Is your neighbor's stuff breaking city rules?

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- We all seem to have that one neighbor on our street that has a lot going on in their yard, whether it be yard waste, furniture, trash - or even a washer and dryer. But how do you know if they are breaking the city's code enforcement policies or if their stuff is OK to be there? KEPR went yard to yard with a code enforcement officer.

Linda King has lived on Lutheran Place in Richland for almost 15 years. She tries her hardest to always keep a tidy property.

"I try to be a conscientious homeowner and keep my place as nice as I can at my age," said King.

She wishes her neighbors put forth the same effort she does.

"I think it's very important to have all the houses on either side of me at least look as neat or better."

But Linda knows that's not always the case.

A neighbor on her street was just given a notice by code enforcement to clean up their mess. It's one of 121 properties in Richland that have been cited for nuisance just this year. That's more than one a day, and about half of what was seen in all of last year.

"A lot of times people are confused because they think it's their house and they can have what they want where they want," said code enforcement officer Jason Montgomery.

But Montgomery says that's not the case. You can be cited for two different violations. One puts a limits on how much debris or material can be in your yard.

"Like trash, a wood pile that's not stacked neatly, or miscellaneous items."

The other limits what can actually be in your yard. You're not allowed to have household items, vehicle parts, or furniture. 98% of people cited in Richland take care of the problem before their notice goes to the code board. But only one case has gotten to that point this year, and only five last year.

Officer Montgomery says it's not just about aesthetics.

"When one property starts to look that way, another will, and then whole neighborhood soon follows, and as that condition grows, then crime also increases in those neighborhoods."

Stopping the trouble before it starts is the focus for code enforcement.

Code enforcement says they are proactive with giving out notices. They don't just wait for complaints to come in.