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County lawyer: Change in laws for occupied homes needs more study
BOC to consider other property laws

LAWRENCEVILLE - As part of Gwinnett's qualify of life fight, regulations may soon be placed on vacant and burned structures. But problems involving the overcrowding of homes and regulation of rental property may take longer to fix, a county lawyer said Tuesday.

In presenting proposed changes to the county's property maintenance and quality of life ordinances, assistant county attorney Van Stephens said he is still working on solutions to the problems that draw the biggest complaints.

Earlier this year, Commissioner Bert Nasuti asked lawyers to find a stricter regulation to the current eight-is-enough occupancy law.

"Occupancy remains my No. 1 area for complaints," Nasuti said. "I want to push the envelope and have the No. 1 ordinance in the country. We have some measured success but ... there is either ignorance of (the law) or no fear of it."

While commissioners are likely to consider other tweaks to the ordinances in November, Stephens said he is "still researching" the occupancy law.

"We've got to make sure it's capable of being enforced," Stephens said, pinpointing one of the biggest complaints about the current law.

Another proposal from Nasuti to have owners of rental properties register an agent to receive complaints hit a snag earlier this year when it failed to gain support in the Georgia General Assembly.

"Right now, we have no way of even contacting these folks," Commissioner Mike Beaudreau said. "As foreclosures go up, it's going to present an even more challenging problem to keep our neighborhoods clean."

The rental registration, which is used in other states, is prohibited by Georgia law. A bill to change that, though, drew opposition from lobbyists for the apartment industry, officials said. Commissioners said they believe a compromise can be reached in next year's session, since most of the problems are concerning single-family homes, not apartments.

Proposed changes to the county codes include:

' strengthened requirements to outlaw dumping grass and weeds into the public right of way

' regulations to secure the windows and doors of vacant buildings as well as ensure the walls, roof and fences are in good repair and trash does not accumulate on the property

' requirements to remove debris and burned materials within 30 days of a fire and have burned buildings either repaired or demolished within 60 days after an investigation has concluded

' provisions to make it unlawful to transfer a property in violation of county codes until it reaches compliance or the purchaser accepts responsibility for repairs

' increased requirements to ensure foundation walls, roofs, windows and garage doors are in good condition

If approved by commissioners in November, the laws would become effective Jan. 1, Stephens said.

"This is a serious look at our ordinance," Beaudreau said. "We're trying to stay ahead of the curve."