Can a neighboring city enforce their codes on me?

I live on the edge of another town and received a letter from them saying my grass was too high. (Which it was cause I forgot to mow). The interesting thing is that I live right on the border of a larger city that sent me the notice, althought had my address with my town on it. How can a different city enforce their codes on me if I am not in their borders?

Are you in their jurisdiction? If not, I don’t see as how you have a problem. Of course, I’m not a lawyer so maybe some legal types could come up with a way that jurisdiction could exercise some kind of extra-territorial stuff. The only thing I can imagine (and it’s mere speculation on my part) is that maybe they’re telling you that your grass is too high for some kind of fire code and you just so happen to be in their fire protection district (i.e., in their jurisdiction).

It does remind me of one episode of Green Acres, though.

I don’t know if this applies to you, but zip code boundries don’t always follow city boundries. It is possible to actually live in City A but have a City B address. For example, there is a large part of Phoenix that has a Scottsdale zip code. People living there have Scottsdale mailing addresses but actually live within the Phoenix city limits. Have you checked your location against a city limits map?

More likely is the fire district you’re in. Many counties in the U.S. are pool their firefighting resources and divide the area into districts. These districts don’t necessarily follow municipal boundries. Your long grass may have been reported on a routine fire inspection and they probably send notices from one office to avoid increased bureaucracy.

Well I know I am not on their tax map.

Any powers that cities have are given them by the state (that’s not a statement of political philosophy, but a matter of law, “state” meaning, “what the US is comprised of 50 of”). In general, they have no powers over neighboring properties not within their limits. But there are exceptions. In North Carolina, for example, every incorporated city or town has zoning authority over land within one mile of its municipal limits. Communities in many states are authorized to take necessary actions for the protection of their water supply, even outside municipal boundaries. Etc.

While I have a hunch that A.R. Cane is on target – say the City of Metropolis is doing the mailing for that city and the adjacent Towns of West Metropolis, North Metropolis, and Ye Olde Phayque-Englische Nayme Suburbbe – you might want to doublecheck. Ignoring post office addresses (my phone exchange and mailing address are not even in the same county that I live in), find out whom you pay taxes to. Is it an incorporated town government, separate from the city (plus of course the county, which may actually be the tax-collecting entity, as it is in some states)? Are you certain the city did not recently annex an area including your land? (In most places, they’re supposed to notify you – but that can be by a legal ad in the newspaper, not a direct mailing to you, by some states’ laws.) Is it possible that the inspector made a mistake – especially considering that you apparently, from your description, live just outside the city limits? Might the city have the right to require cleanup activities (like mowing a too-high lawn) on properties abutting its limits? It should not hurt at all to ask these questions, respectfully, of the inspection office which sent you the mail. Something like this:

Could it just be a neighbor who works for the city and was sick and tired of seeing your unkempt lawn? He just got some official letterhead and sent you a note hoping you will comply.

Yeah, nobody wants to claim my house until tax time. I live on a creek. Many years ago 90% of the homeowners bought the creekbeds as part of their properties. Not mine. Every year I get a Notice of Abatement chastising me for the high weeds/brush in the creek slope behind my house. Every year I tell them that it’s not mine! and they apologize. Never actually seen any creekside abatement though, so I think it’s just a ploy to fine homeowners if they don’t chop down the weeds. Yet, if I call for any sort of City/County service I’m invariable bounced back and forth in the “that’s the County’s responsibility/that’s the City’s responsibility”. Pain in the butt.

Hmmm, maybe this should be in the “What do you get away with” thread.

One other possibility -

They don’t technically have you in their borders, but do you use any of their services? Like, do you buy your water from them?

If so, they could play hardball by saying if you don’t follow some arbitrary rule, we’ll stop selling water to you.

Kind of like the feds can’t control speed limits or alcohol age restrictions, yet they do.

Thanks, I think you just answered my question because I am in NC and probably within one mile. Do you know the statute that states that?

No, I’m sorry. It’s in the General Statutes, and I did hear it quoted off by code number at one point, but don’t remember it. If you’re enough curious, odds are the local Code Enforcement people would know the number off the top of their head.

I’m not a NC attorney, but wasn’t surprised to read what Polycarp had to say. Limited municipal extraterritorial power is something I’ve come across elsewhere.

Usually, though, it is only over adjoining unincorporated areas.

Which brings up a question. When you said you lived in a “town” (other than the notice-issuing city) did you mean an incorporated municipality, or were you referring to a township?

The word “town” can mean either of these, and local usage varies.

Another thing to remember is that extraterritoriality is usually very limited. Because a city can regulate X in the adjoining unincorporated area, it doesn’t mean it can regulate Y. Also, even if it can regulate Y, it may not choose to. For both of these reasons (even though landscaping regs are sometimes found in zoning codes), I’m a bit surprised that a city would be enforcing grass-height ordinances outside of its city limits.

So asking the questions suggested above are a good idea.

Usual disclaimer. I’m not your lawyer and you aren’t my client. I’m not licensed in your jurisdiction, and nothing here is reliable legal advice. See a lawyer licensed in your state for that.

What ever happened to private property? I’ve never in my life heard of someone being told to cut their grass by officials on their private land. Odd…

Well here is the specific statute of the neighboring city:

The existence of any of the following conditions on any land within the corporate limits, or one (1) mile thereof, is hereby declared to be dangerous and prejudicial to the public health or safety, and to constitute a public nuisance:
(1) A place of dense growth of weeds, grass or other noxious vegetation exceeding 12 inches in height, provided this condition shall not apply to those lands certified, dedicated or designated by the city or other appropriate governmental agency as vegetative buffer, floodplain, stream buffer, open space or other natural or environmentally sensitive area established to protect the public or protect and preserve natural greenways, floodways, streams or water quality.

No such thing anymore the government is in everything you do :frowning:

One of my neighbors complained so that is why they send out the gestapo

Sheltered, aren’t you?
It’s a bit dated, but here’s a law review article on the subject:

http://www.epa.gov/greenacres/weedlaws/index.html
Here’s Pennsylvania’s take on things:

http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/pucfc/applications/uh142.pdf

lol, nah, I wouldn’t say sheltered as so much as patriotic and Libertarian. :slight_smile: Thanks for the links. I know the Government can really do anything they want, it was really kinda a rhetorical question. I think it’s laughable that they’re making this person do this though. Makes me mad.

Private groups can be just as bad. many homeowners associations have similar rules - and you basically have to join when you buy a house in the area of the homeowners assoc. I’m talking house here, not condos. Ours has snarky items in the newsletter about not putting out your trash too early.

This is clearly not the OPs problem, though.

Yeah it makes me mad too. I wasen’t like it had rats and stuff in it, I just had not had a chance to mow that week, my yard usually looks pretty good, but one of my neighbors complained. I think its stupid. I’m thinking of leaving it 11.9 inches all year round just to tick them off.