Zoning Ordinance of the City of Schenectady and of any other state or local law, ordinance or regulation enforced by the Bureau of Code Enforcement of the City of Schenectady, shall be enforced by the Building Inspector of the City of Schenectady or his legally designated representatives, hereinafter referred to as the "Bureau."
[Amended 4-11-1994 by Ord. No. 94-10; 5-23-1994 by L.L. No. 5-1994]
[1]
Editor's Note: See Ch. 264, Zoning.
B. 
The Bureau, in enforcing the provisions of the Housing Code, Building Code, Plumbing Code, Fire Prevention Code and Zoning Ordinance of the City of Schenectady and of any other state or local law, ordinance or regulation pursuant to this article, shall have the power to enter, examine and inspect or cause to be examined and inspected and to investigate or cause to be investigated vacant lots, yards, courts and buildings in this City to determine which are in violation of any City ordinance and/or threaten the safety, health, comfort and general welfare of the inhabitants of the City.
A. 
The term "nuisance" shall be held to embrace whatever is dangerous to human life or detrimental to health, safety or welfare and shall include, but not be limited to:
(1) 
A public nuisance as known in common law, statutory law and in equity jurisprudence.
(2) 
A building, structure, one-family dwelling, two-family dwelling, multiple dwelling, rooming house, commercial building, industrial building, storage building or vacant areas, or any combination thereof, that is in violation of either the Housing Code, Building Code, Plumbing Code, Fire Prevention Code and Zoning Ordinance of the City of Schenectady or in violation of any other state or local law, ordinance or regulation.
(3) 
Unoccupied hazards.
[Amended 8-20-1990 by Ord. No. 90-63]
(a) 
An unoccupied hazard, which is defined as any building or part thereof which remains unoccupied for a period of more than three months, with doors, windows or other openings broken, removed or boarded up, or any building under construction or major alteration upon which no work has been performed for a period of more than three months.
(b) 
The Building Inspector shall examine or cause to be examined every building reported as an unoccupied hazard, as defined in this section, and shall make a written record of each such examination. He shall have inspected once a month, or as frequently as is deemed necessary, all unoccupied hazards so as to ensure that they are properly secured or boarded up and maintained as provided in § 167-51.1 of this chapter.
B. 
All such nuisances are hereby declared to be unlawful.
A. 
Notice of nuisance or violation.
(1) 
Whenever the Bureau shall declare that a building or vacant area is a nuisance or is in violation of either the Housing Code, Building Code, Plumbing Code, Fire Prevention Code and Zoning Ordinance of the City or of any other state or local law, ordinance or regulation enforced by the Bureau, it shall serve or cause to be served upon the owner and/or all other persons having an interest in such property or structure, either personally or by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested, addressed to his or their last known address or addresses, as shown by the Treasurer's office and/or in the office of the County Clerk, a notice containing a description of the premises, a statement of the particulars specifying in what respect the building or vacant area is a nuisance or in violation of either the Housing Code, Plumbing Code, Fire Prevention Code and Zoning Ordinance of the City or of any other state or local law, ordinance or regulation enforced by the Bureau and requiring the owner to remove such nuisance or violation within 30 days after service of such notice or order or such lesser period of time where an emergency exists, as may be determined by the Bureau. The Bureau shall cause a copy of such notice to be posted on the premises involved.
(2) 
The notice of nuisance or other violation shall state further that the City will cause the repair or removal of the nuisance or violation by cleansing, repairing, vacating, demolishing or taking such corrective action deemed necessary in the event that the owner fails or refuses to repair or remove the same within the time provided, unless the hearing findings prescribe some other time limitation or revoke the order contained in the notice of nuisance or other violation. The notice shall state that the assessment of all costs and expenses incurred by the City in connection with the proceedings under this section to repair or remove such structure or parts thereof, including, but not limited to, the cost of ascertaining the identity of the owner and other interested parties and of actually repairing or removing the structure, shall be made against the land on which such structure is located and/or collected by an action at law.
(3) 
A copy of the notice of nuisance or other violation may be filed in the office of the County Clerk of Schenectady County, which notice shall be filed by such Clerk 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, except as otherwise hereinafter provided in this subsection. A notice so filed shall be effective for a period of one year from the date of filing; provided, however, that it may be vacated upon the order of a Judge or Justice of a court of record or upon the consent of the Corporation Counsel. The Clerk of Schenectady County shall mark such notice and any record upon the presentation and filing of such consent or of a certified copy of such order.
B. 
Administrative hearing.
[Amended 3-15-1993 by Ord. No. 93-13; 4-11-1994 by Ord. No. 94-10; 5-23-1994 by L.L. No. 5-1994]
(1) 
Whenever such a thirty-day notice or order is served, the owner may, within 15 days after such service, request a hearing before the head of the Bureau or the Housing Standards Review Board, and a hearing shall be given such owner prior to the expiration of the period for compliance so prescribed.
(2) 
The hearing which is conducted shall be to review the determination of a nuisance or violation made by the Bureau. The owner and other interested parties may be represented by counsel. The owner or other interested parties, or their counsel, may cross-examine the witnesses for the Bureau, present evidence and call witness in their behalf. The rules of evidence prevailing in a court of record shall not be controlling in hearings held pursuant to this section.
C. 
When nuisance or violation not removed.
(1) 
If such nuisance or violation is not removed by the owner within the time heretofore prescribed after service of such notice or order, the Bureau may proceed with the removal of such nuisance or violation, as provided in the notice or order, or may cause the same to be done. If the removal of the nuisance or violation requires the demolition of said building or part of said building, the Corporation Counsel shall present the records and papers of all prior proceedings and hearings, if any, upon which the Bureau's determination and notice and order are based to a Justice holding a special term of the Supreme Court for the County of Schenectady for review of said determination and confirmation thereof, at which time the court may either annul or confirm, wholly or partly, or modify the determination reviewed.
(2) 
If the owner interferes in any way with or causes delay to the taking of corrective action by the City, the Bureau may cause such building, in whole or in part, to be vacated and demolished but, in such case, the Bureau shall commence a proceeding or action in the Supreme Court for such relief in the manner prescribed by Article 63 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules. During the pendency of such proceeding, the Bureau may obtain a temporary order for the immediate vacating of such building upon proof of a present danger to human life or detriment to health.
(3) 
If the owner interferes in any way with or causes delay to the taking of corrective action by the City, the Bureau may commence a proceeding or action in the Supreme Court to restrain such interference or delay.
D. 
When removal of nuisance or violation ordered.
(1) 
If the Bureau proceeds to execute a notice or order issued by it or by the court for the removal of a nuisance or violation, the Bureau may let contracts therefor. The cost of executing such notice or order or orders, whether or not carried out pursuant to court order, may be met from any appropriations made therefor or, if such appropriation has not been made or is insufficient, from the proceeds of the sale of obligations pursuant to law. The Bureau shall keep a record of such notices and orders, together with the acts done and items of cost incurred in their execution.
(2) 
The cost of executing such notice or order or orders for the removal of a nuisance or violation shall be assessed to the owner in the manner prescribed by the Charter and ordinances of the City of Schenectady.
(3) 
Notwithstanding the foregoing and in addition to any other remedy available, the Bureau may maintain an action against the owner to recover the cost of executing such notice or order or orders.
(4) 
The term "owner," as used in this article, shall include any person, firm or corporation directly or indirectly in control of a building or vacant area, or part thereof, including any municipal corporation, eleemosynary institution or other private or public entity capable of holding title to property.
[Amended 5-20-1996 by Ord. No. 96-32]
(5) 
The term "person," as used in this article, shall include the owner, occupant, mortgagee or vendee in possession, operator, assignee of rents, receiver, executor, trustee, lessee or agent.
E. 
Emergency work. Nothing contained in this subsection shall be construed as preventing the Bureau from proceeding in case of conditions which constitute an emergency.
(1) 
In case there shall be, in the opinion of the Bureau, actual and immediate danger of the falling of any part of a structure so as to endanger public safety, life or property, or actual and immediate menace to health or public welfare as a result of conditions present in or about a structure, the necessary work shall be done to render such structure or parts of structures temporarily safe.
(2) 
When, in the opinion of the Bureau, a complete structure, or parts thereof, presents an actual and immediate danger to public safety, life or property, such structure shall be demolished and the resulting debris shall be removed, only if such procedure as outlined in this chapter cannot be followed because of the immediate danger or menace defined above.
(3) 
When emergency work ordered by the Bureau requires the immediate total demolition of a structure or parts thereof, cited in Subsection E(2) above, a notice of emergency demolition shall be published in an authorized newspaper for three consecutive days informing any and all persons, corporations and agents having a possible vested interest in subject structure of the existence of the emergency and that said structure is being demolished in the interest of public health and safety.
F. 
When action under Subsection D or E results in the demolition of a building or structure, an administrative fee shall be charged as set out in § 138-30H.
[Added 2-6-1989 by Ord. No. 89-03]
[Added 11-22-2010 by Ord. No. 2010-18]
A. 
Registration required.
(1) 
The owner shall register with the Bureau of Code Enforcement not later than 30 days after any building in the City becomes a vacant building or not later than 30 days after being notified by the Bureau of Code Enforcement of the requirement to register. The Department may identify vacant buildings through its routine inspection process, referrals for other City Departments, as well as through notification by residents, neighborhood associations and other community groups that a building may be eligible for inclusion on the registry.
(2) 
The registration shall be submitted on forms provided by the Bureau of Code Enforcement and shall include the following information supplied by the owner:
(a) 
A description of the premises.
(b) 
The names and addresses of the owner or owners. If the building is held by a corporate entity, the name and address of the president or CEO of the entity.
(c) 
If the owner does not reside in Schenectady County, the name and address of any third party with whom the owner has entered into a contract or agreement for property management.
(d) 
The names and addresses of all known lienholders and all other parties with an ownership interest in the building.
(e) 
A telephone number where an owner or owners, president or CEO of the corporate entity or property manager can be reached at all times during business and nonbusiness hours.
(f) 
A vacant building plan as described in Subsection A(3).
(3) 
The owner shall submit a vacant building plan which must meet the approval the Bureau of Code Enforcement. The plan, at a minimum, must contain information detailing one of the following three choices for the property:
(a) 
If the building is to be demolished, a demolition plan indicating the proposed time frame for demolition, not to exceed 180 days.
(b) 
If the building is to remain vacant, a plan for the securing of the building in accordance with standards provided in § 167-51.1, if applicable, along with the procedure that will be used to maintain the property in accordance with Chapters 138, 161, 167, 228, 258 and a statement of the reasons why the building will be left vacant.
(c) 
If the building is to be returned to appropriate occupancy or use, a rehabilitation plan for the property. The rehabilitation plan shall not exceed 365 days, unless the Enforcement Officer grants an extension in writing upon receipt of a written statement from the owner detailing the reasons for the extension. Any repairs, improvements or alterations to the property must comply with any applicable zoning, housing, historic preservation or building codes and must be secured in accordance with § 167-51.1, if applicable, during the rehabilitation.
(4) 
The Enforcement Officer shall provide the owner with a written referral to the Department of Development and Planning for information outlining programs available which may be useful in developing the owner's rehabilitation plan.
(5) 
All applicable laws and codes shall be complied with by the owner. The owner shall notify the Enforcement Officer of any changes in information supplied as part of the vacant building registration within 30 days of the change. If the plan or timetable for the vacant building is revised in any way, the revisions must be in writing and must meet the written approval of the Enforcement Officer.
(6) 
The owner and subsequent owners shall keep the building secured and safe and the building and grounds properly maintained as provided in Chapters 138, 161, 167, 228 and 258.
(7) 
Failure of the owner or any subsequent owners to maintain the building and premises that results in remedial action taken by the City shall be grounds for revocation of the approved plan and shall be subject to any applicable penalties provided by the law.
(8) 
The new owners shall register or reregister the vacant building with the Enforcement Officer within 30 days of any transfer of an ownership interest in a vacant building. The new owners shall comply with the approved plan and timetable submitted by the previous owner until any proposed changes are submitted in writing to the Bureau of Code Enforcement and meet the written approval of the Bureau of Code Enforcement.
(9) 
Vacant building fees.
(a) 
The owner of a vacant building shall pay an annual fee as set forth in Subsection A(9)(b) for the period the building remains a vacant building. The fee shall be reasonably related to the administrative costs for registering and processing the vacant building owner registration form and for the costs of the City in monitoring and inspecting the vacant building site, as well as any additional maintenance the owner does not undertake.
(b) 
The first-year annual fee shall be $2,500 in addition to a monitoring fee which shall be set by the Mayor and based on the actual cost of any monitoring service which is selected by the Mayor for use, and shall be paid no later than 30 days after the building becomes vacant. If the fee is not paid within 30 days of being due, the owner shall be subject to prosecution as prescribed in § 167-15. If the plan is extended beyond 365 days, subsequent annual fees shall be paid as follows:
[Amended 6-12-2017 by Ord. No. 2017-06; 9-10-2018 by Ord. No. 2018-10]
[1] 
For the second year that the building remains vacant: $3,000 plus the monitoring fee specified in Subsection A(9)(b);
[2] 
For the third year that the building remains vacant: $3,500 plus the monitoring fee specified in Subsection A(9)(b);
[3] 
For the fourth year that the building remains vacant: $5,000 plus the monitoring fee specified in Subsection A(9)(b); and
[4] 
For the fifth and each succeeding year that the building remains vacant: $5,500 plus the monitoring fee specified in Subsection A(9)(b).
[5] 
In cases of extreme hardship, property owners should contact the Corporation Counsel's office and/or a City Councilmember.
(c) 
The fee shall be paid in full prior to the issuance of any building permits, with the exception of a demolition permit. The fee shall be prorated, and a refund may be issued if the building is no longer deemed vacant under the provisions of this section within 180 days of its registration.
(d) 
All delinquent fees shall be paid by the owner prior to any transfer of an ownership interest in any vacant building. If the fees are not paid prior to any transfer, the new owner shall pay the annual fee no later than 30 days after the transfer of ownership, and subsequent annual fees shall be due on the new anniversary date.
(10) 
The Enforcement Officer shall include in the file any property-specific written statements from community organizations, other interested parties or citizens regarding the history, problems, status or blighting influence of a vacant building.
B. 
Exemptions. A building which has suffered fire damage or damage caused by extreme weather conditions shall be exempt from the registration requirement for a period of 90 days after the date of the fire or extreme weather event if the property owner submits a request for exemption in writing to the Bureau of Code Enforcement. This request shall include the following information supplied by the owner:
(1) 
A description of the premises.
(2) 
The names and addresses of the owner or owners.
(3) 
A statement of intent to repair and reoccupy the building in an expedient manner, or the intent to demolish the building.
C. 
Inspections. The Bureau of Code Enforcement shall inspect any premises in the City for the purpose of enforcing and assuring compliance with the provisions of this section. Upon the request of the Enforcement Officer, an owner may provide access to all interior portions of an unoccupied building in order to permit a complete inspection. Nothing contained herein, however, shall diminish the owner's right to insist upon the procurement of a search warrant from a court of competent jurisdiction by the Enforcement Officer or his or her designee in order to enable such inspection, and the Enforcement Officer shall be required to obtain a search warrant whenever an owner refuses to permit a warrantless inspection of the premises after having been advised of his or her constitutional right to refuse entry without same.
D. 
Quarterly reports. The Bureau of Code Enforcement shall submit a quarterly report not later than January 15, April 15, July 15 and October 15 of each year to the Mayor and City Council listing all buildings in the City declared vacant under the provisions of this section, the date upon which they were declared vacant and whether a vacant building registration and vacant building plan has been filed for the building. The report shall additionally include a list of all previously declared vacant buildings which are no longer subject to the provisions of this section.
E. 
Penalty. Any person violating any provision of the Vacant Building Registry or providing false information to the City regarding the Vacant Building Registry shall be a violation of this chapter and shall be punishable pursuant to Article II, Administration; § 167-15, Penalties for offenses.