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Ordinance Guide - Neighborhood Nuisances

Neighborhood Nuisances

ARTICLE XI. NEIGHBORHOOD NUISANCES

Sec. 10-451. Nuisances, generally.
(a) Whatever is dangerous to human health or welfare, or whatever renders the ground, the water, the air, or food a hazard to human health is hereby declared to be a nuisance.
(b) The following specific acts, conditions, and things are declared to constitute public nuisances and are hereby prohibited and made unlawful:
(1) The deposit or accumulation of any foul, decaying, or putrescent substance or other offensive matter in or upon any lot, street, or in or upon any public or private place in such a way as to become offensive or objectionable; the overflow of any foul liquids, or the escape of any gases, dusts, fumes, mists, and sprays to such an extent that the same, or any one of them, shall become, or be likely to become, hazardous to health or a source of discomfort to persons living or passing in the vicinity, or that the same shall by reason of offensive odors become a source of discomfort to persons living or passing in the vicinity thereof.
(2) A polluted well, or cistern, spring or stream, or the pollution of any body of water used for drinking purposes.
(3) The maintenance of any privy, vault or cesspool, except as provided in this Code.
(4) Keeping any building or room is such state of uncleanliness or the crowding of person in any building or room in such a manner as to endanger the health of the persons dwelling therein, or so that there shall be less than 400 cubic feet of air to each adult, and 150 cubic feet of air to each child under 12 years of age occupying such building or room. To the extent of any conflict between the requirements of this item and those established in section 10-331 of this Code, the more restrictive shall apply.
(5) Allowing cellars to be used as sleeping rooms.
(6) A building or portion of a building occupied as a dwelling which is not lighted and ventilated by means of at least one window, opening to the outer air, in each room, or any such building which is not provided with a plentiful supply of pure water.
(7) The accumulation of manure, unless it is in a properly constructed pit or receptacle.
(8) The maintenance, in a public place, of a roller towel for the use of more than one person.
(9) The slopping or feeding of cattle or other animals on distillery swill, unless the enclosure wherein such slopping or feeding is done is provided with means for preventing and removing the unsanitary conditions associated with such slopping or feeding.
(10) Permitting the existence of weeds, brush, rubbish, and all other objectionable, unsightly, and unsanitaryunsanitaryunsanitaryunsanitaryunsanitaryunsanitary matter of whatever nature covering or partly covering the surface of any lots or parcels of real estate situated within the city; permitting such lots or parcels of real estate, as aforesaid, to have the surface thereof filled or partly filled with holes or be in such condition that the same holds or is liable to hold stagnant water therein, or from any other cause be in such condition as to be liable to cause disease or produce, harbor, or spread disease germs of any nature or tend to render the surrounding atmosphere unhealthy, unwholesome, or obnoxious.
Such lots or parcels of real estate in addition to those grounds within their respective boundaries shall be held to include all lots or parcels of ground lying and being adjacent to and extending beyond the property line of any such lots or parcels of real estate to the curbline of adjacent streets, where a curbline has been established, and 14 feet beyond the property line where no curbline has been established on adjacent streets, and also to the center of adjacent alleys.
The word "weeds" as herein used shall include all rank and uncultivated vegetable growth or matter which has grown to more than nine inches in height or which, regardless of height, is liable to become an unwholesome or decaying mass or a breeding place for mosquitoes or vermin. The word "brush" as herein used shall include all trees or shrubbery under seven feet in height which are not cultivated or cared for by person owning or controlling the premises. The word "rubbish" shall include all refuse, rejected tin cans, old vessels of all sorts, useless articles, discarded clothing and textiles of all sorts, and in general all litter and all other things usually included within the meaning of such term. The words "any and all other objectionable, unsightly, or insanitary matter of whatever nature" shall include all uncultivated vegetable growth, objects and matters not included within the meaning of the other terms as herein used, which are liable to produce or tend to produce an unhealthy, unwholesome or unsanitary condition to the premises within the general locality where the same are situated, and shall also include any species of ragweed or other vegetable growth which might or may tend to be unhealthy to individuals residing within the general locality of where the same are situated.
The provisions of this item (10) shall not be applicable to a "natural area," and it shall also constitute an affirmative defense to prosecution in any criminal proceeding that is initiated under this item (10) that the property or affected portion thereof is a "natural area" that is being maintained in accordance with a permit issued under section 32-10 of this Code and regulations issued thereunder, and further provided that:
a. The natural area is maintained and managed so that no weeds or debris are allowed to accumulate and create an imminent hazard to health or safety; and
b. The natural area is regularly mowed so as to prevent uncontrolled vegetation growth within ten feet of a public roadway and within five feet of a public sidewalk.
(11) Permitting the accumulation or collection of any water, stagnant, flowing, or otherwise, in which the mosquito breeds or which may become a breeding place for mosquitoes, unless such accumulation or collection of water is treated so as effectually to prevent such breeding.
The natural presence of well grown mosquito larvae, or of pupae, shall be evidence that proper precautions have not been taken to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes.
(12) Permitting the detectibledetectibledetectibledetectibledetectibledetectible presence of urine or the presence of feces, vomit and other bodily fluids in or upon any property, including any sidewalk adjacent to any paved portion of a street abutting the property, that may be accessible to the public or in such a manner that the presence of any of the foregoing may be detected in the vicinity of the property.
(c) It shall be unlawful for any owner, lessee, occupant, or any agent, representative, or employee of any owner, lessee, or occupant or any other person having ownership, occupancy, or control of any land, or improvements thereon, to permit, allow, or suffer any condition to exist on such property if such condition is prohibited or made unlawful under the provisions of this section. It shall be an affirmative defense to prosecution under section 10-451(b)(12) of this Code that the detectible presence of urine or the presence of feces, vomit or other bodily fluids in or on any property is specifically authorized or permitted by law or ordinance.
(d) Except as provided below, whenever in this section an act is made or declared to be unlawful, the first violation by any person of any such provision shall be punishable by a fine of not less than $50.00 nor more than $1,000.00; the second violation by the same person of any such provision shall be punishable by a fine of not less than $100.00 nor more than $1,500.00; and the third and any subsequent violation by the same person of any such provision shall be punishable by a fine of not less than $200.00 nor more than $2,000.00. Provided, however, if a person is convicted of an offense under this section which offense is also a violation of the criminal provisions of any state law, such person shall be subject to the criminal penalties set out in state law. Each day any violation of this section continues shall constitute a separate offense.
The first violation of item 10-451(b)(12) of this Code shall be punishable by a fine of not less than $200.00, nor more than $1,000.00; the second violation by the same person of such provision shall be punishable by a fine of not less than $400.00, nor more than $1,500.00; the third and any subsequent violation by the same person of such provision shall be punishable by a fine of not less than $600.00, nor more than the maximum amount allowed by law.
(Ord. No. 91-1102, § 12, 7-31-91; Ord. No. 93-1570, § 2(c), 12-8-93; Ord. No. 94-83, §§ 1--3, 1-26-94; Ord. No. 03-537, § 1, 6-4-03)

Sec. 10-452. Notice to property owner.
Whenever the existence of any nuisance defined in this article, on any lots or parcels of real estate situated within the city, shall come to the knowledge of the neighborhood protection official, it shall be his duty to forthwith cause a written notice identifying such property to be issued to the person owning the same; provided that notice shall not be required prior to abatement of violations described in section 10-453(e). Any required notice shall be given in compliance with the applicable provisions of section 342.006 or section 342.008 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, as amended.
(Ord. No. 91-1102, § 12, 7-31-91; Ord. No. 93-514, § 26, 5-5-93; Ord. No. 93-1570, § 2(c), 12-8-93; Ord. No. 94-674, § 33, 7-6-94; Ord. No. 95-993, § 2, 9-13-95; Ord. No. 98-613, § 39, 8-5-98)

Sec. 10-453. Abatement by city, generally.
(a) In the event of the failure, refusal, or neglect of the owner or occupant of any premises or property to timely cause such nuisance to be removed or abated in the manner and within the time provided in the notice given pursuant to section 10-452 of this Code, the neighborhood protection official shall cause the weeds, brush, rubbish, or other insanitary matter or condition constituting a nuisance to be promptly abated in a reasonable and prudent manner at the expense of the city. The neighborhood protection official shall carefully compile the cost of such work done and improvements made in abating such nuisance, and shall charge the same against the owner of the premises.
(b) The city council hereby finds and declares that the general overhead and administrative expense of inspection, locating owner(s), issuing notice, reinspection, and ordering work done, together with all necessary incidents of same, require the reasonable charge of $25.00 for each lot, series of two or more adjacent and contiguous lots, or tract or parcel of acreage, and such minimum charge is hereby established and declared to be an expense of such work and improvement. Therefore, a minimum charge of $25.00 shall be assessed against each lot so improved under the terms of this section, but such sum of $25.00 is hereby expressly stated to be a minimum charge only, and shall have no application when the tabulated cost of the work done shall exceed such minimum charge.
(c) After determining the cost of the work, and after charging the same against the owner of the premises, the neighborhood protection official shall certify a statement of such expenses and shall file the same with the county clerk of the county in which the premises or property is located. Upon filing such statement with the county clerk, the city shall have a privileged lien, inferior only to tax liens and liens for street improvements, upon the land described therein and upon which the improvements have been made, to secure the expenditure so made, plus ten percent interest.
(d) For any such expenditures and interest, as aforesaid, suit may be instituted by the city attorney and recovery and foreclosure had in the name of the city; the statement so made, as aforesaid, or a certified copy thereof, shall be prima facie proof of the amount expended in any such work or improvements. Upon payment of the full charges assessed against any property, pursuant to the procedure hereinabove set forth, the neighborhood protection official shall be authorized to execute, for and in behalf of the city, a written release of the lien heretofore mentioned, such written release to be on a form prepared and approved in each case by the legal department.
(e) Weeds or brush higher than 48 inches tall are declared to be an immediate danger to the health, life, or safety of all persons in the vicinity thereof, and the abatement of such weeds or brush may be carried out without prior notice as described in this subsection.
(1) The neighborhood protection official may cause such weeds and brush to be removed or abated, without notice. The expenses incurred shall be assessed and a lien created in the same manner as provided for other expenses under this section.
(2) Not later than the tenth day after the date of the removal or abatement, the neighborhood protection official shall give notice thereof to the owner of the lot or parcel in the manner required in section 342.008 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, as amended.
(3) The owner may request a hearing by notifying the neighborhood protection official within 30 days following the date of the abatement. The hearing shall be scheduled not later than 20 days after the date the request therefor is received and shall be conducted by a hearing official designated by the chief of police (the "director") for the purpose of determining whether the conditions qualified for abatement under the terms of this subsection. Unless notice is waived by the owner, the owner shall be provided written notice of the time and place of the hearing at least seven days prior thereto.
(4) At the hearing, the owner and the neighborhood protection official may present any evidence relevant to the proceedings, in accordance with reasonable rules adopted by the director and approved by the city attorney. If the hearing official finds that weeds or brush existed on the property in violation of this subsection at the time of the abatement, the hearing official shall issue an order so stating. If no violation of this subsection is found to have existed, a lien for applicable abatement expenses shall not be authorized under this subsection.
(Ord. No. 91-1102, § 12, 7-31-91; Ord. No. 93-514, § 26, 5-5-93; Ord. No. 93-1570, § 2(c), 12-8-93; Ord. No. 94-674, § 33, 7-6-94; Ord. No. 95-993, § 3, 9-13-95; Ord. No. 98-613, § 39, 8-5-98; Ord. No. 04-1075, § 5, 10-20-04)

Sec. 10-454. City may contract for abatement.
The city shall have the right to award any quantity of work authorized under section 10-453 of this Code to a general contractor whose bid shall be accepted by the city council as the lowest and best secured bid for the doing of the work herein mentioned during a stipulated time not to exceed one year.
(Ord. No. 91-1102, § 12, 7-31-91; Ord. No. 93-1570, § 2(c), 12-8-93)

Sec. 10-455. Removal of weeds by city at request of property owner.
Any owners of vacant property in the city shall have the right to contract with the city to remove all such weeds and vegetation as may grow on such real estate by requesting in writing the neighborhood protection official so to do, and by agreeing to the charge to be paid therefor, not less than $25.00 to be paid therefor per lot, series of two or more adjacent and contiguous lots, or tract or parcel of acreage, to be charged against such property for each such removal of weeds and vegetation.
(Ord. No. 91-1102, § 12, 7-31-91; Ord. No. 93-514, § 26, 5-5-93; Ord. No. 93-1570, § 2(c), 12-8-93; Ord. No. 94-674, § 34, 7-6-94; Ord. No. 98-613, § 40, 8-5-98)

Sec. 10-456. Summary abatement.
In addition to the remedies prescribed in this article, and cumulative thereof, if it is determined by the director or the health officer that any nuisance described in this article is likely to have an immediate adverse effect upon the public health or safety, then the director or the health officer may order such nuisance to be summarily abated by the city in a reasonably prudent manner, and a lien for the city's expenses related to such abatement shall be assessed in the manner provided in this article. Notice and the opportunity for a hearing shall be provided in the manner provided in section 10-453(e) of this Code.
(Ord. No. 91-1102, § 12, 7-31-91; Ord. No. 93-1570, § 2(c), 12-8-93; Ord. No. 95-993, § 4, 9-13-95)

Sec. 10-457. Authority to execute and release liens.
(a) The neighborhood protection official is hereby authorized to certify a statement of expenses and cause said statement and lien to be filed of record as provided for in this article. The neighborhood protection official is hereby authorized to execute releases on behalf of the city of any and all liens created under the provisions of this article. The neighborhood protection official shall have no right to execute such releases until satisfied that the debt or portion thereof secured by the lien and for which a release is requested has been paid in full to the city, and any such lien shall be released only insofar as it affects the property for which the debt secured thereby has been paid in full.
(b) A fee shall be imposed for each release of lien as specified in section 2-125 of this Code.
(Ord. No. 91-1102, § 12, 7-31-91; Ord. No. 93-514, § 26, 5-5-93; Ord. No. 93-1570, § 2(c), 12-8-93; Ord. No. 94-674, § 35, 7-6-94; Ord. No. 98-613, § 41, 8-5-98)

Sec. 10-458. Remedies cumulative; civil enforcement; other action not limited.
The procedures set forth in this article are cumulative of all other remedies available to the city relating to the subject matter hereof. Specifically, the city attorney may institute any legal action to enforce this ordinance or enjoin or otherwise cause the abatement of any condition described in this article, as well as for the recovery of all expenses incurred in connection therewith, including without limitation administrative and legal expenses, attorneys fees and costs, and for civil penalties as provided by law.
(Ord. No. 94-83, § 4, 1-26-94)
Secs. 10-459--10-480. Reserved.

Commentary

The City of Houston has the authority to abate a variety of nuisance conditions, including overgrown weeds. They can mow or otherwise remedy the condition, bill the property owner, and place a lien on the property to secure payment. For more information, contact the Neighborhood Protection Team at 3-1-1.

Note Sec. 10-451 (c), which makes it unlawful for "any owner, lessee, occupant, or any agent, representative, or employee of any owner, lessee, or occupant or any other person having ownership, occupancy, or control of any land, or improvements thereon, to permit, allow, or suffer any condition to exist on such property if such condition is prohibited or made unlawful under the provisions of this section." This means that a managing agent who is not the owner could be held personally responsible by the city for violations of this ordinance.

Note that the ordinance requires minimum cubic air space requirements for residents, both adult and under 12. It is likely that one would first find issues of overcrowding based on the CURB ordinance or overcrowding, as covered in the Texas Property Code (Sec. 92.010). It is also a violation of this ordinance to allow individuals to dwell in a cellar.

The fine structure is rather severe for violations of this ordinance...... Violations range from $50 to $2000 per day.