The City of New Orleans enforces its real estate regulations for minimum property standards through an administrative process of hearings and property liens. The rules and procedures are spelled out in the City’s Municipal Code.
Everyone admits the City has a problem with vacant and sub-standard housing, but no one wants to be the cited with a violation. Fines can be substantial and continuing, and are added to the annual property tax bills. The Judgments are filed as liens against the property and act as clouds on the title. Properties declared blighted can be subject to expropriation.
One should never ignore a Notice of Hearing. A attorney can offer the property owner counsel, assistance preparing the case, representation before the hearings bureau and file an appeal, if need be.
An enforcement action for code enforcement usually begins when a neighbor reports a potential violation. Yet, city inspectors on their own can instigate the administrative process.
The owner is sent a notice to the address where the tax bills are sent, as listed on the records of the assessor of the parish, informing him or her of the date of the hearing. The Notice of Hearing cites the Code Section of the violation and its description. The owner is warned that the property can be declared blighted, is given seven days to request an extension of time and is informed about the kinds of relevant evidence to bring to the hearing.
The best defense to a code enforcement citation is complete amelioration of the problem conditions. That may not be feasible or even possible within the time limits available. It is important to show the hearings bureau that a good faith effort is being make to bring the property into compliance. Other defenses may cite technical defects in the administrative process.
If the owner does not respond or appear at the hearing then a pro forma case is made by the inspector and a judgment lien will be assessed against the property, with costs and penalties, for each violation. Multiple violators merit stricter treatment.
If an administrative judgment is rendered it will be recorded in the land records division of Orleans parish. There is a limited time to appeal an administrative judgment and once that appeal time is passed, the legal remedies available to the owner may be limited.