Charleston stiffens punishment for property owners

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Charleston City Council approved changes to city code on Monday, resulting in stronger punishments for owners of properties where illegal activity happens.

The change requires property owners to address reported actions within 30 days of receiving a notice from the Charleston Police Department. Any property owner who fails to stop the actions after that period will be subject to a misdemeanor and $1,000 fine for each offense.

“If they can eliminate the illegal activity by talking to their tenants by saying this is not going to be allowed, that’s fine as long as it is proven that they’ve addressed it and it was resolved,” said Kevin Baker, Charleston’s city attorney.

Baker noted eviction as another option at the property owner’s disposal.

“We’re not trying to tell people how to manage their property,” he added “The point is that when there are houses that become such a nuisance to the community, we have to figure out a way to address them”

The policy is the latest change from the city to address problematic properties; city officials in August launched the Land Reuse Agency for vacant and abandoned structures.

Baker said while it is difficult to determine if new policies are successful, the short-term results have been positive.

“The biggest change we can see is the number of permits for renovating homes as increased,” he said.

“We take from that there are more people who are realizing they can’t let their property sit vacant. They need to fix it up and either get it rented out or sell it.”

The new ordinance will go into effect on Saturday.