Reynoldsburg: City Council approves new property-maintenance rules

Kelley Youman
ThisWeek
Reynoldsburg City Hall

Property owners with maintenance-code violations will face fines of up to $1,000 a day as the city of Reynoldsburg looks for ways to force owners of commercial properties and apartment complexes to clean up their act.

City Council unanimously approved a property-maintenance code Sept. 28, increasing fines and making more people potentially liable for code violations in an effort to "incentivize" owners to fix problems rather than ignore them.

Under the new law, owners, operators or occupants of buildings with maintenance-code violations face daily fines for failing to address citations issued by the city’s code-enforcement officers. 

Previously, a first offense was considered a minor misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of a $150 fine. 

According to legislation, the city "recognizes properties often fall into conditions of disrepair and in violation of established codes ... and pose a threat to the health, safety and welfare of the city and can constitute a public nuisance."

"The increase in potential fines is related more to commercial property and apartment complexes,” said Chris Shook, city attorney. “While a small fine may be a deterrent for a residential violation, they are not as much of a deterrent for commercial violations when you may have property owners who have the means and preference to pay a small fine rather than investing in the property to get it up to code. 

"We also wanted to be able to explain who could be found as a violator. It can be difficult to find the owner of a property, especially if it is owned by an LLC (limited liability corporation). We wanted to expand who could be responsible for that violation, so we included owner, occupant and operator."

The fine won’t apply to residential properties that are owner-occupied unless the property contains multiple residential units marked for rent. It does apply to common areas owned or operated by condominium associations.

Reynoldsburg code-enforcement officers investigate more than 1,000 code violations each year, with most considered minor offenses such as trash and tall grass, officials said.

Citations issued to commercial properties often are for violations such as exterior wall or roofing problems, cracked pavement and walkways, trash containment and fencing, Shook said.

Reynoldsburg has cited 37 property-maintenance code violation cases into mayor's court so far this year, according to the city's clerk of courts.

Last year, eight cases were sent to mayor's court, Shook said.

Property owners who ignore mayor’s court citations can be taken to Franklin County Environmental Court, he said. 

The new maintenance code marks the second piece of legislation passed by council this year in an effort to address problem properties. 

In May, the city established a registry for vacant or abandoned properties, requiring inspections and imposing annual fees of up to $1,000. Under that law, a building is deemed vacant if it is unoccupied for more than 60 days, has disconnected utilities or property-maintenance violations or is unsecured or secured by "other than normal means."

Owners are required to provide the city with a "security plan" to keep trespassers out of such properties, which, according to city information, often have exterior code violations and can become havens for such crimes as drug- and human trafficking.

Buildings under foreclosure or those with a mortgage status of abandonment also could be deemed vacant.

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