An Introduction to Chronic Nuisance Ordinances

More and more cities are enacting chronic nuisance property ordinances.  Along with Tim Burke, I represented a large property owner in a federal court challenge to Cincinnati's ordinance.  That case ultimately settled, but only after the City agreed to amend the ordinance and pay a large sum of attorneys' fees.  I have also helped property owners comply with chronic nuisance ordinances by taking proactive safety measures as well as crafting nuisance abatement plans.  

I was recently asked to write an article for the Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Apartment Association's March Newsletter on chronic nuisance ordinances.  This will actually be in the first in a series of articles for their newsletter.  The newsletter is available on the GCNKAA webpage: http://gcnkaa.org/  My article follows:

An Introduction to Chronic Nuisance Ordinances

 In late 2006, the City of Cincinnati adopted Chapter 761 of the Cincinnati Municipal Code, entitled Chronic Nuisance Premises.  The ordinance sought to impose responsibility and sanctions on landlords for the conduct of tenants, visitors, and guests on the landlord’s property. Cincinnati has revised the ordinance at least twice (in late 2011 and late 2013), but the intent of the ordinance has remained the same.  Several Northern Kentucky municipalities, including Florence, Park Hills, and Bellevue, have followed suit, enacting chronic nuisance ordinances of their own.  

Though the various ordinances have different and distinct features, the general framework is similar.  In short, the ordinances contain a list of activities that qualify as a violation of the ordinance.  Such nuisance activities are deemed a nuisance call for service.  When a property passes a certain threshold for a number of nuisance calls for service within a prescribed period of time, the municipality will declare the property to be a chronic nuisance property.

 After a property is declared a chronic nuisance property, the next step is for the property owner to submit a proposed abatement plan to the municipality.  Abatement plans are supposed to contain detailed and specific proactive steps the landlord will take to eliminate, or at a minimum reduce, the number of nuisance calls for service.  Some of the local ordinances contain guidelines for the contents of abatement plans.  Others contain little to no guidance on either the contents of abatement plans or on the standards for approval of proposed plans.

If a property owner is able to get an abatement plan approved, the property should be placed in a safe-harbor, where it is free from fines and citations.  Without an approved abatement plan, the landlord is subject to fees and penalties for additional nuisance calls for service.  The ordinances also often allow the municipality to seek and receive an injunction to shut down the use of the subject property.

But these chronic nuisance ordinances create a number of legal concerns for landlords.  The premise is troubling in itself: holding a property owner liable for the actions of third parties.  Specific legal problems include substantive and procedural due process violations, equal protection violations, potential violations of the federal Fair Housing Act, and unduly restrictive regulations on the use of private property. 

This will be the first article in a series discussing chronic nuisance ordinances.  In my next column, I will discuss the federal lawsuit that Tim Burke and I filed against Cincinnati, in which our clients challenged the City’s chronic nuisance ordinance.  That case, Downtown Property Management, Inc., v. City of Cincinnati, et al. Southern District of Ohio Case No. 1:10-CV-00523, resulted in a settlement in December, 2013.   

Please contact me with any questions you have concerning chronic nuisance ordinances.

Challenge Your Property Taxes (by March 31st)

Want to save money? In Ohio, property owners have the opportunity to reduce their real estate property taxes by filing a Complaint Against the Valuation of Real Property with their County's Board of Revision.  But all such complaints must be filed no later than March 31st.  Miss that deadline and your complaint will be dismissed. 

To determine whether or not you should file, you must determine if the value the County Auditor has set for your property is too high.  Complaints filed this year are actually challenging the valuation for property as of January 1, 2014.  This is because tax bills are paid in arrears in Ohio.  

To determine whether your property is valued too high you cannot simply look at the tax value for your neighbor's properties on the Auditor's website.  The tax value of other properties is not relevant to the value of your property for appeal purposes, but it might at least give you an idea of whether you should pursue a tax complaint.  Instead, you must generally look to comparable sales in the area.  To have the best chance of success before the Board of Revision, it is highly recommended you have an appraisal done by a qualified and respected appraiser.    Without a professional appraisal, your chances of success are not strong.

If it is determined your value is too high, you must then file the formal complaint with the Board of Revision.  The Board will then hold a hearing, where the complainant submits evidence in support of their proposed value.  The Board will hear the evidence presented from both sides and issue a decision on the new tax value.  A property owner can appeal the Board's decision if the owner disagrees with the new value.

I generally represent property owners in property tax complaints on a contingency fee basis.  The fee is a percentage of the first year's tax savings.  The property owner is also responsible for any costs, including the cost of an appraisal.  Please call or email with any questions.  But remember: time is ticking.  Complaints must be filed by March 31st this year.

Welcome to McCarthy Law Office.

Welcome.  Welcome to my new website.  More importantly, welcome to my new law practice.  Starting my own law firm is something I have long envisioned.  It is now a reality.

My father started and operated his own law practice (he still does with my brother and sister-in-law: mccarthylaw.org).  My grandfather operated his own plumbing business.  Following in their entrepreneurial footsteps, I am proud to debut the McCarthy Law Office.

As you can see on this webpage, my practice is geared toward helping individuals, families, and small businesses with their legal needs.  I pride myself on responsive and effective representation.  My practice focuses on four main areas: 1) land use/zoning/eminent domain; 2) family law; 3) wills and trusts; and 4) personal injury. But I welcome calls on any legal issue.  If I cannot help you, I will put you in contact with an experienced attorney who can.

The decision to leave my past firm, where I was a partner and worked at for over ten years, was not an easy one.  I worked with great people and exceptional attorneys.  But the opportunity to follow my dreams and open my own practice compelled me to take this leap.

Thank you for visiting my website.  Please email me at mccarthy@danmccarthylaw.com or call me at 513-815-7006 with any questions.  I very much appreciate your consideration.  

Thank you and Happy New Year.