The Arlington Safe Structures Initiative was established to guide performance and compliance expectations at existing structures subject to the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code. Emphasis is placed on proactive community survey, systematic inspections and concentrated agency efforts at problem properties to assure complete and continued compliance
Complainants who identify conditions at private properties that they believe are substandard are encouraged to contact the code enforcement office to request an investigation. An initial investigation is typically performed within three to five business days, but may be expedited by staff if the conditions pose a significant life safety hazard.
Arlington has eight inspection districts; each district is staffed by a enforcement inspector who is responsible for conducting proactive inspections of conditions within their district. Inspectors conduct limited public area surveys of Arlington’s multi-family communities to assure compliance with property related codes and ordinances. Systematic comprehensive code inspections are performed at older multi-family properties as a protection to our residents and housing portfolio. Commercial entertainment district inspections are performed as part of a task force with health, police, fire, zoning and Virginia alcohol and beverage control agents.
Community Education and Outreach
We strive to educate our residents and business regarding code standards and expectations. We respond to many queries at our customer service lines and initialize 4-5,000 new investigations each year, and the majority of those investigations result from our proactive surveys and inspection programs. Collectively, enforcement inspectors attend more than 30 community meetings each year, addressing corporate concerns, advising residents about our programs, contact processes and community successes.
It’s often during other scheduled inspections that inspectors discover conditions that particular dangerous to occupants and the Arlington community overall. Inspectors annually address some 45 properties throughout Arlington with hoarding type conditions, 30% of which are considered severe and a danger to the occupants, the community and first responders who may be called upon in emergencies. Inspectors also address unsafe conditions created by the illegal conversion of structures into unapproved uses, construction without permit approvals and overcrowding of dwelling units based the building design standards, exclusive of occupant relation. Our expectation for equitable enforcement includes a protocol that inspectors address substandard conditions that are within plain view of neighboring properties placed in violation. As a 10-year-old standard, this protocol has reduced the number of citizen-initiated complaints and reduced violator complaints related to selective enforcement.