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You’ve Been Cited with a Building Code Violation. Now What?

Property owners and managers know it takes a lot of work to keep a Chicago building up to code. Sometimes, despite regular building maintenance and repair, owners or managers are cited for a code violation. Faulty pipes, broken steps, and other problems can result in a time-consuming and expensive hassle, in which property owners are forced to address the repair problem as well as try and negotiate the legal ins and outs of administrative hearings and fines with the Department of Buildings. Only paying the fine will not make the problem go away. Unless you bring your property up to code, the City is likely to inspect your property and fine you over and over again.

If you’ve been cited with a building code violation, it is important to take immediate action. Your first step is to hire an experienced administrative law attorney to deal with the City of Chicago.  With the right attorney on your side, you can focus on bringing your property up to code. The second step is to make the necessary repairs on your property immediately.

It is important not to wait until after your administrative hearing to begin repair work on your property. Property owners can do a lot toward mitigating the legal and financial penalties of a building code violation by demonstrating to the administrative law judge that the problem has already been corrected. Even if you can’t afford to fix everything, merely beginning the needed work will help. Some of the most common reasons a property is cited for a building code violation include crumbling and unsafe porches, broken masonry, obstructed entryways and exits, malfunctioning smoke detectors and exit signs, and making improvements without a permit. By correcting these and other issues, property owners can help their attorney argue forcefully for the reduction or dismissal of their case. 

While every case is different, a good administrative law attorney can help you mount an effective legal defense. Chicago City ordinances, Article III: Buildings Hearings Division 2-14-155, provide a list of possible Defenses to building code violations. There are four main ways that the ordinances suggest a property owner can successfully defend against a building code violation. The first defense is if a property owner can prove that the alleged building code violation did not exist at the time of the inspection. Second, if the alleged violation has been remedied or removed by the time of the hearing, the court may accept the property owner’s defense. A third defense is the ability to prove that the code violation was caused by the building’s current or most recent occupants despite the owner’s best efforts to correct the issue. And finally, a successful defense may involve whether an occupant or resident of the building refuses to allow the owner to access the part of the building necessary to correct the code violation. 

In the majority of cases, property owners and managers can successfully settle a building code violation citation through one or more of these approaches. With the help of an experienced attorney, most code violation cases are resolved when the repairs have been verified by a follow-up inspection and the fine paid. But occasionally, the City may decide to take a case to trial. While avoiding code violations altogether is often the best approach to property maintenance, if you do get cited, an administrative law attorney can help you avoid expensive repeat court appearances and unnecessary fines.

The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact an attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.

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