Eddie A. Perez, Mayor
ORDINANCE AMENDING CHAPTER 9, ARTICLE V, SECTION 9-91 OF CODE DE ANTI-BLIGHT PROGRAM, AS AMENDED.
*Editor's note: Ord. No. 24-06, adopted Sept. 25, 2006, amended §§ 9-91--9-98A in their entirety. Formerly, said sections pertained to similar subject matter.
Cross references: Housing preservation and replacement program, § 9-71 et seq.; fire protection and prevention, Ch. 13; housing, Ch. 18; zoning, Ch. 35.
June 2, 08
Sec. 9-91. Definitions.
The following words, terms and phrases, when used in this article, shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this section, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning:
Blighted premises means any building, structure, [V]vacant [L]lot or grounds, whether vacant or occupied, in which the director of licenses and inspections, the fire marshal, the director of Health and Human Services, or the chief of police have identified the existence of at least one (1) violation of building, housing, zoning, fire or health codes that pose a significant risk to health and or safety conditions on the premises itself or in the surrounding neighborhood and in which at least one (1) of the following conditions exists:
(1) It is becoming dilapidated, as evidenced by the existence, to a significant degree, of one or more of the following conditions:
a. Missing, broken or boarded windows or doors;
b. Collapsing or deteriorating exterior or interior walls, roofs, stairs, porches, floors or chimneys;
c. Crumbling foundation walls which contain open cracks or breaks;
d. Crumbling or rotting interior support pillars or beams;
e. Overhang extensions, including but not limited to canopies, marquees, signs, awnings, fire escapes, standpipes and exhaust ducts, which contain rust or other decay;
f. Rat infestation;
g. Improperly stored or accumulated garbage or trash on the premises;
h. Abandoned or unlawfully parked vehicles on the premises;
i. In the case of a fence, broken or rotted boards, excessive rusting to the point of decay or being in an otherwise dilapidated condition; or
j. Any other condition reflecting a level of maintenance which is not in keeping with community standards or which is an element leading to the progressive deterioration of the neighborhood.
(2) It is attracting illegal activity as evidenced by any of the following:
a. Multiple felony or misdemeanor arrests on the premises;
b. Multiple felony or misdemeanor warrants issued or served to a person residing in the premises;
(3) It is a fire hazard;
(4) It is a factor that is [seriously] substantially depreciating property values in the neighborhood;
(5) It is a factor creating a substantial and unreasonable interference with the reasonable and lawful use and enjoyment of other space within the building or premises within the neighborhood as documented and reported to the director of licenses and inspections by neighborhood complaints.
(6) It is a menace to the public health, safety, or welfare in its present condition or use.
(7) It has overgrown grass or weeds at least one foot in height.
(8) It displays evidence of graffiti covering 25% or more of the surface [service] of the building.
Dilapidated means any dwelling unit, building, or grounds that does not meet the housing code standards contained in articles I through VII of Chapter 18 of this Code, or, in the case of nonresidential space, dilapidated means space that does not conform to standards as determined by the "State Basic Building Code".
Dwelling unit means a space that meets the definition of a dwelling unit as contained in Chapter 18, Article V of this Code.
Equivalent amount of space means the amount of space deemed equivalent to a dwelling unit. Nonresidential space that most recently has been rented as a single unit shall be considered the equivalent of a single dwelling unit. When nonresidential space has not been rented within the two (2) years immediately preceding the serving of a notice of violation, each increment of one thousand five hundred (1,500) square feet or less shall be the equivalent of a dwelling unit for purposes of this article.
Extended vacancy means a period of sixty (60) days or longer during which space subject to this chapter is not legally occupied, except for the purposes of section 9-91A: reduction in assessment for rehabilitated structures, in which case the period shall be one (1) year. The period shall commence from the date the last legal occupant resided in a dwelling unit or other occupied space subject to the provisions of this chapter, except that no part of the period provided for by G.S. 47-88b (Condominium Act) shall be counted provided the owner has or is complying with the requirements of section 18-221. Extended vacancy shall also mean that more than twenty (20) percent of residential dwelling units or more than forty (40) percent of usable floor area of nonresidential space remains unoccupied for longer than sixty (60) days or one (1) year, whichever is applicable.
Legal occupancy means the human habitation of a dwelling unit that is legal by virtue of compliance with state building, state fire safety, local zoning, and housing codes, and all other pertinent codes. Legal occupancy must be substantiated by the [supplying] provision of proof of occupancy as evidenced through a bona fide lease agreement, rent receipt or utility statement.
Neighborhood means an area of the city comprising premises or parcels of land any part of which is within a radius of eight hundred (800) feet of any part of another parcel or lot within the city.
Vacant Lot means a parcel of land in a residential zone with no intact building structure(s) thereon.
(Ord. No. 110-89, 11-27-89; Ord. No. 9-98, 5-26-98; Ord. No. 24-06, 9-25-06)
Sec. 9-91A. Reduction in assessment for rehabilitated structures.
(a) The assessment on real property, which is determined to be "blighted premises" as defined in Hartford Municipal Code section 9-91 and is within fifteen hundred (1,500) feet of property classified as residential, shall, at the discretion of the city assessor, be adjusted as provided for in subsection (c) and pursuant to G.S. § 12-121e, provided all other criteria established in this section are met.
(b) Prior to any work commencing and before such real property will be considered for a deferral under this section, a "Request for Deferral" application shall be filed with the department of assessment which shall include:
(1) A description of the parcel;
(2) A description of the planned improvements thereon and intended use;
(3) An itemized estimate of the cost of those improvements; and
(4) A timetable detailing the schedule of improvements.
(c) Real property that meets the requirements of subsections (a) and (d) of this section shall have the assessment on the building to be rehabilitated reduced for a period of nine (9) years from the time such improvement has been completed and a certificate of occupancy has been issued pursuant to section 35-69. Such adjusted assessment shall reflect the value of the structure prior to rehabilitation and shall defer any increase in assessment attributable to such improvement according to the following schedule:
(d) For a building to be considered for an assessment deferral under this section, the following criteria must be met:
(1) Residential (one- to four-family, co-ops and condominiums) and apartments (five-family and up).
a. The building shall be at least fifteen (15) years old.
b. The investment in the building to be improved shall be at least thirty (30) percent of the assessed value of said property as of the last revaluation.
c. No building shall be eligible unless appropriate building permits have been acquired and applications for such permits are made at the same time as the filing for an assessment deferral with the city assessor.
d. Any rehabilitated structure must meet all zoning requirements and conform to the city plan of development.
e. Within seven (7) days of completion of improvements and issuance of a certificate of occupancy, the assessor must be notified by the owner.
(2) Commercial and industrial.
a. The building shall be at least twenty (20) years old.
b. The investment in the building to be improved shall be at least forty (40) percent of the assessed value of said property as of the last revaluation.
c. No building shall be eligible unless appropriate building permits have been acquired [,] and application for such permits are made at the same time as the filing for an assessment deferral with the city assessor.
d. Any rehabilitated structure must meet all zoning requirements and conform to the city plan of development.
e. Within seven (7) days of completion of improvements and issuance of a certificate of occupancy, the assessor must be notified.
(e) For the purposes of revaluation, the deferred increase in assessment will fluctuate in accordance with the revalued assessment.
(Ord. No. 10-98, 5-26-98; Ord. No. 24-06, 9-25-06)
Sec. 9-92. Creating or maintaining blighted premises prohibited.
No owner of any building in the City of Hartford shall allow, create, maintain or permit the continuance of any blighted premises.
(Ord. No. 110-89, 11-27-89; Ord. No. 24-06, 9-25-06)
Sec. 9-93. Applicability of article; exemptions.
There shall be no exemptions to the applicability of this article.
(Ord. No. 110-89, 11-27-89; Ord. No. 24-06, 9-25-06)
Sec. 9-94. Enforcement.
(a) Complaint of violation. Any individual affected by the action or inaction of an owner of a dwelling unit or other space subject to the provisions of this article, any civic organization, and any appropriate municipal agency may file in writing a complaint of violation of this article with the [D]division of [L]licenses and [I]inspections.
(b) Notice of violation; order to correct; time limit for compliance. If the head of licenses and inspections acting himself or by an appropriate inspector or the appropriate inspector, has reason to believe, pursuant to an inspection of the premises, that an owner has violated the provisions of this article and it is in the best interest of the City of Hartford, the director or inspector shall serve a notice of violation and an order to correct such violation [on] to the owner of record of the property by first class and registered mail. If the owner's address is the same as the property where the violation has occurred then a [citation] copy of the notice of violation and order to correct may be posted on the property[left] at the time the violation is noted. The notice requirements of this section shall be deemed satisfied upon: [(1) in the case of first class mail, upon posting of the notice of violation and order to correct by first class mail, or 2)] (1) in the case of registered mail upon receipt by the city of either a signed confirmation of delivery or the entire letter returned as non-deliverable, or (2)  in the case of the owner’s address being the same as the address of the property where the violation has occurred, upon leaving a copy of the notice of violation and order to correct at the property at the time the violations are noted. The order shall require the owner to comply with the requirements of this article in the manner specified in the order within thirty (30) days of receipt of the notice. A copy of the order shall be filed with the town clerk, and any subsequent purchaser of the property shall be subject to such order.
(c) Failure to correct deficiencies. If an owner of property has been served with a notice of violation and order to correct deficiencies, and has failed to do so within thirty (30) days as determined upon subsequent inspection, [a copy of such notice shall be published in a newspaper having general circulation in the municipality and] then the owner shall be presumed to be in violation of this article for every day thereafter until the owner submits appropriate evidence that the violations have been corrected. At this time the [D]division of [L]licenses and [I]inspection shall cause the owner to be fined one hundred dollars ($100.00) [for each] per day, for each cited violation of building, zoning, fire or health codes that [each separate blighting condition] persists beyond thirty (30) days from the effective date of the order until the owner presents appropriate evidence that the cited violations have been corrected and the premises have been reinspected.
(d) Should an owner fail to pay, within forty-five (45) days, a fine levied pursuant to this article, one (1) percent interest charge shall be applied to the outstanding balance. The interest shall accrue along with the fines and shall be compounded daily. Failure to pay any fee or fine arising from the enforcement of this article shall constitute a debt in favor of the city and shall constitute a lien upon the real estate against which the fee was imposed from the original date of such fee. Each such lien maybe continued, recorded and released in the manner provided by the Connecticut General Statutes for continuing, recording and releasing property tax liens. Each such lien shall take precedence over all other liens and encumbrances filed after the effective date of this article to the fullest extent permitted by law, except taxes, and may be enforced in the same manner as property tax liens. In addition to placing a lien against the property for failure to pay any fee arising from the enforcement of this article, the city may bring civil action against the debtor in a court of competent jurisdiction to recover such debt.
(e) Appeal for relief of citation. Any owner who is aggrieved as a result of being served with [sent] a citation in accordance with this article may, within ten (10) days of receipt of the citation, appeal in writing for relief of the citation to a citation hearing officer in accordance with section 1-5 of the Code, and section 9-95, herein.
(Ord. No. 110-89, 11-27-89; Ord. No. 25-97, 11-24-97; Ord. No. 24-06, 9-25-06)
Sec. 9-95. Citation hearing officer; appointments; appeals.
The mayor shall appoint individuals to hear appeals concerning the issuance of anti-blight citations pursuant to the provisions of section 1-5 of the Code. The city council and the mayor may make recommendations to the mayor concerning the individuals to be appointed to serve as citation hearing officers. The individuals appointed to serve as citation hearing officers shall serve for a term of up to one (1) year or until a successor is appointed. All citation hearing officer appointees shall have backgrounds in law and/or issues relating to housing. Each hearing officer appointed pursuant to this section shall hear appeals and make decisions thereon separate and apart from all the other hearing officers appointed by the mayor to hear anti-blight appeals. In deciding to appoint an individual as a citation hearing officer under this section, the mayor shall give preference first to city residents and second to those with a place of business in the city and students attending a law school located in the city. Individuals appointed as citation hearing officers under this section shall serve at the pleasure of the mayor.
(1) An owner may appeal for relief of each citation issued pursuant to section 9-94 to a citation hearing officer in accordance with the provisions of section 1-5. Relief must be requested in writing within ten (10) days of the owner's receipt of the citation. Relief may be granted if the owner can establish to the hearing officer's satisfaction that:
a. The owner cited was not the owner of record of the property at the time the notice of violation and order to correct was issued; or
b. Notice of the violation was not properly served upon [sent to] the owner of record in accordance with section 9-94(b); or
c. The notice of violation was not in proper form; e.g., informed the owner of the section of the Code being cited for, gave owner sufficient time to cure violation, etc.; or
d. The notice of citation was not properly [served upon] sent to the owner of record in accordance with section 9-94(c); or
e. The notice of citation was not in proper form; e.g., contained the amount of the penalty incurred under section 9-95, informed the owner of the right to appeal, etc.; or
f. The director incorrectly determined that the violations cited were not corrected within the thirty-day period as required by section 9-94(c); or
g. The dwelling units or other spaces are actively undergoing repairs that are required to be made to correct violations of state or local codes; or
h. The owner has in good faith corrected all cited violations and it would work a substantial economic hardship on the owner of the dwelling unit or building to require further payment of fines in compliance with this article; or
i. The owner has in good faith attempted to rent the dwelling unit or other space for the sixty-day period but has been unable to do so. To establish good faith, the owner must demonstrate that all reasonable steps have been taken to advertise the availability of the space in a manner that is designed to and will have the effect of reaching that segment of the city's population that includes potential tenants, and that the rent asked for is not excessive based on the rents charged for other housing accommodations in the neighborhood or adjacent neighborhoods that have:
i) The same number of rooms;
ii) The same number of bathtubs or showers, flush water closets, kitchen sinks, and lavatory basins;
iii) The same number of bedrooms;
iv) Similar services, furniture, furnishings, and equipment supplied; and
v) Similar amenities provided.
(2) Full documentation, such as code violation reports, engineering reports and any other information deemed necessary by the hearing officer shall be provided by the owner.
(3) It is the responsibility of the owner of the premises to have a valid address filed with the city pursuant to Section 9-18, and failure to provide such an address shall not constitute a reason for relief of the payment of penalties.
(Ord. No. 110-89, 11-27-89; Ord. No. 39-92, 9-28-92; Ord. No. 24-06, 9-25-06)
Sec. 9-96. Chief Operating Officer's report; hearing.
(a) The Chief Operating Officer of the city shall present a quarterly status report at the regular meetings of the court of common council listing all properties deemed to be blighted within the meaning of this article. The report shall include the following:
(1) The factors which, in the Chief Operating Officer's opinion, warrant the determination that the premises so listed are blighted;
(2) The efforts undertaken by the city to eliminate the blighting condition, such as clearing the premises of debris or barricading the structures on the premises, and that such actions were unsuccessful;
(3) That either (a) the owner of the premises cannot or will not eliminate the blighted condition, or (b) the owner has not responded to a lawful order by the city to take action to eliminate the blighted condition within thirty (30) days after due notice of the request or order has been [given] sent by [normal] means set forth in Sec. 9-94 (b) used to notify property owners of violations of the housing code and orders to comply with the provisions of the housing code.
(4) The circumstances existing on the premises and in the neighborhood which, in the Chief Operating Officer's opinion, make it necessary for the council to take action in order to eliminate the conditions of blight on the premises;
(b) At the regular meeting at which the council receives the report from the Chief Operating Officer, the council shall set a date no later than thirty (30) days thereafter at which time a public hearing shall be held in regard to the existence of blighting conditions on the named premises, except that no public hearing shall be held on those properties which are the subject of a pending section 1-5 hearing.
(c) At the public hearing the report of the Chief Operating Officer shall be treated as prima facie evidence of blight on the premises. At the public hearing, the owner or occupant of the premises or any person having an interest therein may then show cause why the premises should not be declared blighted.
(Ord. No. 110-89, 11-27-89; Ord. No. 24-06, 9-25-06)
Sec. 9-97. Determination by council.
Upon completion of the public hearing the court of common council shall, within thirty (30) days, consider the Chief Operating Officer's report and make recommendations to the Chief Operating Officer's as to the disposition of those properties, which disposition may include the option to purchase.
(Ord. No. 110-89, 11-27-89; Ord. No. 24-06, 9-25-06)
Sec. 9-98. Securing and painting of openings in buildings.
(a) The director of licenses and inspections may order the owner of a vacant or abandoned building to secure all doors and windows, including any or all windows in the upper floors of the building, of any building which is vacant or abandoned. The director shall designate the materials and procedures to be used to comply with such order.
The director shall order all property owners of vacant, abandoned or occupied buildings to paint all boards of raw plywood or other similar materials used to cover all doors, windows or other areas, with a color which matches the color of the building.
If the owner of the building fails, neglects or refuses to comply properly with the terms of the order issued pursuant to this section by the director of licenses and inspections, the director may cause the required work to be performed by city staff or an independent contractor; the director of licenses and inspection is not obligated to secure any building not deemed unsafe. The corporation counsel's office may institute an action against the owner of the building to recover the cost of any work performed at the expense of the city pursuant to this section.
(b) Any city expenditures will come from yearly budget amounts for this type of work.
(Ord. No. 8-97, 3-24-97; Ord. No. 13-99, 6-14-99; Ord. No. 24-06, 9-25-06)
Sec. 9-98A. Registration of vacant buildings and vacant lots.
(a) Registration. All owners of vacant buildings and vacant lots must register their properties at the department of licenses and inspections within fifteen (15) days of the date on which the building became vacant. At the time of registration such owners shall also schedule a time for an inspection within fifteen days (15) of such registration by the department of licenses and inspections and any other departments or agencies the director of licenses and inspections deems appropriate. For purposes of this section a vacant building shall be considered a building that is experiencing an extended vacancy as defined in this article. This registration shall be made through a form provided by the City of Hartford and shall include a list of a contact person or persons responsible for the maintenance and repair of the property. This form shall contain the current telephone numbers and addresses of all contact persons. It is the sole responsibility of the property owner to update this information at the department of licenses and inspections whenever there is a change in the name, telephone or address of the contact person.
(b) Failure to comply. Failure to register or comply with any of the provisions of [in accordance with] this section will result in a fine of ninety-nine dollars ($99.00) [and may result in fines as described in Section 9-94.]
(c) Securing of Vacant Building or Vacant Lot. Within ninety (90) days of registration under paragraph (a) of this section the owner of a vacant building or a vacant lot shall submit verification of the following to the director of licenses and inspections:
(1.) With respect to vacant buildings, an asbestos report in form acceptable to the director of licenses and inspections.
(2.) If asbestos is shown by the report to be present in any vacant building, proof that such asbestos has been completely remediated in accordance with all applicable city, state and federal laws and regulations.
(3.) Proof of the cleaning and securing of any vacant building or vacant lot in accordance with all applicable codes and regulations as verified by appropriate inspectors. Such cleaning and securing shall include, but not be limited to, boarding and painting of vacant buildings as described in Section 9-98 and HUD bolting where necessary.
(4.) Confirmation to the satisfaction of the director of licenses and inspections that the provision of all utilities have been terminated and that appropriate measures have been taken to secure plumbing fixtures, gas delivery systems and any other utility related systems or materials. Such utilities shall include, but not be limited to, natural gas, electric power and water.
(d) Annual Fee. The owner of any vacant lot or vacant building shall pay an annual fee of ninety-nine and no/100 ($99.00) for the period that such vacant lot or vacant building remains so. The fee is related to the administrative costs of registering and processing the vacant building or vacant lot registration form and for the costs of the City related to the monitoring and inspection of the vacant building or vacant lot.
(e) Reporting. The director of licenses and inspections shall submit a quarterly report not later than January 15, April 15, July 15 and October 15 of each year to the mayor and the court of common council listing all buildings and lots in the city declared vacant under the provisions of this section, the date upon which such buildings and lots were declared vacant and whether a vacant building or lot registration and plan have been filed for the building. The report shall also include a list of all previously declared vacant buildings and vacant lots and their current status. The director of licenses and inspections shall also submit an initial list of all vacant lots and vacant buildings to the Hartford Police and Fire Departments and shall update such list as necessary.
(Ord. No. 31-02, 8-13-02; Ord. No. 24-06, 9-25-06)
Sec. 9-99. City acquisition of abandoned blighted properties.
The director of the department of development services is authorized to take the necessary steps to acquire any properties covered by the provisions of this article and which have been certified by the building official to be abandoned pursuant to the Urban Homesteading Act, Connecticut General Statutes § 8-169(o), et seq., as it may be amended from time to time. The director of the department of development services is further authorized to take necessary steps to acquire any properties covered by the provisions of this article, provided there are funds available, using other state and federal means as they may be available.