What is Title 5: Code Compliance?
Answer: Title 5 is a proposed section of the Kitsap County Code that will be the place wherein the County places all of the code enforcement provisions found in other titles of Kitsap County Code.
Based on what is contained in the Draft provisions of Title 5 what would be different?
Answer. There are quite a few proposed “new provisions.” Some of the more significant and egregious changes are as follows:
A change from a “Civil Law” proceedings to an “Administrative Law” process. In simple terms, what this means is that instead of going to District Court to argue with the County, the contest would be presented in Kitsap County’s Hearing Examiner decision making process. Among other aspects of the Hearing Examiner process, it allows the County to charge fees for the work of their personnel and to cover the cost of the Hearing Examiner’s public hearing and report preparation. Further it allows the Hearing examiner to abate the property to correct the code violations and to assess the costs of abatement in addition to penalties where responsible parties fail to abate identified conditions.
The proposed code establishes a system of punitive penalties to ensure compliance. The Administrative Hearing Examiner shall, upon finding that a civil violation has occurred, assess a monetary penalty in an amount of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) for each violation, unless otherwise provided by law. Each day, or a portion thereof, that a violation exists constitutes a separate and distinct offense for which a monetary penalty may be assessed. Additionally it provides that penalties may be doubled for individuals with repeat violations or patterns of habitual code violation.
Worse yet is the fact that in the “Administrative Law” proceedings, the burden of proof shifts from the County to the individual with an alleged code compliance issue.
As drafted the propose Title 5 regulations would allow Kitsap County personnel to enter buildings and private property without a “warrant” issued by a judge after a finding of “probable cause.” As now proposed, that is a clear violation of a person’s rights under the constitutional provisions in both the Washington State and Federal Constitutions and State Law (RCW 59.18.150)
There is no provision to recognize that buildings and land uses might have been erected or activities conducted consistent with prior code provisions that have been replaced by newer legislation. This “grandfathered right” is one that was established under prior regulations and is allowed to continue as is without a need to comply with whatever new codes and ordinances that might be adopted later.
Misdemeanor. In addition or as an alternative to any other remedy provided by law, any person who willfully or knowingly violates any provision of the code, or fails to comply with any requirement of the code, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor
Any person other than the alleged code violator who might offer an opinion or advice, regardless of professional qualifications or expertise in knowledge of the provisions of particular codes can be construed to be a “consultant.” Consultants are held accountable along with the building or property owner (the existing or the new buyer) for rectifying the noncompliant code problem. As written this also could include incurring a portion of any monetary fines that might be levied against the building or property owner.
The proposed regulations require a notice be placed on the title to property so that buyers might know ahead of time that there is an alleged or actual violation(s) on the property. However, there is no specification as to who is place that notice to title or how it can be removed. Further there is no disclosure process now in place that requires building or property owners to inform buyers as to whether or not their prior activities or building construction took place in conformance with the applicable regulations.
What is the Status of Title 5?
Answer: This code was to be considered by the County Commissioners in a work-study session on May 14 2014, which has been postponed. The current County Plan of action is unknown. The proposed code was published by the County online, and has subsequently been removed. For ease of reference we have posted it here: New Code Enforcement Chapter 05142014
Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners is sponsoring a Town Hall Meeting on Title 5 Code Compliance issues on October 2, 2014 at Crossroads Neighborhood Church, 7555 Old Military Highway NE, Bremerton WA from 6:30 – 8:00PM
For further information on Title 5, please go to the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners Website (www.kapo.org). If you are not happy with the provisions of Title 5, contact your elected County Commissioners. Phone:(360) 337-7146