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How Code Enforcement Can Benefit Your Community

Written by: Robert Taylor
Last updated: January 30, 2024

Code enforcement refers to the enforcement of local laws written to govern the integrity of structures and their maintenance. Your local municipality might enforce building codes, which govern the methods used to build structures, or property maintenance codes, which govern things like how often you should cut your grass. Your town might even have a vacant building registration intended to help combat squatting in vacant buildings. And while lots of people might be resistant to adhering to building and property maintenance codes, code enforcement is actually designed to benefit communities.

Code enforcement, at its root, is about public safety. It ensures that structures are built correctly and that elements like plumbing and electrical are installed safely. Code enforcement keeps homes from falling into dangerous and unsightly disrepair. 

It Keeps Businesses and Restaurants Safe

Code inspectors and enforcers aren’t just there to tell you to cut your grass and clean up your yard. They’re also there to make sure that local businesses and restaurants are adhering to local safety ordinances. They make sure that restaurants and businesses have fire exits and that they don’t become overcrowded, for example. Food service codes govern how restaurants handle food, and their enforcement protects your meals from contaminants. 

It Protects Your Property Values

When a neighbor’s inability or unwillingness to take care of their own property gets so bad that it’s dragging down your property value, you’ll be glad that code enforcement is there to let them know it’s time to clean up. Usually, code violations are a civil matter, and aren’t treated as a criminal matter unless they become repeated and defiant. When someone in your neighborhood has a yard full of weeds, tall grass, and piles of junk and broken-down cars, code enforcement is there to help eliminate the eyesore and protect the property values of other neighbors who take the time to care for their properties. 

Of course, sometimes people let their homes fall into disrepair because they can no longer afford to pay for the upkeep. Ticketing people who can’t afford needed repairs isn’t going to get the repairs done – if they can’t afford them, they can’t afford them. In many areas, there is financial help available for property owners who can’t afford repairs needed to correct code violations. Taking advantage of these programs can help struggling property owners maintain the value in their homes, while also adhering to the community’s standard for the look of their home.

It Can Prevent Accidents and Mishaps

Overgrown lawns, junk piles, broken-down fences, abandoned cars, and vacant buildings all seem to invite accidents and injuries. Children might be tempted to play in an abandoned building and hurt themselves, especially if the building is in disrepair. A homeowner attempting to move around in his or her overgrown lawn might trip over a rusty hubcap and break an arm. A dilapidated porch might collapse. Loose components of broken down fences, cars, and other junk can harm children or pets. Even if your neighbor doesn’t have any junk and it’s just a matter of long grass, that too can dangerous. Long grass can attract snakes and hornets are more likely to make their nests in it.

How to Use Code Enforcement

The modern proliferation of code enforcement software means that in many locales, you can make a code violation complaint online. However, you might have to call the code inspector in your location. Most municipalities allow people to make anonymous code violation complaints, but make sure to provide specific information on the property in question when you speak to the code enforcement office. They will need the house’s exact address. 

When you interact with the code inspector, be polite. Try to become familiar with what is and isn’t in your local property maintenance codes so you’re not calling to complain about things that aren’t governed by the code. Try not to be one of those people who makes a lot of largely frivolous complaints to the code inspector. That will earn you a reputation as a pest and you’ll have a harder time being taken seriously if you do need help with something major. Save your code violation complaints for when you see a situation that is actually dangerous, or for when the violations are especially egregious. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is code enforcement and how does it benefit communities in the US?

Code enforcement is the process of ensuring compliance with local laws, regulations, and ordinances related to building, zoning, health, safety, and environmental standards. It benefits communities by promoting public health and safety, preserving property values, preventing blight, and fostering a clean, attractive, and well-maintained environment.

How does code enforcement contribute to public health and safety?

Code enforcement contributes to public health and safety by identifying and addressing issues such as unsafe structures, fire hazards, inadequate sanitation, and environmental hazards. By enforcing compliance with regulations, code enforcement helps to prevent accidents, illness, and the spread of disease, ensuring a safer living environment for residents.

How can community members participate in code enforcement efforts?

Community members can participate in code enforcement efforts by reporting potential code violations to their local code enforcement office, participating in neighborhood watch or clean-up programs, and staying informed about local laws and regulations. Engaging in open communication with local officials and attending community meetings can also help residents stay informed and involved in the enforcement process.

Code enforcement can feel a little intrusive to some people, but it’s definitely not without its benefits. It can make your whole neighborhood look and feel nicer, and can make your community safer, too. 

Robert Taylor
Robert Taylor is a talented writer known for his ability to communicate complex social care and government benefit topics with clarity and empathy. With a background in sociology and a passion for advocating for marginalized populations, Robert has authored numerous articles, reports, and books on these critical subjects. His writing has helped individuals better understand their rights and options within the realm of government assistance, empowering them to navigate the system effectively. Robert's compelling storytelling and dedication to social justice have made him an influential voice in the field of social care and government benefits.
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