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Rockwood is taking steps to make its property maintenance regulations stronger.
“What we did is pass a series of ordinances that as far as dealing with unkept property we can now go to Chancery Court and get something done — get a lien against the property and either make them pay or we can sell it and get our money back,” said Mayor James Watts.
Changes to property maintenance regulations include additional wording in various sections. Changes call for a notice to run in the local newspaper for two weeks if a violator cannot be found.
If an owner still cannot be found, a court order will be obtained for the city to clean up the property, place a lien for costs or obtain an order of eminent domain.
Other changes include new wording in the section about the basis for finding of unfitness regarding human occupation.
Foundation failure was added into the list of reasons for finding a home unfit for habitation, as well as “lack of running public water, functioning toilets, showers or sinks.”
Other reasons include hoarding items that block hallways or exits, unmade repairs totaling more than 50 percent of the cost structure, violation of building codes in wiring/electrical, structural, plumbing and damage from a leaking roof.
A section on appeals was also added. It says, “Any person affected by an order issued by the public official may appeal to the Board of Adjustment and Appeal within 10 days after receiving the order or 10 days after the second notice was run in the local newspaper if he/she did not receive a notice in the mail.”
Burden of proof is on the owner to show why the order is in error and the structure is safe.
The ordinance allows the board to permit repairs rather than proceeding to court.
However, repairs must be made within 60 days of appeal.
Other language includes additions to a section allowing someone to get a chancery court injunction restraining the public officer from carrying out the provisions of the order.
The new language said hearings shall be within 20 days or as soon as possible and “shall be given preference over other matters on the courts calendar” pursuant to Tennessee law.