Vacant Building Registration Program
Structures which are left vacant for extended periods of time have proven to breed crime, pose public safety risks, reduce property values, and reduce the economic viability of the community. The City of Urbana established the Vacant Building Registration Program as a means to identify and register vacant building located within the corporation limits, to govern the responsibilities of vacant building owners, and to provide appropriate incentives for vacant buildings to be returned to productive use. As a result of the program, the cost or burden of the existence of vacant buildings will be redirected from the general citizenry to the owners of vacant buildings.
Chapter 1341 of the City of Urbana Codified Ordinances was passed by City Council in October 2017.
An owner of a structure which meets the definition of a vacant building as explained in Chapter 1341.02 shall register such structure with the Department of Zoning & Compliance within 90 days of it becoming vacant or within 30 days of being notified.
Any owner who is served a notice of a vacant structure has the right to appeal the decision of the Zoning & Compliance Officer. A written notice of appeal must be submitted to the Department of Zoning & Compliance within 10 business days of the receipt of the notice. If the issue is not resolved by the appellant and Zoning & Compliance Officer, the appeal will be forwarded to the Board of Nuisance Appeals (BNA) for a ruling.
A fee schedule was established as a part of this program in order to provide appropriate incentives for owners of vacant buildings to care for them properly, seek to fill them, and in appropriate cases, demolish them. The annually increased fee amounts are intended to increase pressure on the vacant building owner, absorb costs for possible demolition, hazard abatement of or repairs to vacant structures.
Registration (Years 0-1)
1st Renewal (Years 1-2)
2nd Renewal (Years 2-3)
3rd Renewal (Years 3-4)
Every Subsequent Renewal
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is the goal of this program?
The goal of the Vacant Building Enforcement (VBR) Program is to establish a process for identifying and registering vacant structures within the City of Urbana. Additionally, the program shall govern the responsibilities of the owners of vacant structures, and provide incentives for structures to be returned to productive use, and as a result, the cost or burden of a vacant structure will be redirected from the general citizenry to the owners of the vacant structures.
Why is the City requiring that vacant buildings be registered?
Structures left vacant for extended periods of time have been proven to breed crime, pose public safety risks, reduce property values, and decrease the economic viability of the community. With the registration, the City will have access to current owner contact information or the person responsible for the property, a plan for the property to be returned to productive use, and access to the property to conduct semi-regular interior and exterior inspections.
Can I report a vacant building?
Yes! You can report a vacant building by filling out our Report a Vacant Building Form
What are the boundaries of the Vacant Building Registration Program?
Any and all vacant structures located within the corporation limits of the City of Urbana are required to register with the City.
Does this program apply to vacant lots?
No. The program only applies to vacant structures.
Does this program apply to vacant units within an otherwise occupied building?
This program will only be applicable to multi-unit structures when more than half (1/2) the units are not currently occupied.
What is the definition of a vacant building?
The definition of a vacant building is outlined in Chapter 1341.02
Are there any exemptions to the Vacant Building Registration Program?
Yes. The following are examples of structures that are exempt from the VBR Program:
- Buildings under active construction
- Buildings that were damaged by fire or some other extreme weather event
- Buildings that are listed for sale with a State of Ohio licensed Realtor
- Other special circumstances granted at the discretion of the Director of Administration and/or the Zoning & Compliance Officer.
What happens if the property is sold?
A new owner shall register or re-register a vacant building within 30 days of any transfer of an ownership interest in the vacant building unless the building is to become occupied immediately upon transfer.
What if I received a notice, but my building is not vacant?
Contact the Department of Zoning & Compliance to explain your specific situation and provide documentation proving that the building is not vacant (i.e. current lease agreements).
How often must I renew my registration?
The owner of a vacant structure must renew their registration every 12 months.
Is there a fee to register?
Yes – a fee schedule was established in order to provide appropriate incentives for owners of vacant buildings to care for them properly, seek to fill them, and in some cases demolish them. The annually increased fee amounts are intended to absorb the costs for possible demolition, hazard abatement, or repairs to vacant buildings. If an owner successfully restores the building to occupancy or demolishes the structure within the first 12 months, then the fee will be refunded, less an administrative fee of 5%. In each subsequent year, if the registration is renewed in a timely fashion, there have been no building or fire code violations, one-half of the previous year's registration fee shall be refunded to the owner, less an administrative charge equal to 5% of the amount refunded.
How long do I have to register my vacant building?
An owner of a structure which meets the definition of a vacant building shall register with the Department of Zoning Compliance within 90 days of it becoming vacant or within 30 days of being notified.
What happens if I do not register my building?
Any person violating any provision of the VBR Program, including not timely registering his/her vacant structure shall be subject to the penalties provided by Section 1339.99 of the Codified Ordinances of the City of Urbana.
What constitutes a Vacant Building Plan?
A vacant building plan, at a minimum, must contain one of the following:
- Demolition – If the building is to be demolished, a demolition plan indicating the proposed time frame for demolition which includes starting within 30 days of acceptance of the proposed demolition timeline and does not exceed one year in accordance with the Ohio Building Code. (Note: Demo permit from the Champaign County Building Department is required)
- Vacant & Secure – If the building is to remain vacant, a plan for ensuring the building is secured in accordance with all applicable building and fire codes along with the procedure that will be used to maintain the property, and a statement of the reasons why the building will be left vacant. One example of an appropriate Vacant & Secure Plan is a building that is listed for sale. (Note: This does not exempt the structure from any applicable nuisance or zoning codes)
- Rehabilitation – If the building is to be returned to appropriate occupancy or use, rehabilitation plans for the building and grounds are required. The rehabilitation plan shall not exceed 12 months from the time they obtain permits unless an extension is granted from the Department of Zoning & Compliance. Any repairs, improvements or alterations to the property must comply with any applicable zoning, housing, historic preservation, or building codes, and the property must be properly secured during the rehabilitation.
How is the City choosing which vacant buildings to target first?
The VBR Program is applicable to all vacant structures and all vacant structures will eventually be addressed by this program. However, due to limited resources, the Department will subjectively grade each property against five different factors and weights. The final grade will be used to prioritize the order in which we address/enforce vacant structures in the City of Urbana.
Will the City inspecting my property?
Yes. The Director of Administration and/or the Department of Zoning & Compliance reserves the right to inspect any premises in the City for the purpose of enforcing the VBR Program. An owner of a vacant structure shall provide access to all interior and exterior portions of a vacant building in order to complete inspections. All structures will be subject to the following inspections:
- Exterior inspections – Twice a year
- Interior inspections – At the beginning of each registration period
- Interior & exterior inspections – Upon property transfer
- Any inspection at the discretion of the Director of Administration or the Zoning & Compliance Officer.
When did the Vacant Building Registration Program begin?
The VBR Program will begin enforcement of the regulations in March 2019. However, as mentioned above, the program will be systematically phased into existence.