The Building Division is responsible for code enforcement activity and enforcement of the Morgan Hill Municipal Code. The division has a full-time code enforcement officer who also performs building inspections and business license inspections.
As Morgan Hill's housing stock is aging, citizens of the community have expressed a growing concern about the deteriorating conditions of their neighborhoods and commercial areas. In the past, approximately 90% of code enforcement cases have achieved compliance by personal contact or by letter writing with citations being issued as a final tool of compliance. At current staffing levels, it is impossible to have any type of proactive code enforcement policy. Cases are currently handled on a reactive basis by written complaint.
Current Code Enforcement Practices
The goal for the Building Division is to become a partner with the community to achieve a safe, quality environment in which to live and work. General enforcement practices include educational contact and warning, except when life and safety issues are present. When initial efforts fail to achieve compliance, 3 primary tools for code enforcement are used: Criminal, Civil, and Administrative.
Current criminal remedies include infraction and misdemeanor prosecutions in Municipal Court. An infraction conviction can result in a fine plus up to 1 year in county jail. Misdemeanor prosecutions of the municipal codes are rare. Infraction citations (a court action resulting in a fine) are currently used as a final tool for obtaining compliance.
Civil remedies are civil injunctions, or court orders, obtained from a Superior Court, that require a specified action by the violator to correct a code violation. An injunction can compel a party to correct a zoning violation, dispose of hazardous materials, or fix unsafe building conditions and may result in severe penalties if the court order is violated.
The administrative hearing as described in the nuisance ordinance provides a Hearing Officer who will hear any testimony offered by the Code Enforcement Officer and the property owner, and any other persons capable of giving competent testimony respecting the condition of the premises or property. This administrative step occurs before the involvement of the City Attorney, providing a service to the community and saving time and expenses for the city. The hearing process provides a forum where the property owner can present his/her side of the argument to an impartial representative of the city. The city's ability to impose a timely process and take direct action often motivates a violator to effect appropriate remedies in order to avoid increasing costs and fines. The determination of the Hearing Officer may be appealed in writing to the City Council.