One of the leading news stories today is the tragic collapse of the condominium building in Surfside, Florida. As a result, a lot of attention has turned to building regulations. If you are an Illinois property owner, chances are you have had some sort of exposure to the world of building regulations. While zoning regulations regulate the land that a building sits on, building regulations regulate the structures themselves. Below are eight things you should know about building regulations in Illinois:
- Building regulations may be enacted by both local governments and State governments. If a municipality is a home-rule unit, enacting building regulations is within its rights of. A non-home-rule unit on the other hand only has that power which it acquires through the State legislature. In other words, it has no inherent power of its own. In dealing with building regulations, it is always important to consider whether the municipality is home-rule or not.
- A local government’s power is most powerful when dealing with public health. Under 65 ILCS 5/11-31-2(a), a municipality can move for an injunction against a property owner if a building does not meet certain minimum health and safety standards. The government does not need to wait until the public health is harmed before it can act.
- As a general rule, building regulations are only applicable to a limited jurisdiction. However, certain statutes do provide for extraterritorial jurisdiction. For example, under 65 ILCS 5/7-4-1, health and quarantine ordinances may apply “within one-half mile of the corporate limits.” Likewise, regulations affecting wind farms apply within one and one-half mile radius surrounding a municipality’s zoning jurisdiction. 65 ILCS 5/11-13-26. Other examples abound. It is therefore important to consider the full scope of a regulation’s territorial reach.
- Another general rule is that building regulations usually apply prospectively, not retrospectively. However, a code may intend to apply retrospectively and, in some cases, courts have found retrospective application appropriate. A court here will typically consider whether the benefits to the public are proportionate to the harm to the property owner.
- A legal nonconforming building is a building which is not in compliance with the current ordinance but is nonetheless allowed because the building was constructed prior to the current ordinance in place. A legal nonconforming status is a property right enjoyed by property owners and cannot be easily taken away. However, if a building was not legal when it was constructed, it would not qualify for legal nonconforming status. In addition, a property owner could lose a legal nonconforming status if the property is abandoned, is being reconverted, or is damaged or destroyed.
- Generally, a local government owes no duty to, and therefore not liable to, the general public when it fails to enforce its regulations. Moreover, efforts to hold local governments accountable also run into statutory immunities such as the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act.
- A big issue in the area of building regulations concerning nuisances. Simply put, a nuisance is something that unlawfully annoys, harms, or interferes with the public. 65 ILCS 5/11-60-2 is the Illinois statute that permits local governments combat nuisances, including the ability to take emergency action when there is imminent danger. It is not uncommon for municipalities to move to demolish certain nuisances. However, a municipality could be held liable if the demolished building was not really a nuisance or if other more reasonable methods could have resolved the underlying issues. A municipality may also address nuisances by imposing fees.
- In order to enforce its ordinances, a municipality may also conduct an inspection. As a general rule, however, the Fourth Amendment requires warrants in order to search private property. The law concerning warrants and warrantless searches it varied and cannot be fully covered here. But it should be noted that there are a number of instances where a warrant may not be needed. For example, warrantless inspections have been found lawful for firearm and liquor businesses.
If you are currently dealing with an issue involving building regulations, it is important to know the confines of the law in this area. Contact the attorneys at Dalton & Tomich PLC to learn more.