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Ordinance Guide - FAST Team/Nuisance Abatement

 

(a) In those instances in which the owners, tenants or persons in possession of property that is subject to a suit under this division indicate a willingness to attempt to rectify their nuisance conditions without a suit or in settlement of a suit, the city attorney may agree to forebear or abate the suit under chapter 125 upon a written undertaking by the owners, tenants or persons in possession of the property to take one or more of the following actions, as appropriate:

(1) The installation and use of lighting on the property to avoid dark passageways and exterior areas;

(2) The initiation or enhancement of privately funded security patrol services on the property;

(3) The inspection of vacant commercial or residential units or spaces to ensure that they remain secure and do not become a harborage for criminal activities;

(4) The removal or eviction of persons who have been associated with the causation of criminal activities on the property;

(5) The installation or enhancement of fencing and/or other crime deterrent devices on the property; and/or

(6) The installation or enhancement of other appropriate security or crime deterrent devices and/or procedures, as determined by the city attorney or other city officials or designees.

(b) Without limiting the prerogatives of the city attorney to develop appropriate agreement forms for the written undertakings of owners, tenants or persons in possession of property to abate nuisance conditions, the following requirements are specifically authorized to be included, as appropriate:

(1) That the undertaking be for a specific period of time, be binding upon any subsequent owner, tenant or person in possession of the property, and be duly recorded in the county real property records;

(2) That the owners, tenants or persons in possession be required to give immediate notice to appropriate city officials upon any transfer of the property title, leasehold or other interest involved;

(3) That the understanding be specific as to the exact nature of the actions that will be taken by the owners, tenants or persons in possession of the property and include a time schedule for the completion or implementation of the various items;

(4) That the owners, tenants or persons in possession of the property reimburse the city for inspection expenses, public safety expenses, legal expenses and costs of any other nature that have been incurred by the city in its actions to abate the nuisance or settle any matter relating to any nuisance condition that is associated with the property;

(5) That the owners, tenants or persons in possession be required to post a good and sufficient bond, assign a financial account or provide other security to cover the city's legal expenses and related enforcement costs for the prosecution of a suit under chapter 125 in case the undertaking is not timely and fully complied with; and/or

(6) That the owners, tenants or persons in possession be required to reimburse the city for public safety costs that are in excess of a level that is deemed to be reasonable in relation to the circumstances surrounding the use of the property.

(c) The undertaking of the owners, tenants or persons in possession of a property to take actions as provided in subsections (a) and (b), above, may be monitored by the city attorney and the police department to ensure that the measures are implemented as agreed. In the event that the measures are not timely implemented or are not effective in abating the nuisance conditions, then the city attorney shall not in any manner be precluded from initiating or further prosecuting a matter under chapter 125.

(Ord. No. 94-923, § 3, 9-7-94)

Commentary

This is known as the city's "FAST" ordinance. The FAST team (which stands for Forfeiture Abatement and Seizure Team) consists of representatives of the City Attorney's office and the Houston Police Department. This ordinance allows them to work with the owner of a nuisance property in an attempt to remedy various problems. If the owner is uncooperative, the city can file suit under state law to shut the property down.

By adopting and following certain rental policies and procedures, prudent owners and managers should be able to avoid being designated as a nuisance property. Proper resident rental criteria may be used to avoid letting problem residents and occupants in; proper procedures may be used to deal with problem residents or occupants on the property.

For more information, contact the FAST unit at (713) 308-3458.