Sonoma County Home | Site Index | Contact Us | Search

Code Enforcement

Question

How do I report a code violation?

Answer

To report a code violation regarding building, zoning, grading, or well & septic issues, please email Code Enforcement or call (707) 565-3491.

Question

Who turned me in?

Answer

We receive complaints from a number of sources including internal referrals, outside agencies and the general public. Of those complaints received from the general public, we may offer to keep a complainant's name confidential for various reasons. A court order is required to find out the complainant's name if we agree to confidentiality. If a complainant is not concerned about confidentiality, their name is public record.

Question

Why do I have to pay penalties if I'm getting a permit to correct the violation?

Answer

The Sonoma County Code imposes mandatory civil penalties for building, zoning, non-storm water discharges and certain health code violations. These penalties may be calculated in one of two different ways. When a permit can be issued to legalize a violation, penalties may be imposed from three to ten times the base permit fee. If the violation cannot be approved or legalized by a permit, you will be given (30) days to cease the unlawful use or demolish the unlawful structure. If you fail to comply with our direction, you may be penalized anywhere between $5 per day up to a maximum of $500 per day.

Where you fall within this penalty range is based upon the following:

 

The seriousness of the violation. Could the violation harm human health/safety or the environment?

The length of time the violation has existed

The diligence and cooperation of the property owner

The affect of the violation on other properties.

The owner's level of responsibility for the violation. Did the owner create or add to the violation?

Question

What will happen if I don't get a permit and resolve the violation?

Answer

Code Enforcement staff strives to assist the property owner to obtain compliance. If permits are not obtained, a "Notice of Abatement Proceedings" will be recorded against the title of the property. This recorded document serves to notify the public of the violation and may prevent you from selling the property or obtaining refinancing or title insurance on the property.

In addition, an administrative abatement hearing may be scheduled in an attempt to gain compliance. If the Hearing Officer orders that you correct the violation and you do not comply, your case may then be referred to County Counsel to be pursued in Superior Court. This could result in a judgment against you, increased costs and penalties, the County entering your property to physically remove the violation, and in some extreme cases, owners may be sentenced to jail time.

Question

What is an abatement lien?

Answer

The Code Enforcement Division records several types of liens against the title of property. The type of lien is dependent upon the type of violation and the level of abatement. The lien types are;

 

1) Notice of Abatement Proceedings

This type of lien does not specify a dollar amount needed to remove the lien. This document is recorded to notify any prospective buyers or lenders that building and/or septic violations exist on the property.

 

2) Partial Abatement Lien

This type of lien is recorded after an administrative abatement hearing is held and the Hearing Officer orders a property owner to correct a violation and payment of costs and penalties. This lien serves to notify the public of the violation and may prevent the sale or refinancing of the property or prevent the owner from obtaining title insurance.

 

3) Supplemental Abatement Lien

This type of lien is recorded when additional costs are incurred after recording a partial lien.

 

4) Notice of Lis Pendens

This is recorded by County Counsel when a lawsuit is filed and is in addition to a partial abatement lien or notice of abatement proceedings.

 

These documents remain recorded until the violation has been corrected and costs and penalties are paid.

Question

I didn't do the work or cause this problem - why must I pay penalties?

Answer

Civil penalties are mandatory under Section 1-7.1 of the Sonoma County Code, except under the following circumstances:

 

1) Penalties are not imposed if the owner chooses to demolish the unlawful construction and obtains a demolition permit within 30 days of violation notification.

 

2) Penalties are not imposed on permits to correct substandard housing conditions if the property owner obtains a repair permit within 30 days of violation notification.

 

3) Penalties are not imposed if the unlawful use is ceased within 30 days of violation notification.

 

4) If the property owner establishes that a) when the property was acquired, the violation existed on the property and, b) that he or she had no knowledge of the existence of that violation. The property owner can submit property disclosure statements or other documentation to the Code Enforcement Manager and request that he or she be excluded from these penalties based upon being an "innocent purchaser".

Question

How much will my permit cost?

Answer

Permit fees are based upon the complexity of the project. Staff will assist you in determining your cost.

Question

The person who turned me in has a violation on their property. Why aren't you investigating them?

Answer

If you suspect there is a code violation on another property, you may contact Code Enforcement staff and provide this information. A Code Enforcement Inspector will investigate the matter. If a violation is found to exist, the owner will be contacted by letter and required to remove the violation and/or obtain the necessary permits for the violation.

Question

How long do I have to fix the violation?

Answer

Under most circumstances you will be given 30 days. This may involve simply stopping the illegal use or obtaining the necessary permits. Under some circumstances an extension of time may be granted when the property owner is steadily working to resolve the problem and is making progress.

Question

I disagree that my property has a violation. Can I appeal the staff's determination of the violation?

Answer

You can appeal any determination of violation. Your appeal right is included in each notice sent and specifies how long you have to submit an appeal. Appeals of some determinations require a fee. We suggest the owner respond in writing immediately to avoid the loss of appeal rights.

  PRMD Home | About PRMD | Boards & Commissions | Forms & Applications | Online Permits | Fees | Permit History | Permit Reports | Zoning | Policies & Procedures | Historic Resources | Storm Water | FAQ's | Links
Although every effort is made to provide complete and accurate information on this website, users are advised to contact appropriate PRMD staff before making project decisions. This may involve contacting more than one section within PRMD (e.g. Building, Plan Check, Zoning, Well & Septic, etc.), since each section implements specific codes or ordinances which may affect your project.
Sonoma County Home | Site Index | Contact Us | Search | Accessibility | This page was last updated by webmaster
Permit and Resource Management Department County of Sonoma