Rep. Wengay Newton is likely to score a win in what will likely be his last Legislative Session.
Newton’s bill (HB 625) relating to public nuisance properties cleared the House Tuesday and is awaiting final approval in the Senate.
The bill defines the process for remedying properties and expands the definition activities that create a public nuisance by harboring criminal activity or that create some other public problem. It also extends authority to local Sheriffs to enjoin a nuisance complaint.
Nuisances include a building or other structure that “tends to annoy the community or injure the health of the community” or that becomes “manifestly injurious to the morals or manners of the people.”
A property is declared a nuisance if any place or premises have been used on more than two occasions within a six month period related to dealing in stolen property, assault and battery, burglary, theft, robbery, criminal gang activity or murder.
Properties declared a public nuisance would face a temporary injunction on the property or public forfeiture if the offending problems are not remedied within 10 days of notification or by a prescribed period of time allotted in certain situations.
The property owner or tenant, under the bill, would be provided a written notice informing them of the specific nuisance, notification of the 10-day window to correct problems and clarification that a temporary injunction on the property can be filed if the problems are not corrected.
If problems are not corrected within the initial 10-day window, the property owner or tenant would be provided with a second written notice informing them that the injunction will be filed within 15-days.
Exceptions are provided in some situations. If a defendant responds within the 10-day window of the first warning with proof that nuisance abatement cannot be reasonably completed within that time frame, an extension can be provided.
Rental properties are exempt from forfeiture or temporary injunction if the nuisance activity was carried out by a non-owner, however the property owner must commence rehabilitation of the property within 30 days of it being declared a nuisance and carry out that remedy in a reasonable time frame not defined in the bill.
Newton, a Democrat, is up for reelection to the House this year, however he has indicated he won’t seek a second term and instead will run for Pinellas County Commission.
The Senate companion to his bill (SB 888) by Keith Perry, a Republican, has sailed through all of its votes so far and appears poised to pass.