Community Notes: Greetings from the Code Enforcement Department
Jason Webster & Paul Hughes, Charles City Code Enforcement
Normally the cooler weather would slow things down before now, but the nicer weather has kept us busy on all fronts.
Many times, people do not have an overall concept of all we handle within our department. We issue building permits and rental unit permits. Both of these involve filling out paperwork and us making on-site visits to each address. We also handle unshoveled walks through the winter. In addition, we focus on residential structures which may pose a safety hazard to the public. It keeps the two of us hopping to keep up with it all.
JASON – A large part of our work is keeping up with the 930-plus registered rental units in town. I conduct on-site inspections of about a third of these each year. I am in the middle of the 300-plus visits which are due for inspection this round coming up. The city enacted the rental registration about eight years ago to try to make sure certain safety conditions are met by the landlords so we keep our citizens who rent safe. All landlords must have their rentals registered with the city annually before Oct. 31. Some of the things I look for during these inspections are electrical issues, handrails, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and some plumbing issues. I also check windows, appliance, and other safety concerns.
Additionally, we handle nuisance properties around the city. So far this year, we have addressed more than 90 nuisances. They include junk/trash or junk vehicles in the yard, long grass or weeds. We notified several property owners and renters of nuisance conditions previous to spring cleanup and got them to remediate the conditions ahead of notices being served. Many of these nuisance issues take several months to remediate due to the legal process we have to follow.
In the winter, we serve notices on uncleaned sidewalks. This past winter, we served notice on about 150 walks which were not cleaned off. The code requires the resident to clean them off after each new snow event.
If you have a nuisance in your neighborhood, you can let us know by calling us or shooting off an email. We appreciate the help and the extra eyes watching out for unfavorable conditions.
PAUL – This last year has been busy for new building and remodeling around the city. We have several new businesses applying for permits. It is pretty exciting to see the growth in town, and it is great to see some of the new buildings getting finished. We also have had several homeowners remodeling their houses and a few new homes going up. This is all pretty exciting for our community.
A large part of our job is to educate people on what a building permit is and when it is needed. The permit gives you legal permission to start construction of a building project in accordance with local and state codes. Your home or business is a large investment and we want you to repair or remodel it correctly. The inspection by us makes sure your work conforms to codes which are put in place to ensure your safety as well as the safety of others who visit your home or business.
Stop in or call our office in City Hall and speak with one of us and we will walk you through the application process. Please contact us in advance of wanting to do work in case this process requires extra time. Please do not start work without an approved permit in hand. This may result in fines and fees being added over what is normally charged. It could also result in work having to be removed or changed to meet code specifications. We cannot stress this enough — please call and ask us any questions you may have.
Some of the most common mistakes made include the following:
• Make your riser height consistent. Stairways are built and too often the top step or bottom step is outside the 3/8” allowance.
• Don’t order or buy your windows until you know the hazardous locations of glazing and the fall protection required for second floors.
• Make sure you read the manufacturer’s installation directions first on any product. Architectural shingles cannot be installed like tabbed shingles. Windows installed incorrectly will void their warranty.
• Expansion anchors for sole plate anchor bolts near the edge cannot be used as they are not approved as the edge clearance is not adequate for their use.
• Call for a final inspection. Why would you pay the contractor without having the third-party inspection (the city) sign the inspection card first? What are you going to do if there are mistakes in the work?
• A guard railing is required when the height of a deck or platform is 30 inches above the grade within two feet of the edge. This railing shall not have openings greater than 4 inches and the height is a minimum of 36 inches tall.
• A graspable handrail is required when you have four or more risers. Risers are closed when the staircase is over 30 inches from landing to landing. Stairways cannot exceed 12 feet from landing to landing.
We look forward to meeting you and assisting you with your building code needs, nuisances, rental inspections and questions. Stop in, email us, or give us a call.