The provisions of this code shall be used as follows:
The owner of a structure shall provide and maintain all buildings, structures, systems, facilities and associated equipment in compliance with this code unless it is specifically expressed or implied that it is the responsibility of the tenant or occupant.
Note: Where an owner states that a tenant is responsible for performing any of the owner's duties under this code, the code official may request information needed to verify the owner's statement, as allowed by § 55-11209 A 5 of the Code of Virginia.
In accordance with § 36-105.1:1 of the Code of Virginia, these provisions are applicable to rental inspection programs. For purposes of this section:
- "Dwelling unit" means a building or structure or part thereof that is used for a home or residence by one or more persons who maintain a household.
- "Owner" means the person shown on the current real estate assessment books or current real estate assessment records.
- "Residential rental dwelling unit" means a dwelling unit that is leased or rented to one or more tenants. However, a dwelling unit occupied in part by the owner thereof shall not be construed to be a residential rental dwelling unit unless a tenant occupies a part of the dwelling unit that has its own cooking and sleeping areas, and a bathroom, unless otherwise provided in the zoning ordinance by the local governing body.
The local governing body may adopt an ordinance to inspect residential rental dwelling units for compliance with this code and to promote safe, decent and sanitary housing for its citizens, in accordance with the following:
For purposes of this section, the local governing body may designate a local government agency other than the building department to perform all or part of the duties contained in the enforcement authority granted to the building department by this section.
Before adopting a rental inspection ordinance and establishing a rental inspection district or an amendment to either, the governing body of the locality shall hold a public hearing on the proposed ordinance. Notice of the hearing shall be published once a week for two successive weeks in a newspaper published or having general circulation in the locality.
Upon adoption by the local governing body of a rental inspection ordinance, the building department shall make reasonable efforts to notify owners of residential rental dwelling units in the designated rental inspection district, or their designated managing agents, and to any individual dwelling units subject to the rental inspection ordinance, not located in a rental inspection district, of the adoption of such ordinance, and provide information and an explanation of the rental inspection ordinance and the responsibilities of the owner thereunder.
The rental inspection ordinance may include a provision that requires the owners of dwelling units in a rental inspection district to notify the building department in writing if the dwelling unit of the owner is used for residential rental purposes. The building department may develop a form for such purposes. The rental inspection ordinance shall not include a registration requirement or a fee of any kind associated with the written notification pursuant to this subdivision. A rental inspection ordinance may not require that the written notification from the owner of a dwelling unit subject to a rental inspection ordinance be provided to the building department in less than 60 days after the adoption of a rental inspection ordinance. However, there shall be no penalty for the failure of an owner of a residential rental dwelling unit to comply with the provisions of this subsection, unless and until the building department provides personal or written notice to the property owner, as provided in this section. In any event, the sole penalty for the willful failure of an owner of a dwelling unit who is using the dwelling unit for residential rental purposes to comply with the written notification requirement shall be a civil penalty of up to $50. For purposes of this subsection, notice sent by regular first-class mail to the last known address of the owner as shown on the current real estate tax assessment books or current real estate tax assessment records shall be deemed compliance with this requirement.
Upon establishment of a rental inspection district in accordance with this section, the building department may, in conjunction with the written notifications as provided for above, proceed to inspect dwelling units in the designated rental inspection district to determine if the dwelling units are being used as a residential rental property and for compliance with the provisions of this code that affect the safe, decent and sanitary living conditions for the tenants of such property.
If a multifamily development has more than 10 dwelling units, in the initial and periodic inspections, the building department shall inspect only a sampling of dwelling units, of not less than two and not more than 10 percent of the dwelling units, of a multifamily development, that includes all of the multifamily buildings that are part of that multifamily development. In no event, however, shall the building department charge a fee authorized by this section for inspection of more than 10 dwelling units. If the building department determines upon inspection of the sampling of dwelling units that there are violations of this code that affect the safe, decent and sanitary living conditions for the tenants of such multi-family development, the building department may inspect as many dwelling units as necessary to enforce these provisions, in which case, the fee shall be based upon a charge per dwelling unit inspected, as otherwise provided in the fee schedule established pursuant to this section.
Upon the initial or periodic inspection of a residential rental dwelling unit subject to a rental inspection ordinance, the building department has the authority under these provisions to require the owner of the dwelling unit to submit to such follow-up inspections of the dwelling unit as the building department deems necessary, until such time as the dwelling unit is brought into compliance with the provisions of this code that affect the safe, decent and sanitary living conditions for the tenants.
Except as provided for above, following the initial inspection of a residential rental dwelling unit subject to a rental inspection ordinance, the building department may inspect any residential rental dwelling unit in a rental inspection district, that is not otherwise exempted in accordance with this section, no more than once each calendar year.
Upon the initial or periodic inspection of a residential rental dwelling unit subject to a rental inspection ordinance for compliance with these provisions, provided that there are no violations of this code that affect the safe, decent and sanitary living conditions for the tenants of such residential rental dwelling unit, the building department shall provide, to the owner of such residential rental dwelling unit, an exemption from the rental inspection ordinance for a minimum of 4 years. Upon the sale of a residential rental dwelling unit, the building department may perform a periodic inspection as provided above, subsequent to such sale. If a residential rental dwelling unit has been issued a certificate of occupancy within the last 4 years, an exemption shall be granted for a minimum period of 4 years from the date of the issuance of the certificate of occupancy by the building department. If the residential rental dwelling unit becomes in violation of this code during the exemption period, the building department may revoke the exemption previously granted under this section.
A local governing body may establish a fee schedule for enforcement of these provisions, which includes a per dwelling unit fee for the initial inspections, follow-up inspections and periodic inspections under this section.
The provisions of this section shall not in any way alter the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants pursuant to the applicable provisions of Chapter 13 (§ 55-217 et seq.) or Chapter 13.2 (§ 55-248.2 et seq.) of Title 55 of the Code of Virginia.
The provisions of this section shall not alter the duties or responsibilities of the local building department under § 36105 of the Code of Virginia to enforce the USBC.
Unless otherwise provided for in § 36-105.1:1 of the Code of Virginia, penalties for violation of this section shall be the same as the penalties provided for violations of other sections of the USBC.
This section establishes the requirements for enforcement of this code in accordance with subdivision C 1 of § 36-105 of the Code of Virginia. The local governing body may also inspect and enforce the provisions of the USBC for existing buildings and structures, whether occupied or not. Such inspection and enforcement shall be carried out by an agency or department designated by the local governing body.
In accordance with subdivision C 3 of § 36-105 of the Code of Virginia, if the local building department receives a complaint that a violation of this code exists that is an immediate and imminent threat to the health or safety of the owner, tenant, or occupants of any building or structure, or the owner, occupant, or tenant of any nearby building or structure, and the owner, occupant, or tenant of the building or structure that is the subject of the complaint has refused to allow the code official or his agent to have access to the subject building or structure, the code official or his agent may make an affidavit under oath before a magistrate or a court of competent jurisdiction and request that the magistrate or court grant the code official or his agent an inspection warrant to enable the code official or his agent to enter the subject building or structure for the purpose of determining whether violations of this code exist. After issuing a warrant under this section, the magistrate or judge shall file the affidavit in a manner prescribed by § 19.2-54 of the Code of Virginia. After executing the warrant, the code official or his agents shall return the warrant to the clerk of the circuit court of the city or county wherein the inspection was made. The code official or his agent shall make a reasonable effort to obtain consent from the owner, occupant, or tenant of the subject building or structure prior to seeking the issuance of an inspection warrant under this section.
Note: Generally, official action must be taken by the local government to enforce the VMC. Consultation with the legal counsel of the jurisdiction when initiating or changing such action is advised.
In jurisdictions enforcing this code, the local governing body shall designate the agency within the local government responsible for such enforcement and appoint a code official. The local governing body may also utilize technical assistants to assist the code official in the enforcement of this code. A permanently appointed code official shall not be removed from office except for cause after having been afforded a full opportunity to be heard on specific and relevant charges by and before the appointing authority. DHCD shall be notified by the appointing authority within 30 days of the appointment or release of a permanent or acting code official and within 60 days after retaining or terminating a technical assistant.
Note:Code officials and technical assistants are subject to sanctions in accordance with the VCS.
The code official shall have at least 5 years of building experience as a licensed professional engineer or architect, building, fire or trade inspector, contractor, housing inspector or superintendent of building, fire or trade construction or at least 5 years of building experience after obtaining a degree in architecture or engineering, with at least 3 years in responsible charge of work. Any combination of education and experience that would confer equivalent knowledge and ability shall be deemed to satisfy this requirement. The code official shall have general knowledge of sound engineering practice in respect to the design and construction of structures, the basic principles of fire prevention, the accepted requirements for means of egress and the installation of elevators and other service equipment necessary for the health, safety and general welfare of the occupants and the public. The local governing body may establish additional qualification requirements.
A technical assistant shall have at least 3 years of experience and general knowledge in at least one of the following areas: building construction, building, fire or housing inspections, plumbing, electrical or mechanical trades, fire protection, elevators or property maintenance work. Any combination of education and experience which would confer equivalent knowledge and ability shall be deemed to satisfy this requirement. The locality may establish additional certification requirements.
An acting or permanent code official shall be certified as a code official in accordance with the VCS within 1 year after being appointed as acting or permanent code official. A technical assistant shall be certified in the appropriate subject area within 18 months after becoming a technical assistant. When required by a locality to have two or more certifications, a technical assistant shall obtain the additional certifications within 3 years from the date of such requirement.
Exception: A code official or technical assistant in place prior to April 1, 1995, shall not be required to meet the certification requirements in this section while continuing to serve in the same capacity in the same locality.
Except for a code official exempt from certification under the exception to Section 104.4.2, any acting or permanent code official who is not certified as a code official in accordance with the VCS shall attend the core module of the Virginia Building Code Academy or an equivalent course in an individual or regional code academy accredited by DHCD within 180 days of appointment. This requirement is in addition to meeting the certification requirement in Section 104.4.2.
Note: Continuing education and periodic training requirements for DHCD certifications are set out in the VCS.
In accordance with § 36-106 of the Code of Virginia, it shall be unlawful for any owner or any other person, firm or corporation, on or after the effective date of any code provisions, to violate any such provisions. Any locality may adopt an ordinance that establishes a uniform schedule of civil penalties for violations of specified provisions of the code that are not abated or remedied promptly after receipt of a notice of violation from the local enforcement officer.
Note: See the full text of § 36-106 of the Code of Virginia for additional requirements and criteria pertaining to legal action relative to violations of the code.
If the code official determines there are violations of this code a written notice of violation may be issued to the owner, tenant or the person responsible for the maintenance or use of the building or structure in lieu of a correction notice as provided for in Section 105.3. In addition, the code official shall issue a notice of violation for any uncorrected violation remaining from a correction notice established in Section 105.3. The code official shall provide the section numbers for any code provisions cited in the notice of violation to the owner, tenant or the person responsible for the maintenance or use of the building or structure. The notice shall require correction of the violation within a reasonable time. The owner, tenant or person to whom the notice of violation has been issued shall be responsible for contacting the code official within the timeframe established for any reinspections to assure the violations have been corrected. The code official will be responsible for making such inspection and verifying the violations have been corrected. In addition, the notice of violation shall indicate the right of appeal by referencing the appeals section of this code.
The code official shall coordinate inspections and administrative orders with any other state or local agencies having related inspection authority and shall coordinate those inspections required by the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code (13VAC5-51) for maintenance of fire protection devices, equipment, and assemblies so that the owners and occupants will not be subjected to numerous inspections or conflicting orders.
Note: The Fire Prevention Code requires the fire official to coordinate such inspections with the code official.
Compliance with a notice of violation notwithstanding, the code official may request legal proceedings be instituted for prosecution when a responsible party is served with three or more separate notices of violation for the same property within any 5 consecutive years. Legal proceedings shall not be instituted under this section for violation notices issued pursuant to the initial inspection of the property. Legal proceedings for violations that have been abated in residential rental dwelling units within a multifamily apartment development may only be instituted for such violations that affect safe, decent, or sanitary living conditions.
Exception: Legal proceedings shall not be instituted for violations that have been abated on owner-occupied single family dwellings.
This section shall apply to existing structures which are classified as unsafe or unfit for human occupancy. All conditions causing such structures to be classified as unsafe or unfit for human occupancy shall be remedied or as an alternative to correcting such conditions, the structure may be vacated and secured against public entry or razed and removed. Vacant and secured structures shall still be subject to other applicable requirements of this code. Notwithstanding the above, when the code official determines that an unsafe structure or a structure unfit for human occupancy constitutes such a hazard that it should be razed or removed, then the code official shall be permitted to order the demolition of such structures in accordance with applicable requirements of this code.
Note:Structures which become unsafe during construction are regulated under the VCC.
When a structure is determined to be unsafe or unfit for human occupancy by the code official, a written notice of unsafe structure or structure unfit for human occupancy shall be issued by personal service to the owner, the owner's agent or the person in control of such structure. The notice shall specify the corrections necessary to comply with this code, or if the structure is required to be demolished, the notice shall specify the time period within which the demolition must occur. Requirements in Section 105.2 for notices of violation are also applicable to notices issued under this section to the extent that any such requirements are not in conflict with the requirements of this section.
Note: Whenever possible, the notice should also be given to any tenants of the affected structure.
To the extent permitted by the locality, the code official may authorize emergency repairs to unsafe structures or structures unfit for human habitation when it is determined that there is an imminent danger of any portion of the unsafe structure or structure unfit for human habitation collapsing or falling and when life is endangered. Emergency repairs may also be authorized where there is a code violation resulting in the immediate serious and imminent threat to the life and safety of the occupants. The code official shall be permitted to authorize the necessary work to make the structure temporarily safe whether or not legal action to compel compliance has been instituted. In addition, whenever an owner of an unsafe structure or structure unfit for human habitation fails to comply with a notice to demolish issued under Section 106.3 in the time period stipulated, the code official shall be permitted to cause the structure to be demolished. In accordance with §§ 15.2-906 and 15.2-1115 of the Code of Virginia, the legal counsel of the locality may be requested to institute appropriate action against the property owner to recover the costs associated with any such emergency repairs or demolition and every such charge that remains unpaid shall constitute a lien against the property on which the emergency repairs or demolition were made and shall be enforceable in the same manner as provided in Articles 3 (§ 58.1-3940 et seq.) and 4 (§ 58.1-3965 et seq.) of Chapter 39 of Title 58.1 of the Code of Virginia.
Note:Code officials and local governing bodies should be aware that other statutes and court decisions may impact on matters relating to demolition, in particular whether newspaper publication is required if the owner cannot be located and whether the demolition order must be delayed until the owner has been given the opportunity for a hearing. In addition, historic building demolition may be prevented by authority granted to local historic review boards in accordance with § 15.2-2306 of the Code of Virginia unless determined necessary by the code official.
All hearings before the LBBCA shall be open meetings and the appellant, the appellant's representative, the locality's representative and any person whose interests are affected by the code official's decision in question shall be given an opportunity to be heard. The chairman shall have the power and duty to direct the hearing, rule upon the acceptance of evidence and oversee the record of all proceedings. The LBBCA shall have the power to uphold, reverse, or modify the decision of the official by a concurring vote of a majority of those present. Decisions of the LBBCA shall be final if no further appeal is made. The decision of the LBBCA shall be explained in writing, signed by the chairman and retained as part of the record of the appeal. Copies of the written decision shall be sent to all parties by certified mail. In addition, the written decision shall contain the following wording:
"Any person who was a party to the appeal may appeal to the State Review Board by submitting an application to such Board within 21 calendar days upon receipt by certified mail of the written decision. Application forms are available from the Office of the State Review Board, 600 East Main Street, Richmond, Virginia 23219, (804) 3717150."