HOW MUNICIPALITIES CAN USE STATE LAW TO RESOLVE CRIMINAL NUISANCE PROPERTIES IN THEIR JURISDICTIONS WITH CIVIL LITIGATION
Written by Ryan Griffith*
Many properties have significant building code violations that are easily visible to the naked eye. Cities can abate these properties by red tagging them. If red tagging is unsuccessful to obtain compliance, then cities can use Health and Safety Receiverships, codified at California Health and Safety Code sections 17980.6 & 17980.7, to appoint a receiver to rehabilitate and sell the property under court supervision.1 There are more detailed articles on Health and Safety Receiverships dealing with building code violations found in previous volumes of this journal, 2 materials of the League of California Cities,3 as well as a law review article published by Lincoln Memorial University School of Law in Tennessee.4
However, what can cities do with properties that appear to be code-compliant, yet create a neighborhood nuisance? These can be motels where numerous drug deals occur and violence is rampant, apartment complexes with constant drug activity, or residential homes with substantial drug use. These nuisances can also take the shape of residential homes operating as unlicensed casinos, which cause significant traffic into the night, drunken fights in the streets, and other neighborhood disturbances that deteriorate confidence in community leadership. To address these scenarios, the California Legislature created two statutory schemes. These statutory schemes are codified at California Health and Safety Code section 11570 et seq. and Penal Code section 11225 et seq., and are known as the Drug and Red-Light Abatement Acts, respectively.
The remedies in Drug and Red-Light Abatement actions can include a court ordering a nuisance property to be boarded-up and shut down. A court can also order a maximum of a $25,000 civil penalty against the