Code Violation or Civil Dispute: How to Tell the Difference

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News Date: 
January 23, 2019

Code violation or civil dispute?

Code Enforcement is frequently contacted by residents reporting or asking for assistance with neighborhood issues. While we are ready to assist when the issues are a result of City code violations, there are often times these issues are civil disputes where no code violations exist. Simply put, civil disputes are disagreements between two individuals. In these instances, our Code Enforcement Officers do not have the authority to address the issues or intervene. Examples of complaints we often receive for civil disputes are:

Fences between properties: The determination of who is responsible for repairs or construction of a fence between two private properties is a civil dispute. The City code regulates fence size, location, and maintenance when adjacent to streets or public right of way, but no code exists requiring a fence between two properties. Code Enforcement cannot require either party to repair or construct a fence. However, if a hazardous condition exists with regards to a fence (e.g., unsafe and unpermitted materials like barbed wire, a fence falling in a way that obstructs path of travel for emergency response), we may require its removal.

Property line disputes: Code Enforcement can only enforce encroachments onto city owned or controlled property. An example of when we may get involved is when a shrub or tree is overgrown from a property in a way that obstructs free passage on a public sidewalk. However, encroachment onto your private property by a neighboring property is a civil matter and cannot be addressed by Code Enforcement.

Vehicles parked in the street in front of your home: It is not against the law for your neighbor to park in front of your house. Parking on the street is open to the public so long as they are not parked in violation of the California Vehicle Code or Salinas Municipal Code. Items such as garbage bins or safety cones should NOT be left in the street to hold parking spaces—that is a violation, and Code Enforcement may come knocking.

Tenant-landlord disputes: Evictions and lease agreements are civil disputes between tenants and landlords. Code Enforcement has no authority to intervene on behalf of either party. Even if we are addressing violations on the property, we do not intervene in tenant-landlord disputes on either party’s behalf.

To avoid civil disputes, we always recommend the good neighbor approach. Keep lines of communication open with your neighbors and be open and understanding to their point of view. If issues do come up, try to work with them directly to address the problems. If you are unable to reach a resolution, you may want to consider mediation. Mediators can help both parties to communicate better, explore their options, and reach acceptable solutions to the problem.

For issues that are related to City code violations, Code Enforcement is here to help and can be reached by submitting a request via SalinasConnect, by phone (831-758-7157), or in person at the Permit Center.