Chapter 16.15


16.15.010    Purpose and findings.

16.15.020    Definitions.

16.15.030    Duties of the administrator.

16.15.040    Unfit buildings.

16.15.050    Substandard buildings.

16.15.060    Reserved.

16.15.070    Complaint.

16.15.080    Hearings before the administrator.

16.15.090    Enforcement.

16.15.100    Costs.

16.15.110    Permit required.

16.15.115    Rules and regulations.

16.15.130    Violations.

16.15.140    Emergencies.

16.15.010 Purpose and findings.

The city council of the city of Wenatchee finds that dwellings which are unfit for human habitation, and buildings, structures, and premises or portions thereof which are unfit for other uses due to dilapidation, disrepair, structural defects, defects increasing the hazards of fire, accidents, or other calamities, inadequate ventilation and uncleanliness, inadequate light or sanitary facilities, inadequate drainage, overcrowding, or due to other conditions which are inimical to the health and welfare of the residents within the city of Wenatchee, in addition to the obvious hazards which these conditions pose to the public health, safety, and welfare, constitute a nuisance that adversely affects the value, utility, and habitability of other properties within the city as a whole and specifically cause substantial damage to adjoining and nearby property. A nuisance property may substantially reduce the value of adjoining and nearby property and there are sufficient nuisance properties that the habitability and economic well-being of the city are materially and adversely affected. This chapter conveys to the city administration, in accordance with the procedures set out below, all necessary and proper powers to abate nuisances as they are described or found to exist and to charge the costs of their abatement to those responsible, i.e., the owners and occupants of the property upon which nuisances exist, and those properties themselves. It is the intent of this chapter to clarify and strengthen the procedures for abating such nuisances, particularly unsafe or unfit dwellings, buildings, structures, or premises, modeled after the provisions of RCW 35A.21.405 and Chapter 35.80 RCW. This chapter is an exercise of the city’s police power, and it shall be liberally construed to effect this purpose. (Ord. 2019-22 § 1)

16.15.020 Definitions.

Unless specifically defined below or unless context clearly requires a different meaning, terms used in this chapter have the meaning given them by the currently adopted edition of the International Building Code. Gender and number are interchangeable. Defined terms or concepts from this title generally apply to this chapter.

(1) “Abandoned” means any property, real or personal, which is unattended and either open or unsecured so that admittance may be gained without damaging any portion of the property, or which evidence indicates that no person is presently in possession, e.g., disconnected utilities, accumulated debris, uncleanliness, disrepair and, in the case of chattels, location. Length of time or any particular state of mind of the owner or person entitled to possession is not conclusive in determining that property is abandoned.

(2) “Boarded-up building” means any building the exterior openings of which are closed by extrinsic devices or some other manner designed or calculated to be permanent, giving to the building the appearance of nonoccupancy or nonuse for an indefinite period of time.

(3) “Building” means any building, dwelling, structure, or mobile home, factory-built house, or part thereof, built for the support, shelter or enclosure of persons, animals, chattels, or property of any kind.

(4) “Administrator” means the director of community development or his or her designee.

(5) “Health officer” means the head of the Chelan-Douglas health district, his authorized deputies or representatives.

(6) “Owner” means any person having any interest in the real estate in question, as shown upon the records of the office of the Chelan County auditor, or who establishes his interest before the administrator. For the purpose of giving notice, the term “owner” also includes any person in physical possession. (Ord. 2019-22 § 1)

16.15.030 Duties of the administrator.

The administrator is the chief administrative officer for the purposes of this chapter, whose duties and powers include:

(1) Investigation of all buildings and premises for which there are reasonable grounds to believe such may be unfit or substandard;

(2) Preparation, service and posting of complaints against buildings or premises believed to be in violation;

(3) Acting as the hearing officer as provided for in RCW 35.80.030(1)(c); and

(4) Doing all things necessary and proper to carry out and enforce this chapter. (Ord. 2019-22 § 1)

16.15.040 Unfit buildings.

(1) In reaching a judgment that a building is unfit for human habitation, the administrator shall consider:

(a) Dilapidation;

(b) Disrepair;

(c) Structural defects;

(d) Defects increasing the hazards of fire, accidents or other calamities, such as parts standing or attached in such manner as to be likely to fall and cause damage or injury;

(e) Inadequate ventilation;

(f) Uncleanliness;

(g) Inadequate light;

(h) Inadequate sanitary facilities;

(i) Inadequate drainage;

(j) Lack of water or electric utilities;

(k) Rodent or other pest infestation;

(l) Substandard conditions as described in WCC 16.15.050;

(m) Overcrowding.

(2) If these or other conditions are found to exist to an extent dangerous or injurious to the health or safety of the building’s occupants, or the occupants of neighboring buildings or of other residents of the city of Wenatchee, or if:

(a) Structural deterioration is of such degree that:

(i) Vertical members list, lean or buckle to the extent that a plumb line passing through the center of gravity falls outside the middle third of its base; or

(ii) Thirty-three percent of the supporting members show damage or deterioration; or

(b) The cost of restoration exceeds 60 percent of the value of the building; or

(c) The building has been damaged by fire or other calamity, the cost of restoration exceeds 30 percent of the value of the building and it has remained vacant for six months or more; the administrator may order the building or premises demolished and the land suitably filled and cleared, or may order the property immediately vacated and secured as completely as possible pending demolition. (Value shall be determined by reference to a current edition of “Building Valuation Data,” published by the International Conference of Building Officials or, if not published, as determined by the administrator. Cost of restoration is the actual estimated cost, which may be determined in the same manner as value.)

(3) An undertaking entered into at or prior to the hearing by a party in interest creates a presumption that the building or premises can be reasonably repaired. The failure to accomplish such an undertaking is grounds for the administrator to order demolition. If by reason of any of the above conditions a building is unfit, but no public necessity is found for its immediate demolition, the administrator may take other action, such as causing the property to be cleaned, cleared, vacated, secured or otherwise repaired, which will promote the public health, safety or general welfare. (Ord. 2019-22 § 1)

16.15.050 Substandard buildings.

(1) In reaching a judgment that a building or premises is substandard, the administrator shall be guided by such factors as:

(a) Structural unsoundness;

(b) Improper sanitation;

(c) Improper safety;

(d) Improper weatherproofing;

(e) Defective or hazardous wiring, including wiring which:

(i) Did not conform with law applicable at the time of installation; or

(ii) Has not been maintained in good condition; or

(iii) Is not being used in a safe manner;

(f) Defective or hazardous plumbing, including plumbing which:

(i) Did not conform with law applicable at the time of installation; or

(ii) Has not been maintained in good condition; or

c. Is not being used in a safe manner;

(g) Defective or hazardous heating or ventilating equipment, including equipment, vents and piping which:

(i) Did not conform with law applicable at the time of installation; or

(ii) Has not been maintained in good and safe condition;

(h) Fire hazard, including any building, device, apparatus, equipment, combustible waste or debris, or vegetation which may cause fire or explosion or provide ready fuel to augment the spread or intensity thereof;

(2) Upon a finding by the administrator that a building or premises is unfit for human habitation or other use, the administrator shall order the building or premises repaired, cleaned, cleared or otherwise brought into compliance with current codes, and may order the property vacated and secured as completely as possible pending such repair or other action. (Ord. 2019-22 § 1)

16.15.060 Reserved.

(Ord. 2019-22 § 1)

16.15.070 Complaint.

If, after a preliminary investigation of any dwelling, building, structure or premises, the administrator finds that it is unfit for human habitation or other use, the administrator shall cause the owners to be served, either personally or by first class and certified mail with return receipt requested, and shall post in a conspicuous place on such property a complaint stating in what respect such dwelling, building, structure or premises is unfit for human habitation or other use. If the whereabouts of such person is unknown and cannot be ascertained by the administrator in the exercise of reasonable diligence, he or she shall make an affidavit to that effect, then the serving of such complaint or order upon such person may be made either by personal service or by mailing a copy of the notice and order by certified mail, postage prepaid, return receipt requested, to each person at the address appearing on the last equalized tax assessment roll of the county, or at the address known to the county assessor. Such complaint shall contain a notice that a hearing will be held before the administrator at a place therein fixed, not less than 10 days nor more than 30 days after the service of such complaint; that all parties in interest shall be given the right to file an answer to the complaint, and to appear in person or otherwise and give testimony at the time and place fixed in the complaint. A copy of such complaint shall also be filed with the auditor of Chelan County, and such filing of the complaint and order shall have the force and effect as other lis pendens notices provided by law. (Ord. 2019-22 § 1)

16.15.080 Hearings before the administrator.

(1) Unless, prior to the time fixed for a hearing in the complaint issued by the administrator, arrangements satisfactory to the administrator for the repair, demolition, vacation or reoccupancy of the building or premises are made, including the proper application for permits, or abatement of the nuisance, the administrator shall hold a hearing in accordance with RCW 35.80.030(1)(c) and this chapter for the purpose of determining the immediate disposition of the building or premises. The administrator shall determine whether or not the building is an unfit building as defined by WCC 16.15.040, or whether the building is a substandard building as defined by WCC 16.15.050. The rules of evidence prevailing in courts of law or equity shall not be controlling at the hearing before the administrator. Evidence, including hearsay evidence, is admissible if in the judgment of the administrator it is the kind of evidence on which reasonably prudent persons are accustomed to rely in the conduct of their affairs.

(2) The administrator shall determine whether or not the building should be repaired or vacated in the event that it fails to comply with any provision or provisions of WCC 16.15.040 or 16.15.050, whether or not the building should be demolished based upon the specific requirements of WCC 16.15.040, or whether or not a building should be boarded up.

(3) If, after the required hearing, the administrator determines that the building is unfit or substandard, the administrator shall state in writing their findings of fact in support of such determination, and shall issue and cause to be served upon the owner(s) a copy of such findings in the manner provided in WCC 16.15.070. The administrator shall cause to be posted an order in a conspicuous place on said property:

(a) Requiring the owner or party in interest, within the time specified in the order, to repair, alter or improve such dwelling, building, structure or premises to render it fit for human habitation or for other use, or to vacate and close the building; or

(b) Requiring the owner or party in interest to demolish the dwelling, building, or structure; or

(c) Such order shall state that the owner has the right to appeal to the city of Wenatchee hearing examiner within 30 days after the posting and service of the order. Any appeal under this section shall be heard by the hearing examiner of the city for review of such decision. Appeals shall be subject to an administrative appeal fee in accordance with WCC 1.99.010 and, unless the owner does appeal or comply with the order, the city shall have the power, without further notice or proceedings, to vacate and secure the dwelling, building, structure or premises and do any act required of the owner in the order of the administrator, and to charge any expenses incurred thereby to the owner and assess them against the property.

(4) All matters submitted to the hearing examiner must be resolved within 60 days from the date of filing therewith and a transcript of the findings of fact of the hearing examiner shall be posted on the property and by mailing by certified mail, return receipt requested, to such person at their last known address within 10 days of the decision. The finding and orders of the hearing examiner shall be reported in the same manner and shall bear the same legal consequences as if issued by the administrator. In addition, such finding and orders shall state that the owner has the right to appeal to superior court within 30 days after posting and service of the findings and order. The court is authorized to affirm, reverse, or modify the order and such trial shall be heard de novo per RCW 35.80.030(2).

(5) If no appeal is filed, a copy of such order shall be filed with the auditor of Chelan County and shall be a final order. (Ord. 2019-22 § 1)

16.15.090 Enforcement.

(1) The order of the administrator may prescribe times within which remedial action, including but not limited to demolition, shall be commenced or completed. If the action is not commenced or completed within the prescribed time, or if no time is prescribed within the time for appeal, the administrator may cause the dwelling, building, structure or premises to be repaired, altered, improved or vacated, and closed, removed, or demolished. If satisfactory progress has been made and sufficient evidence is presented that the work will be completed within a reasonable time, the administrator may extend the time for completion of the work. If satisfactory or substantial progress has not been made, the administrator may cause the dwelling, building, structure or premises to be repaired, altered, improved or vacated, and closed, removed, or demolished.

(2) If the action ordered by the administrator is not taken within the time prescribed, or if the condition presents an immediate life/safety risk, the administrator may cause the action to be taken by the city.

(3) If the administrator deems it necessary to have the dwelling, building, structure or premises secured as an interim measure for the protection of the public health, safety and welfare while pending action, the administrator may so order. If the owner is unable or unwilling to secure the building or premises within 48 hours, the administrator may order the building or premises secured by the city.

(4) If the owner is unable to comply with the administrator’s order within the time required, and the time for petition to the superior court has passed, the owner may, for good and sufficient cause beyond his or her control, request in writing an extension of time. The administrator may grant a reasonable extension of time after a finding that the delay was for good and sufficient cause. There shall be no appeal or petition from the administrator’s ruling on an extension of time. (Ord. 2019-22 § 1)

16.15.100 Costs.

(1)(a) The costs of abatement, i.e., repair, alteration, improvements, or vacating and closing, removal or demolition, when borne by the city, shall be assessed against the real property upon which such costs were incurred unless previously paid. The administrator shall forward such costs to the city treasurer, who shall certify them to the county treasurer for assessment on the tax rolls in accordance with RCW 35.80.030(1)(h).

(b) When necessary, bids for demolition shall be let only to a licensed contractor. All contract documents shall provide that the value of the materials and other salvage of the property shall be credited against the costs of the demolition. The contract documents may require the contractor to estimate the salvage value of the property and, by claiming the salvage, reduce the amount of his price accordingly. The contract price fixed by acceptance of the contract shall not be adjusted to reflect the actual salvage value. Such contracts may be let prior to the time for compliance or appeal, but shall not be binding or accepted until the order for demolition is final. The administrator shall have the authority to sign the contract on behalf of the city.

(2)(a) Whenever a dwelling, building, structure or premises is found to be unfit or substandard and the cost of demolition, repair or abatement must be borne by the city, there shall be charged against the owner and assessed against the property the costs for all administrative proceedings before the administrator, including salaries, wages, material and other expenses incurred for inspecting, conducting hearings, or otherwise determining the status of the property.

(b) The administrator may modify the time or methods of payment of such expenses as the condition of the property and the circumstances of the owner may warrant. In cases of extreme hardship, such expenses may be waived. (Ord. 2019-22 § 1)

16.15.110 Permit required.

Any work, including construction, repairs or alterations under this chapter to rehabilitate any building or structure, may require a permit in accord with the provisions of this code. (Ord. 2019-22 § 1)

16.15.115 Rules and regulations.

The administrator may make and promulgate such rules and regulations as will effectuate the purposes of this chapter and do substantial justice. (Ord. 2019-22 § 1)

16.15.130 Violations.

It shall be unlawful and a violation of this chapter to knowingly:

(1) Occupy or suffer to be occupied any dwelling, building, structure or premises ordered vacated; or

(2) Obstruct any officer or agent of the city of Wenatchee or other governmental unit in the enforcement of this chapter.

(3) Violation of this section is a misdemeanor. (Ord. 2019-22 § 1)

16.15.140 Emergencies.

The provisions of this chapter shall not prevent the administrator or any other officer of the city of Wenatchee or other governmental unit from taking any other action, summary or otherwise, necessary to eliminate or minimize an imminent danger to the health or safety of any person or property. (Ord. 2019-22 § 1)