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Code Enforcement- A Valuable Tool When it’s Needed
By Dave Emanuel

“I don’t know what we’re going to do about our neighbors. They have junk all over the front yard, they hardly ever mow their grass, they have cars parked all over the yard they make the neighborhood look trashy.”

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Sound familiar?

If it does, take heart- you do have options; in some cases, that may be your homeowners’ association, but the best option may be a call to the appropriate “Quality of Life/Code enforcement department”. Whether you live in unincorporated Gwinnett County, or one of Gwinnett’s cities, a “Quality of Life” unit, with code enforcement authority, has jurisdiction over your neighborhood; a solution may be a phone call away.

According to Gwinnett County, “The Quality of Life Unit is dedicated to educating and informing citizens of the codes and ordinances established for the county by the Board of Commissioners, which set minimum requirements and standards regarding property and structures to promote and protect the public health, safety, convenience, order, and general welfare of all its citizens. These minimum standards are designed to preserve and improve the quality of life for present and future citizens of the county and promote a sense of community, preserve the sanctity of the family, facilitate quiet and peaceful neighborhoods, limit congestion of motor vehicles, and control transiency.”

Code Enforcement is the means by which quality of life metrics are enforced. When a complaint is lodged, an officer will visit the property in question and determine whether a code violation exists. In most jurisdictions, code enforcement activities are initiated by a complaint as enforcement officers don’t typically ride around looking for violations.

Although a call to a Quality of Life unit may be the best option, it shouldn’t necessarily be the first option.  Before making a complaint about a code violation, consider talking to the property owner. In many cases, people run afoul of a code or ordinance because they are unaware of the situation, (one person’s junk is another’s treasure) or unable to correct it.

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This is a common problem with older residents who may not be physically, or financially able to bring their property into compliance. In such instances, filing a complaint may have little effect as the property owner’s situation, not an unwillingness to comply, is the core issue. In some cities, City Council members and volunteers have helped out in such cases by mowing lawns and helping with clean-up.

On the other hand, some people just don’t care, and consider any condition above that of a pigsty to be acceptable. Their view is that they should be able to do whatever they want with their property. And they can- up to the point that conditions negatively impact their neighbors or create health and safety hazards- conditions that beg for a visit from a code enforcement. 

In some instances, fear of retaliation prevents people from filing a complaint against a neighbor. That can be a legitimate concern. If it is, consider contacting a member of your city council or county commission. In addition to protecting your identity, a government official may be able to provide you with helpful information, or even let you know that action has already been taken; you may not be the only one who has found a particular property to be out of compliance. 

Ironically, even when retaliation is a legitimate concern, some people’s fist inclination is to post about problem on social media. Even if you’re not “friends” with the people about whom you’re complaining, it is possible for them to become aware of your post, in which case, (rightly or wrongly) their fingers will point to you as the reason a code enforcement officer came to visit.

Dave Emanuel is Vice President of Random Technologies, a manufacturing company in Loganville, and a Snellville City Councilman. To read more from Dave Emanuel visit http://www.cuttothe-chase.net


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