City of Atlanta Code Violations

19 Replies | Atlanta, Georgia

Is there anywhere to find COA code violations on a property besides calling the assigned code enforcement officer?  Assuming one has already made a few calls and has not heard back... Asking for a friend ;) 

Yes, but they don't tend to go so detailed. I'm often not quite sure what exactly is meant, because they have pre-determined codes that might not fit exactly the situation. (Not, that I ever received anything from code, of course ;-) )

Well, my "friend" who has been calling just discovered that they have a court ordered inspection next week... So I guess I'll advise my friend to head on down there tomorrow. :)

Go early and the inspectors are still in. If not, someone at their front desk can call and they will answer their phone and then they'll turn the receiver over to you. That's what I've been told ;-)

@Mary B. Your friend should know that they can call the officer and let them know the property has changed hands.  New owner would like to get a plan for bringing into compliance.   If officer likes the plan, then you, or the friend, are in good shape.

Thanks, @Rick Baggenstoss .  My friend may need to call a lawyer since it appears that criminal charges were filed against the previous property owner the day after the property changed hands and the solicitor is unwilling to answer any questions about said charges as my friend is not the named defendant yet was the legal owner at the time.  What a mess.  Code enforcement relays that it is in the hands of the judge now, though it is worth mentioning that my friend has retained the services of an architect and is moving forward with plans to bring the property up to code.  

I would say, that your friend should just go to court with proof that he owns it and that he's working to rectify the situation and the judge should throw it out, as he wasn't the owner at the time. 

I've been there. They filed charges against me for not cutting my grass and took me to court. I went to court and proved that it was cut. 

Unless it's a really , really bad accusation, I don't think your friend will need an attorney. 

@Mary B.  The Solicitors are like 100% commission sales people.  They will exagerate and intimidate to get you to pay something (even settle with a fine).   The judge, however, is very reasonable.  As @Michaela G. said, just go to court and let them know you just bought it and explain your timeline and plans.  Judge will give you time as long as you're demonstrating progress along the way.

@Michaela G.  I got a $5000 ticket for disturbing the dirt without a permit!  Basically, I was prepping to lay sod and an EPA officer wrote me a ticket for not having a specialized permit and erosion control measures in place.  Solicitor said he would settle for $2500.  

I had to do a lot of prep work, but I won!   I wouldn't want to do it again, but I do know all too well how it works.  I've sat in that courtroom way too many times now and watched many homeowners and landlords go through it.   

Originally posted by @Rick Baggenstoss :

@Michaela G.  I got a $5000 ticket for disturbing the dirt without a permit!  Basically, I was prepping to lay sod and an EPA officer wrote me a ticket for not having a specialized permit and erosion control measures in place.  Solicitor said he would settle for $2500.  

I had to do a lot of prep work, but I won!   I wouldn't want to do it again, but I do know all too well how it works.  I've sat in that courtroom way too many times now and watched many homeowners and landlords go through it.   

Wow! I've disturbed the soil frequently. That's crazy. Have never heard of them going after that. EPA? did code call them or do you think one of the disgruntled neighbors got them involved? I tried to get them involved once, but they didn't care. Next door squatter had piled up old siding, with old paint on it, and he was burning it in the chimney in the winter to stay warm. They couldn't be bothered. 

The property owner before owes $8000 to the COA for cutting down trees without a permit at the property too.   He just lost that appeal.  I'm really only worried about the fines for non-compliance once the court gets involved - it is $1,000 per day!  I think you're both right and I can get through it so long as I show that I'm playing by the rules and have a plan.  I've just got to make sure both of those things are true.  Or so says my friend.  Right.  ;)  

@Michaela G. the EPA officer was checking on the brick paver project in Summerhill where my house was.  He stopped by my project because it was all red clay that day as the grading/sod work just had been completed.   

This particular kind of EPA officer is like code enforcement officer with a special focus.   They mostly go around to commercial projects and new builds to make sure the erosion prevention measures are in place as specified in their permit.   I was not required to get a permit because it was not a new  build and wasn't close to a stream.  I had also put some erosion control measures in place, but not the ones the officer would have wanted.  Within a couple of hours of getting the ticket, I had his suggested measures in place.  The officer was really nice about it.  The Solicitor was really the one who wouldn't let it go.

You can simply buy a copy of the applicable building code and whereever you find things are not contructed according to the building code including having obtained the required building permits would be a code violation.

You may also reserach your local building department that for addressing posible grandfathered in clauses or conditions. 

Many places exist with code violations but the local code enforcement department will usually not act on those unless some complaint has been made to their department. It would just be an insurmountable task to go out and find every single code violation existing in any given jurisdiction and that is the main reason code violations exist seemingly everywhere. No one has the manpower or resources to make 100% sure there are no code violations in existance anywhere. 

The one way I know to get code enforcement out and do an inspection is to file a complaint on a property and then the code enforcement department is obligated to address the complaint.

In case anyone else ever runs into a similar situation or is curious about the outcome, here is what has transpired since I first posted. Dropping the whole "friend" shtick :P

The property has a number of issues and a long history of code violations due to unrepaired tree damage.  I purchased the house in this condition with the intent to rebuild it.  I assumed there were some recorded violations, but the previous owner had removed the placards placed by Code Enforcement, so I was unaware of the severity of the status until last week, when I discovered the placards and an associated court case in the ACCELA database.  The charges were filed against the previous owner the day *AFTER* I acquired the property, so it was a little murky as to if I had any exposure or liability.  One of the officers I spoke with indicated she believed that the charges in the case could transfer to me at the discretion of the judge and that I should plan to be in court for the scheduled hearing, while the solicitors at the court would not give me any information as I was not named as a defendant in the case. 

I registered the property as vacant as required by the COA.  I made many calls to COA Code Enforcement but what really helped was to find the last dated inspection of the property using the ACCELA site and getting the name of the most recent Officer assigned to the house.  I called back and asked for her desk AND cell phone number, since they are often out of the office doing inspections.  She was *VERY* helpful and happy to work with me to handle the issues at the property.  She agreed to meet me the next morning and explained to me the following:  

When a house with existing code violations is sold to a new owner, the prior violations are attached to the previous owner but the Placards are attached to the property.  What this means is that the prior owner is responsible for the charges pending in Fulton County Magistrate Court for the code violations, however, those Code Enforcement cases will now close and be reopened as new under my ownership.  The Placards (which stipulate the hazardous conditions) remain on the property until I have made sufficient repairs or improvements as to qualify for a new certificate of occupancy.  Even though the charges were filed the day I took ownership, they are specific to the prior owner's failure to address the condition of the property and are not of my concern.  

Since the house had Placards designating it as hazardous, neither I, nor anyone acting on my behalf, could be permitted on the property without a Conditional Letter from Code Enforcement.  She was able to issue me this letter once I filled out the form to request a demo permit from the Office of Buildings - I did not have to submit this permit nor did I need it approved to obtain the letter, only to fill it out and sign it to show my intent.  As the officer assigned to the property, she had also already received my Vacant Property Registration.  We agreed that I needed to remove the damaged portion of the house and seal off the remainder in order to bring the property into compliance until I am ready to rebuild.    

I won't go into my adventure at the Office of Buildings, but suffice it to say, I still do not have a permit to demo the damage. I'm working on it with the various officers of the departments involved but what I wanted to remark on was the helpfulness and transparency of everyone involved from the City of Atlanta.  It is daunting to come at something like this for the first time, but everyone I spoke with (even the inspector from the Office of Buildings who had issued a stop work order on any cleanup) was genuinely helpful and kind.  I would encourage anyone even seeking information about potential projects to visit in person and not be dissuaded by horror stories about the process.

Thanks to @Michaela G. and @Rick Baggenstoss for their helpful advice! I'm cautiously optimistic about the future of the property :)       

yeah! Sounds like youre on a good path.

Ive always found that the various inspectors are incredibly helpful, as long as you come at them with honesty, showing your intent to work with them and not against them.