Clermont County Public Health needs citizen participation to assist in the prevention and elimination of hazards to the public’s health. Both Clermont County Public Health (CCPH) and citizens have a responsibility in this effort to maintain a healthy environment. The nuisance complaint process can be a vital part of this effort when it is used appropriately.
A concerned citizen should take the following two steps prior to filing a formal complaint with Public Health:
A complaint must be submitted online or in writing before it can be investigated. Citizen complaints are not accepted over the phone. The only exceptions are emergency situations such as a total loss of heat in a rental unit during freezing conditions, and a significant fuel or chemical spill. If a fuel or chemical spill occurs, call 911 immediately.
The complaint form should be filled out in full with directions to the property and the details of the nuisance condition. The complaint must be signed, and an address and daytime phone number provided. It is important that the inspecting sanitarian is able to contact the complainant if more information is needed. Signed complaints will be given priority. Anonymous complaints will be investigated when the time is available.
Complaints are generally investigated in the order in which they are received. Turn around time is usually a week to ten days, but may be less, depending on the number of complaints received. Heating complaints will be given immediate attention if it is an emergency.
Once a nuisance complaint is filed with our office it becomes a public record. Anyone may obtain a copy of a complaint file upon request.
Investigation of Complaints
A complaint investigation is performed by a registered sanitarian (health inspector), or a sanitarian-in-training, and is usually initiated with an inspection of the property or facility. Unannounced inspections are preferred whenever possible so that representative conditions can be observed. The complainant’s presence will usually be necessary during the investigation of a housing complaint and may need to be scheduled so that the sanitarian can gain access to the home. Public health officials have the legal authority under state law to inspect a property during the course of a complaint investigation even if the property is posted.
The sanitarian will attempt to determine if the complaint is valid, or invalid. Such a determination will be based mainly on observations at the site. Hearsay is not evidence, but the sanitarian will consider information provided by the complainant and other parties. Once the sanitarian has gathered sufficient evidence and a determination has been made regarding the validity of the complaint, the sanitarian will inform the complainant of the findings as soon as possible, unless the complaint is anonymous, or no contact information has been provided.
A complaint will be marked “invalid” if there is no public health nuisance condition and there are no violations of regulations, or of applicable State laws. If a complaint is invalid, then it will be closed.
A complaint will be marked “valid” if there is a public health nuisance condition or if there is a violation of Clermont County public health nuisance regulations, or of applicable State laws. If a complaint is valid the sanitarian will determine the appropriate course of action required to abate the public health nuisance.
Correction of Violations
If a complaint is valid, then a “Notice of Violation” may be sent to the property owner. The Notice will require corrective action and the abatement of the health nuisance within a specified time limit. The time limit will vary depending on the type of health nuisance found. The recipient of the Notice will be given a reasonable amount of time to correct the nuisance. Seven days is usually allowed to correct a garbage violation, five days for high grass, and thirty days for sewage violations. Time extensions may be granted at the sanitarian’s discretion if circumstances warrant an extension.
If a Notice has been sent, then a re-inspection of the property will be performed after the deadline has expired in order to assess compliance. If the nuisance condition has been abated, then the complaint will be closed and becomes part of the public record.
If the nuisance condition has not been abated by the deadline, and the property owner has been uncooperative, then the complaint may be referred to the Board of Health. The Board meets on the second Wednesday of every month. The Board will review the case file, and may declare that a public health nuisance exists.
Another re-inspection of the property will be performed after the deadline given by the Board has expired. If the nuisance condition has not been abated by the deadline and the property owner remains uncooperative the complaint may be referred to the Clermont County Prosecuting Attorney for legal action.
If a complaint has been referred to the Prosecuting Attorney, and a subsequent re-inspection reveals that the nuisance has still not been abated the sanitarian will ask the Prosecuting Attorney to begin legal proceedings against the property owner. The property owner will then be prosecuted in court to the fullest extent possible.
If the nuisance condition exists at a rental property, and the landlord has not corrected the nuisance, then the tenant may be required to vacate the property, and the property must remain vacant until the nuisance has been abated. Public Health may also begin proceedings to have water service to the property suspended, and the property may be posted.
Clermont County Public Health does not correct health nuisance violations directly. It is the responsibility of the property owner to correct any conditions which are creating a public health nuisance or has the potential to create one.