In an effort to ensure the safety and quality of Oskaloosa neighborhoods, the City has adopted a new Vacant Buildings Registration Program. The Program is administered by the Development Services Department. Important information about the program is provided below.
Any vacant building or partially vacant building within Oskaloosa's City limits must be registered with the City. Property owner(s) or an owner's representative must register vacant buildings on an annual basis or if there is a change in property ownership. The registration fee is $100 per building, per year. Unregistered vacant buildings may face a penalty ranging from an unregistered property fee to a municipal infraction or pursuit of title to the property pursuant to Iowa Code §657A.1OB.
The Vacant Buildings Registration Form (PDF) and annual fee payment must be submitted in-person or by mail to the Development Services Department at Oskaloosa City Hall, 220 S. Market Street.
All vacant buildings will have the exterior inspected annually and must meet the requirements outlined in the Vacant Buildings Registration Checklist (pdf). Interiors of commercial buildings will be inspected separately by the fire department.
- Why did the city adopt the vacant buildings code?
To ensure a safe and desirable community. Feedback from recent outreach efforts and surveys indicated repeat concerns with empty, underutilized buildings and buildings in poor condition. Studies also indicate a strong need for more housing. Oskaloosa’s comprehensive plan includes a vision to improve quality of life, with goals for quality neighborhoods and a range of housing types, encouraging reinvestment and enhancement, conservation rather than demolition, and improving safety. One of the adopted action steps is to create a vacant building registry with inspection procedures. This will help the city ensure buildings are safe, secure, and maintained with no code violations or illicit activity.
- Do I need to register my building?
Only buildings which are or become vacant, partially vacant, or unoccupied must register for this program.
- How much does this cost?
The registration fee is $100 per building per year. This is the estimated annual cost for administration and inspection. If there is more than one vacant building on a single property this fee will cover all buildings at the same property address.
- What is considered a “vacant building”?
In summary, any building which is unoccupied, or if no person resides in the building or operates a lawful regularly for business. A building will also be considered vacant if it is unsecured, declared unfit for occupancy, a dangerous or dilapidated building, subject to health or safety violations, or lacks one or more utilities for 180 consecutive days. Storage of items or property does not constitute occupancy unless authorized by the Oskaloosa zoning ordinance. Please refer to chapter 15.34 of the Oskaloosa Municipal Code for a full description.
- What is considered “unoccupied”?
In summary, a building which lacks physical presence for 180 consecutive days for the purpose for which it was erected or a building unfit for occupancy due to failure to meet minimum standards. Storage of items or property does not constitute occupancy unless authorized by the Oskaloosa zoning ordinance. Please refer to chapter 15.34 of the Oskaloosa Municipal Code for a full description.
- What do I need to provide with registration?
Owners will provide property information, contact information, a descriptive plan for the property, status of utilities, proof of insurance, an option to release information to potential buyers or developers, and acknowledgements of applicable code standards. Registration information will be valid for one year.
- What is the deadline to register my building?
The first registration for vacant buildings must be complete on or before November 17, 2023 and is valid for one (1) year. If the building remains vacant, it must be re-registered every year before the previous registration expires. If a vacant building changes ownership, it must be registered by the new owner within ninety (90) days. If an occupied building becomes vacant, the building must be registered within ninety (90) days.
- What if I have more than one building on my property?
One registration form and $100 fee will cover any vacant buildings on a single property using one shared address for all buildings. If there is more than one property/lot/parcel, or more than one address for the buildings, each property address must be registered separately and fee paid separately.
- Must I register if my building is partially vacant?
Yes, if your building has one or more stories or tenant units vacant it must be registered.
- If I use my building for storage, do I need to register it?
In some circumstances yes. A building used for storage does not constitute occupancy unless the storage was lawfully established and authorized by the Oskaloosa zoning ordinance. Storage as a primary land use must meet applicable zoning standards. The property’s actual use and zoning designation will be considered and determined by the zoning administrator. The following are examples of storage uses which are likely authorized and not required to register:
- Warehousing in an industrial district.
- Personal/convenience storage in an industrial district or with a conditional use permit in a commercial zoning district.
- A mixed use commercial building with supplementary business storage in a commercial or industrial district.
- Legal nonconforming (grandfathered) land uses as determined by the zoning administrator.
The following are examples of storage which are likely unauthorized and required to register. These may also undergo a zoning compliance review by the zoning administrator.
- Use of a home or structure for storage in any residential district, except for accessory residential garages or storage sheds with an occupied primary structure.
- Use of buildings for storage or warehousing in the downtown historic district, and most commercial districts, except for accessory structures with an occupied primary structure.
- Do I need to register my vacant lot?
No lots are not required to be registered with the city.
- Are there any exemptions?
Yes. The following situations are exempt from the registration requirement:
- A building actively under construction or renovation with a valid permit.
- A property actively listed for sale or lease which meets certain conditions at OMC Sec. 15.34.070B.
- A residential property where the owner resides elsewhere for less than six (6) months per calendar year.
- How long is my registration valid?
A paid registration is valid for one (1) year. If the building remains vacant, it must be re-registered every year before the previous registration expires. If a vacant building changes ownership, it must be registered by the new owner within ninety (90) days. If an occupied building becomes vacant, the building must be registered within ninety (90) days.
- What is the penalty for not registering my building?
Failure to register a vacant building or suspected vacant building may result in the city issuing a Notice of Violation charging an unregistered property fee of $50 per day up to $500 per property. Failure to comply within the specified time frame may also result in legal remedies including municipal infraction, civil suit for abatement of nuisance, or proceedings to acquire title under Iowa Code Section 657A.10B.
- Can I get a refund if my vacant building later becomes occupied or is sold?
No, there will be no refunds or partial refunds issued. Registrations will simply expire with no need to renew. If a vacant building changes ownership, it must be registered by the new owner within ninety (90) days.
- What are the standards for vacant building inspections?
In general, buildings must be structurally sound, weathertight and secure, maintained and in good repair, with no openings or missing materials. The premises must be free of trash or debris, public walkways free of snow or ice, and no excessive vegetation or other public nuisances as defined by the Oskaloosa Municipal Code. A checklist for vacant buildings is available at https://www.oskaloosaiowa.org/619/Vacant-Buildings. Please refer to chapter 15.34 of the Oskaloosa Municipal Code for a full description.
- Am I required to occupy my vacant building?
No are required only to register your building annually and ensure it continues to meet minimum applicable standards.
- I received a letter from the city but my building is not vacant. What do I do?
Contact the Development Services Department at 641-673-7472 to discuss your circumstances and how your building is utilized. Staff will determine if registration is or is not required by ordinance. An owner may be asked to sign an affidavit to document the situation.
- Can I file an appeal?
Yes. Any owner has the right to appeal a Notice of Violation from a city official to The Building Code Board of Appeals. Appeals are filed in writing. See Oskaloosa Municipal Code sections 15.34.090 and contact the Development Services Department for more information.