Read the Knoxville City Code of Ordinances.
David Brace was present at our September 2006 meeting to tell us about the city’s codes enforcement efforts and to answer our questions on the topic. Here’s a summary of the discussion with David.
There are four things covered by codes enforcement:
There are 9 codes inspectors covering the city’s 6 service areas. Ninety percent of inspections are in response to a complaint. Public Services’ goal is to become more proactive to the point where at least 50 percent of their inspections are generated by inspectors rather than by complaints from the public.
David recommended using 311 to report codes violations. The city uses 311 to direct calls to the proper department and to track the response to those calls by city employees. City divisions receive scorecards telling them how well they’re responding to the calls, and every caller to 311 receives a tracking number that s/he can use to follow up on the complaint. (Note that the 311 call center is open between 7 a.m. And 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. If 311 doesn’t work with your phone service provider, call 865-215-4311.)
The timeframe for responding to complaints of dirty/overgrown lots is that codes tries to inspect within 3 days of receiving the complaint, at which point the inspector gives the owner 10 days notice to clean it up. If the owner fails to clean up the lot, the city issues a work order, and the lot is cleaned up within 1-2 weeks after that. The owner is charged for cleanup costs. The definition of an overgrown lawn is 12 inches of growth. The city will respond to calls about shrubs that block the sidewalk or the sight distance of drivers, but that can take longer than the response to overgrown lots. David suggested that one option with overgrown shrubs is to contact the neighbor to ask whether s/he needs help trimming them.
For abandoned vehicles, the owner receives 5 days notice, and if the vehicle is not moved it is towed within a few days of that 5 days expiring.
A growing problem is junking or stockpiling, often accompanied by frequent yard sales. These are zoning violations, which are more complicated to address than codes violations, though the city is working on amending the ordinance so that they can be addressed as codes violations.
In response to a question about condemned buildings, David said that a house is condemned if it is deemed to be uninhabitable. If repairs are done that bring it back up to code, the condemnation is removed. For rental houses, tenants are required to move out within 30 days of a condemnation. For owner-occupied houses, the city’s policy is not to evict the owners.
In response to a question about dead or diseased trees that are a danger of falling over, David said that in 99 percent of cases reported, the city doesn’t deal with these. An exception is when the tree is on an abandoned property. A neighbor suggested that anyone who fears her/his property is threatened by a neighbor’s tree should document the concern and her/his attempt to make the tree-owning neighbor about it (use certified mail and take pictures). Then if the tree damages the neighbor’s property, s/he can more easily hold the tree-owning neighbor accountable in civil court.