Senate Bill No. 228

(By Senators Love, Snyder, Hunter and Buckalew)


[Introduced January 27, 1998; referred to the Committee
on the Judiciary.]

A BILL to amend article one, chapter seven of the code of West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, by adding thereto a new section, designated section thirteen, relating to providing authority to counties to enact ordinances regulating the repair, closing, demolition of dwellings or buildings unfit for human habitation; and procedures.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That article one, chapter seven of the code of West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, be
amended by adding thereto a new section, designated section thirteen, to read as follows:

§7-1-13. Authority for enacting ordinances regulating the repair, closing, demolition of dwellings or buildings unfit for human habitation; procedures.
(a) Plenary power and authority are hereby conferred upon every county to adopt ordinances regulating the repair, alteration or improvement, or the vacating and closing or removal or demolition, or any combination thereof, of any dwellings or other buildings unfit for human habitation due to dilapidation, defects increasing the hazard of fire, accidents or other calamities, lack of ventilation, light or sanitary facilities or any other conditions prevailing in any dwelling or building, whether used for human habitation or not, which would cause such dwellings or other buildings to be unsafe, unsanitary, dangerous or detrimental to the public safety or welfare.
(b) The county commission in formally adopting such ordinances shall designate the enforcement agency, which shall consist of the one member of the county commission, the county prosecuting attorney or his or her designee and the sheriff or his or her designee, the county engineer or building inspector and one member at large, to be selected by and to serve at the will and pleasure of the county commission. The ranking health officer shall serve as an ex officio member of such enforcement agency.
(c) Any ordinance adopted pursuant to the provisions of this section shall provide fair and equitable rules of procedure and any other standards deemed necessary to guide the enforcement agency, or its agents, in the investigation of dwelling or building conditions, and in conducting hearings: Provided, That any entrance upon premises for the purpose of making examinations shall be made in such manner as to cause the least possible inconvenience to the persons in possession.
(d) The county commission of every county shall have plenary power and authority to adopt an ordinance requiring the owner or owners of any dwelling or building under determination of the state fire marshal, as provided in section twelve, article three, chapter twenty-nine of this code, or under order of the enforcement agency of the county, to pay for the costs of repairing, altering or improving, or of vacating and closing, removing or demolishing any dwelling or building. Every county shall also have the right to file a lien against the real property in question for an amount not to exceed the assessed value of the property as recorded in the office of the county assessor, or to institute a civil action in a court of competent jurisdiction against the landowner or other responsible party for all costs incurred by the county with respect to the property and for reasonable attorney fees and court costs incurred in the prosecution of the action.
Not less than ten days prior to instituting a civil action as provided for in this section, the county commission of the county shall send notice to the landowner by certified mail, return receipt requested, advising the landowner of the governing body's intention to institute such action. The notice shall be sent to the most recent address of the landowner of record in the office of the assessor of the county where the subject property is located. If, for any reason, such certified mail is returned without evidence of proper receipt thereof, then in such event, the county commission shall cause a Class III-0 legal advertisement to be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the county wherein the subject property is located and post notice on the front door or other conspicuous location on the subject property.
In the event any landowner desires to contest any demand brought forth pursuant to this section, the landowner may seek relief in a court of competent jurisdiction.
All orders issued by the enforcement agency shall be served in accordance with the law of this state concerning the service of process in civil actions, and shall, in addition thereto, be posted in a conspicuous place on the premises affected by the complaint or order: Provided, That no ordinance shall be adopted without providing therein for the right to apply to the circuit court for a temporary injunction restraining the enforcement agency pending final disposition of the cause. In the event such application is made, a hearing thereon shall be had within twenty days, or as soon thereafter as possible, and the court shall enter such final order or decree as the law and justice may require.

NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to bestow authority upon counties, similar to authority that municipalities currently possess, to demolish buildings.

Section thirteen is new; therefore, strike-throughs and underscoring have been omitted.