February 16, 2021

Code Enforcement During the Pandemic

No one anticipated that the state of emergency declared in response to the pandemic would last this long. Regardless of whether your city has resumed in person meetings, continues to meet by virtual means or some mixture thereof, SB 150 provides tools for cities to continue the provision of services to citizens, including code enforcement.

Dubbed the COVID-19 Relief Bill, Senate Bill 150 from the 2020 Kentucky General Assembly contains emergency supportive measures designed for businesses, citizens, and local government to continue operations during the state of emergency. Code enforcement specific provisions of SB 150 preserve pending code enforcement proceedings and hearings that would otherwise be impacted by the suspension of city meetings and code enforcement hearings during the state of emergency.

The legislation suspends and tolls, but does not prohibit, code enforcement proceedings or code enforcement hearings during the state of emergency. Section 9(b) of SB 150 contains the emergency code enforcement provisions as follows:

Any deadlines provided by statute for code enforcement proceedings or hearings arising from or related to KRS 65.8825 and KRS 65.8828 are hereby suspended and the time for action on any pending matter shall be tolled during the pendency of the state emergency. Nothing in this paragraph shall be construed to prohibit continued service to the public in the area of code enforcement that complies with social distancing guidance provided by the CDC or the Kentucky Department for Public Health, as determined by the executive authority of the relevant local government.

The above underlined sentence affords cities the flexibility to proceed with all code enforcement proceedings and hearings when the city’s executive authority determines it is safe to do so. Language in the highlighted sentence refers to the suspension of code enforcement deadlines and tolls pending actions. If the executive authority determines proceedings and hearings can be accomplished in adherence with the federal and state social distancing guidelines, these proceedings can go on. Reading the first sentence in isolation to suspend all deadlines and toll all time for action during the state of emergency nullifies the meaning of the second sentence. Any interpretation that nullifies a part of the statute fails to give “significance and effect” to the legislation as a whole in violation of a fundamental rule of statutory construction. See George v. Scent, 346 S.W.2d 748, 789 (Ky. 1961).

Many cities have opted to suspend code enforcement proceedings and hearings during the state of emergency. Obviously, this is within the executive authority’s discretion to do so; however, it is important to note that cities retain the flexibility to resume code enforcement proceedings and hearings under the provisions in SB 150.

For any questions related to this article, please contact the Municipal Law Department at 859.977.3700.