Code Enforcement, Code Compliance/311 Services: What happens when I call and complain? What if someone complains about me?dfwnewsa | January 25, 2024 | 0 | Dallas News
As the City of Dallas has taken on a greater initiative to address code violations more effectively, many residents wonder what is the difference between City and Neighborhood Code? And what responsibilities do residents and city governments have in maintaining code compliance?
“Code Compliance is another tier of public safety, like police officers and fire [rescue],” says Eric Onyechefule, Public Information Coordinator with Code Compliance. The department, Eric explains, exists in the city to uphold standards of cleanliness and safety across its residential, commercial, and public spaces.
City Code pertains to issues affecting public spaces that pose a threat to the safety of Dallas residents. Potholes, like all violations, could be reported through a typical 311 request, either by phone, online, or through the OurDallas App. While some states offer reimbursement for drivers whose vehicles sustain damage as a result of poor road maintenance, Texas law states that cities are not responsible for damage caused by street debris or potholes. For assistance, drivers are only covered for damages through some insurance policies.
According to the City of Dallas’ website, hazardous potholes are typically assigned to a crew within 3 business days pending staffing and/or possible weather concerns and closures. A pothole is typically defined as hazardous if it is 2 or more inches deep and over 8 inches in diameter. “If larger than a pothole repair, the request is referred for a routine Street Repair and the SLA [service level agreement] is 45 business days.”
Faulty or broken streetlights, lack of proper road safety signage, and unsafe/broken sidewalks are all additional examples of issues reported through 311 requests. Of these issues, streetlight malfunction is considered highly urgent and encouraged to be reported over the phone directly with a code compliance agent immediately. Sign obstruction/knockdown reports, sidewalk repair requests, and sidewalk petitions can be submitted either over the phone or online. Other code violations, such as illegal dumping, can potentially affect public health and safety and are handled by Nuisance Abatement.
Upholding Neighborhood Code, variably, is largely the responsibility of residents and owners rather than the city. Violations like high grass (higher than 12 inches), alley obstruction, and bulk trash are the most common. “Neighborhood Code is made up of inspectors and neighborhood code representatives,” Eric says. “They deal with apartment complex issues, meet with community members from neighborhood associations, that sort of thing.”
Eric explains that in the context of the Neighborhood Code division, the department is more committed to working with the public toward a resolution rather than issuing fines.
“When it comes to [code compliance], if there’s an issue we always want to educate more than enforce. Let’s say we have someone who, on their property, they have high weeds,” Eric says. “The first thing we do is not hand out a citation or a notice. We work with them before issuing a violation.”
The phrase code enforcement, Eric explains, has a more punitive connotation than they intend to hold. “Like I said, it’s not about enforcing, it’s more about educating. But we will enforce it if we have to,” Eric says, describing maintaining compliance as a collaborative effort rather than a means of regulation. Rentals for gardening equipment are offered to neighbors in the event they do not already own proper equipment.
After receiving prior warning, residents violating neighborhood codes like high grass or bulk trash may receive a court citation or a bill for the City’s mowing/removal services. If citations continue to accrue, as with any city fine, repeated failure to pay or commit to performing community service to alleviate this debt may result in further disciplinary action and potentially jail time in rare cases.
It’s important to discuss options with your local code authority in finding a solution in a timely manner as the city explains that keeping lines of communication open could help residents avoid fines entirely. Code Compliance often will offer additional time and resources for those struggling to uphold code on their property.
Most 311 requests are addressed in 24 hours if life-threatening. Requests like these include AC/heat failure in the Summer/Winter, broken power lines, and other immediate threats to the health and well-being of the public. Requests related to violations such as high weeds, substandard structures, and litter are addressed within three days. All other concerns will take up to seven days for the department to address.
The Role of Code Compliance
When asked about Code Compliance’s larger role, Eric says, “Everything we do is all for the greater good of Dallas. […] We want people to have this city be something everyone can be proud of. Whether you live in the north, south, east, or west part of Dallas, we’re all trying to make the city better as a whole.”
Code Compliance has commissioned ads online, on television, and on the radio to ensure Dallas residents report violations to 311 or OurDallas. Eric explains that this is done to address issues early on and minimize the overall number of violations. “It helps our inspectors, they don’t want to be going out and [searching] for whatever the issue is. Inspectors just want to make sure everything gets addressed and handled quickly.”
To make a 311 request, dial 311 or (214) 670-3111 to report over the phone. To make your request online, visit https://dallascrm.force.com/public/servicetypes or download the OurDallas app on the App Store.