Systematic Versus Complaint-Based Code Enforcement

Wishing a Happy and Thankful New Year to the Citizens of Madisonville

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing: it makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” – Voltaire

Thank you, and Happy New Year to the citizens of Madisonville, and all of Madison County. From everyone at the city and I wish you all the best in the upcoming year and that the wishes and hopes of good people of this great city of ours come true. Each of us here at the city of Madisonville will do our best to make 2020 a memorable year.

Throughout the year my job as Code Enforcement Officer/ Building Official finds me interacting with numerous people. On a few occasions my arrival may not be well received but more often than not, after conversation a mutual understanding, smile, and handshake usually follows.  This is our city, yours and mine. We want to make it a place to be proud of, a place our children can enjoy and grow happily. I sincerely appreciate your help!! I do notice as you may have, the ones who take it upon themselves to pick up litter along the streets. I enjoy talking with you and getting to know you. Thank you!!

I would not feel that I am performing my duties properly if I did not try to inform, and educate you more on what my job description includes.  

Systematic Versus Complaint-Based Code Enforcement

The opposite of a complaint-based system is often called a systematic or methodical program. Note that a building code is methodical because inspections during new construction occur when certain items are complete and prior to their being enclosed by future phases of construction.

In some cases the block by block “systematic” program of enforcing nuisance laws, or property maintenance codes, is important. If your neighborhood is in trouble, and you feel that property owners can afford to keep up their properties, but they aren’t doing so, this is when the systematic, house-by-house program could prevent the neighborhood from moving into total decline.

The technique sometimes is called a windshield survey. This means that a code inspector drives through the neighborhood and what can be seen through the windshield is what will help to identify apparent violations of the existing housing code or property maintenance code. They also note weeds, grass that is taller than allowed by code, fences that are falling down, abandoned unlicensed cars, or other and any other potential nuisance that is spelled out in the code.

Reasons for systematic code enforcement could be:

1. A relatively large number of complaints in a particular geographic area are received.

2. A jurisdiction receives many complaints about aesthetics, as opposed to structural defects such as a porch that’s falling off the house. Cosmetic complaints might be about peeling paint, derelict cars, high weeds, or piles of junk left strewn about the lawn randomly.

3. A neighborhood has a high percentage of rental property or a small sub-area that doesn’t measure up to the standards of other community folks.

4. The potential still exists for a viable neighborhood if relatively superficial problems are remedied, or if landlords can be forced to reinvest in their properties to the extent that the community demands.

If you feel that your code enforcement officer is biased against your neighborhood or feel it is futile to write up violations in your neighborhood since people cannot afford to comply, be especially careful not to complain about situations that annoy you but that are not actually in violation of the code. The city of Madisonville has an on-line copy of the “Code of Ordinance” available for you to read on-line by visiting; when bringing up the website click on “Government”, then “City Ordinances”. Neighborhoods could divide up the work of reading different parts of the codes and noting provisions most likely to apply to them.

Change is not always an easy thing to accept, but just like everything else we learn throughout our lives, once we understand it, the acceptance can be our way of participating in our own evolution. There are new projects either underway or about to break ground to help in our city evolution. Please have patience.

I would like to say thank you for all your help, your hard work has been noticed, and I, along with the entire City of Madisonville team, would like to express my deep gratitude to each and every one of you.    

Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each New Year find you a better man! – Benjamin Franklin