Code Compliance

Code Compliance investigates and enforces situations involving building, environmental, and zoning violations, including work without permits, as well as enforcing violations of the vacation and hosted rental ordinances. In addition, this Section offers staff and administrative support for Neglected Property and Dangerous Building/Site Abatement Programs. 

These programs generally operate in response to citizen complaints of alleged code violations or from referrals from other public agencies, but at times are initiated by Department staff such as for unpermitted construction underway, or situations of life-safety hazards or severe nuisance activities. Cases are investigated and, if appropriate, administrative citations, warning and/or violation notices are issued. Increased (double) fees may be associated with permits resulting from "Stop Work" and code compliance cases. These actions may be followed by additional legal sanctions, such as recordation, fines, or civil penalties. The overall objective of the code enforcement process is to motivate the property owner to discontinue the illegal use or activity and/or to obtain the required permits.

Responsibilities of the Code Compliance Section

Code Compliance responds to complaints from the public and referrals from local agencies, such as local fire departments, sheriff, and State agencies, such as the Department of Fish and Wildlife. The mission of this section is to ensure the equitable and consistent enforcement of local building, zoning, and environmental land use regulations as adopted by the Board of Supervisors.

The process usually begins with a "Stop Work" notice or the filing of a complaint, alleging that a violation of County land use regulations has occurred. A First Contact Letter is sent to the property owner, informing them of the complaint. Next, the Investigator, reviews the complaint, completes research of available building land use information and records, and conducts a site inspection.

If the reported allegation is confirmed, a Notice of Violation is posted on the property, and the owner is notified, by mail and informed that the violation must be corrected within 90 days usually. The property owner has 20 days within which to appeal the issuance of this notice. If the notice is not appealed, it may be recorded on the title to the property, informing any future owner of the violation and that it must be corrected.

The property may be reinspected, usually 90 days after the notice was issued, and if the violation has been corrected, the investigation is resolved. If the violation remains, the matter may be referred for an administrative hearing, or to County Counsel, or the District Attorney for legal action. Although voluntary compliance is sought, uncorrected violations can result in significant penalties to the property owner. Additionally, the property owner or responsible party is liable for enforcement costs, that is staff time spent on obtaining compliance.

In some cases where resolution of a violation is relatively simple, the code investigator may post an administrative citation rather than sending a first contact letter. (SCCC 1.13.070)

Code Compliance has access to a limited amount of funds available for the abatement of properties where compliance efforts have been exhausted. These cases typically involve dangerous buildings and neglected properties.  Once the nuisance has been abated, the cost of that action will be attached to the property tax bill for cost recovery.