Chapter 7A, Buildings, Dangerous

[HISTORY: Adopted by the Borough Council of the Borough of Harveys Lake 1-16-1991 by Ord. No. 2-1991. Amendments noted where applicable.]

GENERAL REFERENCES
Building construction -- See Ch. 7.
Fire prevention -- See Ch. 17.

§ 7A-1. Nuisances.
All dangerous buildings, as defined within the terms of § 7A-2 of this chapter, are hereby declared to be public nuisances and shall be repaired, vacated or demolished as hereinafter provided.

§ 7A-2. Dangerous buildings defined.
All buildings or structures which have any or all of the following defects shall be deemed "dangerous buildings":
A. Those whose interior walls or other vertical structural members list, lean or buckle to such an extent that a plumb line passing through the center of gravity falls outside of the middle third of its base.
B. Those which, exclusive of the foundation, show 33% or more of damage or deterioration of the supporting member or members or 50% of damage or deterioration of the nonsupporting enclosing or outside walls or coverings.
C. Those which have improperly distributed loads upon the floor or roofs in which the same are overloaded or which have insufficient strength to be reasonably safe for the purpose used.
D. Those which have been damaged by fire, wind or other causes so as to have become dangerous to life, safety or the general health and welfare of the occupants or the people of the Borough of Harveys Lake.
E. Those which have become or are so dilapidated, decayed, unsafe, unsanitary or which so utterly fail to provide the amenities essential to decent living that they are likely to cause sickness or disease.
F. Those which have parts thereof which are so attached that they may fall and injure members of the public or property.

§ 7A-3. Standards for repairs, vacation or demolition.
The following standards shall be followed in substance by the Building Inspector, or assistants specially designated thereto, and the Borough Council in ordering repair, vacation or demolition:
A. If the dangerous building can reasonably be repaired so that it will no longer exist in violation of § 7A-2 of this chapter, it shall be ordered repaired.
B. If the dangerous building is in such condition as to make it dangerous to the health or safety of its occupants, it shall be ordered to be vacated.
C. In cases where a dangerous building is damaged 50% or more from its value immediately prior to the loss, it shall be demolished, and in all cases where a building cannot be repaired so that it will no longer exist in violation of the terms of § 7A-2 of this chapter, it shall be demolished. In cases where a dangerous building is a fire hazard existing or erected in violation of § 7A-2 of this chapter or of any ordinance of the Borough or statute of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it shall be demolished.

§ 7A-4. Enforcement Officer.
The Council of the Harveys Lake Borough hereby appoints and designates the Building Inspector of the Borough of Harveys Lake, and any assistants as appointed by the Building Inspector, as the proper official to administer and enforce the terms of this chapter.

§ 7A-5. Duties of the Building Inspector.
The Building Inspector, or assistants specially designated thereto, shall:
A. Inspect any building, wall or structure about which complaints are filed by any person to the effect that a building wall or structure is or may be existing in violation of § 7A-2 of this chapter. All complaints must be filed with the Building Inspector in writing on a form prescribed by the Building Inspector.
B. Notify in writing the owner, occupant, lessee, mortgagee, agent and all other persons having an interest in said building, as shown by the files of the Recorder of Deeds of the County of Luzerne, or any building found by him to be a dangerous building within the standards set forth in § 7A-2 of this chapter that:

(1) The owner must vacate or repair or demolish said building in accordance with the terms of the notice and § 7A-2 of this chapter.
(2) The occupant or lessee must vacate said building or may have it repaired in accordance with the notice and remain in possession.
(3) The mortgagee, agent or other person having an interest in said building, as shown by the land records of the Recorder of Deeds for Luzerne County, may at his own risk repair, vacate or demolish said building or have such work or act done; provided that any person notified under this subsection to repair, vacate or demolish any building shall be given such reasonable time, not exceeding 30 days, as may be necessary to do or have done the work or act required by the notice provided for herein.
C. Set forth in the notice provided for in Subsection B hereof a description of the building or structure deemed unsafe, a statement of the particulars which make the building or structure a dangerous building and an order requiring the same to be put in such condition as to comply with the terms of § 7A-2 of this chapter within such length of time, not exceeding 30 days, as is reasonable.
D. Report to the Borough Council any noncompliance with the notice provided for in Subsection B and C hereof.
E. Appear at all hearings conducted by the Borough Council, and testify as to the condition of dangerous buildings.
F. Place a notice on all dangerous building reading as follows:
This building has been found to be a dangerous building by the Building Inspector or assistants specially designated thereto. This notice is to remain on this building until it is repaired, notice which has been given to owner, occupant, lessee, mortgagee or agent of this building and all other persons having an interest in said building, as shown by the land records of the Recorder of Deeds of the County of Luzerne. It is unlawful to remove this notice until such notice is complied with.

§ 7A-6. Duties of Borough Council.
The Borough Council shall:
A. Upon receipt of a report for noncompliance from the Building Inspector or assistants specially designated thereto, give written notice to the owner, occupant, mortgagee, lessee, agent and all other persons having an interest in said building, as shown by the land records of the Recorder of Deeds of Luzerne County, to appear before Council on the date specified in the notice to show cause why the building or structure reported to be a dangerous building should not be repaired, vacated or demolished in accordance with the statement of particulars set forth in the Building Inspector's notice provided for herein.
B. Hold a hearing and hear such testimony as the Building Inspector, or assistants specially assigned thereto, or the owner, occupant, mortgagee, lessee or any other person having an interest in said building, as shown by the land records of the Recorder of Deeds of the County of Luzerne, shall offer relative to the dangerous building.
C. Make written findings of fact from the testimony offered pursuant to Subsection B as to whether or not the building in question is a dangerous building within the terms of § 7A-2 of this chapter.
D. Issue an order based upon findings of fact made pursuant to Subsection C commanding the owner, occupant, mortgagee, lessee, agent and all other persons having interest in said building, as shown by the land records of the Recorder of Deeds of Luzerne County, to repair, vacate or demolish any building within the terms of § 7A-2 of this chapter and provided that any person so notified, except the owners, shall have the privilege either of vacating or repairing said dangerous building; or any person not the owner of said dangerous building but having an interest in said building, as shown by the land records of the Recorder of Deeds of the County of Luzerne, may demolish said dangerous building at his own risk to prevent the acquiring of a lien by the Borough against the land upon which said dangerous building stands, as provided in Subsection E hereof.
E. If the owner, occupant, mortgagee or lessee fails to comply with the order provided for in Subsection D hereof within 10 days, the Council shall cause such building or structure to be repaired, vacated or demolished as the facts may warrant and shall, with the assistance of the Borough Solicitor, cause the cost or costs of such repair, vacation or demolition to be charged against the land on which the building existed as a municipal lien or to be recovered in a suit at law against the owner; provided that in cases where such procedure is desirable and any delay thereby caused will not be dangerous to the health, morals, safety or general welfare of this Borough, the Borough Council shall notify the Borough Solicitor to take legal action to force the owner to make all necessary repairs or demolish the building.

§ 7A-7. Violations and penalties.
A. The owner, occupant or lessee in possession of any building who shall fail to comply with any order to repair, vacate or demolish any such dangerous building issued pursuant to § 7A-6 herein or who violates any of the provisions of this chapter or any regulation issued thereunder shall, upon conviction before the District Justice, be subject to a fine not exceeding $300 and costs or shall be subject to imprisonment in the Luzerne County Jail for a period not exceeding 30 days. Violations on separate days shall be considered separate violations.
B. Any person removing the notice provided for herein shall, upon conviction, be fined not exceeding $300 and costs for each offense or shall be subject to imprisonment in the Luzerne County Jail for a period not exceeding 30 days.

§ 7A-8. Duties of Borough Solicitor.
The Borough Solicitor shall:
A. Prosecute all persons failing to comply with the terms of the notices provided for herein and the order provided for in § 7A-6 herein.
B. Appear at all hearings before Borough Council in regard to dangerous buildings.
C. Bring suit to collect all municipal liens, assessments or costs incurred by the Borough Council in repair or causing to be vacated or demolished dangerous buildings.
D. Take such other legal action as is necessary to carry out the terms and provisions of this chapter.

§ 7A-9. Emergency cases.
In cases where it reasonably appears that there is immediate danger to life or safety of any person unless a dangerous building as defined herein is immediately repaired, vacated or demolished, the Building Inspector, or assistants specially designated thereto, shall report such facts to the Borough Council and the Borough Council shall cause the immediate repair, vacation or demolition of such dangerous building. The cost of such emergency repair, vacation or demolition of such dangerous building shall be collected in the same manner as provided in § 7A-6 herein.

§ 7A-10. Absence of owner; notice.
In cases, except emergency cases, where the owner, occupant, lessee or mortgagee is absent from the Borough, all notices or orders provided for herein shall be sent by certified mail to the owner, mortgagee, lessee and all other persons having an interest in said building, as shown on the land records in the office of the Recorder of Deeds for Luzerne County, to the last known address of each, and a copy of such notice shall be posted in a conspicuous place on the dangerous building to which it relates. Such mailing and posting shall be deemed adequate service. Where desirable, the notices and orders provided for herein may be served in the same manner a summons is served in the courts of general jurisdiction.

§ 7A-11. Administrative liability.
No officer, agent or employee of the Borough of Harveys Lake shall render himself personally liable for damage that may accrue to persons or property as a result of any act required or permitted in the discharge of his duties under this chapter. Any suit brought against any officer, agent or employee of the Borough of Harveys Lake as a result of any act required or permitted in the discharge of his duties under this chapter shall be defended by the Borough Solicitor until the final determination of the proceeding therein.