Presentation at Gamma Phi Beta Conference

I want to thank Laurie Veldhuizen and the women of Gamma Phi Beta.  I recently presented at Gamma Phi Beta's REAL Leadership Institute in Frisco, Texas.  My topic was "Liability: Protecting Gamma Phi Beta."  I was joined by Laurie Velduizen, the organization's Executive Director, and Mary Knaup, the sorority's Collegiate Vice President.  

We spoke for 90 minutes on recent court decisions impacting Greek organizations, Gamma Phi Beta's internal social and disciplinary policies and procedures, as well as best practices to ensure safety and reduce liability.  I was truly impressed with the crowd participation and thoughtful questions.  Presentations are always better with a good discussion.  The questions raised by the attendees were on point and very relevant.  

In addition to my presentation, I also attended several other sessions.  I thought the panel on Title IX and sexual assaults on campus was fantastic.  All in all, it was a great weekend.  So once again, thank you for inviting me to speak at the REAL Leadership Institute.  

2nd Article for the Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Apartment Association Newsletter

I am writing a series of articles for the GCNKAA Newsletter on chronic nuisance premises ordinances.  My second article, which appears in the April issue, is available on their webpage here: http://gcnkaa.org/newsletter/ 

The Legal Case Against Cincinnati’s Chronic Nuisance Premises Ordinance

In my previous article, I gave a quick primer on general chronic nuisance property ordinances.  I also mentioned a case in which my client challenged the City of Cincinnati’s Chronic Nuisance Premises Ordinance.  That case, Downtown Property Management, Inc., v. City of Cincinnati, et al. Southern District of Ohio Case No. 1:10-CV-00523, was filed in the United States District Court in 2010.

The overall aim of the City’s ordinance was to impose responsibility on the landlord for the conduct of tenants, visitors or even trespassers.  Once the City determined a property was a chronic nuisance, the City would then bill the landlord for police runs to the property, even if a visitor a trespasser to the property committed the conduct.  The ordinance also subjected landlords to fines or even criminal prosecution for a two-year period, starting with the date of the initial bill for enforcement.

One of the most troublesome provisions of the ordinance centered on how the City limited the number of nuisance activities permitted per property.  As an example, the ordinance allowed premises with 4 units up to 14 nuisance activities.  At the same time, premises with over 40 units were limited to 11 activities.  Therefore, premises with only 4 units were allowed more nuisance activities than premises with 200 units.  The owners of larger complexes were treated much more harshly than owners of smaller complexes. 

Another troubling provision allowed the City to count police runs as chronic nuisance activities even if the police did not make an arrest.  Further, the ordinance provided no clear method to appeal determinations that a property was a chronic nuisance.  DPM also objected to the vagueness of the ordinance because the ordinance failed to define which specific calls would count toward a property owner’s nuisance activity.

DPM’s complaint included eight total claims, including claims for violating DPM’s substantive and procedural due process rights, and for violating DPM’s equal protection rights.

After prolonged litigation, the parties reached a settlement in December 2013.  While Cincinnati denied it violated DPM’s rights, it agreed to pay $92,500 in legal fees.  But more importantly, Cincinnati agreed to legislative and administrative enforcement modifications to the ordinance.  The ordinance itself was amended to change the threshold levels of permitted nuisance calls for larger properties before a property could be declared a chronic nuisance.  This change made the ordinance more equitable for owners of larger premises. 

Cincinnati also agreed to amend its administrative rules of enforcement.  These changes specified that certain classifications of calls for service would not count when determining the number of calls for chronic nuisance purposes.  The City also agreed to exclude calls for service where the incident involved a trespasser, and calls that are made by the owner or owner’s agent provided that it either occurred in the presence or view of the owner or owner’s agent.  Finally, the City agreed to exclude calls for service if the landlord could demonstrate that the tenant who caused the police run was evicted.

Because of these changes, owners of large premises are now treated more equitably.  Further, all property owners have an ability to have numerous police runs excluded as calls for service under the ordinance.  Not all police runs are automatically counted against a property owner now.  This allows property owners to remove those problematic tenants and prevent the bad acts of a few tenants from having the property declared a chronic nuisance property.

The changes Cincinnati made to the ordinance and to the rules of enforcement greatly improved the ordinance.  But the ordinance is still in place.  In my next article, I will detail steps property owners can take when faced with chronic nuisance reports, including steps to have calls excluded and recommendations for abatement plans.

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

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.