House Bill 422 means big changes for local code enforcement

House Bill 422—an act relating to local code enforcement—was signed into law by Governor Matt Bevin on April 9th; the bill’s provisions take effect January 1, 2017. With this bill come several important changes to the code enforcement process across the commonwealth. PDS staff are working diligently to make sure each of the cities who depend on PDS for code enforcement are prepared for Day 1 of the new regulations.

“We’re pleased that this bill made it through this year’s session,” stated Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director of PDS. “Our code inspection program has come a long way over the past ten years but it’s been limited in what it can accomplish due to the fragmented structure of Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) as it’s codified today. This bill changes all that.”

First, the bill consolidates code enforcement provisions, including nuisance codes, under one chapter, KRS 65.8801 to 66.8839. Under the current scheme, provisions can be found in KRS 82.700 to 82.725 (abatement of nuisances), KRS 381.770 (abatement of nuisance) and KRS 65.8801 to 65.8839 (code enforcement boards).

This consolidation clarifies the authority of code enforcement boards to enforce all civil offences, including zoning and nuisance codes. In addition, the new law authorizes code enforcement boards to fulfill the duties of a vacant property review commission, to review and certify vacant properties as blighted or deteriorated.

Second, the bill extends lien priority provisions to all code enforcement violations, including civil and zoning code violations, not just nuisance code violations. Code enforcement liens will take precedence over all other liens, except state, county, school board and city taxes. However, in order to obtain and maintain this lien priority, local governments must implement a system for notification to lienholders and allow lienholders a timeframe to remediate or abate violations.

Newly created KRS 65.8801 to 65.8839 requires the creation of a lienholder notification system, or registry, to allow lienholders to receive information on final orders and requires the local government to send out an electronic mail notification on a monthly basis to those who have registered to receive notifications. Under the legislation adopted by the General Assembly, the lienholder has 45 days from the date of notification to correct the violation or elect to pay fines.

PDS will provide the lienholder registry service for its joint code enforcement board jurisdictions to ensure compliance with the new legislation. PDS will also pursue this as an opportunity to combine the administration of the lienholder registry with the administration of a Vacant Foreclose Property Registry, for better communication and increased compliance for properties during the foreclosure process.

PDS initiated its current code enforcement program in late 2005 with nine jurisdictions. Since then, the program has grown to include service to 15 jurisdictions and staff support to five code enforcement boards. One of those boards—the Kenton County Joint Code Enforcement Board—serves 11 jurisdictions.

“These changes to state law will certainly help us support local property owners who seek an end to code violations in their neighborhoods,” said Gordon. “The changes will also give code enforcement boards the ability to pursue a number of different violations for their communities so long as they’re considered civil cases. That’s certainly going to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of these local boards.”

Stay tuned for more information from PDS on these changes in services to be provided.