CHAPTER IV. BUILDINGS AND CONSTRUCTIONCHAPTER IV. BUILDINGS AND CONSTRUCTION\ARTICLE 4. MINIMUM HOUSING STANDARDS

It is the purpose of this article to establish minimum standards of dwelling space, facility requirements and structural adequacy for dwellings within the city; to provide for administration and enforcement of the article and to specify authority and procedure to be followed in executing the powers established in this article.

(Code 1973, 4-701)

The following terms whenever used or referred to in this article shall have the following meanings:

(a)   Public Officer - The person designated or appointed by the commission to exercise the powers prescribed by this article;

(b)   Residential Structure or Dwelling - Any building or structure or part thereof, used and occupied for human habitation or intended to be used, and includes any appurtenances belonging thereto or usually enjoyed therewith;

(c)   Nonresidential Structure - Any structure which is used for other than residential purposes, or a part of such structure, or a structure a part of which is used for other than nonresidential purposes and where applicable the premises on which such structures are situated;

(d)   Dilapidation - A state of disrepair, decay or conspicuous lack of maintenance of exterior painting of a dwelling as to constitute a blighting influence on properties in the neighborhood;

(e)   Owner - The holder of the recorded legal title to any dwelling with or without accompanying actual possession thereof;

(f)    Parties in Interest - All individuals, associations, or corporations who have interests of record in a dwelling, and any who are in or known to the public officer to be entitled to possession thereof thereto as determined by property judicial proceedings instituted by the public officer after deducting the costs of such judicial proceedings, including his or her necessary attorney’s fees incurred therein, as determined by the court.

(g)   Habitable Room - A room or enclosed floor space arranged for living, eating or sleeping purposes, not including bath or toilet rooms, laundries, pantries, foyers or communicating corridors;

(h)   Rooming House - A hotel structure containing rooms rented either by the day, week or month, and similar structure with similar rooms designed for individual or nonfamily use and not containing cooking facilities.

(Code 1973, 4-702)

It is found dwellings are unfit for human use or habitation due to conditions including the following without limitation:

(a)   Defects therein increasing any hazards of fire, accident or other calamities;

(b)   Lack of adequate ventilation;

(c)   Air pollution;

(d)   Inadequate light or sanitary facilities;

(e)   Dilapidation;

(f)    Disrepair;

(g)   Structural defects;

(h)   Uncleanliness;

(i)    Overcrowding;

(j)    Inadequate ingress and egress;

(k)   Dead and dying trees;

(l)    Unsightly appearances that constitute a blight to adjoining property, the neighborhood or the city;

(m)  Walls, sidings or exteriors of a quality and appearance not commensurate with the character of the properties in the neighborhood;

(n)   Unsightly stored or parked material, equipment, supplies, machinery, trucks or automobiles or parts thereof;

(o)   Vermin infestation;

(p)   Inadequate drainage;

(q)   Any violation of health, fire, building or zoning regulations or any other laws or regulations relating to the use of land and the use and occupancy of buildings and improvements; rendering such structures unsafe or unsanitary or dangerous or detrimental to the health safety or morals or otherwise inimical to the welfare of the residents of the city.

(Code 1973, 4-703)

(a)   A public officer shall be designated or appointed by the commission to exercise the powers prescribed by this article.

(b)   Whenever a petition is filed with the public officer by at least five residents of the city charging that any structure is unfit for human use or habitation or whenever it appears to the public officer (on his or her own motion, and particularly on vacancy or change of occupancy of a dwelling) that any dwelling is unfit for human use or habitation, he or she shall, if his or her preliminary investigation discloses a basis for such charges, issue and cause to be served upon the owner, every mortgagee of record and all parties in interest in such structure (including persons in possession) a complaint stating the charges in that respect.

(c)   The complaint shall contain a notice that a hearing will be held before the public officer or his or her designated agent at a place therein fixed not less than 10 days nor more than 30 days after the serving of the complaint; that the owner, mortgagee and parties in interest shall be given the right to file an answer to the complaint and to appear in person, or otherwise, and give testimony at the place and time fixed in the complaint; and that the rules of evidence prevailing in courts of law or equity shall not be controlling in hearings before the public officer.

(Code 1973, 4-704)

If, after notice and hearing, the public officer determines that the structure under consideration is unfit for human use or habitation he or she shall state in writing his or her findings of facts in support of such determination and shall issue and cause to be served upon the owner thereof an order which:

(a)   If the repair, alteration or improvement of the structure can be made at reasonable cost in relation to the value of the structure, (which is hereby fixed at not more than 50% as reasonable for such purpose), requires the owner, within the time specified in the order, to repair, alter, or improve such structure to render it fit for human use or habitation or to vacate and close the structure until conformance with ordinances established under this law;

(b)   If the repair, alteration or improvement of the structure cannot be made at a reasonable cost in relation to the value of the structure, (which is hereby fixed at not over 50 percent as reasonable for such purpose), requires the owner, within the time specified in the order, to remove or demolish such structure.

(Code 2007)

(a)   If the owner fails to comply with an order to repair, alter or improve or to vacate and close the structure, the public officer may cause such structure to be repaired, altered or improved, or to be vacated and closed;

(b)   If the owner fails to comply with an order to remove or demolish the structure, the public officer may cause such structure to be removed or demolished;

(c)   The amount of the cost of such repairs, alterations, or improvements or vacating and closing, or removal or demolition by the public officer shall be a lien against the real property upon which such cost was incurred and such lien, including as part thereof allowance of his or her costs and the necessary attorney’s fees, may be foreclosed in judicial proceedings in the manner provided or authorized by law for loans secured by liens on real property or shall be assessed as a special assessment against the lot or parcel of land on which the structure was located and the city clerk shall at the time of certifying other city taxes, certify the unpaid portion of the aforesaid costs and the county clerk shall extend the same on the tax rolls of the county against the lot or parcel of land. If the structure is removed or demolished by the public officer he or she shall sell the materials of such structure and shall credit the proceeds of such sale against the cost of the removal or demolition and if there be any balance remaining it shall be paid to the parties entitled thereto as determined by proper judicial proceedings instituted by the public officer after deducting the costs of such judicial proceedings, including his or her necessary attorney’s fees incurred therein, as determined by the court.

(Code 1973, 4-704)

Complaints or orders issued by the public officer pursuant to this article shall be served upon persons either personally or by registered or certified mail, but if the whereabouts of such persons is unknown and the same cannot be ascertained by the public officer in the exercise of reasonable diligence, and the public officer shall make an affidavit to that effect, then the serving of such complaint or order upon such person may be made by publishing the same once each week for two consecutive weeks in a newspaper printed and published in the city. A copy of such complaint or order shall be posted in a conspicuous place on the premises affected by the complaint or order. A copy of such complaint or order shall also be filed with the clerk of the district court of Harper County, Kansas, and such filing of the complaint or order shall have the same force and effect as other lis pendens notices provided by law.

(Code 1973, 4-705)

Any person affected by order issued by the public officer, within 30 days after the posting and service of the order by the public officer, may petition the district court of Harper County, Kansas, for an injunction restraining the public officer from carrying out the provisions of the order. The court may, upon such petition, issue a temporary injunction restraining the public officer pending the final disposition of the case. Hearing shall be had by the court on such petition as soon thereafter as possible, and shall be given preference over other matters on the court’s calendar. The court shall hear and determine the issues raised and shall enter a final order of decree in the proceedings. In all such proceedings the findings of the public officer as to facts, if supported by evidence, shall be conclusive. Costs shall in the discretion of the court. The remedies herein provided shall be exclusive remedies and no person affected by an order of the public officer shall be entitled to recover any damages for action taken pursuant to any order of the public officer or because of compliance by such person with any order of the public officer. All as provided and authorized by K.S.A. 17-4759 and 17-4759a.

(Code 1973, 4-706)

The public officer is hereby authorized to exercise such powers as may be necessary or convenient to carry out and effectuate the purposes and provisions of this article including the following powers in addition to others herein granted:

(a)   To investigate the structure conditions in the municipality in order to determine which structures and dwellings therein are unfit for human use and habitation;

(b)   To administer oaths, affirmations, examine witnesses and receive evidence;

(c)   To enter upon premises for the purpose of making examinations: · provided, that such entry shall be made in such manner as to cause the least possible inconvenience to the persons in possession, and to obtain an order for this purpose from a court of competent jurisdiction in the event entry is denied or resisted;

(d)   To appoint and fix the duties of such officers, agents and employees as he or she deems necessary to carry out the purposes of this article;

(e)   To delegate any of his or her functions and powers under this article to such officers, agents and employees as he or she may designate.

(Code 2007)

The minimum standards for dwellings and rooming houses shall be as follows:

(a)   All dwellings shall have the following minimum facilities in satisfactory operating condition to wit:

(1)   Inside running water and an installed kitchen sink;

(2)   Inside bathing facilities which shall consist of an installed tub or shower;

(3)   An installed water closet; if such is built on a porch it shall be enclosed for privacy and from the weather. All water closets shall have running water and be connected to sewage disposal in accordance with other codes of the city;

(4)   Installed electric lighting facilities;

(5)   Installed heating facilities including arrangements by chimneys or flues in accordance with safety codes and practices;

(6)   Screens or other devices to effectively cover openings to the outside of the living and eating portions of such dwellings with mesh of such fineness as to prevent the entrance of flies, mosquitoes, and similar pests;

(7)   Such other facilities and standards as are required by ordinance and codes of the city.

(b)   Rooming houses shall have the same minimum facilities in satisfactory operating condition as dwellings except as follows:

(1)   Kitchen sink shall only be required in connection with cooking facilities;

(2)   Bathing facilities shall be provided in the form of a tub or shower for each eight occupants;

(3)   A water closet shall be provided for each six occupants and shall be separated from bathing facilities if more than four occupants are served by each.

(Code 1973, 4-708; Code 2007)

If any order issued and served in accordance with this article is not complied with within the time specified therein the dwelling with respect to which the order has been issued is hereby declared to be a public nuisance, and it shall be unlawful for any person that has knowledge of the issuance of the order to occupy it as a human habitation, or use the dwelling or any part thereof, or to suffer or permit same, or any part thereof, to be occupied as a human habilitation or used therefor, and any person violating this article or failing to comply therewith shall, upon conviction, be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor. Each day that such violation or failure to comply continues or is allowed to continue shall constitute and be separate and distinct offense.

(Code 1973, 4-709)

The public officer shall promptly report to the city attorney the names and addresses of all persons known to the public officer who have violated or failed to comply with this article, and it shall be the duty of the city attorney to proceed against such persons by civil or criminal action as shall be appropriate.

(Code 1973, 4-710)

The public officer shall promptly report dwellings which are suspected of being unfit for human habitation to the building inspector, fire chief, chief of police, health officer, electric and plumbing inspectors as may be appropriate.

(Code 1973, 4-711)

Nothing in this article shall be construed to impair or limit in any way the power of the city to define and declare nuisances and to cause their removal or abatement by summary proceedings or otherwise. The measures and procedures herein provided for do not supersede, and this article does not repeal, any measures or procedures which are provided by ordinance or state law for the elimination, repair, or correction of the conditions therein defined as referred to as objectionable, but the measures and procedures herein provided for shall be in addition thereto.

(Code 1973, 4-712)