The Vermont Statutes Online
§ 5001. Legislative findings
The general assembly finds:
(1) There exist in the various municipalities numerous dwellings and dwelling premises which are substandard due to dilapidation, deterioration and disrepair, structural defects, uncleanliness, lack of adequate ventilation, light, sanitary, heating and hot water facilities, overcrowding of dwellings, occupancy of unfit dwellings and other conditions and defects which increase the hazards of illness, disease, fire, accidents and other calamities;
(2) These conditions, singly or in combination, endanger the health, safety, morals and general welfare of the people of the various municipalities and give impetus to the development, continuation, extension and aggravation of blighted and substandard housing conditions;
(3) The establishment and maintenance of minimum standards for dwellings is necessary to the protection of the public health, safety, morals and general welfare. (Added 1969, No. 270 (Adj. Sess.))
§ 5002. Definitions
As used in this chapter:
(1) "Board" means the board established or designated as the housing board of review.
(2) "Dwelling" means any building or structure or part thereof, including hotels and rooming houses, that is used, occupied, or intended to be used or occupied for human habitation, and includes dwelling premises, appurtenances and facilities belonging to the dwelling or usually enjoyed therewith.
(3) "Dwelling premises" means the land and auxiliary buildings thereon used or intended to be used in connection with the dwelling.
(4) "Enforcing officer" means the head, or his or her duly authorized representative, of the division, bureau, office, department or agency responsible for enforcing and administering any ordinance or regulation adopted under this chapter.
(5) "Municipality" means a city, town, or incorporated village. (Added 1969, No. 270 (Adj. Sess.).)
§ 5003. Powers of municipalities
(a) For the purposes of promoting the public health, safety, morals or general welfare, and for the purpose of making dwellings and dwelling premises safe, sanitary and fit for human habitation, a municipality may adopt, amend and revise an ordinance for the establishment and enforcement of minimum standards for dwellings. Any such ordinance shall be adopted, amended or revised in the manner prescribed in sections 1972 and 1973 of this title. Any nationally recognized code, rule or regulation or portions thereof regarding minimum standards for dwellings and dwelling premises that has been printed in book or pamphlet form may be adopted by reference.
(b) Any ordinance adopted pursuant to this chapter shall include:
(1) Provision that any order provided for in this chapter shall be recorded in the office in which a deed of the property would be recorded as provided by law, and the order shall thereby be effective against any purchaser, mortgagee, attaching creditor, lien holder or other person whose claim or interest in the property arises subsequent to the recording of the order;
(2) A relocation program for those persons displaced by any action taken pursuant to subsection (c) of this section;
(3) Provision that when the enforcing officer finds that any order issued under this section has been complied with, he or she shall issue forthwith a cancellation of the order.
(c) Any ordinance adopted pursuant to this chapter may include:
(1) Minimum standards with respect to facilities and equipment in dwellings including, but not limited to, provisions relating to kitchen sinks, flush toilets and lavatory basins, bathtubs and showers, hot and cold water lines, rubbish and garbage storage and disposal facilities, cooking facilities, water heating facilities, window screens, and provisions for elimination and prevention of insect and vermin infestation;
(2) Minimum standards with respect to lighting, ventilation, refrigeration, and heating including, but not limited to, provisions relating to window area, room light and ventilation, electrical outlets, heating facilities, lighting of halls and stairways, and refrigerated storage space;
(3) Minimum standards relating to the healthful, safe and sanitary maintenance of parts of dwellings and dwelling units including, but not limited to, provisions relating to weather-tight and rodent-proof foundations, floors, walls, ceilings, roofs, windows and doors, condition of chimneys and flues, condition and repair of stairs and porches, condition of plumbing fixtures, imperviousness of floor surfaces to water and functioning of facilities, pieces of equipment, and utilities;
(4) Minimum standards with respect to space, use and location including, but not limited to, provisions relating to floor space per occupant, size of rooms, bathroom glasses, ceiling height, cellar and basement occupancy, and means of egress;
(5) Minimum standards with respect to the provision of features for the safety of occupants including the installation and maintenance of flameproof and fireproof materials and the installation and maintenance of equipment to combat and prevent fires;
(6) Provisions fixing rights and responsibilities of owners, lessees, mortgagees, operators and occupants for the condition, maintenance, use and occupancy of dwellings and dwelling premises, including security deposits. An ordinance relating to security deposits may not limit how a security deposit is held;
(7) Provisions that the enforcing officer may enter, examine and survey all dwellings and dwelling premises at any reasonable time between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. and that the inspection shall be made so as to cause the least amount of inconvenience to the owner or occupant, consistent with the efficient performance of the duties of the enforcing officer, except that the enforcing officer may be authorized to enter, examine and survey all dwellings and dwelling premises at any time when an emergency tending to create an immediate danger to public health or safety exists;
(8) Provision that if entry for inspection is resisted or refused, a search warrant for entry may be issued by a district or superior judge upon presentation of affidavits establishing probable cause. Standards for determining probable cause may be the passage of time between inspections, the nature of the dwelling, the condition of the area or the need to determine if there has been compliance with a repair order previously issued but need not necessarily depend upon specific knowledge of the condition of the particular dwelling;
(9) Provisions that the enforcing officer may issue a notice of violation and order the repair, alteration or improvement of a dwelling or dwelling premises directed to the owner or other person responsible therefor under the ordinance;
(10) Provisions that the enforcing officer may declare any dwelling or dwelling premises unfit for human habitation if he or she finds that conditions exist in the dwelling which are a serious hazard or immediate peril to the health, safety or welfare of the occupants thereof, the occupants of neighboring dwellings or the general public;
(11) Provisions that whenever any dwellings or dwelling premises are found by the enforcing officer to be unfit for human habitation because of defects which constitute a serious hazard or immediate peril to the health, safety or welfare of the occupants of the dwelling or the public, the enforcing officer may:
(A) Order the dwelling or dwelling premises to be vacated and secured until such time as he or she determines that the dwelling is again fit for human habitation;
(B) Order the repair, alteration or improvement of the dwelling or dwelling premises except that the owner shall have the right to vacate and secure the dwelling or dwelling premises within seven days after receipt of the order by the owner or the owner's agent;
(C) Initiate demolition proceedings pursuant to sections 3113, 3114, 3115 and 3116 of this title;
(12) Provisions that the owner of any dwelling which has been found by the enforcing officer to be unfit for human habitation in accordance with subdivision (11) of this subsection, shall not sell, transfer, mortgage, lease or otherwise dispose thereof until the owner has furnished the intended grantee, mortgagee or lessee a true copy of the order and has notified the enforcing officer, in writing, of his or her intent to sell, transfer, mortgage, lease or otherwise dispose of the dwelling, or until the enforcing officer has found that the conditions causing the dwelling to be unfit for human habitation have been corrected. A transferee, mortgagee or lessee who has received actual notice or constructive notice shall be bound by the order on the date of the transfer, mortgage or lease without service of further notice upon him or her by the enforcing officer;
(13) Provisions that the enforcing officer may make such regulations as may be consistent with the proper enforcement of any ordinance enacted under this chapter. (Added 1969, No. 270 (Adj. Sess.); amended 1991, No. 229 (Adj. Sess.), § 2.)
§ 5004. Establishment of enforcement agency
If a municipality adopts an ordinance pursuant to section 5003 of this title it shall provide for the creation of such agencies, departments, divisions and offices as may be required to administer the powers and duties authorized by this chapter, and for the designation of the head of such agency, department, division or office, or his or her delegate as an enforcing officer under this chapter. (Added 1969, No. 270 (Adj. Sess.).)
§ 5005. Housing board of review
(a) If a municipality adopts an ordinance pursuant to section 5003 of this title it shall provide for the selection and organization of a housing board of review consisting of five members who shall be appointed by the legislative body. The chair, or in his or her absence, the acting chair, may administer oaths and compel the attendance of witnesses. All hearings of the board shall be open to the public.
(b) A housing board of review shall be governed by the following procedure:
(1) The board shall keep minutes of its proceedings, showing the vote upon each question, and shall keep records of its decisions and findings and the reasons therefor, and of its examinations and other official actions, all of which shall be filed in the office of the town or city clerk and shall be a public record;
(2) Any person aggrieved by an order issued by the enforcing officer may appeal to the board. The appeal shall be taken within seven days from the date of the order appealed from unless a different period is specified by ordinance. The appeal shall be in writing and shall specify the grounds therefor and the relief requested. The board shall immediately send a copy of the appeal to the enforcing officer who shall forthwith send to the board all evidence constituting the record upon which the order was based;
(3) An appeal to the board shall stay the effectiveness of the order appealed from unless the enforcing officer certifies to the board after notice of the appeal has been sent to him or her, that, by reason of facts stated in the certificate, a stay would, cause a serious hazard or imminent peril to the health or safety of the occupants of a dwelling or of the public. Upon consideration of such certificate, the board may give written notice to the appealing party specifying that the order shall be effective pending a hearing on the merits of the appeal in which case the effectiveness of the order shall not be stayed otherwise than by a restraining order which may be granted by a court of competent jurisdiction or application therefor and upon notice to the enforcing officer and on due cause shown;
(4) The board shall fix a reasonable time for the hearing of the appeal, give due notice thereof to the party making the appeal and the enforcing officer and decide it within a reasonable time. At the hearing any party may appear in person or by agent or attorney;
(5) If a municipality adopts an ordinance governing security deposits and further provides that a housing board of review shall hear and decide disputes related to security deposits, a landlord or tenant may request a hearing before the board without the involvement or order of an enforcing officer. A hearing shall be set and held by the board in the same manner as provided in subdivisions (1) through (4) of this subsection.
(c) The housing board of review shall have the following powers:
(1) The housing board of review may hear and decide appeals where it is alleged that there is error in any order, requirement, decision or determination made by an enforcing officer in the enforcement of any ordinance or regulation adopted under this chapter or where a municipality so provides, to resolve disputes related to security deposits for the occupancy of dwellings;
(2) Where, by reason of an extraordinary and exceptional condition or situation unique to the property involved, the strict application of any ordinance or regulation adopted under this chapter would result in peculiar and exceptional difficulties to, or exceptional and undue hardship upon, the person to whom an order has been issued, the housing board of review may vary from the strict application to the least extent necessary to relieve the difficulties, or hardship if the relief may be granted without substantial detriment to public health, safety, morals and general welfare and without substantial impairment of the intent and purpose of the ordinance or regulation;
(3) In exercising its powers, the board may in conformity with this chapter reverse or affirm wholly or partly, or may modify any order, requirement, decision or determination of the enforcing officer and may make such order, requirement, decision or determination as ought to be made, and to that end shall have all the powers of the enforcing officer from whom the appeal was taken and where a municipality so provides, the board may order that all, part or none of the portion of the security deposit which is withheld be retained by the owner or returned to the tenant;
(4) In order to hear an appeal, a majority of the board must be present. A concurring vote of a majority of the members of the board present at the hearing shall be necessary to reverse or modify any order or decision of the enforcing officer and to authorize a variance or modification in the application of any ordinance or regulation adopted under this chapter. When a tie vote occurs, the order of the enforcing officer shall be considered to be sustained. Except as provided in subsection 5006(b) of this title, the findings of the board shall be conclusive with respect to questions of fact and may be reviewed only as to questions of law. (Added 1969, No. 270 (Adj. Sess.); amended 1991, No. 229 (Adj. Sess.),§§ 3, 4.)
§ 5006. Court review
(a) Any person, including the enforcing officer, aggrieved by any decision of the board, may appeal to the superior court. The appeal shall not stay proceedings upon the decision appealed from, but the court may on application, upon notice to the board and on due cause shown, grant a restraining order. The board shall not be required to return the original papers acted on by it, but it shall be sufficient to return certified or sworn copies thereof or such portions thereof as may be pertinent and material to show the grounds of the decision appealed from and shall be verified.
(b) If upon the hearing it appears to the court that testimony is necessary for the proper disposition of the matter, it may take evidence or appoint a referee to take such evidence as it may direct and report the same to the court with his or her findings of fact and conclusions of law, which shall constitute a part of the proceedings upon which the determination of the court shall be made. The court may reverse or affirm wholly or partly or may modify the decision appealed from. (Added 1969, No. 270 (Adj. Sess.); amended 1971, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 206, eff. March 29, 1972; 1973, No. 193 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. April 9, 1974.)
§ 5007. Penalties
Municipalities may prescribe by ordinance penalties for any violation of any ordinance or regulation adopted under this chapter by a fine not to exceed $200.00 or by imprisonment for not more than 30 days, or both, for each violation thereof. Each day's failure to comply with any such provision shall constitute a separate violation. (Added 1969, No. 270 (Adj. Sess.).)
§ 5008. Court proceedings
If the enforcing officer finds that any person has failed to comply with any order issued by him or her within the time specified therein and that such person has failed to appeal such order within the time prescribed, he or she may notify the state's attorney of the county or the attorney of the municipality who shall bring suit in the name of the municipality to enforce such order. Such suit shall be brought in the superior court of the county in which the municipality is located and at the request of either party, the court shall advance the case so that it may be heard and determined with as little delay as possible. The court may issue a temporary injunction or order in any such proceedings and may exercise all the plenary powers available to such court to obtain compliance with the ordinance and any order issued pursuant thereto. The court may award costs of suit which may include, if the plaintiff prevails and the court deems the defense without substantial merit, the attorney's fees incurred by the plaintiff or so much thereof as the court finds reasonable. (Added 1969, No. 270 (Adj. Sess.), eff. July 1, 1970; amended 1971, No. 81, eff. April 16, 1971; 1973, No. 193 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. April 9, 1974.)
§ 5009. Construction
This chapter shall be construed most favorably to municipalities, its intention being to give them the fullest and most complete powers possible concerning the subject matter hereof. (Added 1969, No. 270 (Adj. Sess.).)
§ 5010. Effect of previously adopted ordinances
Ordinances, rules and regulations adopted by any municipality under chapter 83 of this title shall not be affected or in any way invalidated by the provisions of this chapter. The provisions of this chapter and ordinances and regulations adopted under its authority, shall not be subject to limitations, requirements or provisions contained in said chapter 83. (Added 1969, No. 270 (Adj. Sess.).)