Primary Enforcement Processes
In order to decide the appropriate process, consideration is given to the extent and nature of the violation(s), including any potential health or safety hazards. Our investigators always operate as impartial officials professionally photographing and documenting violations with no ties to the neighborhood or the defendant. There are three primary enforcement actions to encourage and achieve compliance:
- Civil Citation Process – For common issues involving homeowners and simple fines.
- Code Enforcement Board (CEB) – For larger issues involving hearings and liens.
- Municipal Ordinance Violation (MOV) – Formal judicial process involving the County Court.
Each process requires the city to notify the violator/owner that a violation exists, and to provide a reasonable amount of time to comply. A notice of violation is not required for repeat or irreparable violations.
For cases of unsafe structures, overgrown vegetation or junk and debris on the vacant property, the city may take actions, such as securing, condemnation, or lot clearing, to correct violations if an owner fails to respond to a notice within a specified time. The city will then assess the property for the costs of these actions.
- Details about Codes Compliance Assistance Legal Actions
Civil Citation Process
A Civil Citation is a written charging document issued by a Codes Investigator which includes a fine. Typically, a Civil Citation is issued when a violation remains after a notice of violation (warning) has been issued and a reasonable cure time has passed. In some cases, such as for a repeat violation or a violation that is irreparable, a Civil Citation may be issued immediately without a warning, or notice of violation. Chapter 9 of the City Code establishes the fine amounts for each violation, which start at $40 and max out at $500. The fine amounts increase for repeat violations. A Civil Citation with a separate fine amount may be issued for each violation at a property.
Appealing a Civil Citation
A Civil Citation may be appealed to a Special Magistrate. Appeals are filed with the City Clerk’s office and forwarded to the Codes Compliance Assistance Department for processing. Appeal hearings are generally conducted on the fourth Monday of each month (due to Holidays in November and December, appeal hearings may be scheduled earlier in those months). At an appeal hearing, testimony and evidence are provided and the Special Magistrate shall determine if the alleged violation existed on the property at the time the violation was noted by the Codes Investigator. If the appeal is denied by the Special Magistrate, a $50 administrative fee is added to the original fine amount of the Civil Citation which was appealed.
- Civil Citation Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Civil Citation Special Magistrate Rules of Procedure
- Civil Citation Appeal Hearing Application
Code Enforcement Board (CEB) and Special Magistrate
The Code Enforcement Board (CEB) process was created and is operated pursuant to Florida Statutes Chapter 162 and local ordinance. During evidentiary hearings, the CEB is responsible for hearing testimony from the City and property owners about code violations involving privately owned property.
The CEB evaluates evidence and testimony to determine whether violations exist, decides how much compliance time to allow, and also orders per diem fines which can result in liens against property for failure to comply with the ordered deadline. If the property owner fails to comply by the CEB's previously ordered compliance date, a Special Magistrate hears the same case to consider lien certification. These lien certification hearings are an opportunity for property owners to appear before a Special Magistrate and request additional time without penalty to correct violations.
The Special Magistrate has the authority to defer lien certification so that the property owner can correct violations without penalty but also has the authority to certify liens against property for failure to correct violations.
The CEB also hears lien release requests. To request a hearing for lien reduction or release, interested parties must submit a notarized application for consideration. The CEB will not grant reduction or release of liens on properties with active code violations.
CEB meeting dates are generally the fourth Wednesday each month. (Due to holidays in November and December, meeting dates may be scheduled earlier in those months.) Meetings begin at 8:30 a.m. and (with rare exceptions) are conducted at City Hall Council Chambers at 175 5th Street North in St. Petersburg. Special Magistrate meetings are held on the same day as the CEB meeting and begin at 1:00 pm.
- CEB Rules of Procedure
- SM Rules of Procedure
- CEB Agendas
- Application for Reduction of Code Enforcement Liens
Municipal Ordinance Violation (MOV) – County Court
The MOV process is a formal judicial process which can result in payment of fines and court costs, ranging from $93 to $218 for the first offense. Fines can increase for successive MOVs to as high as $513 each. If the fine is not paid prior to the arraignment date, the violator must appear in court on the date of arraignment. If a violator Pleads Not Guilty to the MOV charge at arraignment then a Trial date is set where a judge will determine guilt and may assess fines/costs. The MOV process may be used instead of, or in addition to, the Code Enforcement Board (CEB) process or Civil Citation process.
The first time a violation is referred to the MOV process, the investigator must clearly identify the violator by name and address, must document that notification (a warning) was sent (usually by mail), and must provide a reasonable opportunity to comply. Following the compliance time, the investigator must witness the violation again, take photographs, and draw up the Notice to Appear. The violator's physical whereabouts are then determined in order to serve the Notice to Appear. Successive MOVs for the same violation may be served without any other additional notice to the violator.