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Department of Development
Administration    
111 N. Front Street, 8th Floor  
Columbus, OH 43215  
(614) 645.7795   
(614) 645.6675 [FAX]  

Frequently Asked Questions

Code Enforcement Frequently Asked Questions


Reporting Violations to Code Enforcement

Question
What's the best way to submit a complaint about a property? 
Answer
The best way to report a violation property is to contact the City of Columbus 311 Call Center.  You can go to the 311 Website and enter a complaint (click on the link to the right and a window will open up for you), or you can call (614) 645-3111. 

Question
What is an 'emergency' Code Enforcement violation? 
Answer
The City of Columbus Code defines an emergency violation as a violation that causes an "imminent danger to the public health and safety or the health and safety of any person" (CC. 4509.06).  For Code Enforcement, this means no heat in the winter time, no water service to an occupied dwelling, extremely unsanitary conditions in an occupied dwelling, or a vacant property that is unsecured on the ground level.   

Question
How do I report an emergency Code Enforcement Violation? 
Answer
If a violation is an 'emergency', contact the 311 Call Center or call (614) 645-3111.  You will be connected to the Code Enforcement Office.  The Code Enforcement office is staffed from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM, Monday through Friday. 


Common Code Enforcement Violations

Question
High Grass and/or noxious weeds 
Answer
Code Enforcement considers grass to be high when it exceeds 12 inches in height.  At that point, Code Enforcement will issue a Violation Notice.  Noxious weeds are those plants that can, if not removed, cause an unhealthy or unsafe condition.  A good example of a noxious weed is poison ivy.  For a list of what the City considers to be noxious weeds, go to the Ohio Revised Code by clicking on this link.   

Question
Inoperable motor vehicles 
Answer
Code Enforcement defines an inoperable vehicle as a vehicle that has an expired or missing license plate, has broken windows, more than one flat tire, or is obviously missing parts needed for the car to run.

Question
Bare or unprotected exterior wood 
Answer
Bare wood means any unpainted, unstained, unsealed, or unsided wood that is part of a structure or fence.  Bare wood is considered a violation because it is exposed to weathering and is vulnerable to rotting and damage by insects or rodents (mice, etc.).  If the material covering the exterior wood is in bad condition (damaged siding or peeling paint), the wood is considered to be bare.  

Question
Prohibited items stored in a yard area 
Answer
The most commonly-cited items are tires, car parts, indoor appliances, and furniture designed to be used indoors (couches on porches, for example).  Click here for a complete list of items that are prohibited from being stored in a yard area. In addition, storing recreational vehicles, boats, trailers, and commercial vehicles in a yard area is prohibited. 

Question
Improperly maintained vacant structure 
Answer
Vacant structures are to be maintained to the same standards as  occupied structures, with the exception that a vacant structure needs to be secured against entry.  The yard area must be cut and clean, and there can be no junk or solid waste in the yard area.  The standards for properly securing a vacant structure are listed in section 4707.03 of the Columbus City Code

Question
Change of use 
Answer
A change of use is when the primary use of a property is changed from one type of use to another.  For example, if a barber shop closes, and the owners decide to turn it into a donut shop, that is a change of use.

Question
Lacking Certificate of Zoning Clearance 
Answer
A Certificate of Zoning Clearance (CZC) is a document stating that the City has deemed the change of use on a property to be allowed.  A CZC is needed because different types of uses have different  requirements.  For example, a used car lot has different parking, electrical, lighting, and plumbing standards than a drive-thru restaurant.  When a property's use is changed, the City must review the property history, its construction, parking, and location in order to determine whether it can adequately support the new use.  If the property is found to be adequate for the new use, a CZC is issued.

Question
Smoke Detectors 
Answer
Missing or inoperable smoke detectors are considered to be an emergency violation of the City Code and must be replaced or repaired immediately.  The minimum amount of smoke detectors is one per story, with one located near or outside the sleeping area(s).  

Question
Parking on Unimproved Surface 
Answer
Parking on dirt, grass, new gravel area, or other non-hardened area is prohibited. 

Question
Unsanitary Conditions 

Answer
Unsanitary conditions are defined by the City Code as "unfit for human habitation" (C.C. 4525.07).  Unsanitary conditions can be caused by insect or rodent infestation, lack of bathroom facilities or water service, and general uncleanliness. 


Commission Areas and Historic Districts

Question
What is an area commission?  
Answer

An area commission is an advisory body that exists to work with City departments, businesses,  and citizens to improve a given area and maintain the characteristics of the area in which they operate.  In 2010, there were 16 different area commissions within the City, all of which are listed in Chapter 3111 of the City Code

Question
What is a historic district? 
Answer

A historic district is an area or neighborhood in which no alterations or exterior work can be done on a property without approval.  This approval comes from an architectural review commission.  The commission issues, in concert with the City Historic Preservation Officer, a Certificate of Appropriateness (CofA).  A CofA is only issued if the changes to the property in question do not affect its existing and historic characteristics.  further information about historic districts and properties, and the process with which to determine if you need a CofA , can be found on the Historic Preservation website.  

Question
What kind of work requires a Certificate of Appropriateness? 
Answer

A Certificate of Appropriateness is requires when any exterior rennovations, repairs, or alterations are made.  Some of these items include, but aren't limited to:

  • Roof, window, door, or gutter repair or replacement;
  • Painting or siding;
  • Brick or mortar repair or replacement;
  • Alterations, repairs, or replacement of a porch, patio or deck;

If you are unsure, contact the City of Columbus Historic Preservation Officer.

Question
When do I need to have my Certificate of Appropriateness? 
Answer

You must have your Certificate of Appropriateness BEFORE commencing any work.  In addition, you must have your Certificate of Appropriateness before applying for any required building permits.  Here is a link to the application for your Certificate of Appropriateness

Question
How do I find out if I live in a Historic District? 
Answer

Here is a map of the existing Historic Districts:

historic districts

If you are unsure of live in a historic district, you can contact the Code Enforcement Supervisor  who manages the area in which you live.