Common Violations

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Who to call when your neighborhood needs help 

The City of Fairfax is committed to preserving the livability of neighborhoods. Common violations are listed below, along with the contact information for the responsible agencies. City policy is to maintain confidentiality of complainants. However, anonymous reports also may be made directly to the departments or to the City's Neighborhood Concerns Hotline at 703-385-7800 (from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, excluding holidays) or by email

Code Administration: 703-385-7830
Blighted properties; Construction without permits; Tenant complaints; Overcrowding; Unsafe conditions; Improper drainage; Construction noise; Blocked exits (in businesses and apartment buildings); Exterior maintenance (paint, shutters, roof, gutters etc.); High grass or weeds; Improper storage of trash; Smoke detectors; Inoperative vehicles

Police Department: 703-385-7924
Animals; Loud parties; Noise violations; On-street parking

Public Works: 703-385-7810
Signs placed in the City right-of-way;  Safety hazards on public streets

Zoning: 703-385-7820
Operation of business from home; Parking on grass; Accessory structures; Accessory dwelling units (more than one household); Driveway paving area; Multiple families or dwelling units in single-family house; Temporary storage units; Temporary signs; Tree removal permits; Outdoor storage

Treasurer: 703-385-7902
Vehicles without City decal

What are some common violations?

Exterior Maintenance of Structures 
The Property Maintenance Code contains requirements for the maintenance of the interior and exterior of a structure, including single family homes. Items such as peeling paint, hanging gutters and broken windows would be cited under this code.

The Property Maintenance Code contains provisions for minimum room sizes for habitable space. A bedroom for one person must have an area of at least 75 square feet. Bedrooms where more than one person sleeps must provide at least 50 square feet per person. Bedrooms must also provide privacy and have a window or door leading to the outside for emergency escape and rescue. A window for emergency escape and rescue must normally open to at least 5.5 square feet in area and have a sill no more than 43 inches above the floor. Windows in basements generally are not large enough and are too high to meet this requirement.  

Multiple households in single-family house 
The City’s zoning regulations restrict the number of households that are allowed in a single-family house. A household is any of the following: (a) an individual, or two or more persons related to one another by blood, marriage, or legal adoption, living together as a single housekeeping unit in a single dwelling unit; or (b) up to four unrelated persons living together as a single housekeeping unit in a single dwelling unit; or (c) up to eight mentally ill, mentally retarded, or developmentally disabled persons, with one or more resident counselors or other staff persons living together as a single housekeeping unit in a single dwelling unit, which is licensed by the Department of Behavioral Health and Development services. 

What is a dwelling unit?
A dwelling unit is a building or portion of a building providing complete and permanent living facilities for one household, for long-term residency of 30 days or more, and all conditioned space is continuous and connected and fully accessible from all space by all occupants.  Dwelling unit includes the following: accessory dwelling units, single family attached, single family detached, duplex, multifamily, townhouse and upper story residential/mixed use building.

What happens when a single-family house is found to contain multiple families or dwelling units without approval for an accessory dwelling unit?
The City Zoning Inspector will visit any residential property that may contain multiple families or dwelling units. The inspector will gather information and contact the occupants or owner of the single-family house to determine if occupancy meets City regulations.  For further information, please contact the Zoning office 703-385-7820 or visit the Zoning website to register an online complaint. 

Accessory dwelling units (more than one household) 
The City’s zoning regulations allow for one accessory dwelling unit in a single-family house. Accessory dwelling units are restricted to owner-occupied property where at least one occupant is 55 years of age or older and/or at least one occupant has a physical or mental impairment. Accessory dwelling units include a kitchen, sleeping and bathroom facilities in addition to the facilities within the single-family house. Accessory dwelling units require a permit from the Zoning office, 703-385-7820

What you should do to find out if a single-family house has been approved for an accessory dwelling unit.
Contact the Zoning Office 703-385-7820 to find out if a single-family house in your neighborhood has received a permit for an accessory dwelling unit.

Inoperative Vehicles 
Code Administration is charged with enforcing laws related to the storage of inoperative vehicles. Cars are considered inoperable if they are in a state of disrepair, or lack both valid license plates and an inspection sticker. These vehicles may not be stored where they are visible.

Commercial Vehicles 
Commercial vehicles, such as buses, trucks and vans, may not be parked on streets in residential zones except for a reasonable time while a delivery is being made or work is being performed. School buses are exempt from this restriction during school hours. An owner or resident may request an exception from the City Manager to allow parking of a commercial vehicle for a specific purpose, such as the use of a rental van for moving. Specific conditions may be included with an approval of such a request.

No more than one commercial vehicle of a weight less than 9,000 pounds (such as a food truck, taxi, limousine, panel van, any vehicle with racks for construction equipment or any other vehicle displaying business name or logo) or one commercial trailer (such as a cargo trailer, landscape trailer, utility trailer or similar vehicle) may be kept on a residential driveway. Vehicles kept on grassy/unpaved areas in the side and rear yards must meet screening requirements of City Code Section 110-4.5.8.D.  Also view the City Code Section 98-147 regarding parking laws for commercial vehicles. 

Recreational Vehicles (Non-Commercial Motor Vehicle)
Recreational vehicles may not be parked overnight on residential streets. No more than one recreational vehicle may be kept on a residential driveway, and that vehicle may not weigh over 15,000 pounds.

Vehicle Decals 
Vehicles that are garaged in the city must display a vehicle decal on their windshield. Vehicle owners have 60 days after moving into the city or obtaining a new vehicle to register their vehicles for personal property taxes and obtain a city vehicle decal. Vehicles that appear to be in violation of this law may be reported to the city via Project Discovery

Blighted Properties 
A property is considered blighted if it is dilapidated, overcrowded, obsolete, lacks ventilation, light or sanitary facilities and if any of the above conditions result in a detriment to the health, safety welfare or morals of the community. Owners of properties that are considered blighted are notified that they must provide a plan to abate the conditions. If the owner fails to do so, City Council may approve an abatement plan developed by the director of Code Administration. The work will then be done at the City’s expense, and a lien will be filed against the property to recover the cost.

Tree Removal Permits 
A permit may be required from the Zoning Administrator to remove trees.  Visit the Zoning website for detailed information or for the requirements on a specific lot contact the Zoning office, 703-385-7820.

Overgrown Yards 
City Code prohibits growth of grass and weeds higher than six inches. After providing notice, the Office of Code Administration may have the grass or weeds cut at the owner’s expense.

Accumulation of Trash and Debris 
Piles of trash and debris, and improperly stored lumber, firewood and bricks provide a place for rodents to live. Trash and debris should be removed from the property. Other materials may be stored neatly, and at least 6 inches off the ground.

Improper Storage of Garbage 
Residents are required to store garbage in approved containers and to place the garbage for collection at appropriate times. Failure to do so provides a source of food for rodents.

Outdoor Storage
The Zoning Ordinance requires screening of stored items including vehicles, trailers, boats (or similar), recreational vehicles or similar vehicles kept on an unsurfaced area and places limits on the total area of the lot that can be used for outdoor storage in residential areas.  The storage of construction materials for an ongoing, permitted project is exempt. For further information, please contact the Zoning office at 703-385-7820.

Temporary Storage Units 
Temporary storage units designed and intended for off-site storage of household or other goods located may be located in a yard for a maximum of 30 days within a six-month period on a single-family lot; seven consecutive days within a six-month period on other residential sites; and on active construction sites, provided the unit is removed within 30 days of completion of construction.  Obtain a Zoning Permit for Temporary Use prior to placement of the unit on your property.  For further information, please contact the all Zoning office at 703-385-7820.

Construction Permits 
Code Administration issues permits and regulates construction. Permits are required for many home projects, including decks and remodeling. Failure to obtain the appropriate permits before beginning work will result in the issuance of a stop work order and a delay in the job.

Fire Prevention 
The Fire Prevention Code applies mainly to commercial and industrial buildings. Provisions of this code also are enforced in the common areas of apartment buildings (such as hallways, boiler rooms and laundry rooms.) Complaints regarding life safety violations, such as blocked exits and inoperative fire protection equipment, are given the highest priority.

Rental Property 
The City of Fairfax has adopted an ordinance to provide for inspection of rental properties. Owners of rental properties should notify the Office of Code Administration to obtain a Certificate of Compliance. Rental properties will be inspected for compliance with the Property Maintenance Code. Code Administration is required to inspect rental homes at any time a complaint is received from a tenant.

Smoke Alarms 
The law requires that a smoke alarm be installed in every home, on every level. Newer homes must also have a smoke alarm in every bedroom. Carbon monoxide detectors are not required, but are highly recommended in all homes with gas or oil appliances. For more information, visit our Fire & Life Safety Education web pages. Free smoke alarms may be available, please call (703)385-7830.

Temporary Signs 
The Zoning office issues permits for temporary signs including advertising signs, real estate signs and political signs. For information contact the Zoning office, 703-385-7820.  Signs placed in the City right-of-way or on utility poles will be removed without notice and discarded by the Department of Public Works.

Prohibited Accessory Structures
The Zoning Ordinance prohibits certain types of accessory structures such as steel arch buildings, temporary, portable and inflatable garages and carports and converted shipping containers or semi-tractor containers.  Use of these types of storage structures could result in enforcement action including civil penalties.  For information contact the Zoning office, 703-385-7820.

Accessory Structures
Residents in the RL, RM and RH districts may improve their property with accessory structures.  Accessory structures are free-standing detached structures incidental to the principal residential use or structure, such as detached garages, storage structures, gazebos, and private outdoor recreation uses such as swimming pools or basketball courts.  All accessory structures must comply with use limitations, setbacks and height restrictions as applicable based on structure’s size, height and location.  For information contact the Zoning office, 703-385-7820, or for building permit information contact, 703-385-7830.

If you have questions: The Code Enforcement Team is here to help you. Please email or call us at 703.385.7830 if you have any questions about issues affecting your neighborhood. We will respond to your complaint or ensure that it is referred to the appropriate agency.

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