The Pierce County Code includes regulations about how properties and structures in unincorporated Pierce County are used and maintained, what activities can take place on a property, and more.
These codes are in place to:
- Support strong communities
- Aid the health, safety, and quality of life of our residents
- Protect the environment
Our team is made up of code enforcement officers, environmental project coordinators, office assistants, and building officials. Code enforcement officers are assigned to geographic areas across the county.
The team also receives support from the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, and Pierce County Planning and Public Works planners.
Complaint received: Complaints can be submitted via the Code Enforcement Portal or by calling (253) 798-4636.
- Property research: Our team researches ownership, existing permits, existing code enforcement cases, zoning, and licenses related to the property.
- Outreach to the property owner: An initial notice is sent to the property owner informing them of the complaint. The notice includes directions to contact their assigned code enforcement officer within five days to schedule a site inspection or discuss a compliance plan.
- A site visit (either onsite with the written consent of the property owner or from public property/County right of way) is conducted.
- Complaint unfounded: If we determine a complaint is unfounded following our research and site visit, we will note that a violation has not occurred in the Code Enforcement Portal.
- Violation confirmed: If a violation is confirmed, a notice is sent to the property owner. The notice includes a description of the violation(s), the code(s) that was violated, the actions needed to resolve the violation(s), and enforcement steps if the violation(s) is not corrected. The notice packet also includes information on appeals and supplemental documents if necessary related to the particular violation.
Tips on maintaining vacant properties
If the property owner does not correct the violation, Pierce County can:
- Issue fines (civil penalties or civil infractions)
- Record a certificate of non-compliance on the property’s title, which could affect a future sale or refinancing
- Pursue abatement (property cleanup) if applicable to the violation
- In rare cases, issue criminal misdemeanor charges
Some cases are closed without resolution after appropriate enforcement efforts and outreach efforts to the property owner are exhausted.
The Code Enforcement Portal will be updated to note the case has been closed.
The notice of violation can be appealed if the property owner or other involved party (such as a tenant) disagrees a code has been violated.
There are two common situations that can be addressed without filing an appeal.
- More time is needed: If a property owner needs more time to correct the violation, they can contact their assigned code enforcement officer to discuss a compliance plan.
- The property owner intends to claim nonconforming use: If the property owner intends to claim nonconforming use (sometimes referred to as "grandfathering" in a property use that was allowed when the property had a different zoning classification), they can submit an application for confirmation of nonconforming rights at www.PierceCountyWa.gov/Permit. If the property owner needs assistance with the application process, they can contact the Pierce County Development Center. The property owner should notify their assigned code enforcement officer that they have applied.
- Investigate complaints about code violations on private property
- Work with the property owner during the investigation
- Provide technical support on available assistance
- If needed, pursue enforcement action to gain compliance
- Accumulation of solid waste
- Junk and/or abandoned vehicles
- Unsecured or uninhabitable structures
- Zoning or land use violations
- Occupied RVs or tents
- Overgrown vegetation
The property owner has 14 days to appeal the determination that a violation occurred. The notice of violation will include a timeframe for correcting the violation(s). If a property has a structure that has been condemned, check the notice for additional directions.
If additional time is needed to correct a violation, the property owner can enter a compliance plan and the enforcement process is put on hold as long as milestones are being met. The type of violation and the extent of the issue are factored into deadlines included in the compliance plan.
The assigned code enforcement officer may advise that the property owner that they can resolve their code violation by applying for a permit. Visit the Pierce County Development Center for details on applying for permits.
Property owners can track the progress of their case via the Code Enforcement Portal. A case number or address will be needed to search for the case.
Properties with violations related to solid waste, vehicles, uninhabitable structures, and land use (in some situations) may be candidates for abatement (cleanup). A contractor is hired by Pierce County to clean up the property.
A special assessment lien is placed on the property to cover the costs of the abatement. The lien can be paid via property taxes or at the time of the abatement before the lien is placed.
- For cooperative abatements, the property owner agrees to the abatement. There are no legal, court or staff time fees included in the lien.
- For court-ordered abatements, Pierce County is allowed to conduct the abatement without permission from the property owner.
We offer several programs and technical assistance to property owners. Property owners should contact their assigned code enforcement officer to discuss.
- Litter credit: The credit allows for the free disposal of up to 2,000 pounds of solid waste.
- Junk vehicle affidavit: The affidavit can be used in place of a title to have a junk vehicle removed by a hauling company.
- Compliance plan: We provide technical assistance on how to address code violations and set milestones for bringing the property into compliance.
- Cooperative abatement: The agreement gives Pierce County permission to abate (clean up) the property without a court order.
- Referrals to outreach agencies: Outreach agencies provide relocation assistance to individuals experiencing homelessness.