Chapter 34 HOUSING*

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*Cross reference(s)–Buildings and building regulations, ch. 18.

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ARTICLE I. IN GENERAL

Secs. 34-1–34-25. Reserved.
ARTICLE II. HOUSING CODE
DIVISION 1. GENERALLY
Sec. 34-26. Definitions.

(a) Whenever the terms “dwelling,” “dwelling unit,” “rooming,” “rooming unit,” “premises” are used in this article, they shall be construed as though they were followed by the phrase “or any part thereof.”

(b) The following words, terms and phrases, when used in this article, shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this section, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning:

Basement means that portion of a building located partly underground, but having less than half its clear floor-to-ceiling height below the average grade of the adjoining ground or having one sidewall area two-thirds exposed and above the average grade of the adjoining ground and the two walls adjoining the above side having one-third or more of wall area above the average grade of the adjoining ground.

Building means any structure used or intended for supporting or sheltering any use or occupancy.

Cellar means that portion of the building partly underground having half or more than half of its clear height below the average grade of the adjoining ground.

Dwelling means any building which is wholly or partly used or intended to be used for living or sleeping by human occupants, provided that temporary housing, as defined in this section, shall not be regarded as a dwelling.

Dwelling unit means any room or group of rooms located within a dwelling and forming a single habitable unit with facilities which are used or intended to be used for living, sleeping, cooking and eating.

Extermination means the control and elimination of insects, rodents or other pests by eliminating their harborage places; by removing or making inaccessible materials that may serve as their food; by poisoning, spraying, fumigating, trapping or by any other recognized and legal pest elimination methods approved by a representative of the city health office.

Garbage means discarded material resulting from the handling, preparation or consumption of food.

Habitable room means a room or enclosed floor space used or intended to be used for living, sleeping, cooking or eating purposes, excluding bathrooms, water closet compartments, laundries, pantries, foyers or communicating corridors, closets and storage spaces.

Housing inspector means the person so designated by the city manager or any authorized representative of the housing inspector, including the public works director, a representative of the city health office or fire chief.

Infestation means the presence, within or around a dwelling, of any insects, rodents or other pests.

Multiple dwelling means any dwelling containing more than two dwelling units.

Occupant means any person living, sleeping, cooking or eating in or having actual possession of a dwelling unit or rooming unit.

Operator means any person who has charge, care or control of a building or part thereof in which dwelling units or rooming units are let.

Owner means any person who, alone or jointly or severally with others, shall have title to any dwelling or dwelling unit, with or without accompanying actual possession thereof, which entitles him to the charge, care, control or right of management of any dwelling or dwelling unit, either as owner or agent of the owner or as executor, administrator, trustee or guardian of the estate of the owner. All such persons shall be bound to comply with this article.

Plumbing includes all of the following supplied facilities and equipment: water pipes, garbage disposal units, waste pipes, water closets, sinks, installed dishwashers, lavatories, bathtubs, showerbaths, installed clothes-washing machines, catchbasins, drains, vents, and any other similar supplied fixtures, together with all connections to water, sewer, or gas lines.

Refuse means putrescible and nonputrescible solid wastes, including garbage, rubbish, ashes, incinerator ash, incinerator residue, street cleanings, and market and industrial wastes and including municipal treatment wastes which do not contain free moisture.

Rooming unit means any room or group of rooms forming a single habitable unit or intended to be used for living and sleeping, but not intended for cooking purposes.

Roominghouse means any hotel, motel or dwelling or that part of any dwelling containing one or more rooming units, in which space is let by the owner or operator to three or more persons who are not husband or wife, son or daughter, mother or father, or sister or brother of the owner or operator.

Supplied means paid for, furnished or provided by or under the control of the owner or operator.

Temporary housing means any tent, trailer or other structure used for human shelter which is designed to be transportable and which is not attached to the ground, to another structure or to any utilities system on the same premises for more than 30 consecutive days.

(Code 1980, § 4.20, subd. 3)

Cross references: Definitions generally, § 1-2.
Sec. 34-27. Purpose.

The purpose of this article is to:

(1) Establish minimum standards which shall govern the condition and maintenance of dwellings and make dwellings safe, sanitary and fit for human habitation;

(2) Fix certain responsibilities and duties of owners and occupants of dwellings;

(3) Authorize the inspection of dwellings and the condemnation of dwellings unfit for human habitation; and

(4) Fix penalties for violations.

(Code 1980, § 4.20, subd. 1(A))
Sec. 34-28. Housing inspector.

A housing inspector, designated by the city manager, shall have the duty of enforcing this article.

(Code 1980, § 4.20, subd. 1(B))
Sec. 34-29. Interference with inspector.

It is unlawful for any person to refuse entrance or impede an inspector in the performance of his duties, and all such inspectors shall have the right to enter, examine and survey all dwellings and premises at all reasonable times to make necessary repairs or alterations to effect compliance with this article.

(Code 1980, § 4.20, subd. 1(C))
Sec. 34-30. Work done by city; lien.

If the person served with notice under this article fails to comply with the notice within a reasonable time, the city manager shall be authorized to employ the necessary labor and materials to perform emergency repairs or any demolition to the damaged building, dwelling or dwelling unit or portion thereof as may be deemed necessary for the general public health and safety. The city shall cause such expenses thus incurred in the repair or demolition of buildings or dwellings to be a lien upon such real estate. The city clerk shall certify to the county auditor a statement of the amount of the cost incurred by the city. Such amount together with interest shall be entered as a special assessment against such lot or parcel of land and shall be collected in the same manner as real estate taxes.

(Code 1980, § 4.20, subd. 1(D))
Sec. 34-31. Appeals; variances.

(a) Any person affected by any notice which has been issued in connection with the enforcement of any provision of this article may request and shall be granted a hearing on the matter before the board of zoning appeals. This hearing and appeals therefrom and actions thereon shall be held and conducted according to provisions governing the board of zoning appeals. Any order of the housing inspection shall be stayed pending disposition of the appeal.

(b) Upon application, the board of zoning appeals shall hear appeals from and review any order of requirements or determination made by the housing inspector and shall determine whether there are practical difficulties or unnecessary hardships in the way of carrying out the strict letter of this article. The board may recommend that the council vary or modify any of the provisions relating to minimum housing standards, in a given instance on a temporary basis, so that substantial justice may be done and the intent of this article carried out. No variance shall be granted for a period to exceed two years.

(Code 1980, § 4.20, subd. 2)
Sec. 34-32. Designation of unfit dwellings and condemnation procedures.

(a) Defects for determination. Any building, dwelling or dwelling unit which shall be found to have any of the defects stated in this subsection shall be condemned as unfit for human habitation and shall be do designated and placarded. All inmates and occupants shall be required to vacate the building, dwelling or dwelling unit, and safeguards shall be taken to prevent the public from entering the building, dwelling or dwelling unit as ordered by the housing inspector. An unfit building, dwelling or dwelling unit is one which:

(1) Is so damaged, decayed, dilapidated, unsanitary, unsafe, vermin-infested or so located that it creates a serious hazard to the health or safety of the occupants.

(2) Lacks illumination, ventilation, is structurally unstable, constitutes a fire hazard, lacks exit and sanitation facilities adequate to protect the health or safety of the occupants or of the public.

(b) Notice of condemnation. Notice of an unfit building, dwelling or dwelling unit shall be given as provided in section 34-30.

(c) Vacation of premises. Any building, dwelling or dwelling unit condemned as unfit for human habitation or which is structurally unsafe and so designated and placarded by the housing inspector shall be vacated within a reasonable time as ordered by the housing inspector.

(d) Restoration. A building or structure or a portion thereof declared unsafe by the housing inspector may be restored to a safe condition for continued occupancy. However, if the damage or cost of reconstruction or restoration is in excess of 50 percent of the county assessor’s market value of the structure on the premises, such building or structure, if reconstructed or restored, shall be made to conform to all provisions of this Code regulating the construction of the type of building to be rebuilt. The restriction on the cost of restoration shall only apply to structural changes, wiring and plumbing and shall not apply to fixtures and appurtenances to the basic structure.

(e) Approval for use as human habitation. No dwelling or dwelling unit which has been condemned and placarded as unfit for human habitation shall again be used for human habitation until written approval is secured from and such placard is removed by the housing inspector. The housing inspector shall remove such placard whenever the defects upon which the condemnation and placarding action were based have been eliminated. No other person shall deface or remove the placard from any dwelling or dwelling unit.

(f) Demolition. Any dwelling declared as unfit for human habitation and which is not restored within a period of six months shall be considered a nuisance and unsafe building and shall be removed as provided by this article or chapter 18.

(Code 1980, § 4.20, subd. 9)

Secs. 34-33–34-55. Reserved.
DIVISION 2. MINIMUM STANDARDS
Sec. 34-56. Responsibilities of owners and occupants.

(a) Every owner of a dwelling containing two or more dwelling units shall be responsible for maintaining in a clean and sanitary condition the shared or public areas of the dwelling and premises thereof.

(b) Every occupant of a dwelling or dwelling unit shall keep in a clean and sanitary condition that part of the dwelling, dwelling unit and premises thereof which he occupies and controls.

(c) Every occupant of a dwelling or dwelling unit shall dispose of all his rubbish in a clean and sanitary manner by placing it in the rubbish containers required by subsection 34-57(5).

(d) Every occupant of a dwelling or dwelling unit shall dispose of all his garbage and any other organic waste, which might provide food for rodents, in a clean and sanitary manner by placing it in the garbage disposal facilities or garbage containers required by subsection 34-57(6). It shall be the responsibility of the owner to supply such facilities or containers for all dwelling units located on premises where more than four dwelling units share the same premises. In all other cases it shall be the responsibility of the occupant to furnish such facilities or containers.

(e) Every occupant of a dwelling or dwelling unit shall be responsible for hanging all screens and double or storm doors and windows wherever the screens, doors and windows are required under the provisions of this article or of any rule or regulation adopted pursuant to this article, except where the owner has agreed to supply such service.

(f) Every occupant of a dwelling containing a single dwelling unit shall be responsible for the extermination of any insects, rodents or other pests therein or on the premises, and every occupant of a dwelling unit in a dwelling containing more than one dwelling unit shall be responsible for such extermination whenever his dwelling unit is the only one infested. However, whenever infestation is caused by failure of the owner to maintain a dwelling in a ratproof or reasonably insectproof condition, extermination shall be the responsibility of the owner. Whenever infestation exists in two or more of the dwelling units in any dwelling or in the shared or public parts of any dwelling containing two or more dwelling units, extermination shall be the responsibility of the owner.

(g) Every occupant of a dwelling unit shall keep all plumbing fixtures in the dwelling unit in a clean and sanitary condition and shall be responsible for the exercise of reasonable care in the proper use and operation thereof.

(Code 1980, § 4.20, subd. 8)
Sec. 34-57. Basic equipment and facilities.

It is unlawful for any person to occupy as owner-occupant or let to another for occupancy any dwelling or dwelling unit, for the purpose of living, sleeping, cooking or eating therein, which does not comply with the following:

(1) Every dwelling unit shall contain a kitchen sink in good working condition and properly connected to a water and sewer system.

(2) Every dwelling unit shall contain a room which affords privacy to a person within the room and which is equipped with a flush water closet and a lavatory basin in good working condition and properly connected to a water and sewer system.

(3) Every dwelling unit shall contain, within a room which affords privacy to a person within the room, a bathtub or shower in good working condition and properly connected to a water and sewer system.

(4) Every kitchen sink, lavatory basin and bathtub or shower required under this article shall be properly connected with hot and cold water lines.

(5) Every dwelling unit shall be supplied with adequate refuse containers with provision for adequate pickup and disposal.

(6) Every dwelling unit shall have adequate garbage disposal facilities or garbage containers, with provision for adequate pickup and disposal.

(7) Every dwelling shall have supplied water heating facilities which are properly installed, which are maintained in safe and good working condition, which are properly connected with plumbing fixtures and which are capable of heating water to a temperature to permit an adequate amount of water to be drawn at every required kitchen sink, lavatory basin, bathtub or shower at a temperature of not less than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Such supplied water heating facilities shall be capable of meeting the requirements of this subsection where the dwelling or dwelling unit heating facilities are not in operation.

(8) Every dwelling unit shall have safe, unobstructed means of egress leading to safe and open space at ground level.

(9) No variance from the requirements of this section shall be granted to any person who lets dwellings or dwelling units for occupancy except in extreme cases of emergency.

(Code 1980, § 4.20, subd. 4)
Sec. 34-58. Light, ventilation and heating.

It is unlawful for any person to occupy as owner-occupant or let to another for occupancy any dwelling or dwelling unit, for the purpose of living therein, which does not comply with the following:

(1) Every habitable room shall have at least one window or skylight facing directly to the outdoors. The minimum total window area, measured between stops, for every habitable room shall be eight percent of the floor area of such room. Whenever walls or other portions of structures face a window of any such room and such light-obstructing structures are located less than three feet from the window and extend to a level above that of the ceiling of the room, such a window shall not be deemed to face directly to the outdoors and shall not be included as contributing to the required minimum total window area. Whenever the only window in a room is a skylight-type window in the top of such room, the total window area of such skylight shall equal at least 15 percent of the total floor area of such room.

(2) Every habitable room shall have at least one window or skylight which can easily be opened or such other device as will adequately ventilate the room. The total of openable window area in every room shall be equal to at least 45 percent of the minimum window area size or minimum skylight-type window size, except where there is supplied some mechanical device affording adequate ventilation and approved by the housing inspector.

(3) Every bathroom and water closet compartment shall comply with the light and ventilation requirement for habitable rooms contained in subsections (1) and (2) of this section, except that no window or skylight shall be required in an adequately ventilated bathroom and a water closet compartment equipped with a ventilation system which is approved by the housing inspector.

(4) Where there is electric service available from power lines which are not more than 300 feet away from a dwelling, every habitable room of such dwelling shall contain at least two separate floor- or wall-type electric convenience outlets or one such convenience outlet and one supplied ceiling-type electric light fixture; and every water closet compartment, bathroom, laundry room, furnace room and public hall shall contain at least one supplied ceiling- or wall-type electric light fixture. Every such outlet and fixture shall be properly installed, shall be maintained in good and safe working condition and shall be connected to the source of electric power in a safe manner. Plug fuses of the Edison-base type shall be used only for replacements in existing installations where there is no evidence of overfusing or tampering.

(5) Every dwelling shall have heating facilities which are properly installed; are maintained in safe and good working condition; and are capable of safely and adequately heating all habitable rooms, bathrooms and water closet compartments in every dwelling unit located therein to a temperature of at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit at a distance three feet above floor level when the outside temperature is 20 degrees Fahrenheit below zero.

(6) Every public hall and stairway in every multiple dwelling containing five or more dwelling units shall be adequately lighted at all times. Every public hall and stairway in structures containing not more than four dwelling units may be supplied with conveniently located light switches controlling an adequate lighting system which may turned on when needed, instead of full-time lighting.

(7) During the portion of each year when the housing inspector deems it necessary for protection against mosquitoes, flies and other insects, every door opening directly from a dwelling unit to outdoor space shall have supplied screens and a self-closing device, and every window or other device with openings to outdoor space used or intended to be used for ventilation shall likewise be supplied with screens. However, such screens shall not be required during such period in rooms deemed by the housing inspector to be located high enough in the upper stories of buildings as to be free from such insects and in rooms located in areas of the city which are deemed by the housing inspector to have so few such insects as to render screens unnecessary.

(8) Every basement or cellar window used or intended to be used for ventilation and every other opening to a basement which might provide an entry for rodents shall be supplied with a screen or such other device as will effectively prevent their entrance.

(Code 1980, § 4.20, subd. 5)
Sec. 34-59. Maintenance of parts of dwellings and dwelling units.

It is unlawful for any person to occupy as owner-occupant or let to another for occupancy any dwelling or dwelling unit for the purpose of living therein which does not comply with the following:

(1) Every foundation, floor, wall, ceiling and roof shall be reasonably weathertight, watertight and rodentproof; shall be capable of affording privacy; and shall be kept in good repair. All exterior wood or other material which is susceptible to deterioration by the action of weather must be protected by paint or a similar protective seal unless woods of natural resistance to decay or treated lumber are used. Those areas where the paint is extensively bubbled, cracked or peeled must be scraped and repainted. Woods of natural resistance to decay or treated lumber, if previously painted, must be refinished if the paint is bubbled, cracked or peeling. All interior walls and the ceiling finish must be in good condition.

(2) Every window, exterior door and basement hatchway shall be reasonably weathertight, watertight and rodentproof and shall be kept in sound working condition and good repair.

(3) Every inside and outside stair, every porch and every appurtenance thereto shall be so constructed as to be safe to use and capable of supporting the load that normal use may cause to be placed thereon and shall be kept in sound condition and good repair.

(4) Every plumbing fixture and water and waste pipe shall be properly installed and maintained in good sanitary working condition, free from defects, leaks and obstructions.

(5) Every water closet compartment floor surface and bathroom floor surface shall be constructed and maintained so as to be reasonably impervious to water and so as to permit such floor to be easily kept in a clean and sanitary condition.

(6) Every supplied facility, piece of equipment or utility which is required under this article shall be so constructed or installed that it will function safely and effectively and shall be maintained in satisfactory working condition.

(7) No owner, operator or occupant shall cause any service, facility, equipment or utility which is required under this article to be removed from or shut off from or discontinued for any occupied dwelling let or occupied by him, except for such temporary interruption as may be necessary while actual repairs or alterations are in process or during temporary emergencies when discontinuance of service is necessary.

(8) No owner shall occupy or let to any other occupant any vacant dwelling unit unless it is clean, sanitary and fit for human occupancy.

(Code 1980, § 4.20, subd. 6)
Sec. 34-60. Space, use and location requirements.

It is unlawful for any person to occupy or let to another for occupancy any dwelling or dwelling unit for the purpose of living therein which does not comply with the following:

(1) Every dwelling unit shall contain at least 150 square feet of floor space for the first occupant thereof and at least 100 additional square feet of floor space for every additional occupant thereof, the floor space to be calculated on the basis of total habitable room area.

(2) In every dwelling unit of two or more rooms, every room occupied for adult sleeping purposes by one occupant shall contain at least 70 square feet of floor space, and every room occupied for sleeping purposes by more than one adult occupant shall contain at least 45 square feet of floor space for each occupant thereof. In dwelling units of two or more rooms, every room occupied for sleeping purposes by more than one occupant under ten years of age shall contain at least 35 square feet of floor space for each occupant thereof.

(3) No dwelling or dwelling unit containing two or more sleeping rooms shall have such room arrangements that access to a bathroom or water closet compartment intended for use by occupants of more than one sleeping room nor shall room arrangements be such that access to a sleeping room can be had only by going through another sleeping room or a bathroom or water closet compartment. However, single-family dwellings may be exempted from this requirement.

(4) At least one-third of the floor area of every habitable room shall have a ceiling height of at least seven feet, and the floor area of that part of any room where the ceiling height is less than five feet shall not be considered as part of the floor area in computing the total floor area of the room for the purpose of determining the maximum permissible occupancy thereof.

(5) No cellar space shall be used as a habitable room or dwelling unit. In single-family residences, a bedroom will be allowed in the cellar when it meets the following requirements:

a. The floors and walls are impervious to leakage of underground and surface runoff water and are insulated against dampness.

b. The total window area in the bedroom is equal to at least the minimum window area sizes as required in section 34-58.

c. Such required minimum window area will be in conformance with the schematic of such area, which is on file and available in the city offices.

d. The total of openable window area in each room is equal to at least the minimum as required under the schematic of such area, which is on file and available in the city offices.

e. All levels of smoke detection, as outlined in NFPA 101, is achieved plus an additional smoke detector placed in the cellar bedroom.

f. The bedroom will be separated from the rest of the basement by walls constructed of not less than one-half-inch gypsum wall board on both sides of a two-by-four stud wall, with a door assembly with a 1 3/8-inch solid core bonded wood door.

(6) No basement space shall be used as a habitable room or dwelling unit unless:

a. The floor and walls are impervious to leakage of underground and surface runoff water and are insulated against dampness;

b. The total of window area in each room is equal to at least the minimum window area sizes as required in subsection 34-58(1);

c. Such required minimum window area is located entirely above the grade of the ground adjoining such window area; and

d. The total of openable window area in each room is equal to at least the minimum as required under subsection 34-58(2), except where there is supplied some other device affording adequate ventilation and approved by the housing inspector.

(Code 1980, § 4.20, subd. 7)

Minnesota state law (Chapter 156 of the Session Laws of 2005) requires that "a city or county with a population of more than 15,000 must annually notify its residents of the positions and base salaries of its three highest-paid employees." For the City of Albert Lea, titles and salaries as of Jan. 1, 2019, are: City Manager, $138,375.12; Director of Public Works/City Engineer $110,780.80; and Director of Public Safety $103,646.40. Date of publication: January 23, 2019.