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Code Enforcement Frequently Asked Questions 

Code Enforcement FAQsA collection of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and answers that may help you answer your questions. 

Question #1: Is there a policy or guidelines that all Code inspectors go by?
Answer: Yes, there are policies and guidelines, or Standard Operating Procedures that our Code Inspectors go by.  We have procedure that is ingrained in our Computer Software and Database called MAUWI for each circumstance that the Code Inspector runs across in the field.  Every case or file must be handled by procedure because any or all of them could end up in court and Code Enforcement must be able to defend our procedure and/or action taken.

Question #2: What is the time they spend in the field?
Answer: Sixty to eighty percent of the Inspector’s time will be spent in the field, while the remaining twenty to forty percent are spent in the office researching violation notifications, prosecution and court preparation. This amounts to a large paperwork flow, research, and computer responsibility.

Question #3: Do Inspectors only go out on code violations if someone complains, or is it up to each Code Inspector to handle their district the way they see fit?
Answer: Code Enforcement has been compelled by the Commissioners, Mayor and County Administrator to respond to every complaint that comes into our office.  Therefore we are considered primarily “reactive” in nature.  The inspectors however, have been instructed that they cannot have complete “tunnel vision”.   If there are extreme violations surrounding a complaint that they are responding to, they should act on it at that time or make note of it, returning at a later time or date when they have more time.

Question #4: After a person is sent the first notice (has ten days or so to comply) what happens next?  Does the Code Inspector go back on the exact day or is it longer?
Answer: The Code Inspector tries to get back for the reinspection as close to the specified day as feasibly possible.  Sometimes workload or other unforeseen issues may deter them a day or two, but generally as close to the day as possible.

Question #5: Does the person get another notice and another reinspection day to make the correction or is he/she just sent the letter to appear in court?
Answer: The inspector has a choice of directions to go upon re-inspection.  There are many different circumstances that could warrant an extension.  If the Inspector can see that the property owner has, in good faith worked on, or tried to complete the abatement, but is not completely done, an extension can be given.  I might also add that some violations are given longer than ten days to begin with.  There are some things that just cannot be done in the ten day time period.  But, if the inspector has proof that there is good reason that something has not been taken care of (death in family, illness, out of town, etc.) we must work with the people.  But for the citizen, who has received a notice of violation and has blatantly chosen to ignore the request for cleanup, the reinspection would usually end up with a summons being issued to environmental court.

Question #6: If someone gets a court summons, does the inspector go out the day before the court date to check the problem?
Answer: Every court case is re-inspected on the Tuesday before the scheduled Wednesday morning court date.

Question #7: If the problem has been corrected before the court date, why does the person still have to go to the court and pay the fine and the $49.50 for court costs?
Answer: If compliance has not been met through the notice of violation letter and the Inspector is forced to issue a court summons, the defendant must appear in court on the scheduled court date whether the violation has been corrected or not.  The case before the judge is not whether you have abated the violation at this point, but whether you were guilty of a violation on the date that you were cited or issued the court summons.  Of course, whether you have abated the nuisance is taken into account by the judge, but once it is at this point, the determination is in the judge’s hands and his hands only.  In some cases, depending on the violation, or if the inspector has had repeat complaints and violations on a property, a citizen will not even receive a notice of violation, but instead, a court summons immediately.

Question #8: Is the Notice of Violation to the person generated by computer (standard form)?
Answer: Our Mobile Access Users Web-based Interface (MAUWI) has a program that carries each inspector completely through each case.  MAUWI generates the court summons, which has personalized defendant information, which has been entered by the Inspector.   Inspectors can also issue misdemeanor summons tickets on sight to citizens who are present physically and will cooperate by supplying identification to the Inspector.  Code Inspectors have approval to issue misdemeanor summons tickets for trash, junk & debris, excessive vegetation or weeds, vehicles in violation on private property, improper signage, and possibly other issues.

Question #9: When a complaint comes in, is it entered in the computer system by the person’s name or address?
Answer: Complaints that are called into our Service Request Center (old Action Center) and entered into the MAUWI module are entered by address.  Any and all cases in MAUWI are entered by address, including inspector’s self-initiated cases.

Question #10: What are the average numbers of calls for an Inspector in a month?
Answer: In 2006, Code Enforcement responded to 12,796 Code Complaints, which averages out to 71.08 cases per inspector per month. In completing these Code Cases, Code Inspectors completed 29,046 inspections, which average out to 161.36 inspections per inspector per month, or 7.44 inspections per inspector per day.

Question #11: Is there some type of report that shows how many active cases the Inspector is working on?
Answer: Through the MAUWI system, we can access the number of cases that an Inspector has in active status at anytime.

Question #12: Who picks up the complaints from the Internet?  How soon does the Inspector receive it?
Answer: Any complaints that come in through the Internet are being picked up by whoever is e-mailed through the Internet on a daily basis.  The Inspector would receive the complaint within one to two business days.

Question #13: If we would call the Service Request Center, can they give us the follow-up on a complaint, instead of trying to get in touch with the Inspector for that area?
Answer: The Service Request Center should be able to update you on a complaint in our MAUWI computer module, as long as the Inspector has been able to update the information in the system.  This is one more of the Code Inspector’s responsibilities.  Each inspector updates his or her cases in the computer.

Question #14: I heard that if a person got a summons and was fined, that they are on probation for one year.  Also, that if the Code Inspector has to go back for any complaints within that year the fine can be up to $2500.00, True or False?
Answer: Regarding your question on probation, an individual is only on probation if the Municipal Court Judge rules that they are on probation.  The Judge makes these rulings on a case by case basis.  Not all people who have been to court and found guilty are on probation.   Environmental court fines range from $100.00 to $2500.00.  Being put on probation does not immediately mean that if you are cited by a Code Inspector twice within a year’s time, and are in court again within a year that you would automatically be fined $2500.00.  Sometimes the Judge will find a citizen guilty and fine them, for example, $500.00.  Many times the Judge will “parole” the citizen on maybe $400.00 of that $500.00 fine.  This means that the defendant is fined $500.00, but at this time the Judge is only making them pay $100.00 of the $500.00.  The citizen would also have to pay the court costs, which are $49.50.  At this point the Judge makes it clear to the citizen that if the Code Inspector has to address violations that lead to another court date within a year’s time, that citizen will have to pay the remaining $400.00 that they were previously paroled on, plus any fines for the new court case.  Again, these situations can all vary on a case by case basis, which is the determination of the Municipal Court Judge.

Question #15: Do they allow someone from a neighborhood group to ride with the code person?
Answer: Because of insurance and liability issues, we do not allow citizens to ride with Code Inspectors.

Question #16: How can a Neighborhood Watch Group help the Code Inspector or the Code Department?
Answer: The Neighborhood Watch Group can help the Code Enforcement Division by calling any violations in to the Service Request Center (573-8790), working positively with the citizens in your area and being sure that each of your properties are violation free. Neighborhood groups can also educate themselves on our processes by attending the Unified Governments “Good Neighbor Training”. For more information on this training or to register for the next training, please contact the Liveable Neighborhoods office at 913-573-8739.

Question #17: Why is it taking so long for my complaint to be addressed?
Answer: The Code Enforcement Division must follow due legal process as directed by national, state and local ordinances.   Due process is tedious and time consuming.  The violator or defendant has rights and must be allowed certain time frames to resolve violations.  In some cases, making contact with property owners or tenants is difficult or impossible.  These and many other issues cause compliance, at times to be a lengthy process.

Question #18: Are Unfit Structure and Vehicle Tow Hearings the same as a court proceeding?
Answer: Unfit Structure and Vehicle Tow Hearings are not a Municipal Court proceeding.   These hearings are informal meetings with the Public Officer or his designees of the Unified Government that take place at the Neighborhood Resource Center, 4601 State Ave, Suite 85, Kansas City, KS.  The hearings are set to obtain information from property owners of Unfit structures and vehicles that are in violation in an effort to work with them toward compliance and nuisance abatement.

Question #19: How can the city tell me what I can do with my property that I personally own?
Answer: State and local ordinances have been enacted for all types of health, life and safety issues.   Many of these laws and ordinances often do not, on the surface, make sense to the general public.  That along, with the ordinances applying to a citizen’s personal property does cause frustration from time to time.

Question #20: What are the main reasons houses are tagged Unfit for Human Habitation?
Answer: Main reasons for houses to be tagged Unfit for Human Habitation includes:  no utilities, no water, structural damage, open unsecured structures, sanitation issues, to name a few.

Question #21: How long does a house stay on the Demolition List before being demolished?
Answer: There is not a set time frame that a property remains on the Demolition list.  The property would obviously remain on the list until it was; torn down or repaired and brought back into compliance.  The process in which the Unified Government demolishes a property can be a lengthy one.  This along with limited funding can cause properties to remain on the list for a lengthy period.

Question #22: Why is the Code Inspector here addressing my property when there are other properties down the street and next door that have violations?
Answer: If a Code Inspector is addressing violations at your property, they are there because there are violations there. Code Inspectors must respond to each complaint that they receive.  Inspectors can also be pro-active whenever possible and initiate complaint cases.  There is a good possibility that the Inspector is also addressing the neighbor you are pointing out. The Inspector, however, would not necessarily make that information known to you.

Question #23: If I am addressed by Code Enforcement, can I know who complained about my property?
Answer: Code Enforcement does not give out complainant information to anyone.

Question #24: Can Code Enforcement give a citizen another property owner’s name and assistance with contacting that property owner?
Answer: Because of the possible perception of conflict of interest, Code Enforcement is not allowed to give out any type of property owner information.  Property owner information can be obtained through the Unified Government’s Register of Deeds office.

Question #25: Can I have a copy of the Unfit Structure List?
Answer: Through the Freedom of Information Act copies of the Unfit Structure List can be requested in writing at the Neighborhood Resource Center.

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