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Enforcement & Response to Complaints

At a minimum, why aren't law enforcement officers courteous to citizens
who call to report a neighborhood problem? Why aren't they even
knowledgeable about how to deal with neighborhood complaints?

The EBRP police system is one of the top rated in the nation, but even
our police are human. The police of EBRP must handle a heavy workload
and often times must prioritize problems of an urgent nature above those
that might not be life threatening or that don't need immediate
attention. If you ever experience any problems with an officer being
discourteous towards you, please report them by calling the BRPD at
389-2000 or the EBRSO at 389-5000.

Once I make a complaint call on a rental property in violation, what
kind of follow-up and time frame should I expect, so I do not continue
to call?

The complaint is investigated within a week. If a violation is found, a
certified letter is sent within a week by inspections. It gives the
property owner 30 days from receipt to correct the violation. The
property is then reinspected and referred to the Parish Attorney's
office if the violation persists. The Parish Attorney sends a certified
demand letter ordering compliance within 10 days at which point the
property is inspected once again and suit filed if necessary. The matter
is then assigned for court within two to six weeks.

My complaints come at about 3 a.m. I have called the police twice. Slow
response by police and lack of resolving the problem is my complaint.

The police must prioritize what calls they respond to. For example, a
burglary is something they would respond to before a complaint about
loud music. If the officer in question failed to act in a manner you
find satisfactory, call the BRPD at 389-2000 or the EBRSO at 389-5000.

How can we speed up the process of evicting violators of the laws?

By aiding the enforcement agents in gathering evidence, such as
photographs or other records of violations. This evidence helps the
Parish Attorney and the Permit and Inspections Division of the
Department of Public Works make their case against the violators. An
increase of staff at these departments would also aid in speeding up the
process.

Why can't the penalty be enhanced for zoning violations? A $500 penalty
is not enough to deter the problem.

City ordinances all have set penalties for violations when categorized
as misdemeanors or other lower crimes. A higher fine would require
re-classification to a felony, which would require action by the
legislature.

How do we go about getting regular police patrols in our
neighborhood-especially on weekend nights?

Neighborhoods can request patrols or hire off-duty police officers to
patrol their neighborhoods. For more information on how to do so,
contact the BRPD at 389-2000 or the EBRSO at 389-5000.

How can homeowners in a neighborhood bring action without hiring an
attorney to see that the laws are enforced?

By reporting violations to the Permit and Inspections Division of the
Department of Public Works at 389-8680, the BRPD at 389-2000, or the
EBRSO at 389-5000. The Federation of Civic Associations of Greater Baton
Rouge has an attorney that they use for prosecuting offenders of city
ordinances in neighborhoods. If you are interested in finding out if the
Federation will aid you by allowing you to use their attorney, contact
John Radford at johnjanr@intersurf.com <mailto:johnjanr@intersurf.com>.

 

Blight/Trash

How can civic associations address old cars, trash, or neglected homes?

Such blight can be reported to the Permit and Inspections Division of
the Department of Public Works at 389-8680.

What constitutes the definition of living at a residence? Is it based
on legal domicile or their physical presence for an extended period of
time?

Interpretation of this term is up to the judge, who may evaluate the
specific situation and decide whether or not someone is in fact living
at a residence.

Can we report problems to law enforcement anonymously? I'm afraid the
neighbors will get even with me.

Yes, one can report any violations anonymously by calling the BRPD at
389-2000 or the EBRSO at 389-5000.

 

Single Family Housing

How does single family zoning affect my property?

Single family zoning affects property because single family homes that
are being improperly used generally generate more traffic on streets and
create parking problems. Another major concern is the use of a home in a
single family neighborhood as a party house, which is statistically more
likely when the home is in violation of the single family housing ordinance.

When residential single family dwelling violations are shown to exist
by Permit and Inspections Division of the Department of Public Works and
then turned over to the Parish Attorney's Office, what percent are
actually pursued with legal action and what is the success rate?

All violations referred to the Parish Attorney's office are pursued with
some form of action until resolved. Some are determined to be qualified
non-conforming uses on which no action can be taken. A few are
determined to be compliant. The Parish Attorney's office does not have
statistics on single family violations, but according to their records,
95 violation letters have been sent since July 2003 for junk, trash,
etc. and abandoned vehicles. Of those, 45 were cleared upon receipt of
the letter, 30 suits were filed, and 20 are still pending. Of the 30
violations for which suits were filed 25 have been cleared, and 5 suits
are still pending. The Parish Attorney's Office is currently researching
the statistics on single family housing violations.

I live next to a duplex with two people in one apartment and one or two
in the other. No owner is in residence. It is owned by a realtor. How
does this conform to a "non-profit basis" described in single family
zoning?

Duplexes are not single family structures. They can only be constructed
in multi-family zones. If a duplex is in an A-1 zone, it is probably a
non-conforming use and it is unlikely that anything can be done about
them. However, many property owners will try to create garage apartments
or other detached structures into rental living space, which is a
violation of the single family ordinance.

How can neighborhoods address multiple people (non-family members)
living at a single residence in A-1 zoning?

By calling Neal Bezet at the Permit and Inspections Division of the
Department of Public Works at 389-8680. If a citizen has other types of
complaints and is not sure whom to call, Citizens' Service is designed
to take his or her call and pass the information along to the relevant
department. The number for Citizens' Service is 389-3090.

Can a property that has been out of compliance for many years be
"grandfathered" in and considered to be in compliance? Cite a specific
statute?

Yes. It is considered to be "legal nonconforming" use.  See statute LRS 9:5625.

Why are there not consequences to the property owner when issues occur
with their tenants and/or property?

The owner and any tenant involved in committing the violation is liable
and may be fined for the violation. Maximum punishments for violations
of city ordinances are a $500 fine and/or up to six months of jail time
at the judge's discretion.

If students are living in violation of the A-one family zoning and were
not informed of the regulation by the landlord in a lease, who is held
responsible? Will the students get evicted? Is this zoning law is
appropriate in ALL areas of EBRP. Are there any plans to re-evaluate
what is considered an A-1 zone?

All residential areas are zoned in specific ways. Some are A-1 Single
Family zones, others are zoned to accommodate townhouses, and still
others apartment complexes. Amendments to the zoning restrictions in the
Unified Development Code must be approved by the Metro Council after a
recommendation by the Planning Commission. No such amendments are
currently under consideration.

Who is responsible for enforcing the Single Family zoning restrictions
in neighborhoods?

Enforcement follows a flow chart. First the report is sent to the Permit
and Inspections Division of the Department of Public Works, which
inspects the suspected violation and sends a letter notifying the
residents and owner of their violation (id one indeed exists). The
Inspector will then check back after a period of time adequate for the
property owner or residents to correct the violation. If the property is
still in violation the Inspector will inform the Parish Attorney's
Office, which will then prosecute the offenders. If necessary, the case
will go to City Court.

These problems also are occurring in M-1 zones, not just in A-1 zones.
Zoning is not the primary issue, but it's one kind of solution. Why
can't Baton Rouge government focus on eliminating the actual problems?

Residential uses are not permitted in M-1 zones. Any residential use in
an M-1 zone is probably non-conforming, and, if the city is provided the
address, it can be checked. Please call the Planning Commission at
389-3144 to verify zoning.

It is also important to keep in mind that the scope of the problem
extends beyond EBRP's jurisdiction and influence. One of the main
reasons for the recent outbreak of A-1 violations is low interest rates.
EBRP is also unable to restrict a person's right to purchase property.
Students living near campus in A-1 zones are one of the more conspicuous
groups of violators of this ordinance, but beyond education initiatives
and enforcement against violations, there is little that EBRP can do to
restrict the flow of students from a university with 30,000 of them and
the capacity to house only 5,500 to 6,200.

Rent houses are not residences. They are businesses. Businesses are not
allowed in A1 zoning districts. Could the laws be changed or
strengthened to make these houses businesses officially?

The occupancy of a house by a single family (according to the statutory
definition) is considered a single family use, regardless of the nature
of the right of occupancy (ownership or rental)

The right to operate rental property in residential zones has been
defended by court systems. Denying the right to rent property would
create myriad problems, especially for young families who live in
compliance to A-1 codes, but cannot afford to purchase a home in such a
neighborhood.

 

Enforcement Scenario

Presently aggrieved property owners file a complaint with the Parish
Attorney identifying occupants of a rental property by including
photographs of automobile license plates and stating that these autos
have been at the rental property on a continuous basis for at least
twenty days. The Parish Attorney then notifies the DPW Chief Zoning
Inspector who sends the owner of the rental property a certified letter
requiring a notarized response within 30 days identifying all occupants
and their relationship. This Zoning Inspector has stated that due to not
having adequate staff, there is no physical inspection. Could the number
of staff members at the Permit and Inspections Division of the
Department of Public Works be increased so that they may be more effective?

Yes, if recommended by the Mayor-President and approved by the Metro
Council.

Are there possibilities to expedite this process for occupants who fail
to meet the UDC definition of family, either under the present law or
legislation that could be proposed?

We are required to provide due process. An amendment to the US
Constitution would be required to deprive property owners of this right.

Could the original complainant send such a certified letter and forward
the response or lack thereof with the original complainant to the Parish
Attorney thereby fast tracking the process?

It would have no legal effect. Giving such authority to neighbors who on
occasion have conflicting motives would require an amendment to state
law and would be problematic.

Could the Parish Attorney use legal channels to identify the owners of
the automobiles from license plate photographs provided by the complainant?

They already do this. The Parish Attorney's Office runs the license
plates through DMV if a lawsuit is contemplated.

Could the civil penalties levied against illegal occupants and their
lessor be paid all/part to the Police and Sheriff departments for their
participation in this process?

Current budgeting procedure is dictated by the Plan of Government. Such
an earmarking would require an amendment to state law.

Could a new function such as a parking violation patrol be established
to give tickets for parking complaints?

If recommended by the Mayor-President and approved by the Metro Council.

 

Parking/Traffic

How can we reduce the number of cars parking in street, on grass, and
in street right of way? Garbage trucks can't even get through the street.

By reporting the violations to the authorities. Call the BRPD at
389-2000 or the EBRSO at 389-5000.

What can be done to stop chronic speeders on neighborhood streets?

The best thing to do is to get stop signs, speed humps, and other such
preventative devices installed in your neighborhood. Request these items
to be installed by calling Citizen's Service at 389-3090. The Traffic
Division also regularly assigns motorcycle officers and radar units to
enforce speeding laws in subdivisions as a direct result of citizen
complaints. Because of the high demand for this service, however, there
is usually a waiting list and neighborhoods are rotated. To find out
more, contact the Traffic Division Commander at 389-3874.

Is it acceptable to park in front of a home, on the street but off the
grass?

No. Parking must be done on a paved area on the lot property.

Can we enforce the "no parking on grass" ordinance?

Yes, by reporting the violations to the authorities. Call the BRPD at
389-2000 or the EBRSO at 389-5000.

 

Students/Renters

The homes in the University Hills are zoned A1 Single Family
Residential. Generally speaking, the City-Parish A1 zoning restrictions
prohibit more than two unrelated persons from residing in a
single-family home; if the owner resides on the premises, a total of
four unrelated persons may reside in the home. The pertinent parts of
the code appear below.

What does the Unified Development Code say about renters in A1 zoning?

The Unified Development Code
(http://www.brgov.com/dept/planning/udcodeonline.asp) contains three
sections that deal with A-1 zoning and rental properties:

Section 8.201 A1 Single Family Residential District

The purpose of A1 is to permit low density residential development with
a maximum density of 4.1 units per acre. Accessory uses normally
compatible with surrounding low density residential development may be
permitted.

/Also/

Chapter 2 DEFINITIONS

Family is an individual or two (2) or more persons who are related by
blood, marriage or legal adoption living together and occupying a single
housekeeping unit with single culinary facilities; or not more than two
(2) persons, or not more than four (4) persons (provided the owner lives
on the premises) living together by joint agreement and occupying a
single housekeeping unit with single culinary facilities on a
non-profit, cost sharing basis.

/Also/

Section 6.7 Violations, Penalty, and General Provisions

C. Whenever the building Official has cause to believe a violation of
Section 8.201, single family permissible uses, and Chapter 2,
definitions, has occurred, the owner and/or occupants is required to
furnish affidavits, executed before a Notary Public, under penalty of
law, attesting to the number of unrelated occupants of the house.
Failure to do so shall constitute prima facie evidence that a violation
of the single family zoning restriction has occurred.

What can be done about student parties and related parking problems?

Loud parties are prohibited by the noise ordinance. If a party is
ongoing and causing a nuisance, contact the BRPD at 389-2000 or the
EBRSO at 389-5000. Continue to the section on parking for information on
what to do about parking in the streets and in yards.

Are college students a protected class?

No.

Does property have to be in the name of a student who lives in the
house in order for the four unrelated persons to live there, too?

The property must be owned by the student as determined by the title in
the student's name, not just his or her parent's name, in order to allow
more than two unrelated family members to cohabit.

*Can a student-owner lease/rent rooms to three others and still receive
homestead exemption?*

Yes, as long as the student is also an owner.

In regards to parents buying residences for their child with intention
to rent out to others who are unrelated, if parents give a child 1% or
5%, for example, part ownership does that constitute ownership by
student-i.e. owners now live in the residence?

Under the provisions of the Civil Code a co-owner in division has all of
the rights incident to ownership.

 

Property Value - How I Can Protect It

How can I protect my property value? I own my home.

Neighborhoods around the country who have successfully dealt with rental
property have done so by organizing strong neighborhood associations.
Associations can do a number of things to help minimize the problem
including: reminding realtors or owners that single family dwellings
have limits on numbers of renters; reaching out to renters to invite
them to be good neighbors; and, if the problem becomes extreme,
presenting information to city departments or elected officials on
behalf of the entire neighborhood. For tips on how to organize, please
call the CAN DO Office at 389-3448.

I'm concerned that these big alcohol parties will turn potential buyers
away from my neighborhood.

Your neighborhood should report parties that have become a nuisance. If
a party is ongoing and causing a nuisance, contact the BRPD at 389-2000
or the EBRSO at 389-5000.

A1 Zoning Scenario

The Planning and Zoning Commission recently approved a new residential subdivision development north of LSU in which the newspaper quoted the developer as expecting 10% of the homes of the homes to be occupied by students. What official proactive notice did the Commission give the developer regarding the UDC definition of "family?

The definition of family has been in place since 1954, when the original
zoning ordinance was adopted. It was advertised and public hearings held
in accordance with state law and the plan of government.

Currently the Parish Attorney states that neither real estate agents,
brokers, property managers, nor Realtors come under their jurisdiction
to litigate and assess penalties. Why does UDC section 6.7 A. not apply?

Zoning violations are based on use, what is permitted and not permitted.
The realtors, etc. are not actually committing the usage violation.
There is currently no law which prohibits acting as agent for a
transaction that ultimately results in a use violation.

What are the existing civil penalties for owners and occupants who are
found to have violated UDC by the Parish Attorney?

Fines of up to $500 and/or six months in jail at the discretion of the
Judge.

Is there a way to legally give subdivisions a new chance to enforce
restrictions for the present and future even if they have been lax in
enforcing them in the past without having to enter into litigation with
new offenders?

Private subdivision restrictions can be amended/supplemented with the
approval of a majority of property owners under the Homeowner's
Association Act.