§ 4122 General provisions.
This subchapter shall govern the administration and enforcement procedures of the State Housing Code. Any municipality or county that adopts the Code as its own may use these administrative and enforcement procedures as its own or may develop procedures which are similar in nature as determined by the Code official.
§ 4123 Administrative liability.
Except as may otherwise be provided by state statute, no officer, agent or employee of the State or any Delaware community charged with the enforcement of this chapter shall be rendered personally liable for any damage that may accrue to persons or property as a result of any act required or permitted in the discharge of duties under this chapter. No person who institutes, or assists in the prosecution of, a criminal proceeding under this chapter shall be liable for damage therefor unless such person acted with actual malice and without reasonable grounds for believing that the person accused or prosecuted was guilty of an unlawful act or omission. Any civil suit brought against any officer, agent or employee of the State or of any Delaware community as a result of any act required or permitted in the discharge of duties under this chapter shall be defended by the attorney-at-law of each jurisdiction and of the State until the final determination of the proceedings therein.
§ 4124 Conflict of interest.
No officer or employee who has an official duty in connection with the administration and enforcement of this chapter shall be financially interested in the furnishing of labor, materials or appliances for the construction, alteration or maintenance of a building or in making the plans or specifications therefor, unless that person is the owner of such building. No such officer or employee shall engage in any activity which is inconsistent with the public interest and the officer's official duties.
§ 4125 Records.
The code official shall keep or cause to be kept records concerning the enforcement of this chapter's provisions, which records shall be open to public inspection.
§ 4126 Duties and powers of code official.
(a) In general. — The code official shall enforce all the provisions of this chapter relative to the maintenance of structures and premises, except as may otherwise be specifically provided by other regulations.
(b) Notices and orders. — The code official shall issue all necessary notices and orders to abate illegal or unsafe conditions to insure compliance with the chapter requirements for the safety, health and general welfare of the public.
(c) Inspections. — In order to safeguard the safety, health and welfare of the public, the code official is authorized to enter any structure or premises at any reasonable time for the purpose of making inspections and performing duties under this chapter. The fee for inspections performed by the Housing Director, when acting as a code official for the enforcement of the Code in areas which have not adopted the Code shall be $25 for the initial inspection and $10 for each subsequent inspection related to the same complaint. At the discretion of the Housing Director and for good cause shown, such inspection fees may be waived.
(d) Right of entry. — If any owner, occupant or other person in charge of a structure subject to this chapter refuses, impedes, inhibits, interferes with, restricts or obstructs entry and free access to any part of the structure or premises where inspection authorized by this chapter is sought, the code official may seek, in a court of competent jurisdiction, an order that such owner, occupant or other person in charge cease and desist with such interference.
(e) Access by owner or operator. — Every occupant of a structure or premises shall give the owner or operator thereof, or agent or employee, access to any part of such structure or its premises at reasonable times for the purpose of making such inspection, maintenance, repairs or alterations as are necessary to comply with this chapter.
(f) Credentials. — The code official or the code official's authorized representative shall disclose proper evidence of the official's or representative's respective office for the purpose of demonstrating authority to inspect any and all buildings and premises in the performance of duties under this chapter.
(g) Rulemaking authority. — The code official shall have power, as may be necessary in the interest of public safety, health and general welfare, to adopt and promulgate rules and regulations to interpret and implement this chapter to secure the intent thereof and to designate requirements applicable because of local climatic or other conditions.
(h) Annual report. — At least annually, the code official shall submit to the chief executive of the community or State a written statement of activities in a form and content as shall be prescribed by the chief executive of that jurisdiction.
§ 4127 Condemnation.
(a) In general. — When a structure is found by the code official to be unsafe, or when a structure or part thereof is found unfit for human occupancy or use, it may be condemned pursuant to this chapter and may be placarded and vacated. Such condemned structure shall not be reoccupied without approval of the code official, but such approval may not be withheld upon completion of specified corrections of violations.
(b) Unsafe structure. — An unsafe structure is one in which all or part thereof is found to be dangerous to life, health, property or the safety of the public or the structure's occupants because it is so damaged, decayed, dilapidated, structurally unsafe or of such faulty construction or unstable foundation that it is likely to partially or completely collapse.
(c) Unsafe equipment. — Unsafe equipment includes any boiler, heating equipment, elevator, moving stairway, electrical wiring or device, flammable liquid containers or other equipment on the premises or within the structure which is in such disrepair or condition that it is found to be a hazard to life, health, property or safety of the public or occupants of the premises or structure. Unsafe equipment may contribute to the finding that the structure is unsafe or unfit for human occupancy or use.
(d) Structure unfit for human occupancy. — A structure is unfit for human occupancy or use whenever the code official finds that it is unsafe or, because it lacks maintenance and is in extreme disrepair, is unsanitary, vermin- or rat-infested, contains filth and contamination or lacks ventilation, illumination, sanitary or heating facilities or other essential equipment required by this chapter.
(e) Closing of vacant structures. — If the structure or part thereof is vacant and unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use, and is not in danger of structural collapse, the code official may post a placard of condemnation on the premises and may order the structure closed up so it will not be an attractive nuisance to youngsters. Upon failure of the owner to close up the premises within the time specified in the order, the code official shall cause it to be closed through any available public agency or by contract or arrangement by private persons and the cost thereof shall be charged against the real estate upon which the structure is located and shall be a lien upon such real estate in accordance with § 4134 of this title.
§ 4128 Notices and orders.
(a) Notice to owner or to person or persons responsible. — Whenever the code official determines that there has been a violation of this chapter or has reasonable grounds to believe that a violation has occurred, or whenever the code official has condemned any structure or equipment under § 4127 of this title, notice shall be given to the owner or the person or persons responsible therefor in the manner prescribed below. If the code official has condemned the property or part thereof, the code official shall give notice to the owner and to the occupants of the intent to placard and to order vacation of the premises or to order equipment out of service.
(b) Form. — Such notice shall:
(1) Be in writing;
(2) Include a description of the real estate sufficient for identification;
(3) Include a statement of the reason or reasons why it is being issued;
(4) Include a correction order allowing a reasonable time for the repairs and improvements required to bring the dwelling unit or structure into compliance with this chapter; and
(5) Include state penalties for noncompliance.
(c) Service. — Such service shall be deemed properly served upon such owner and/or occupant if a copy thereof is delivered to the owner and/or occupant personally; or by leaving the notice at the usual place or abode, in the presence of someone in the family of suitable age and discretion who shall be informed of the contents thereof; or by certified or registered mail service addressed to the owner and/or occupant at the last known address. If the owner, agent or person in control is not found, a copy of the notice posted in a conspicuous place on the premises shall be deemed the equivalent of personal service, upon posting. Any notice herein shall, if mailed, be deemed to be effective upon mailing.
(d) Service on occupant. — When a condemnation order is served on an occupant other than the owner or person responsible for such compliance, a reasonable time to vacate the property after noncompliance shall be stated. Owners or persons responsible for compliance must vacate at the time set for correction of defects if there is failure of compliance.
(e) Penalties. — Failure to comply with orders and notices shall be subject to the penalties set forth in § 4131(b) of this title.
(f) Transfer of ownership. — It shall be unlawful for the owner of any dwelling unit or structure who has received a compliance order or upon whom a notice of violation has been served to sell, transfer, mortgage, lease or otherwise dispose of such property to another until the compliance order or notice of violation has been complied with, or until such owner shall first furnish the grantee, transferee, mortgagee or lessee a true copy of any compliance order or notice of violation issued by the code official and shall furnish to the code official a signed and notarized statement from the grantee, transferee, mortgagee or lessee, acknowledging the receipt of such compliance order or notice of violation and fully accepting the responsibility without condition for making the corrections or repairs required by such compliance order or notice of violation.
§ 4129 Placarding.
(a) Placarding of structure. — After the condemnation notice required under this chapter has resulted in an order by virtue of failure to comply within the time given, the code official may post on the premises or structure or parts thereof, or on defective equipment, a placard bearing the words "Condemned as unfit for human occupancy or use," and a statement of the penalties provided for any occupancy or use or for removing the placard. The owner or the person or persons responsible for the correction of violations and all other occupants shall remove themselves from the property on failure to comply with the correction order in the time specified.
(b) Use following placarding prohibited. — Any person who shall occupy a placarded premises or structure or part thereof, or shall use placarded equipment, and any owner or any person responsible for the premises who shall let anyone occupy a placarded premises shall be subject to the penalties set forth in § 4131(b) of this title.
(c) Removal of placard. — The code official shall remove the condemnation placard whenever the defect or defects upon which the condemnation and placarding action were based have been eliminated. Any person who defaces or removes a condemnation placard without the approval of the code official shall be subject to the penalties provided by this chapter.
§ 4130 Emergency orders.
(a) In general. — Whenever a code official finds that an emergency exists on any premises, or in any structure or part thereof or on any defective equipment which requires immediate action to protect the public's health and safety or that of the occupants thereof, the code official may, with proper notice and service in accordance with § 4128 of this title, issue an order reciting the existence of such an emergency and requiring the vacating of the premises or such action taken as the code official deems necessary to meet such emergency. Notwithstanding other provisions of this chapter, such order shall be effective immediately, and the premises or equipment involved shall be placarded immediately upon service of the order.
§ 4131 Violations.
(a) Unlawful acts. — It shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to erect, construct, alter, extend, repair, remove, demolish, use or occupy any structure or equipment regulated by this chapter, or cause same to be done, contrary to or in conflict with or in violation of this chapter.
(b) Penalty for violation; jurisdiction. — Any person who shall violate this chapter or who fails to comply with any notice or order issued by a code official pursuant to this chapter, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof shall be fined not less than $25 nor more than $1,000 or imprisoned for a term not to exceed 30 days, or both. Each day of a separate and continuing violation shall be deemed a separate offense under this section. The Justice of the Peace Court in the county in which the property is located shall have exclusive jurisdiction over offenses prosecuted under this chapter.
(c) Prosecution. — In the event any violation order is not promptly complied with, a code official with constable powers pursuant to § 2901 of Title 10, may issue a citation, and in cases involving first offenders of this Code, may assess a fine of $100 or, in the alternative, may direct that the owner or occupant appear in the court of law having jurisdiction over the alleged violation. In those jurisdictions in which the code officials do not have constable powers, the code official may institute an action in the appropriate court, or may request the city solicitor or community attorney-at-law to institute such action to seek the penalties provided in subsection (b) of this section.
§ 4132 Demolition.
(a) In general. — The code official may order the owner of premises upon which is located any structure or part thereof, which in the code official's judgment is so old, dilapidated or has become so out of repair as to be dangerous, unsafe, unsanitary or otherwise unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use, so that it would be unreasonable to repair the same, to raze and remove such structure or part thereof; or, if it can be made safe by repair, to repair and make safe and sanitary or to raze and remove at the owner's option; or, where there has been a cessation of normal construction of any structure for a period of more than 2 years, to raze and remove such structure or part thereof.
(b) Order. — The order shall specify a time in which the owner shall comply therewith and specify repairs, if any. It shall be served on the owner of record or an agent where an agent is in charge of the building and upon the holder of any lien in the manner provided for service of a summons by a court of record. If the owner or a holder of a lien of record cannot be found, the order may be served by posting it on the main entrance of the building and by publishing it once each week for 3 successive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in accordance with the rules of the Justice of the Peace Court.
(c) Restraining actions. — Anyone affected by any such order may, within 30 days after service of such order, apply to a Justice of the Peace Court for an order restraining the code official from razing and removing such structure or parts thereof. The Court shall determine whether the order of the code official is reasonable, and if found unreasonable, the court may issue a restraining order.
(d) Failure to comply. — Whenever the owner of a property fails to comply with a demolition order within the time prescribed, the code official shall cause the structure or part thereof to be razed and removed, either through an available public agency or by contract or arrangement with private persons, and the cost of such razing and removal shall be charged against the real estate upon which the structure is located and shall be a lien upon such real estate as provided in § 4134 of this title.
(e) Salvage materials. — When any structure has been ordered razed and removed the code official or other designated officer may sell the salvage and valuable materials resulting from such razing or removal, such materials to be sold at the highest price obtainable. The net proceeds of such sale, after deducting the expenses of such razing and removal, shall be promptly remitted with a report of such sale or transaction, including the items of expense and the amounts deducted, for the use of the person who may be entitled thereto, subject to any order of a court. If such a surplus does not remain to be turned over, the report shall so state.
§ 4133 Creation of tax lien.
There is hereby created a tax lien on real property for moneys expended by the State, or a community, for razing, demolition, removal or repairs of buildings or abatement of other unsafe conditions constituting a threat to the public health and safety where the responsible party refuses or fails to comply with the lawful order of the code official after due notice thereof, either actual or constructive. Upon certification of a tax lien to the appropriate state or community official by the code official, the amount of such lien shall be recorded and collected in the same manner as other county real estate taxes, and paid to the State or community, when collected, by the appropriate county government.
§ 4134 Violation of existing ordinance, code or regulation.
This chapter shall not affect violations of any other ordinance, code or regulation of the State, county or municipality existing prior to July 12, 1985, and any such violation shall be governed and shall continue to be enforced to the full extent of the law under such ordinances, codes or regulations in effect at the time the violation was committed.
§ 4135 Violation of existing ordinance, code or regulation.