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      Introduction to Code Enforcement 

    Maintaining attractive neighborhoods and preserving a healthy housing stock is important for many reasons.  Therefore, to ensure the health and safety of its citizens, in addition to protecting neighborhood property values, the City of Grand Rapids has long adopted minimum standards which all City property owners must legally abide by.  These City ordinances are enforced by Community Development's Code Compliance division.

    As a resident or visitor of a Grand Rapids neighborhood, you have the right to ensure others within our community maintain the minimum standards of cleanliness and repair of their homes. When a property begins to adversely affect your quality of life or the value of your property, you can and should address the issue.  The following resources are available to assist you in addressing code related issues:

    1. Try talking with your neighbor. If you need help identifying the owner of a rental property, contact the City Assessors' Office online or at (616) 456-3081.
    2. If your neighbor lacks the skill or the financial resources to attempt the maintenance or repair, you could refer them to Home Repair Services at (616) 241-2601.  Home Repair Services provides critical repairs for low-income and elderly homeowners. They also offer classes, a tool lending "library", and low-cost materials to qualifying individuals.
    3. If the person-to-person outreach doesn't work, contact your Neighborhood Association.
    4. File a complaint. Use the Identifying Ordinance Violations section below as a guide in identifying possible code violations. You may wish to file a complaint online, or contact the Code Compliance office at (616) 456-3053.
    Once a complaint is submitted, it is assigned a case number which can be followed online.

    Identifying Ordinance Violations 

    | Housing Complaint- Exterior | Housing Complaint- Interior Inoperable Vehicle on Private Property |

    Tall Grass or Trash in Yard | Unsecured House or Building | Zoning Complaint-Restrictions |

    Complaint-Animals |

     

    Housing Complaint-Exterior Maintenance

    All buildings, and property with buildings on it, must be in good repair to ensure the safety and health of residents and neighbors. Property maintenance standards for the exterior of commercial buildings located near residential zones and for all residential buildings, include the following:

    • Basic structure, including foundation, walls, and supporting columns must be in good repair.
    • Exterior of buildings must be weather tight, without holes, cracks or deterioration that allow in water or vermin.
    • Exterior surfaces made of iron, wood, steel, masonry, or other material that may not hold up to weather must be protected with weather-resistant paint, stain, or finish. Primer must be covered with a water-resistant finish coat.
    • All exterior windows and doors must be weather-tight and in good repair. Exterior attachments such as gutters, downspouts, screens, vents, antenna, tanks, awnings, signs, lighting fixtures, handrails, guardrails and utility connections must be in good repair.
    • All accessory improvements such as walkways, driveways, parking areas, storm drains, parking bumpers, steps, handrails, poles, fences, walls, and tanks must be in good repair.
    • All additions, replacements, repairs, and changes made to buildings must be made with good workmanship. A building, electrical, plumbing, mechanical or other permit may be required prior to making changes.
    • Trees and shrubs may not damage a building or block safe vision of a sidewalk, driveway, or street.
    • Materials of value (something the property owner wants to keep) may not be stored outdoors closer than 3 feet to a dwelling or side- or rear-lot line and may not be stored on a porch or in a front yard. Materials of value must be stored in a safe, clean, and orderly way.
    • Street addresses must be next to the building entrance and in other locations so they are visible from an adjacent public street.
    • No window in an occupied dwelling shall be covered with boarding, wire mesh, metal, or other material that blocks either light or emergency exit/access.
    • Only windows of basements not used as sleeping areas may be permanently secured.
    • All exterior doorways must open on a porch, stairway or paved area.  No exterior doorway can be removed or sealed from use as an exit unless approved by the City Fire Department.
    • No person may occupy a structure or vehicle that is not designed as or constructed to be a dwelling.

    Depending on the nature and severity of the violation, exterior maintenance complaints may follow procedures for one of several different types of Complaint Enforcement Steps. To report an exterior maintenance violation, call the Code Compliance Division at (616) 456-3053, M-F, 8-11 am or 1-3:30 pm, or report a complaint onlineBack to Top

    Housing Complaint-Interior Maintenance

    The owner of each house of dwelling unit must provide:

    • A water system running to all sinks, toilets, baths, and showers, all in good working order and without leaks, with supplies of hot water of at least 120 (degrees) Fahrenheit. Water supply must be connected to City water or a City-approved source.
    • A sewage disposal system running from all sinks, toilets, basins, bath, and showers, which is in good repair and free from leaks.
    • Bath facilities (toilet, sink, and bath or shower) in an enclosed room that has no other primary use. Rooming housing has separate requirements.
    • Safe, properly installed electrical systems in good repair.
    • Safe, properly and permanently installed heating system that provides enough heat to maintain a temperature of at least 68 (degrees) Fahrenheit in every bathroom and habitable room. The heating system must be inspected by a licensed service contractor at least every four years.
    • Locks and keys to secure the building and apartments. Deadbolt locks are required on all apartment doors that can be accessed from the outside or front a common hall.
    • Secure, intact and locking windows.
    • Kitchen facilities except in rooming units or hotels.
    • Well-repaired screens on windows during the months of May through October.
    • Peephole door viewer.
    • Emergency exits.
    • Functioning lighting in all common hallways.
    • Removal of all loose paint and paint chips. (Some older homes still have lead-based paint, which can hurt or kill children if they put a paint chip in their mouth. Until this is repaired, do not allow children near loose paint or paint chips).
    • Proper natural light and ventilation or mechanical ventilation in all habitable rooms.

    People who live in a dwelling unit are primarily responsible for maintaining the following standards:

    • Interior housekeeping and sanitation
    • Cleanliness and sanitation of indoor storage
    • No un-caged rodents or birds
    • Clean up after domestic animals (cats, dogs, etc.) Back to Top 

    Inoperable Vehicle on Private Property

    A disabled vehicle is one (or parts of one) that is wrecked, inoperable, partly dismantled, junked, or abandoned if they are:
    • Unsightly and tend to reduce the value of property;
    • Used to store materials;
    • A potential fire hazard (e.g., spilling oil, gas, or transmission fluid);
    • A hazard to the health or safety of children;
    • Collecting water that can spread disease or draw bugs or vermin;
    • A refuge for bugs and vermin;
    • Contributing to the deterioration of a neighborhood.

    Disabled vehicles are not permitted for more than seven days on vacant property or on property with a residential or commercial structure. An unused vehicle is a vehicle that has no current license plate or registration. Unused vehicles are not permitted for more than seven days on vacant property or on any property with a residential or commercial structure, except that one unused vehicle is permitted to be parked behind a residence or commercial building. 

    NOTE: No vehicle - operating or not - can be parked in a front yard in a district zoned "residential." No one may repair a vehicle on the street except in an emergency. Back to Top
     
     
    Property owners in the City of Grand Rapids are required to maintain their lots and yards.  Tall grass and weeds, rubbish in piles or bags, dying trees, and discarded items being stored on porches or in yards lend an air of decay to our community.  Litter is not only annoying, unattractive and illegal, it can be dangerous.  Garbage, litter, trash, and rubbish all attract vermin. Litter can also be washed into streams and storm sewers which pollutes the water, kills fish and wildlife, and could eventually contribute to an increased cost of water treatment.
    • It is Illegal to sweep or place litter and/or leaves from a building or lot into a gutter, street, public park, body of water,   vacant lot, or other public place in the city.
    • Merchants, residents, and property owners are responsible for keeping sidewalks and alley ways free of litter, trash, and rubbish.
    • Litter may be stored in an outdoor covered receptacle, but it cannot be stored on front porches or in front yards. For information on obtaining a City receptacle and/or Recycle bin, contact the Public Services department online or at (616) 456-3232.
    For other common concerns, please contact the following departments:
    • In the winter, residents have 24 hours to clear snow from sidewalks. Complaints regarding snow removal should be directed to the Engineering Department's Sidewalk Division by calling (616) 456-3243 or report a complaint online. People who are elderly or disabled may receive snow removal assistance from the community service arm of the 61st District Court. To determine whether you qualify for snow removal assistance, contact your Neighborhood Association.
    • Stagnant water in alleys and dead trees on sidewalks or in parkways are considered the City's responsibility. Please notify Streets and Sanitation of either of these two problems by calling (616) 456-3232 report a complaint online. Back to Top
    Property owners are also required to keep vacant houses and commercial buildings secure to prevent injury, water damage, infestation, or illegal occupation. To secure an unoccupied or vacant building, the owner must repair and lock all windows, doors and other openings that can be reached from the ground or nearby structure.
      
    If the owner chooses to board windows and doors, he or she may do so; however, the boarding must be securely fastened to cover the frame or casing so that it cannot be pried open easily. All the boarding must be painted white, gray, or a color similar to that of the boarded building.
     
    To notify the City of unsecured property in your neighborhood, call (616) 456-3053, M-F, 8-11 a.m or 1-3:30 p.m, or report a complaint online. Back to Top  
     
     
     
    When a neighborhood consists primarily of people's homes, it is most often zoned "R" for "residential." Zoning ordinances protect the residential quality of neighborhoods, and do not allow the following:
    • Mechanical work or repair on motor vehicles, boats, travel trailers, snowmobiles, or recreational vehicles that are not owned or leased by the homeowner and reserved for his/her personal use.
    • Commercial or industrial use of an existing residential building unless issued a zoning variance.
    • Parking of a commercial vehicle outside an enclosed building. This does not include vehicles making deliveries, pickups or service calls on the property
    • Storage of on boat and/or boat trailer, motor home, recreational or similar vehicles is permitted if the vehicle is parked in a rear yard. If the size of layout of the rear yard does not allow parking of the vehicle, it may be stored in a side yard if the vehicle is less than 20 feet in length and it is not stored closer than four feet from the property line, and if it is screened by a fence or hedge no more than 6 feet high. Parking on corner lots is subject to setback requirements on both intersecting streets.
    • One recreational vehicle may be parked on a driveway from May 1 through October 31, provided the vehicle is maintained in good condition, the total length of the vehicle does not exceed twenty feet, the vehicle is parked a minimum of six feet from any structure on an adjacent property and fifteen feet from the front lot line, clear vision for pedestrians and vehicles is maintained, and the vehicle is not being occupied or repaired. Back to Top

    Complaint- Animals

    Wild animals may not be kept at any home in the City. Domestic animals shall mean any animal that the City determines is not likely to bite without provocation nor cause death, maiming or illness of a human, included but not limited to the following: bird (caged), cat (domestic), chinchilla, ferret, dog (domestic), fish, lizard (non-venomous), snake (non-venomous), spiders (non-venomous or non-poisonous). Those who keep domestic animals (cats, dogs, etc.) in their homes, yards or other outdoor buildings are responsible for removing the animal's waste and repairing any damage to the dwelling or structure caused by the animal.

    Farm animals, including any horse, swine, cattle, sheep, goat, llama, chicken, goose, duck, turkey, or any other animal raised for commercial profit or slaughter (including more than two breeder rabbits):

    • Shall not be kept within any dwelling or dwelling unit.
    • Except for chickens, as stated in the Backyard Chicken ordinance, shall not be kept or allowed to be kept within one hundred (100) feet of any dwelling or dwelling unit.
    • Shall not be kept or allowed to be kept within one hundred (100) feet of any well, spring or stream.
    • Shall not be kept or allowed to be kept within fifty (50) feet of any stormwater catch basin which is located on private property.

    Vicious, running, or barking dogs should be reported to the police at (616) 456-3400. To report unsanitary or unsafe conditions caused by animals, call the Code Compliance Division at (616) 456-3053, M-F, 8-11 a.m. or 1-3:30 p.m. If the domestic animal itself is in distress, call the Kent County Humane Society at (616) 453-7757 or Kent County Animal Shelter at (616) 632-7300. 

    NOTE: Any attack by an animal on a human or on another animal should be reported immediately to the 
    Kent County Animal Shelter at (616) 632-7300.
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