2005 Regular Session
By: Representative Brown
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 21-19-11, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO INCREASE THE PENALTIES AND COSTS WHICH MAY BE ASSESSED AGAINST OWNERS OF PROPERTY OR LAND WITHIN MUNICIPALITIES WHO FAIL TO KEEP THEIR PROPERTY OR LAND CLEAN, TO THE EXTENT THAT SUCH FAILURE RESULTS IN THE PROPERTY OR LAND BEING A MENACE TO THE PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY OF THE COMMUNITY AND TO ALLOW MUNICIPALITIES TO ENACT CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR FAILURE TO MAINTAIN PROPERTY; TO AMEND SECTION 21-19-20, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE THAT A MUNICIPALITY SHALL INSTITUTE PROCEEDINGS TO HAVE AN ABANDONED HOUSE OR BUILDING DEMOLISHED, IF IT DETERMINES THAT THE HOUSE OR BUILDING CONSTITUTES A PUBLIC HAZARD AND NUISANCE; TO PROVIDE THAT A MAJORITY OF THE RESIDENTS RESIDING WITHIN 400 FEET OF THE PROPERTY MAY PETITION THE MUNICIPALITY TO HOLD A HEARING ON THE QUESTION OF WHETHER THE PROPERTY SHOULD BE DEMOLISHED; TO REQUIRE THE MUNICIPALITY TO NOTIFY THE PROPERTY OWNER OF THE HEARING BY UNITED STATES MAIL OR BY PUBLICATION; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 21-19-11, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
21-19-11. (1) The governing authority of any municipality is * * * authorized * * *, on its own motion, or upon the receipt of a petition requesting the municipal authority to so act signed by a majority of the residents residing * * * within four hundred (400) feet of any property or parcel of land alleged to be in need of cleaning, to give notice to the property owner by United States * * * mail two (2) weeks before the date of a hearing, or by service of notice as provided in this section by a police officer at least two (2) weeks before the date of a hearing, or if the property owner * * * or his address is unknown, then by two (2) weeks' notice in a newspaper having a general circulation in the municipality, of a hearing to determine whether or not the property or land is in such a state of uncleanliness as to be a menace to the public health and safety of the community. If, at such hearing, the governing authority shall, * * * adjudicate the property or land in its then condition to be a menace to the public health and safety of the community, the governing authority shall, if the owner does not do so himself, proceed to clean the land, by the use of municipal employees or by contract, by cutting weeds; filling cisterns; removing rubbish, dilapidated fences, outside toilets, dilapidated buildings and other debris; and draining cesspools and standing water therefrom. Thereafter, the governing authority may, at its next regular meeting, by resolution adjudicate the actual cost of cleaning the property and may also impose a penalty of One Thousand Five Hundred ($1,500.00) or fifty percent (50%) of such actual cost, whichever is more. The cost and any penalty may become a civil debt against the property owner, or, at the option of the governing authority, an assessment against the property. The cost assessed against the property means the cost to the municipality of using its own employees to do the work or the cost to the municipality of any contract executed by the municipality to have the work done. The action herein authorized shall not be undertaken against any one (1) parcel of land more than six (6) times in any one (1) calendar year, and the expense of cleaning of said property shall not exceed an aggregate amount of Twenty Thousand Dollars ($20,000.00) per year, or the fair market value of the property subsequent to cleaning, whichever is less. If it is determined by the governing authority that it is necessary to clean any property or land more than once within a calendar year, then the municipality may clean it provided notice to the property owner is given by United States * * * mail to the last known address at least ten (10) days before cleaning the property. The governing authority may assess the same penalty for each time the property or land is cleaned as otherwise provided in this section. The penalty provided herein shall not be assessed against the State of Mississippi upon request for reimbursement under Section 29-1-145, nor shall a municipality clean a parcel owned by the State of Mississippi without first giving notice.
(2) In the event the governing authority declares, by resolution, that the cost and any penalty shall be collected as a civil debt, the governing authority may authorize the institution of a suit on open account against the owner of the property in a court of competent jurisdiction in the manner provided by law for the cost and any penalty, plus court costs, reasonable attorney's fees and interest from the date that the property was cleaned.
(3) In the event that the governing authority does not declare that the cost and any penalty shall be collected as a civil debt, then the assessment above provided for shall be a lien against the property and may be enrolled in the office of the circuit clerk of the county as other judgments are enrolled, and the tax collector of the municipality shall, upon order of the board of governing authorities, proceed to sell the land to satisfy the lien as now provided by law for the sale of lands for delinquent municipal taxes.
(4) All decisions rendered under the provisions of this section may be appealed in the same manner as other appeals from municipal boards or courts are taken.
(5) The police officer's return on the notice may be in one (1) of the following forms:
(a) Form of personal notice:
"I have this day delivered the within notice personally, by delivering to the within named property owner,_______________ (here state name of party summoned), a true copy of this notice.
This, the _____ day of __________ 20 ____.
______________________________ (Police Officer)"
(b) Form of notice where copy left at residence:
"I have this day delivered the within notice to ________________, within named property owner, by leaving a true copy of the same at his (or her) usual place of abode in my municipality, with ________________, his (or her) (here insert wife, husband, son, daughter or some other person, as the case may be), ________________ a member of his (or her) family above the age of sixteen (16) years, and willing to receive such copy. The said property owner is not found in my municipality.
This, the _____ day of__________ 20 ____.
_____________________________ (Police Officer)"
(c) Form of return when property owner not found within municipality and is a nonresident thereof:
"I have this day attempted to deliver the within notice to ________________, the within named property owner, and after diligent search and inquiry, I failed to find the same property owner within my municipality, nor could I ascertain the location of any residence of the property owner within my municipality.
This, the _____ day of __________ 20 ____.
________________________________ (Police Officer)"
The first mode of notice should be made, if it can be; if not, then the second mode should be made, if it can be; and the return of the second mode of service must negate the officer's ability to make the first. If neither the first nor second mode of service can be made, then the third mode should be made, and the return thereof must negate the officer's ability to make both the first and second. In the event the third mode of service is made, then service shall also be made by publication as provided in subsection (1) of this section.
(6) The officer shall mark on all notices the day of the receipt thereof by him, and he shall return the same on or before the day of the hearing, with a written statement of his proceedings thereon. For failing to note the time of the receipt of notice or for failing to return the same, the officer shall forfeit to the party aggrieved the sum of Twenty-five Dollars ($25.00).
(7) Nothing contained under this section shall prevent any municipality from enacting criminal penalties for failure to maintain property so as not to constitute a menace to public health, safety and welfare.
SECTION 2. Section 21-19-20, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
21-19-20. (1) (a) A municipality shall institute proceedings to have demolished an abandoned house or building that is used for the sale or use of drugs * * *. The local law enforcement authority of the municipality shall have documented proof of drug sales or use in the abandoned property before a municipality may initiate proceedings to have the property demolished.
(b) (i) A municipality shall institute proceedings to have an abandoned house or building demolished if the governing authority of the municipality determines that the house or building is a menace to the public health and safety of the community and that it constitutes a public hazard and nuisance.
(ii) Upon the receipt of a petition requesting the municipality to demolish an abandoned house or building that constitutes a public hazard and nuisance signed by a majority of the residents residing within four hundred (400) feet of the property, the governing authority of the municipality shall notify the property owner that the petition has been filed and that a date for a hearing on the petition has been set. Notice to the property owner shall be by United States mail, or if the property owner or his address is unknown, publication of the notice shall be made twice each week during two (2) successive weeks in a public newspaper of the county in which the municipality is located; where there is no newspaper in the county, the notice shall be published in a newspaper having a general circulation in the state. The hearing shall be held not less than thirty (30) nor more than sixty (60) days after service or completion of publication of the notice. At the hearing, the governing authority shall determine whether the property is a menace to the public health and safety of the community which constitutes a public hazard and nuisance. If the governing authority determines that the property is a public hazard and nuisance, the municipality shall institute proceedings under subsection (2) of this section to demolish the abandoned house or building.
(2) The municipality shall file a petition to declare the abandoned property a public hazard and nuisance and to have the property demolished with the circuit clerk of the county in which the property or some part of the property is located. All of the owners of the property involved, and any mortgagee, trustee, or other person having any interest in or lien on the property shall be made defendants to the proceedings. The circuit clerk shall present the petition to the circuit judge who, by written order directed to the circuit clerk, shall fix the time and place for the hearing of the matter in termtime or vacation. The time of the hearing shall be fixed on a date to allow sufficient time for each defendant named to be served with process, as otherwise provided by law, not less than thirty (30) days before the hearing. If a defendant or other party in interest is not served for the specified time before the date fixed, the hearing shall be continued to a day certain to allow the thirty-day period specified.
(3) Any cost incurred by a municipality for demolishing abandoned property shall be paid by the owners of the property.
SECTION 3. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.